With the NSW elections looming, Labor Premier Morris Iemma seems determined to try to outdo the federal government — from the right. On January 28, Iemma demanded that Canberra ban the Sunni Muslim organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, which was holding a conference in Lakemba in Iemma's western Sydney electorate.
The group has been banned in some countries and is proscribed in others. Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock rejected Iemma's call, saying the group was under ASIO surveillance and that it had not attempted to incite violence nor was there evidence of any terrorist threat.
Indonesian cleric Ismail Yusanto addressed a 500-strong public meeting in Lakemba on January 28 organised by the group and called for the formation of an Islamic caliphate throughout all Muslim countries to be run under sharia law. Australia was not included in the proposed caliphate. Nor did Yusanto call for the use of violence, let alone terrorism.
Nevertheless, Iemma claimed the organisation "is basically saying it wants to declare war on Australia, our values and our people". He was joined by Tony Burke, the federal opposition spokesperson for immigration, integration and citizenship, who demanded that Yusanto's visa by cancelled.
"People need to reject Iemma's Muslim-bashing hysteria", Rachel Evans, Socialist Alliance Legislative Council candidate for the March 24 election, told Green Left Weekly. "With this latest outrage, Iemma is trying to hide the fact that it is his government that is failing to provide the necessary social infrastructure to help migrant communities fully integrate. He needs to stop scapegoating certain communities, and get down to offering genuine solutions, including more funding for the essentials: education, health and public transport."
Evans concluded: "Civil liberties are under threat because the state government has colluded with Canberra to pass the 'anti-terror' laws. Really, these laws are about silencing dissent. It's time the people of NSW stood up for all our rights and reject this Muslim bashing."