Muslims Worry as Australian Government Considers Stripping Citizenship of Terror Suspects
  • Mon, 06/08/2015
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08 June 2015

There is a growing chorus of criticism by some government ministers and backbenchers, legal experts and community groups, over the Australian government's attempts to increase executive powers to revoke citizenship of suspected terrorists.

Under the proposal, the immigration minister would have the direct and exclusive power to decide, and sole nationals could stripped of their citizenship if they were potentially able to apply for citizenship in another country.

After a bruising cabinet discussion on the citizenship issue was leaked to the media, the Abbott government is still considering the measure.

The measure is contained in a discussion paper on the rights and responsibilities of Australian citizenship and 40 government backbenchers have signed a letter of support to Prime Minister Tony Abbott (pictured), as long as such a measure does not leave anybody stateless.

However one of those backbenchers, Queensland Liberal MP Ewen Jones, told the ABC on Monday he was disturbed by the level of racist hate mail he had received that was directed at Muslims.

“I am very, very worried about the latent, for want of a better term, racism, that we are seeing in the country when it comes to our Muslim population,” he said.

“I’m still getting people sending me stuff saying, ‘what about these bloody Muslims’ and you go back to them and say ‘you know that’s a false story’.”

Also on Monday, former Howard government immigration minister Amanda Vanstone wrote a scathing opinion piece in Fairfax, critical of the government’s stance on citizenship and its preparedness to allow a minister alone to strip citizenship of alleged terrorists.

Ms Vanstone argued Cabinet ministers were not provided with enough information to make a considered decision on the proposal.

She also praised the six Cabinet ministers who raised concerns about the policy.

"Cutting down our democratic protections to get at the enemy is profoundly dumb," Ms Vanstone said.

"We end up doing the enemy's work for them, and from within."

Silma Ihram, of the Australian Muslim Women’s Association, warned that some Muslim Australians could end up like the Rohingya people of Burma, left stateless or “shipped off to Cambodia”.

She has also accused Tony Abbott of using the citizenship discussion like the “reds under the bed” communist debate of the 1950s in order to win the next election.

Ihram added that some Australian Muslims feel “numbed by the progress and speed of the government” on national security laws, such as the measure to strip the Australian citizenship from dual nationals suspected of terrorist offences on the approval of the minister rather than the courts.

Ihram was also critical of Labor, after Bill Shorten agreed “in principle” with the bill which has yet to be released but is expected to come before the parliament in the next fortnight.

Ihram said her own community was “extraordinarily frustrated” at the lack of any “real” consultation by the government with Muslim community groups.

“It’s so one-sided,” she said. “Everyday in Australia we have murder and other crimes committed. We have women who are killed by their husbands but we don’t have any legitimate terror offences ...

“Yet the amount of money put into negative policing and punitive measures has really soured relations between Muslim community and ramped up the sense of fear and isolation in the community.”

Ihram said young Muslims were already contributing to Australian society with high levels of tertiary entrance rates and community participation but the government’s unhelpful rhetoric, such as Tony Abbott singling out the community, was isolating.

“When the government suggests Muslims don’t have the same values Australians do – which is rubbish, [Isis] will say over social media to young Muslims, ‘they will never understand you, they will always fight against you’ and it all feeds straight into their rhetoric,” Ihram said.

Ihram said she knows of no community groups which have had consultations with the government on the latest citizenship laws, although they have been writing letters to the government to give their views.

Sources:

Gabrielle Chan, "Tony Abbott using citizenship debate to win next election, Muslim leader says" Guardian Australia June 8, 2015

Anna Henderson, "Amanda Vanstone criticises Tony Abbott's citizenship policy and Cabinet handling: 'That's either lazy, sneaky or both'" ABC News June 8, 2015