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Anti-Secularism Muslims Told to Leave Australia

   
InternationalA day after a special meeting between Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Muslim leaders, Muslims who do not respect secularism and law were told Wednesday, August 24, to leave the country.

"If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Shari`ah law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you," Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, said on national television.

He was quoted by Agence France-Presse (AFP) as saying that there are no two laws governing people in Australia.

"I'd be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that that is false," he stressed.

"If you can't agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Shari`ah law and have the opportunity to go to another country which practices it, perhaps, then, that's a better option," Costello, a conservative Catholic, added.

Costello has been Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party since 1994, and Treasurer in the Australian government since 1996.

Education Minister Brendan Nelson further told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept local values should "clear off".

"Basically, people who don't want to be Australians, and they don't want to live by Australian values and understand them, well then they can basically clear off," he said.

Eavesdropping

The remarks came one day after Muslim leaders pledged to defend the country against "terrorism," disowned Osama bin Laden and accepted differences with the government over the Iraq invasion in their meeting with Howard.

The prime minister called the meeting in the wake of last month's London bombings by British-born Muslims, amid fears that Australia could be the target of a similar attack by disaffected members of its Muslim minority.

"The purpose of the meeting was to identify ways of preventing the emergence of any terrorist behavior in this country," Howard told commercial radio Wednesday.

"You won't change the minds of people who are hardened fanatics and hardened extremists. You have to identify them and take measures to ensure that they don't become a problem."

Asked if he was prepared to "get inside" mosques and schools to ensure there was no support for terrorism, Howard said: "Yes, to the extent necessary".

Australia is also contemplating tougher anti-terror legislation, which will be debated next month at a meeting between Howard and leaders of state governments, according to AFP.

The Affinity Intercultural Foundation (AIF), an Islamic youth organisation that was not invited to Tuesday’s meeting, said 80 percent of Aussie Muslims were not represented.

It told national radio that it will organize a meeting for Muslims in September to try to highlight how mainstream Muslims have become victims of prejudice and bias.

AIF director Mehmet Saral said Muslims were feeling more victimized than at any other time in their history of living in Australia.

Some 300,000 Muslims make up just 1.5 percent of Australia's population of 20 million.