ASIO harassing Arabs

February 25, 1991

By Nigel D'Souza

While the government publicly condemns the racist attacks against Arabs and Muslims in the wash of the Gulf War, in private it is conducting a campaign of harassment against these communities which makes a mockery of the formal expressions of concern.

Arab families have been visited by pairs of ASIO agents as part of an "information gathering" exercise apparently ordered by higher sources ostensibly worried about a terrorist threat. The agents, who have openly introduced themselves as ASIO operatives, have also told interviewees that they were concerned about the security of the people they were visiting because of the attacks against Muslims and Arabs.

This concern for their safety, however, does not explain why the ASIO agents have asked interviewees about their attitudes towards the war, Australian warships in the Gulf and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Neither does it explain why they have been particularly interested in anti-US activities and views in the rest of the Arab community.

Although not much is being said publicly, Arab and Muslim community members are very concerned about the treatment some of their people are receiving. ASIO does not appear to be singling out just the prominent activists. Some, because of experiences in their countries of origin, are genuinely terrorised by the visits.

Radio Australia reports that a similar process is occurring in the United States, where some in the 3-million-strong Arab community are being visited by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

History, or at least the warmongers, repeats itself. During World War II German Australians and Japanese Americans were interned in camps in complete violation of human rights. The process of differentiating between Arab Australians and other citizens is a disturbing development and one that is prompted by the same official attitudes that created those concentration camps.

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