SHAFAQNA – Law enforcement agencies are focused on only about 0.04 per cent of Australia’s Islamic community, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said today, reminding Australians that mainstream Muslims were “our great allies” in the fight against terrorism.
Asked about comments by Grand Mufti of Australia Ibrahim Abu Mohammed that the Paris terrorist attacks were provoked by the West, Mr Keenan said Australia’s Islamic leadership was “very diverse” and “not a homogenous group”.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time talking to the various groups in Australia and making sure that they understand that what we’re doing here in terms of our anti-terror laws is somehow not just targeted at the Muslim community,” he told Sky News’s Australian Agenda.
“We need to continue to work with them because they are our great allies in this fight. And if we lose a section of our population then that fight is going to be much, much more difficult.
“The Muslim community in Australia numbers about 500,000 people and the numbers that we are concerned about within it are a couple of hundred. So the vast majority of the community are good Australians getting on with their lives who are horrified with what is happening in the Middle East.”
Mr Keenan, challenged over his claim that national security laws were “not just targeted at the Muslim community”, explained Islamic State’s ideology was “a perversion of the religion”.
“The community here are very good Australians, they work with the government to address these challenges. We’re never about targeting a section of the population, but we will very robustly go after any individuals that threaten Australia’s security,” he said.
“It’s a perversion of the religion and it would be absolutely wrong to call all Muslims into account for the fact that there’s this violent and barbaric terrorist organisation using their religion in vain, in a sense, for their brutal ideology.”
Mr Keenan also said the government should be “welcoming” of Tony Abbott’s high-profile contributions to the national security debate, saying the former prime minister is entitled to share his “two cents’ worth”.
Mr Abbott, who was ousted by Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister in September, is making his opinions known about the through a string of media interviews, public lecturing and opinion articles.
Some government MPs view Mr Abbott’s continued presence in parliament as destabilising to the Prime Minister’s leadership, and his hard-line views on national security threatening to Mr Turnbull’s credibility on national security issues.
Mr Keenan said: “Ultimately Tony Abbott’s future will be a matter for him but I don’t think it’s any great surprise that as a former prime minister he’s going to comment on national affairs and international affairs and put his two cents in.
“He is entitled to do that, and I know there has been a bit of commentary … around that but I don’t think any Australian should be surprised that Tony Abbott, whilst he remains in parliament, is going to make a significant contribution to national debate and I don’t think we need to be concerned about that as a government; we should be welcoming it.”