Sydney: Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister, has promised to fight terrorism with an iron fist. The security address he gave 10 days ago at the Australian Federal Police headquarters in Canberra is under scrutiny and widely criticised by Muslim communities and human rights groups.
According to the new security plan to clamp down on home-grown terrorism, the government will strengthen its immigration laws and will amend the Australian Citizenship Act to revoke or suspend Australian citizenship of those involved in terrorism.
Other measures could include restricting the ability of those involved to leave or return to Australia, and access to consular services overseas, as well as access to welfare payments.
The Prime Minister has also announced a clamp down on those organisations that incite religious or racial hatred.
The proposed security laws have not yet been submitted to the Parliament but there are indications that Bill Shorten, the Leader of Opposition, will take a bipartisan approach as he was quoted as saying that the new measures deserved “full and careful consideration”.
Shaoquett Moselmane, Labor’s New South Wales’ member of parliament, while talking to Gulf News, echoed Shorten’s views and said that any proposed changes must be shown to be effective for the nation as a whole. “Laws of this nature that do not have bipartisan support cannot be in Australia’s interest,” said Moselmane.
The home-grown terrorism and increasing number of Australian Muslim youths slipping to Syria and Iraq to take part in fights has become a matter of national concern. According to official figures at least 110 Australians have travelled overseas to join the ‘death cult’ in Iraq and Syria and about 20 of them are reportedly dead.
The Prime Minister in his security review address claimed that the number of Australians with hands-on terrorist experience is now several times larger than those who trained earlier in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
According to Abbott, ASIO, Australia’s intelligence agency, currently has more than 400 high-priority counter-terrorism investigations. This is more than double the number it analysed a year ago.
Julia Bishop, Australia’s Foreign Minister, told Australian parliament on February 25 that 30 to 40 Australian women have secretly travelled to Iraq, and the government fears some of them have joined the all-female religious police and some have been “manipulated to become suicide bomber and are subject to sexual slavery.”
The Australian Muslim Community is also concerned and says it is targeted for the acts of few individuals. There are about half million Muslims in the country, which account for 2.2 per cent of the Australian population.
Imam Nazeerul Hassan Thanvi, a Australia’s leading Muslim scholar, told Gulf News that discrimination against Muslims at workplaces is spreading and unemployment also increasing in the community.
“Councils are not approving development approval of Muslim community centres and worship places. Halal Foods and halal certification is also targeted and government is doing nothing to stop such negative behaviours,” said Imam Thanvi.
Muslim community groups are particularly annoyed with Abbott’s veiled criticism directed at local Muslims for not being vocal enough about Daesh.
“I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a religion of peace. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often and mean it,” said the Prime Minister in his security address.
Moselmane, a Muslim member of NSW Legislative Council, told Gulf News: “Mr. Abbott’s statement was demeaning to Muslims, and a low blow to a community of Australians that are working with the government on these issues.”
Greens Party, the third force in the Australian politics, is another voice of dissent against the Prime Minister’s proposed security measures, saying there was “no justification” for it and asked government to “focus on social cohesion and bringing Australians together.”
Greens Senator Christine Milne was quoted in the media as saying that Abbott’s February 23 speech was “the effort of a failing and flailing Prime Minister trying to press the fear, anxiety, insecurity button to try to bolster his legitimacy as the Prime Minister”.