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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 09:30 GMT
Australia 'safe' for Muslims
Indonesians protest against Australia's raids
Australia has made enemies in Indonesia
Australia has rejected comments by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who suggested that Australia was not safe for Muslims.


At the moment Australia is particularly unsafe for Muslims, because they are likely to have their houses raided

Mahathir Mohamad
Dr Mahathir was criticising last week's raids by Australian security agents on the homes of Muslims suspected of links with a banned militant group that Australia suspects of involvement in last month's Bali bomb.

But Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said the operations had targeted just a dozen or so members of the country's Muslim population.

"A sense of proportion makes it abundantly clear that Muslims are perfectly safe in Australia," he told Australian television's Channel Seven.

Dr Mahathir has accused Australia of being heavy-handed in the raids, which came days after Australia banned the Islamic group Jemaah Islamiah.

No arrests were made, but the security forces seized boxes of computers, mobile phones and documents in the raids.

"At the moment Australia is particularly unsafe for Muslims, because they are likely to have their houses raided," he said. "I've seen pictures of doors being broken, which I don't think is essential."

Asian reaction

Indonesia's acting ambassador to Australia, Imron Cotan, has also criticised the raids, warning they could harm the joint investigation into the 12 October Bali bomb in which about 90 Australians died.

"I will not be surprised if the people of Indonesia ask us to stop co-operating with your police forces," he told ABC news.

But Prime Minister John Howard played down the criticism, saying Australia's relationship with its Asian neighbours was "still very good."

"This is obviously a challenging time but I think we have to look beneath the surface," he said.

He also defended the government's warnings to Australians to avoid travelling to many Asian countries because of fears of more terror attacks. Asian leaders fear the warnings will badly damage tourism in their countries.

"We are doing what we must and should and will do in defending the Australian national interest," he said. "The leaders of other countries understand that."


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