Muslim leaders have demanded an apology from Prime Minister Scott Morrison for describing radical Islamism as Australia’s greatest threat in the wake of the Melbourne terrorist attack.
Mr Morrison made the comments after Somali terrorist Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, 30, crashed a ute filled with gas cylinders on Bourke Street in the city before fatally stabbing Italian-born cafe owner Sisto Malaspina and subsequently being shot dead by police.
‘We would be kidding ourselves if we did not call out the fact that the greatest threat to religious extremism in this country is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam,’ the Prime Minister told reporters.
Kuranda Seyit, the executive director of the Forum on Australia’s Islamic Relations, hit back on Monday and described Mr Morrison’s weekend comments as ‘irresponsible’.
‘Let’s call this out for what it really is. It’s political expediency and it’s timely to try and create a wedge between the Muslim community and the broader community,’ he told the Seven Network.
‘This is why the Prime Minister’s comments are out of line. I think that’s a shame. It really undermines the great work that we’ve been doing.’
Victoria deputy police commissioner Shane Patton said there was no evidence to suggest Shire Ali was suffering from mental illness.
‘We certainly haven’t been made aware of any mental health issues with this person from our enquiries to date,’ he told ABC radio on Monday.
On Monday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said extremist Islam was ‘the elephant in the room’, adding Shire Ali’s reported marriage problems and drug addiction did not negate the fact he was radicalised.
‘I think that’s an excuse. This bloke, radicalised in Australia with extreme Islam, took a knife and cut down a fellow Australian on Bourke Street,’ he told the Ten Network’s Studio 10 program.
‘I’m not going to make excuses … he was a terrorist. He was a radicalised, extremist terrorist.’
Mr Morrison said he could not speak of Friday’s car bomb attack in Melbourne, which left an innocent man dead and two others stabbed, without calling out the threat of ‘radical, violent, extremist Islam’ behind it.
Somali-born terrorist Khalif Shire Ali, 30, had links to Islamic State and had been radicalised, Victorian police said.
Despite that, the Australian National Imams Council accused the Prime Minister of political point scoring against Muslims.
‘It is extremely disappointing in such difficult times and during a national tragedy, when all Australians of all faiths and backgrounds should be called upon to unite and stand together against any form of extremism and violence, to see our nation’s leader politicising this incident and using it for political gain,’ it said in a statement on Sunday.
Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has a draft constitution calling for the death of ex-Muslims and is banned in many Muslim countries, responded to the Prime Minister by slamming Western societies.
‘PM Scott Morrison has asked Muslims to call out dangerous ideologies when it comes to terrorism,’ the group’s spokesman Uthman Badar told his 18,782 Facebook followers.
‘I’d like to oblige and call out the dangerous ideology of secular liberalism.
‘The violent exploits abroad of this extreme ideology are well known—wars, invasions, propping up dictators, wreaking political and economical havoc of an enormous scale on weaker nations.’
Australia’s first female Muslim federal MP, Labor’s Anne Aly, said the PM’s response to the events in Melbourne was ignorant and ‘politically desperate’, after he called Islamic extremism the greatest threat to Australia’s national security.
‘There is no country that is immune to the threat of terrorism,’ Dr Aly told Sky News.
‘I don’t care how politically desperate you are, now is not the right time to divide the community.’
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said the recent attacks meant immigrants should be forced to wait eight, instead of three years, to become citizens.
‘We do not give out citizenship for eight years and then for a further 10 years after that, they can’t get rid of their dual citizenship,’ she told Sunrise on Monday.
‘If they are incompatible with our culture and way of life, send them back to where they come from.’
Hijab-wearing Muslim activist Hanan Dover also sought to turn the accusations back on to politicians.
‘Australian federal politicians won’t get rid of extremist and radical elements within Parliament who continue making deliberate and conscious decisions traumatising and /or killing asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island,’ the psychologist said.
The hardline Sunni group, Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association, which urges Muslims to avoid wishing Christians a Merry Christmas also accused the Prime Minister of being divisive.
‘A Prime Minister saying we should do more, yet his words are what creates more tension and divide,’ Wollongong-based sheikh Jamil El-Biza said on Facebook.
The ASWJ advocates a Salafist, seventh-century version of Islam and its preachers have described it as sinful for women to show their ears in public and for children to listen to music.