Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law have been told to get out of Australia.
A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged loyalty to Australia at a special meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, he and his ministers made it clear that extremists would face a crackdown.
Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept that Australia was a secular state and its laws were made by parliament.
“If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you,” he said on national television.
“I’d be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that that is false.
“If you can’t agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country which practises it, perhaps, then, that’s a better option,” Costello said.
Asked whether he meant radical clerics would be forced to leave, he said those with dual citizenship could possibly be asked move to the other country.
Education Minister Brendan Nelson later told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept local values should “clear off”.
“Basically, people who don’t want to be Australians, and they don’t want to live by Australian values and understand them, well then they can basically clear off,” he said.
Muslim schools will have to denounce terrorism as part of an effort to stamp out home-grown extremism under measures announced after Howard’s meeting with 14 Islamic leaders Tuesday.
The prime minister called the meeting in the wake of last month’s London bombings by British-born Muslims, amid fears that Australia could be the target of a similar attack by disaffected members of its small Muslim community.
“The purpose of the meeting was to identify ways of preventing the emergence of any terrorist behaviour in this country,” Howard told commercial radio Wednesday.
“You won’t change the minds of people who are hardened fanatics and hardened extremists. You have to identify them and take measures to ensure that they don’t become a problem.”
Asked if he was prepared to “get inside” mosques and schools to ensure there was no support for terrorism, Howard said: “Yes, to the extent necessary”.
Britain, shaken by the rail and bus bombings which killed 56 people, is debating new powers which could include closing mosques where clerics are suspected of supporting extremists and deporting those who glorify suicide bombers.
Australia, which like Britain has troops in Iraq, is also contemplating tougher anti-terror legislation. which will be debated next month at a meeting between Howard and leaders of state governments.
Meanwhile, an Islamic youth organisation that was not invited to Howard’s Tuesday meeting said it would call an alternative conference—on September 11—for what it says is the 80 percent of Muslims who were not represented.
The Affinity Intercultural Foundation (AIF) told national radio it wants to try to change the date’s association with Islamic violence, and to highlight how mainstream Muslims have become victims of prejudice and bias.
AIF director Mehmet Saral said Muslims were feeling more victimised than at any other time in their history of living in Australia.
Some 300,000 Muslims make up just 1.5 percent of Australia’s population of 20 million.