Sunday, March 04, 2007

Muslims need to identify their real enemies, says Aussie Archbishop

THE Muslim community is overly sensitive and is the only migrant group to have plotted violence against Australia, Catholic Archbishop Cardinal George Pell has claimed.

Dr Pell said Muslim leaders needed to develop more appropriate responses to criticism.

"In a democratic society, every group is criticised - Prime Minister (John) Howard said quite rightly last year that if Catholics rioted in Australia every time they were criticised, there would be regular riots," Dr Pell said.

"It's not appropriate that Muslims regularly reply to criticism with insults, denigration and evasions while avoiding the point of issue, and unfortunately we've seen too much of this from some Muslim public personalities."

The comments came during Dr Pell's appearance on a panel about Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia as part of the national deliberative poll.

Dr Pell, who began studying Islam after the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the US, said he had met "many wonderful Muslims".

"But there are Islamists who are at war with the Western world - most of the victims of these extreme Muslims are fellow Muslims," he said. "So its important to distinguish accurately your real friends from your enemies and from those who only seem to be friends."

Dr Pell said integration was a "key tool" for a harmonious and secular democratic society.

"Equal rights however, carry with them equal responsibilities - problems arise when minorities demand special consideration that places them outside the law as it applies to other citizens," he said.

"Flexibility and adaptability are called for when refugees and immigrants arrive in our country but there is a limit in (adopting) minority demands beyond which a democratic host society cannot go without losing its identity."

Dr Pell said there was a small minority of Muslims "who really don't identify with Australia at all and are hostile to it". "There seems to be some significant evidence that some of them are planning violence against us here and elsewhere - that doesn't seem to happen in any other migrant group," he said.

Sydney Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali sparked controversy last year when he compared immodestly dressed women to uncovered meat and suggested that rape victims who did not wear Islamic dress were as much to blame as their attackers.

He later appeared on Egyptian television to say Westerners were "liars and oppressors" who had less right to live in Australia than Muslims.

Dr Pell said a fear of Muslims had been "created" by the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005 and the attacks on London transport in 2005. He said Muslims in Australia were offered the same rights as other citizens but he doubted non-Muslim minorities in the Muslim world were afforded the same equality.

"I don't think that's the case. I don't think we could be having a meeting like this in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia," he said.

"Christians are being harassed, they're being persecuted and even sometimes in the Sudan being sold into slavery. I would like to know where my Muslim friends stand on this issue."

Sheik Mohammed Omran, from Melbourne's Islamic Information and Support Centre, said it was important to consider why Muslims were fighting against the West. "Why has the youth of England betrayed England even though they are fifth or sixth generation?" Sheik Omran said. "We have to learn from the mistakes of others and not repeat it here."

Sheik Omran said Australia had a responsibility to make Muslims feel welcome.

"You are the host. When I come to your house as a guest and you welcome me with an open heart, I see your generosity as a human - it doesn't matter what I believe in, I will love you and care for you as much as you care for me," he said.

Muslim countries had been great allies of the West during the fight against "our first enemy", communism, and Australia still had a close alliance with Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population, Sheik Omran said.

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