The first person to be charged and later acquitted under Australia’s 2003 anti-terror laws has condemned the government’s plans to toughen up on national security and target “hate preachers.
Zaky Mallah was jailed for two years over an alleged terror plot before being acquitted on appeal.
He told SBS he thought the government’s plan to strip passports from terror suspects would only breed discontent.
“In my opinion it will only create more lone wolves,” he said. “I mean, I’ve had my passport confiscated for seven years. I was a very angry young man. Luckily I didn’t turn into a lone wolf. But there are many people that will be very angry; very frustrated.”
Tony Abbott today spoke out against “hate preachers,” naming Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
“Organisations and individuals blatantly spreading discord and division – such as Hizb ut-Tahrir – should not do so with impunity,” he said.
But group spokesman Wassim Doureihi said the government was seeking to “exaggerate the size and influence of Hizbut Tahrir to justify its scaremongering efforts.”
Today, the group blames what it calls “imperialist adventures abroad,” including like the Iraq war, for garnering recruits to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State, not the activism of groups like it.
Keysar Trad of the Islamic Friendship Association said he opposed the targeting of Hizbut Tahrir, despite disputing some of its positions.
“Anybody who creates hate speech, and divides society – certainly the law should be able to stop them creating hate speech,” he said. “But we need to be careful that when we introduce these laws that we don’t go too far as to curb legitimate free speech.”
Australia’s most senior Muslim leader, Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, would not comment on the government’s announcements today.
“I mean, I’ve had my passport confiscated for seven years. I was a very angry young man. Luckily I didn’t turn into a lone wolf. But there are many people that will be very angry; very frustrated.”
But earlier this month, in the lead-up to the security crackdown, Dr Muhammad said he wouldn’t “repeat the mistake” of voting for Tony Abbott.
Another Imam, Dr Amin Hady, responded to Tony Abbott’s call for more Imams talk more about Islam being a “religion of peace”.
“We did and we have done and we are doing about this matter, it is part of our job and it is our view,” he said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the proposed measures deserved careful consideration, but liberties of citizens should only be reduced when existing arrangements proved inadequate.
But Australian National University terrorism expert Clarke Jones described the proposals as window dressing, saying they were unlikely to make Australia more secure.
“In reality, new measures may even go the other way and exasperate the underlying causes of violent extremism and further damage Australia’s already fragile social cohesion,” he said.
– With AAP