Muslim leaders boycott terror meeting
A PROPOSED roundtable to discuss how Australia could better identify and stop extremism will be boycotted by Muslim leaders this week in response to comments from Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said religious leaders were "making excuses".
The group of leaders, including Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed and the presidents of the Islamic councils of Victoria and Queensland, signed a letter last night explaining to the prime minister why they would not attend the meeting.
"Many in the Muslim community... are deeply concerned and disappointed with statements made by senior government ministers and the prime minister in the recent past which infer that the community is collectively culpable for the criminal actions of individuals," the letter said.
"These statements have achieved nothing to address underlying issues, but rather, have alienated large segments of the Muslim community."
The letter comes a day after three Melbourne men - brothers Ertunc Eriklioglu, 30 and Samed Eriklioglu, 26 and Hanifi Halis, 21 - were charged with allegedly planning a deadly terror attack in the Victorian capital city.
Melbourne was already on high alert after Somali-born Hassan Khalif Shire Ali terrorised Bourke St on November 9, setting his car on fire and stabbing three innocent bystanders.
Immediately after the Bourke Street attack, the prime minister criticised the Muslim community, claiming it was "making excuses" for extremism.
After visiting Pellegrini's cafe in Melbourne, where beloved owner Sisto Malaspina was stabbed to death by Ali, Mr Morrison called for imams and other members of the Muslim community to be better at identifying radicalised people in their congregations and alerting the authorities.
"I won't cop the excuses," he said.
"For those who want to stick their head in the sand, for those who want to make excuses for those who stick their head in the sand, you are not making Australia safer. You are giving people an excuse to look the other way and not deal with things right in front of you.
"If there are people in a religious community, an Islamic community, that are bringing in hateful, violent, extremist ideologies into your community, you've got to call it out."
Labor leader Bill Shorten instead stepped carefully when addressing the "evil tragedy" of Bourke Street.
"I can understand why people what to lash out, want to blame different groups or want to blame politicians, or want to blame Mr Morrison. I actually think we've got to take a step back," Mr Shorten said.
"There are a few radicalised troublemakers, no question, and pretending that isn't the case doesn't make it go away. But by the same token, the vast bulk of Muslim Australians, the vast, vast bulk, love their country, and I don't want to tag a whole group of Australians just by the actions of a few.
"We need calmness and coolness."