Mon, Sep 12, 2005 - Page 5 News List

`Radical' Muslims pledge loyalty to Australia

AFP , SYDNEY

Father Bill Burt, back left, and Imam Salih Mujala, back right, pray together as part of the ''Muslims in Australia: National Security and Harmony Summit'' in Sydney yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Australian Muslims excluded as too radical from a government meeting designed to prevent London-style bombings pledged loyalty to the country yesterday, on the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the US.

"Terrorists must be brought to justice," said Ali Roude, vice-president of the New South Wales Islamic Council at a "Muslims in Australia: National Security and Harmony Summit" at Sydney University.

"Free nations must defend themselves and our mosques must pray for peace. Anything less is un-Islamic and un-Australian."

Islamic Friendship Association of Australia president Keysar Trad said terrorists had "hijacked" Islam and politicians had whipped up fear of Muslims.

"These were warriors from an Islamic background that hijacked Islam," Trad said.

Exploited

"They hijacked our lifestyle and our freedoms. And the spin machine of Western governments is exploiting these hijackers of Islam, these murderers.

"We've been scared by Muslims who are just as Australian as anyone else."

Muslims shared the same ethical and moral values and the aspirations of other Australians, Trad said.

"I'm not a scary person and my children are not scary people. We have just the same aims and hopes and ambitions as everybody else," Trad said.

Australia, which sent troops into both Afghanistan and Iraq with the US-led invasions, has wrestled with the possibility of an attack from within since it was revealed that the London bombings in July were carried out by British-born Muslims.

Prime Minister John Howard last month called a meeting with 13 senior Muslim leaders to map out a joint approach to curbing extremism within the 300,000-strong Islamic community, and obtained pledges of loyalty to Australia.

But he was criticized for excluding Muslims considered "radical," and yesterday's summit was called by the uninvited Islamic leaders.

Howard said he could not guarantee he would consider any of the proposals to come out of yesterday's summit.

Howard's response

"Let me make it clear that the membership of the group that I met in Canberra represented a moderate, sensible, mainstream Islamic opinion," Howard said.

"That's what I'm interested in, that's what all Australians are interested in," he said.

This month, Howard plans to hold a summit with the premiers of Australia's states to consider tougher counter-terrorism legislation and security measures, including plans to hold people for up to 14 days without charge and tag suspects electronically for a year.

At the airport yesterday, Howard told reporters that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 were a major influence on Australia's new anti-terrorism plan.

"It's a day I'll never forget," said Howard, who was in the US at the time.

"It's a day the world should never forget because it ushered in a new kind of warfare.

"This is not a conventional enemy, it's a shadowy enemy that requires a new and different kind of vigilance including stronger laws.

"That is the reason why the government made the announcements that it did last week," he said.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said an interview last week that a London-style terrorist attack on Australian soils was not inevitable but was "a risk, it's possible."

"We hope we run a reasonably tight ship but I guess you can't make it unsinkable," he said.

Australia rejects the suggestion that its involvement in Iraq has made it a target for terrorism.

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