UP to 3000 young Muslims in Sydney alone are at risk of becoming radicalised by fundamentalist Islam as community leaders warn that Australia has become a "prime country" for hardliners pushing extremist ideologies.
The Australian reports today Howard Government-funded research has also found there are more young Muslims per capita who are vulnerable to the influence of radical Islam in Australia than in any other western country.
The revelations came as John Howard warned that Australians needed to remain vigilant about the threat of terrorism.
While Australia's security threat level would not be heightened following foiled terrorist attacks in Britain since Friday, the Prime Minister criticised those who sought to play down or dismiss the danger of an attack on home soil.
"What is happening in Great Britain is a reminder to all of us that, despite all the talk on occasions from some that the threat of terrorism is exaggerated in our society, it is not, and we must remain vigilant," he said.
"It is just a reminder again that we can't rest, we have to remain vigilant."
The Federal Government's project looking into the radicalisation of young Muslims is headed by a former member of Mr Howard's Islamic advisory board, Mustapha Kara-Ali, who yesterday warned that Australia's mainstream community should not take comfort in the fact that a terrorist attack has not yet been carried out on our shores.
He praised the efforts of national security agencies in arresting 22 alleged Melbourne- and Sydney-based terrorism suspects in November 2005.
"We're finding out that per capita we've got a huge number of young Muslims (vulnerable to radicalisation) compared to other countries where there's a bigger community but yet relatively the same number of extremist youth," he said.
Mr Kara-Ali – who was given a $200,000 grant by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in June last year to investigate the radicalisation of young Muslims in Sydney's southwest – told The Australian there were up to 3000 young Sunni Muslim in that region of the state who were part of "ideological sleeper cells" on the brink of becoming radicalised.
"I believe in Sydney alone there's about 2000 and 3000 young Muslims vulnerable to being radicalised," he said.
"There are ideological sleeper cells waiting to be completely radicalised. Because radicalisation ... is to act upon your extremist teachings."
Mr Howard said September's APEC summit in Sydney and the World Youth Day next July would have the "inconvenience" of appropriate security, but altering or cancelling the events would be a victory for terrorists.
Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd yesterday called on Mr Howard to implement a recommendation in the 2005 Wheeler report regarding the screening of cargo on passenger flights after two men tried to drive a blazing Jeep through the doors of the Glasgow airport terminal on the weekend.
"Terrorism represents a threat to all civilised countries including Britain, including Australia, and therefore it is incumbent upon Australia to make sure that all practical measures are in place when it comes to dealing with any terrorist threat on our shores," hesaid.
"I would again ... implore the Federal Government to examine very carefully their commitments to implement fully the Wheeler report when it comes to airport and airline security, particularly that which goes to the whole question of the proper screening of air cargo travelling on passenger jets."
Mr Kara-Ali said his project would publish a 100-page guide book – The Way Forward for Australian Muslims: A Good Practice Guide for Building Identity and Resisting Radicalisation – which is currently under review and is expected to be distributed in Sydney's southwest this month.
The Muslim leader said the detention of five Australian Muslims by Lebanese authorities should not be seen as the beginning of a new trend of young community members travelling overseas to perform their jihad.
"It just so happens that some of those arrested had been in Lebanon for the last couple of years, so they were not there in anticipation of the refugee camp going off and blowing up," Mr Kara-Ali said.
Australian boxing champion Ahmed Elomar, Ibrahim Sabouh, Omar Hadba, Mohammad Basal and a fifth man believed to be Hussan Sabagh were arrested by authorities in Lebanon two weeks ago over their alleged links to Fatah al-Islam, which had been locked in a bloody battle with the Lebanese military since May.
Mr Hadba's father said his son had been moved to a defence department prison in Beirut as prosecutors prepared to lay terrorism charges against him.
It is expected Mr Hadba will be charged with facilitating the terror group Fatah al-Islam. Lebanese intelligence officers have been trying to establish the source of the estimated 500kg of military weapons found in his shed.
Australian officials are not expecting any further information about the detained men until the end of the week when military intelligence officers finish interrogating them.
Mr Kara-Ali said hardline clerics in Australia were continuing to exploit community divisions and global political hotspots such as the Palestinian territories and Iraq to recruit young Muslims between the ages of 15 and 25.
"Australia is a prime country for radicalisation," Mr Kara-Ali said.
"Because the Muslim community in Australia is still new, there isn't a strong established Islamic order and that means the (fundamentalist) Wahabi movement can penetrate the community further and recruit more at ease then they would be able to do in the Middle East where there is an establishment – a traditional Islamic order in place which would resist them."
Adding a further threat of violence, are possible anti terrorist cells who have been recruited from an undisclosed clandestine Govt funded body. These persons will take the necessary steps to ensure that for each act of terrorism a prearranged counter strike or strikes of a much greater magnitude will take place on previously selected targets deemed to be involved in subversive or pro terrorist activities.
Right or wrong, it would imply that it is a "You hit me once, and I'll hit you ten times harder policy.
listening in on a conversation at a club some months back after viewing a television coverage of a terrorist strike in England I first thought that, these people were on a bravado trip, but after a couple of minutes of listening I became more convinced that, what they were discussing could be in fact a reality. the Identity of these persons have vanished from my mind, they could be anyone of thousands of people visiting this holiday town. The mind boggles.
Vest Daily Gaggle.
Monday, 2 July 2007
To advise that Vest (Les Bowyer) passed away this morning. Regards, Chris (Son).
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