Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty believes the media is fuelling a growing bias against Islamic Australians, warning that increased vilification of Muslims is fomenting home-grown terrorism.
In a speech delivered in Adelaide, Mr Keelty played down Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali’s inflammatory comments on women, asserting that “many in the community also say offensive things and many of them are white Caucasian Australians”.
He said rising vilification of Muslims was being fuelled by irresponsible media outlets which sensationalised terrorism-related stories with little basis in fact. And he called on Australians to teach the values of democracy and multiculturalism to the younger generation so that “our future is not worse than our past”.
Mr Keelty – who clashed with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in 2004 after the commissioner blamed the suicide attacks on Madrid train system on the war in Iraq – said he met privately with Muslim groups in Adelaide yesterday.
“You hear more and more stories of treatment of the Islamic community that really is substandard by members of our own wider community,” he said at a lunch hosted by the South Australian Press Club. “It is vilification, picking them out of the crowd because they dress differently or they speak differently. If we are not careful we risk raising a generation of Australians who will have a bias against Islam.”
See also “Australia’s Muslims fear backlash”, BBC News, 26 October 2006