A senior member of Australia's government has said
Muslims who want to live by Islamic Sharia law are not
welcome in the country. The comments have stoked
Muslim anger against the Australian government.
Australian Finance Minister Peter Costello said in a
speech late Thursday that immigrants must respect the
country's laws and traditions. Costello singled out
Muslims who wanted to live under Sharia law as not
welcome in Australia.
In his speech on Australian citizenship, the minister
said his remarks were directed at what he called a
"small radical minority." "You don't have to swear at
the football and eat a pie to be an Australian," he
said, "but you do have believe in democracy, the rule
of law and the rights and liberties of others."
Earlier this week Prime Minister John Howard also
addressed Islamic extremism, saying it violated
Australia's principles. He pointed to contentious
issues such as relations with non-Muslims and the
rights of women.
Australian Muslims have reacted with anger to both
sets of comments. They accuse the government of being
deliberately inflammatory and divisive.
Keysar Trad, president of the Islamic Friendship
Association of Australia, says Costello's comments are
unnecessary. "He is singling out the Muslim community
again," he said. "Rather than calling on all citizens
to respect the law of the land and respect traditional
values, he is making an inference in his comments that
Muslims don't do that. Well, on the contrary, Muslims
do respect the law of the land and do respect the
values of this country."
There are around 300,000 Muslims in Australia.
Community leaders say racism toward this minority
group has increased since the terrorist attacks in the
United States in September 2001 and the bombings on
the Indonesian island of Bali a year later, in which
Australian tourists were targeted.