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Sydney Morning Herald
PM firm on summit: no extremists
Date: August 20 2005
By Tom Allardhttp://www.smh.com.au/text/articles/2005/08/19/1124435144951.html
The Prime Minister, John Howard, has rebuffed criticism of his exclusion of radical Muslim leaders from an anti-terrorism summit, saying to do otherwise would empower extremists.
But Muslim leaders said next week's summit could actually increase the appeal of radicals, and that many of the 14 invitees were unknown to most Muslims.
The summit was sought by Muslims after the London bombings and viewed as a positive step in building links and understanding between government and a community that feels it has been unfairly maligned by tabloid media and talkback radio.
Mr Howard told ABC Radio that his objective was to "prevent impressionable younger people in particular from coming under the sway of extremism".
"I see no merit in inviting unrepresentative people who have an extreme view," Mr Howard said. "To invite people who represent an extreme point of view is to give them disproportionate and unmeritorious recognition which would anger people who are trying to do the right thing."
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, said: "I tolerate all sorts of things but … there's a limit to even my goodwill, good nature and tolerance.
"That limit is people like Nazis and fascists and Islamic extremist fundamentalists who want to destroy our society and who applaud the killing of innocent civilians."
The founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, Keysar Trad, said a much broader cross-section of representatives should be going, including imams who preached fundamentalism but condemned terrorism.
"If they are the ones you are worried about, what's the point of excluding them?" he asked.
Kuranda Seyit, the director of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations, said the meeting was a "publicity stunt", noting a lack of female representation.
"The key area to address is how we can involve the fringe elements to be more inclusive and transparent," he said.
"What we are facing is a new generation of disenfranchised youth ripe for indoctrination by radical Islamic leaders. We need to take action and work with these groups, not to further alienate them."
Another young Muslim leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the narrow list of invitees risked widening an "us versus them mentality" between elements of the Muslim community and the Government.
"Most of these people have very few real links with the community," he said. "It's not representative at all."
The Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, also called for a broader cross-section of Muslim leaders to be invited, although his primary concern was that the Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson, should attend.
"The main building block in the character of our society is our education system," he said.
"That's where respect must begin; that's where respect must be taught - respect for yourself, respect for the community. Respect for Australian values should be taught in all schools."
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