Last Update: Wednesday, August 24, 2005. 7:22pm (AEST)
Minister tells Muslims: accept Aussie values or 'clear off'
Federal Education Minister Dr Brendan Nelson says he will be meeting the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) to develop ways to teach so-called Australian values to Muslim school children.
But Dr Nelson says those who do not accept and teach Australian values should "clear off".
One of the recommendations at Prime Minister John Howard's terrorism summit yesterday was for Islamic schools to be encouraged to denounce extremism and teach about Australian traditions and culture.
The Minister says it is important for all groups to be integrated into the Australian community, whatever their religion.
"If you want to be an Australian, if you want to raise your children in Australia, we fully expect those children to be taught and to accept Australian values and beliefs," he said.
"We want them to understand our history and our culture, the extent to which we believe in mateship and giving another person a fair go, and basically if people don't want to support and accept and adopt and teach Australian values then, they should clear off."
But a prominent Muslim educator says Australian values and traditions are already being taught in Islamic schools.
The deputy president of the Australian Council of Islamic Education in Schools, Silma Ihran, says the Minister should meet with school leaders to get a clear understanding of what is actually being taught.
"We have a document in all of our schools and we've all been receiving, through associations such as Independent Schools Association, professional development on how to actively incorporate the state of Australian values that are in this document, called Australian Values for Schools, as part of our teaching process," he said.
Meanwhile, Muslim educators are calling on Mr Howard to include their representatives in future summits with the Islamic community.
Ms Ihran, who is also the principal of the Nooral Houda Islamic College in Strathfield in Sydney, says Mr Howard must consider the wider Muslim community and its youth before making decisions about the teachings of Islamic schools.
"The Federation of Islamic Councils is an excellent body, but it doesn't represent the majority of the community and it itself isn't aware of some of these programs which are really the ones that the Government should be working with, to make sure that their concerns over the issues of values and citizenship are really addressed properly," she said.
Prime Minister John Howard says the Government is willing to go inside mosques, prayer halls and Islamic schools to ensure they are not preaching terrorism.
"I mean I have no desire and nor is it the Government's intention to interfere in anyway with the freedom or practice of religion," he said.
"But we have a right to know whether there is, within any section of the Islamic community, a preaching of the virtues of terrorism."