Speech Angers Australian Muslims

Phil Mercer, BBC News, Feb. 24, 2006

A senior member of Australia’s government has suggested Muslims who do not uphold the country’s values should be stripped of their citizenship.

Remarks by Finance Minister Peter Costello, at a conference in Sydney, have sparked anger among leaders of Australia’s Islamic community.

They have insisted his comments were divisive and inflammatory.

Mr Costello said migrants who did not respect Australia’s laws and traditions should lose their citizenship.

He singled out the Muslim community and said it had a responsibility to uphold Australian values.

He insisted those people that did not were no longer welcome.

Tensions simmering

Mr Costello said his remarks were directed at a “small radical minority” and that his message had to be “clear and unequivocal”.

His speech comes at a time when racial tensions here are still simmering after the disturbances in Sydney last December.

Following an assault on two white coastguards, attacks by white gangs on people of Middle Eastern appearance sparked a bloody feud with young Lebanese Australians.

Islamic leaders have accused Peter Costello of deliberately whipping up more fear and religious hatred.

They have claimed it is further evidence that the government is no longer committed to multi-culturalism.

There has been support for the treasurer’s position from Pauline Hanson.

The former right wing politician caused uproar a decade ago when she insisted that Australia was in danger of being overrun by migrants from Asia.

There has been backing too for Mr Costello from his boss, the prime minister.

John Howard was criticised earlier this week for controversial remarks he made about Muslims.

The veteran leader said he was convinced that migrants with extreme views were intent on committing violence here in the name of Islam.

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