Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Monday that his government would launch a crackdown on terrorism through tightened immigration, visa or hate speech laws and by revoking citizenship or curbing rights of those known to be linked to terrorism activities.
The announcement has, however, invited angry reactions from Muslim advocates and leaders who think the new law is targeting Muslims for no good reasons
"The terrorist threat is rising at home and abroad, and it is becoming harder to combat. By any measure the threat to Australia is worsening," Abbot said in a national security address, delivered at the Australian Federal police headquarters in Canberra.
The Prime Minister made the announcement about the nation's new anti-extremism strategy after an official report was released on December's deadly siege at a café in Sydney. This also comes following a review of the nation's counter-terrorism operations.
Abbot pledged stronger prohibitions on hate speech and actions that incite hatred, adding that the measures were in line with recommendations from the counter-terrorism report.
He also said that citizenship of Australian nationals will be suspended if they engage in terrorism activities – without elaborating on what would exactly be included among "terrorism" acts. This measure would include restriction on the person's ability to either leave or return to Australia, he said.
"Australian citizenship is an extraordinary privilege that should involve a solemn and lifelong commitment to Australia," Mr Abbott said in the televised address. "People who come to this country are free to live as they choose — provided they don't steal that same freedom from others."
'Promoting Hatred and Inflaming Racism'
The counter-terrorism bid was immediately met with criticism from Muslim advocates and thinkers around the world. Aljazeera notes that there was no conciliatory lines from the Australian leader to echo US President Barack Obama's words that were uttered only last week: "We do not stigmatize entire communities," and that terrorism does not come from any religion.
The most note-worthy line from Abbot's Monday speech was the following: "I've often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a 'religion of peace' I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it."
The head of the Arab Council of Australia, Randa Kattan, said that the comment was "promoting hatred and inflaming racism," reports the Guardian.
"It labels our community as being responsible for the action of a few...Its not helpful for anyone to make these statements...How much more can we condemn?"
Zaahir Edries, the president of the Muslim Legal Network, also objected to the PM's comment that Muslims should promote Islam as the religion of peace more often.
"This clearly shows that the government has not engaged in sincere and genuine communication with the Muslim community. We have incessantly denounced violence and encouraged peace, not simply as a responsive measure, but because those are our core religious beliefs," he said.
"Consequently, we are of the view that tonight will not be genuine consultation with our community and we will advise our community of our reasons for non-attendance."