POLITICIANS CALL ON GRAND MUFTI TO CONDEMN TERRORIST ATTACKS
In a statement, Dr Abu Mohammed, Grand Mufti of Australia and the Australian National Imams Council offered “deepest condolences” for survivors of recent terrorist attacks and stressed the “sanctity of human life”. “Recent attacks highlight the fact that current strategies to deal with the threat of terrorism are not working,” the statement said. “It is therefore imperative that all causative factors, such as racism, Islamophobia, curtailing freedoms through securitisation, duplicitous foreign policies and military intervention, must be comprehensively addressed.” Philip Ruddock, the government’s special envoy for citizenship and community engagement, said Australia was the world’s most successful multicultural society but he feared the cleric’s comments sent the wrong message about extremism.
Senior Liberal ministers Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton called on the Grand Mufti to come out and condemn terrorist attacks “without reservation”. Mr Dutton, the Immigration Minister, urged the Sunni leader to clarify his comments. “Terrorist acts need to be condemned for what they are – they’ve been condemned by Muslim leaders around the world and they should be condemned here in Australia by Islamic leaders as well,” Mr Dutton said. “The opportunity is there for the Grand Mufti to come out and clarify his comments and make it clear that he condemns acts of terrorism without reservation. “The Grand Mufti would do well to listen to what some of the moderate leaders had to say because they’ve remained the hope of the side, if we’re to combat some of this wrong thinking within the community.”
Mr Morrison, the Treasurer, said his Muslim friends were “disappointed” in Dr Abu Mohammed’s comments. “I would encourage him to clarify what he said. I was very disappointed for Australian Muslims, who I think have been let down by the Mufti,” he told Melbourne radio. “We have got into a much more mature discussion about these very complicated issues and I think Australian Muslims would have been disappointed in those comments – certainly those who I have close relationships with were – and I urge him to listen to his own community and to reflect their views.” Mr Ruddock a former Liberal Immigration Minister said “We want to be as inclusive and cohesive as possible, but there can be no justification for this victim mentality that somehow we are entitled to defend terrorism because of Islamophobia.”
Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic said it was “naive and misconceived” to believe that Islamic State radicals could be “appeased”. “ISIL’s strategy is to form a caliphate from which they will either expand their domination into the broader world or die,” Mr Nikolic said. “These people are not ones you can negotiate with or appease.” Queensland Liberal National Party MP George Christensen branded the Grand Mufti’s comments a “disgusting” example of “playing the victim card”. “People from all walks of life disagree with governments, “but they don’t take to the streets and start shooting people as a result.” Liberal senator Cory Bernardi said the comments were “reminiscent of the same vile rhetoric following the 9/11 tragedies, blaming the US and Western culture to justify their atrocities.”
On the other hand Attorney-General George Brandis said alienating Muslims would be “the worst thing we could do. They are our fellow citizens, and they are our necessary partners in combating this menace,” he told ABC radio. Labor MP Maria Vamvakinou said mainstream Islamic leaders needed to voice the concerns of their communities, or risk driving young people into the hands of extremists. Ms Vamvakinour is the member for Calwell, the electorate with the largest Muslim population in Victoria. Labor’s Tony Burke, whose seat includes Sydney’s Muslim centre of Lakemba, said his constituents had “experienced the same shock and distress as the rest of Australia” when terrorists strike.
RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION BANNED FROM SCHOOLS BUT NOW BEING TAUGHT AT PRESCHOOL
Special religious instruction (SRI) has been scrapped from schools in Victoria, but a major provider of the program is now entering the childcare market. The state’s largest SRI provider, Access Ministries, is offering a religious instruction program called Explore Christianity, at Emmanuel Early Learning in Endeavour Hills. It plans to expand the course to other centres and kindergartens next year. The Victorian government has banned public schools from offering religious instruction during school class time, allowing the classes to be run only before or after school, or during lunch break. The weekly half-hour session at Emmanuel Early Learning is run by two accredited volunteers, and is based on the school SRI program. It teaches Christian values and beliefs, in addition to stories from the Bible.
Three families opted their children out of the program after receiving consent forms. Students who have opted out sit in a different room and work an alternative activity while SRI is under way. Parent Natalie Aarons said she took her child out of the program because “I would prefer our child to learn about a diverse range of religions, not just one. I think the time would be better used teaching ethics or values,” she said. Access Ministries spokesman Rob Ward said he was broadening SRI to early learning centres following the banning of religious instruction in Victorian Schools by the Education Minister. “If schools aren’t running SRI and a couple of kindergartens are, then that’s a good opportunity for us to provide our service. “We are following the same system and guidelines as we would for the school system.”
Lara Wood, spokeswoman of SRI opponent, Fairness In Religions in School, said separating students by religion at such a young age could be damaging for students. Mrs Wood said she was concerned SRI was not being properly monitored in childcare centres. Christopher Emmanuel, manager at Emmanuel Early Learning, said the centre decided to introduce the program after clients requested that religious instruction be incorporated into the curriculum. He said attendance nearly doubled when the SRI was offered. Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos said early childhood services operated independently, and any “decision on offering religious education as part of a service provider’s program is a decision for each individual provider and parents of children attending the service”.
POLITICAL ELITE ACCUSED OF BEING PART OF PAEDOPHILE RING
A woman who alleges she was a child victim of the paedophile ring named by Liberal senator Bill Heffernan recently said she had repeatedly reported the abuse to authorities but no action had been taken. Speaking outside the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Fiona Barnett called on the authorities to investigate the alleged ring, which she believes is still operating. Ms Barnett alleged the ring involved hundreds of perpetrators, including a political elite, such as a former governor-general and a former education minister, but she did not name them. “Throughout my childhood I was a victim of Australia’s VIP child sex trafficking ring,” she said.
“The people involved in this elite paedophile ring included high-ranking politicians, police and judiciary.” Ms Barnett, 45, said she had reported her abuse to health care professionals, the NSW and Australian Federal Police and the royal commission but felt her claims were not taken seriously. “The way I have been treated for reporting the crimes I witnessed and experienced has been far worse than my original abuse experiences,” she said. Ms Barnett was critical of the scope of the royal commission, which examines the responses of institutions such as religious groups and schools to allegations of child sexual abuse. “I want all of the claims pooled and I want them investigated,” she said. “I don’t think the royal commission seems to be equipped to do that. Amongst victims, we think this is just a complete whitewash.”