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#################### Geoff Seidner
Wednesday, 7 October 2015
OCT 2: THE OZ - Malcolm Turnbull to reset terror pitch to Muslims
THE PRINTED VERSION OF THE OZ HAS PAUL MALEY AS THE THIRD AUTHOR: why is he not owning up to this article? GS
Islamic community leader Jamal Rifi in Canberra. ‘I believe Malcolm Turnbull will be more mature.’ Picture: Gary Ramage
Malcolm Turnbull will seek to recast the government’s relationship with Muslims through more co-operative and inclusive policies after warnings from security agencies that relations with the Islamic community have sunk to their lowest ebb.
The move will see the new Prime Minister avoid the blunt and often divisive language used by his predecessor Tony Abbott, which alienated many in the Islamic community and undermined the ability of agencies to win their trust to help combat radicalisation.
The Australian understands that Mr Turnbull will adopt a new, more inclusive tone in dealing with the Islamic community and has discussed the issue with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Justice Minister Michael Keenan, who both urged him to take the fresh approach.
He is expected in coming weeks to emphasise the need to work co-operatively with the Muslim community in order to rout extremists and extremist ideology from communities.
The move, which represents a departure from the policies of the Abbott government, will be embraced by the country’s Muslims, according to community leader and GP Jamal Rifi.
“It is definitely needed and definitely welcomed — the larger Muslim community will respond with open arms,” Dr Rifi told The Australian.
He said the Muslim community was “elated” at Mr Turnbull becoming Prime Minister as the relationship with the government under Mr Abbott had become “extremely tense and hurtful”.
“Unfortunately, under the previous government we felt powerless,” Dr Rifi said. “We felt that the community was fighting radicalisation with our hands tied behind our back, but now we hope that the shackles are off.
“We are hopeful and determined to change the status quo and roll up our sleeves to work with the present government to help protect Australia.
“This means the protection for boys and girls not to fall for the trap of Islamic State and the likes … we can’t shield them from the propaganda, but we can empower them to resist it.”
Security agencies told the government in the final months of Mr Abbott’s leadership that relations with the Muslim community were at their lowest ebb, making it harder for authorities to gain the trust and co-operation of Muslims to alert agencies to possible threats.
Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who has been consulting with 160 Muslim groups across the country on national security policy, told The Australiancommunities were feeling marginalised and there was a “growing distrust” of government.
“At the moment what is basically happening is (that) because of a growing distrust and problems in these communities, these communities have moved away from us … they feel very marginalised,” Senator Fierravanti-Wells said.
“Basically what has happened is they have clamped up, they are not really engaging and therefore relationships have dried up. They feel very marginalised. Of course, good intelligence is based on good relationships.”
The senator, who has more than 30 years’ experience working with multicultural groups and has close links to the Muslim community, said the government needed to build a relationship of trust with communities at risk.
She called for the “complex” issue of countering extremism and preventing youth becoming disenfranchised to be dealt with as a social issue. “In my view, we have been dealing with extremism and violent extremism as a national security issue, but what we really need to do is to be looking at it from a different perspective; it is a social issue with a national security angle.”
Dr Rifi said Mr Abbott had alienated many in the Muslim community through poor choice of words. These included his comment in February that he wished more Muslim leaders would describe Islam as a religion of peace and mean it, and his use of terms such as “Team Australia” and “death cult”.
“I believe Malcolm Turnbull will be more mature and insightful and that the government he leads will not fall for such short-minded, unwise use of words,” Dr Rifi said.
Since becoming Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull has shunned expressions such as “team Australia” and has not described Islamic State as a “death cult”.
Dr Rifi, in Canberra yesterday to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra for leadership of the Muslim community and his stand against hatred and social injustice, said he attended a meeting of Islamic leaders on Tuesday to discuss the challenges of radicalisation and that Mr Turnbull’s rise to the leadership was discussed.
“The mood was optimistic about the change,” he said. “Definitely there are some issues that need to be ironed out, some grievances, but we are very optimistic.”
He believed the tone of the government was already changing for the better under Mr Turnbull. He said many Muslims had been offended when the Abbott government indicated it was more likely to accept Christians rather than Muslims in the new intake of 12,000 Syrian refugees announced last month. “It gave the impression that Syrian Muslims are not welcomed and that was another blunder by the government. Such a great announcement (to take 12,000 refugees) should have been used to strengthen the interaction between the communities (yet) it was more divisive than inclusive.”
He said a teleconference this week between Muslim community leaders and Paris Aristotle, the head of the Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council, made it clear the Syrians would be chosen on the basis of need, not religion.
“I believe this new approach (by the government) has already started,” Dr Rifi said.
In July, Mr Turnbull outlined his attitude to countering violent extremism in Australia, saying it was more important to respond to the terror threat with effective measures rather than simply being “tough”.
He quoted former ASIO director David Irvine, who had said: “We should not let the phenomenon of violent Islamist extremism destroy the community harmony that is such an essential characteristic of Australia’s highly successful multicultural democracy. That is precisely what violent extremism and terrorism want to do.”
Veteran MP Philip Ruddock, who is working with Senator Fierravanti-Wells on community engagement, said he would not comment on Mr Abbott’s language, but he believed it was important to ensure diversity in the community was respected.