AUSTRALIAN  PRAYER  NETWORK  NEWSLETTER

TEENAGERS CAUGHT IN CRACKDOWN ON SYRIAN TRAVEL

Teenage Australians, including at least one high school student, are having their passports withheld by ASIO amid fears they will use them to travel to Syria and fight with banned jihadist groups. In a measure of how deeply the Syrian civil war is being felt in migrant communities across Australia, Muslims as young as 18 are understood to have been caught up in an ASIO sweep aimed at stemming the flow of Australian fighters. At a time when most kids are focusing on homework and the looming burdens of the HSC, one 18 year old Muslim boy has told of how he ordered ASIO officers to leave the family home and sought to convince his tearful mother he had no plans to fight in Syria.

His travails began after he applied for a passport, his first. Having recently turned 18, he said he wanted to perform the haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca required of all observant Muslims. In January, he received a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advising him his passport application remained “on hold”.  The letter stated that a competent authority, as defined in the Australian Passport Act 2005, had advised the Australian Passport Office that it was currently assessing whether it would request the Minister for Foreign Affairs to refuse to issue the young man with a passport.

The “competent authority” is almost certainly ASIO, which in the past nine months has cancelled at least 33 passports to stem the tide of Australian Muslims travelling to Syria. Not long after that, the young man’s mother received a phone call from ASIO officers requesting a meeting. While he was at school two female ASIO officers came to his house. “They told my family, ‘don’t let your son know’,” the young man said. The officers showed his mother some photographs. Three faces belonged to known extremists, one of whom is facing charges over a facilitation network that police allege sent at least five Australians to the Syrian frontline.

The young man said two of the men he had never met and the third he had encountered only briefly. “They told my mother, ‘he’s going to Syria to fight’,” he said. “They said, these people are influencing him to go. We are trying to save your kid from doing bad.” The young man’s mother was shocked. “After that she started crying,” he said. The meeting was supposed to be secret, but a family member texted him while he was at school. He rushed home. “When I got in I started screaming,” he said. “I was screaming at my mum, ‘Why are you letting them in? They have no warrant or anything’.”

The meeting ended abruptly but not long after that the young man got a call from an ASIO officer requesting a meeting, which he refused to attend. “I know that if I was to go there they would have put pressure on me, they always spin stories,” he said. The young man suspects ASIO may also have been in contact with his school. “One hour before they called me, my deputy came up to me and said, ‘I thought you were going to Syria’, and started laughing,” he said. “A couple of days later I came back to school, this teacher says “Come here. The way you’re going, you’re drifting away from people, you’re going to Syria, you’re going to fight, don’t do this, this is all extremists’. I just laughed.”

An ASIO spokesman made it clear the agency’s actions were motivated by a desire to protect vulnerable individuals from becoming victims of radicalisers who are grooming young Australians for participation in extremist violence overseas.  He said there was “deep concern” in the community about this influence. “A passport cancellation can prevent an Australian causing harm or being harmed in the misguided pursuit of someone else’s extreme views,” the spokesman said. ”It can also help the government and community steer young Australians away from extremist violence, potentially helping young Australians to avoid possible jail terms and criminal records, either in Australia or overseas.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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MUSLIM CLERIC WHO MARRIED 12 YEAR OLD BELIEVED HE HAD DONE NOTHING WRONG

A Muslim cleric living in Australia on a religious visa believed he didn’t do anything wrong by “marrying” a 12-year-old girl to a 26-year-old man because the union was never officially registered. Muhammad Tasawar appeared before Parramatta Local Court last month where Magistrate Peter Miszalski accepted the plea to the offence of solemnisation of a marriage by an unauthorised person. He was fined $500 and is now in  detention awaiting deportation to Pakistan upon the cancellation of his visa. Tasawar, employed as the imam at the Mayfield mosque in Newcastle, was approached by a 26-year-old university student in January to perform an Islamic marriage ceremony in the girl’s backyard.

The sheikh attended the family’s Raymond Terrace home on January 12 and met with the 26-year-old man, his 12-year-old bride-to-be, the girl’s father, her younger brothers and sister and another man. The group all acted as witnesses to the marriage which was conducted by Tasawar. “At the conclusion, they drank and ate together before the accused left,” according to an agreed statement of facts. Police were made aware of the underage marriage when, a month later, the 26-year-old man, applied at Centrelink to become the child’s guardian. He was arrested and charged with 25 counts of sexual intercourse with an underage child. The girl’s father, 61, has also been charged.

Police allege he allowed his daughter to be “joined in an illegal union” in his Hunter Valley home on January 12 and to start a sexual relationship with the man. When Tasawar was arrested in February, he told police he didn’t believe the marriage was a “full marriage”. “In his view, he did not believe it was a full marriage because he had not officially registered it, however throughout the interview he referred to it as a marriage,” the agreed facts said. The sheikh, the husband and the bride’s father all believed the marriage was legitimate and official, police allege. The 26-year-old, who was living in Australia on a student visa, has also had his visa cancelled.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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QUEENSLAND PARLIAMENT DEBATES OUTDOOR ADVERTISING BILL

The Queensland Parliament recently discussed outdoor advertising in the state and voted on a Katter Party bill to regulate advertising in an attempt to protect the community from sexualised billboard advertising. This particular bill was voted down, largely due to technical reasons, but the Government still has an opportunity to follow through on the recommendations the Health and Community Services Committee made in its report following the Inquiry into Sexualised Outdoor Advertising. In particular the report recommended regulating outdoor and shopfront advertising to prevent the display of material that is sexually explicit, and/or inappropriate for children.

Whilst the parliament did not pass the Katter bill, it is clear from the Hansard record of the discussion, that the support for the issue is very strong in the parliament. The government response to the all-party parliamentary committee inquiry report is due by mid year. A number of members of parliament spoke in support of parents’ right to protect their children from sexualised material and support for children to retain their innocence. The Attorney General has said that he wants to hear from Queenslanders. Hopefully, it should only be a matter of time before a law is introduced that will have the whole parliament’s support.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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