Senior Islamic community leaders’ decision to boycott a meeting to discuss the jihadi threat facing Australia reportedly prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrison to blast the Muslim chiefs on Wednesday for turning a blind eye to terrorism.
“The meeting [scheduled for Thursday] is going ahead with those who want to deal with this issue seriously rather than look the other way,” Mr. Morrison said, according to the Associated Press (AP).
“Some have chosen to publicly boycott this meeting. Continuing down a path of denial only lets their communities down,” he continued.
It reportedly remains unclear who will represent Muslims at the meeting who comprise three percent of predominantly Christian Australia.
Morrison called the meeting after a Muslim extremist fatally stabbed a man and injured two others in downtown Melbourne on Nov. 9 before police shot the assailant dead.
Some Australian Muslims were critical when Morrison later said that “radical, violent, extremist Islam” posed the greatest threat to Australia’s national security.
They felt the wider Muslim community had been blamed when Morrison said Islamic leaders “must be proactive, they must be alert and they must call this out.”
PM Morrison’s response to the Islamic leaders’ request to postpone the meeting further fueled animosity from the world’s Muslim community triggered by his proposal last month to move the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following U.S. President Donald Trump’s lead along with other countries.
Critics argue that Morrison’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem “is aimed at domestic political gain amid a debate over levels of Muslim immigration,” AP points out.
On Wednesday, Muslims Australia, a national umbrella group for followers of Islam, noted that Islamic organizations called for the government to delay the meeting because the Morrison administration scheduled it in haste, it lacked an agenda, and the PM failed to respond to Muslim concerns.
Grand Mufti Mohamed Abdalla, Australia’s most senior Muslim cleric, is among the religious leaders who signed a letter accusing the Morrison administration of suggesting that Muslims are “collectively culpable for the criminal actions of individuals” in comments that have “alienated large segments of the Muslim community.”
Ghaith Krayem, the chief executive of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, also signed the declaration, telling the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Wednesday, “I would encourage the prime minister not to engage on serious matters on Twitter.”
“We are genuinely committed to be engaged with government, but it has to be a genuine process,” he proclaimed. “The causes of terrorism is a complex issue.”
Al Jazeera reported that in the open letter to Morrison announcing the Muslim community’s boycott of the PM’s meeting, the Islamic chiefs said:
Many in the Muslim community including the undersigned are deeply concerned and disappointed with statements made by senior government ministers and the prime minister in the recent past which infer that the community is collectively culpable for the criminal actions of individuals and should be doing more to prevent such acts of violence.
These statements have achieved nothing to address underlying issues, but rather, have alienated large segments of the Muslim community.
On Tuesday, Australian authorities charged three men with planning to carry out a thwarted attack during the busy Christmas season in Melbourne on behalf of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
Early this month, ISIS claimed responsibility for a knife rampage, also in Melbourne, that killed one person and wounded two others.