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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 7024

Muslim Protest

Senator STEPHENS (New South Wales) (14:11): My question today is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr. Can the minister advise what his response is to the violent protests in Sydney on the weekend following the release of the film, Innocence of Moslems?

Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:12): Attended by an estimated 100 people, the demonstration was repellent to Australians and repellent to just about all Australians of Islamic faith. One hundred people is a fraction of the estimated half a million Muslim Australians. Yesterday I branded the demonstration the work of provocateurs who want hatred and extremism in the air. They want to grab attention, they want broken bones, they want a clash of culture, they want a clash of civilisations. Their goal is to push us to the edge. They seek to blame the United States, President Obama and his ambassadors for a lousy propaganda film, the work of a lone nutter.

Yesterday I said 99.9 per cent of Australian Muslims were chilled to the bone by the grotesque images and rhetoric of this demonstration and they have spoken out and condemned it. Ms Shereen Hassan, spokeswoman of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said:

While it is abhorrent that individuals should disrespect Prophet Mohammed, it is even more abhorrent that Muslims should defile his peaceful teachings by acting in such a vile manner.

Signs at the protest invoked beheading. Frankly, if you believe in be heading, then you will probably never be happy living in Australia. As the minister for immigration said today, people convicted for violence at this demonstration who fail the character test should be deported from this country. Invoking beheading and putting such signs in the hands of children is a condemnation on its own. I have spoken to Islamic leaders today and congratulated them for their forthright utterances condemning this. This is a conflict within the world of Islam, and we have an interest in encouraging the moderates in this country—Islamic Australians, proud of their faith and proud of their heritage—to be committed to this Australia and its future and reject such repellent extremism. (Time expired)

Senator STEPHENS (New South Wales) (14:14): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Could I ask the minister to update the Senate on the Obama administration's commitment to religious tolerance and engagement with the Muslim world?

Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:14): In his 2009—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator BOB CARR: You might mock the President but we are admirers of President Obama.

In his 2009 Cairo speech, President Obama called for 'a new beginning' between the United States and the Muslim world. He acknowledged that no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust. Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, said that Obama's speech 'offered a new vision of rapprochement'. For Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama defined a clear strategy for transition to civilian rule. In Turkey, he said that he wanted to build a model partnership between a majority Christian and a majority Muslim country. He has visited Pakistan and Indonesia. America is working with the Organization of Islamic Conference to eradicate polio and has provided $150 million to assist Egypt's transition. The Obama administration has done more to reach out to the Muslim world than any previous US government. As Secretary Clinton said boldly and emphatically, 'This video has nothing to do with us.' (Time expired)

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator STEPHENS (New South Wales) (14:15): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I thank the minister for his response and ask: can he update the Senate on recent protest movements in the Islamic world, and what are the implications for the government's commitment to promoting an overlap of cultures in Australian foreign policy?

Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:15): Senator Brandis, should not be taking sides on the US presidential election, because in doing that he is only following what Prime Minister John Howard did so infamously. Governments in transition countries such as Libya and Egypt will, I am sure, respond vigorously to extremists and protect diplomats in their countries. President Morsi of Egypt told me earlier this month that Egypt was neither a military nor a religious state; it is a civil state. Australia's posts overseas already contribute to several cross-cultural programs both in the Middle East and in the Asia Pacific. In Indonesia, for example, we support student exchanges between Australian and Indonesian schools. The program has connected more than 90,000 Australian and Indonesian students and thousands of teachers since it commenced in 2008. The Australia-Indonesia Institute— (Time expired)