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Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2006, 05:58 GMT 06:58 UK
Howard call to Australian Muslims
Australian PM John Howard (archive image)
Mr Howard has been criticised for singling out Muslims
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has called on moderate Muslims to be more critical of terrorism.

In comments to mark the anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US, Mr Howard said: "No decent genuine Muslim would support terrorism."

He also said Muslims must fully accept that Israel had a right to exist.

Islamic leaders in Australia have reacted angrily to the comments, saying Mr Howard should not single out Muslims for criticism.

"Instead of constantly singling out Muslim people, he should be trying to promote cohesion," the president of the Islamic Friendship Association, Keysar Trad, told Reuters news agency.

"We shouldn't pussyfoot around'

Mr Howard reaffirmed Australia's commitment to fighting terrorism during a special anniversary ceremony in Canberra.

He said that what happened five years ago was "an attack on the values that the entire world holds in common".

"We ... gather to reaffirm our commitment both as friends and allies of the people of the United States but also as citizens of the world to maintain the fight against terrorism," he said.

Australia has gradually strengthened its anti-terrorism laws since the events of 11 September 2001, and national police chief Mick Keelty said the nation was now safer than it had been then, because the level of awareness had increased.

But Muslim leaders say their community has been unfairly targeted by authorities.

Mr Howard was criticised two weeks ago for suggesting that a small minority of Muslim immigrants did not do enough to integrate into Australian society.

In an interview with The Australian newspaper on Monday, he insisted: "We are not attacking Muslims generally."

"But you have to call terrorism for what it is - it is a movement that invokes in a totally blasphemous and illegitimate way the sanction of Islam to justify what it does."

He added that "on occasions they [moderate Muslims] should come out and be more critical of terrorism".

"We shouldn't pussyfoot around," he said.

In a later interview with Sky TV, Howard also said that Muslims should accept the right of Israel to exist.

"If we could reach a settlement whereby there was a total acceptance of Israel's right to exist ... and also the establishment of a Palestinian state which was fully recognised, that would remove one of the arguments used by the fanatics," he said.

Mr Howard is a close ally of US President George W Bush, and has sent Australian troops to both Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the US-led "war on terror".


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