The NSW Government is locked in a bitter stand-off with the Commonwealth over who has the power to ban a radical Islamic group.
Prime Minister John Howard and Attorney-General Philip Ruddock have refused to outlaw Hizb ut-Tahrir, whose controversial push to drum up support among Australian Muslims to create an Islamic superstate has sparked outrage from the NSW Government.
NSW Premier Morris Iemma today stepped up his demands for the Federal Government to outlaw the group, saying its leaders were advocating a holy war with Australia.
But the Commonwealth insists it can’t use tough anti-terror laws to slap a ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir and says NSW has the ability to outlaw the group itself if it wants.
The row comes after Hizb ut-Tahrir’s firebrand Indonesian cleric Ismail Yusanto yesterday urged a meeting of Sydney Muslims to support the creation of an Islamic state ruled by strict Sharia law and be ready for a jihad to defend it.
Mr Howard said the Federal Government would not ban Hizb ut-Tahrir unless it breached anti-terror laws.
“There is often a thin line between stupid extravagant language and language which is deliberately designed to incite violence … or to threaten the security of the country,” he told Southern Cross Broadcasting.
“People can say a lot of ridiculous things and they should be able to say ridiculous things in a democracy without that language constituting violence and extreme incitement to violence.”
Mr Ruddock said if the NSW Government wanted to outlaw the group because it did not approve of its views, it could do so.
“If the State Government believes it should be banned as an organisation simply because they don’t like their views, I would suggest they’ve got power to do it,” he told reporters.
“Or, if they think that you need to have a national scheme for banning organisations of that type whose views you don’t like, refer a power along with your state Labor colleagues to enable us to do it.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir is notorious for its anti-democratic, anti-Semitic views and has been banned in Britain, Germany and several Middle Eastern countries.
Mr Iemma said NSW was unable to ban the group because it, along with the other states, referred powers to exclude terror groups to the Commonwealth in 2002.
“What’s Mr Ruddock’s problem in reviewing the status of this organisation,” he told reporters.
“If he wants evidence, listen to what was said.
“They’re advocating war with Australia, on Australians.”
Western Australia’s Attorney-General Jim McGinty backed Mr Iemma’s call, accusing Hizb ut-Tahrir of “threatening the very fabric of our community”.
Federal Opposition immigration spokesman Tony Burke said Dr Yusanto should have been refused a visa because his radical views could incite conflict in Australia.
“Why on earth this bloke was given permission to come to Australia is a complete mystery to me,” Mr Burke told Macquarie Radio today.
Mr Howard said newly appointed Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews would examine the visa given to Dr Yusanto.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies said instead of banning the group, Mr Iemma should use the state’s anti-vilification laws against its members.
“Our concern is that any person or any organisation should not be permitted to make inflammatory remarks or engage in racial hatred in NSW and we believe the full force of the law should be brought down on [them],” chief executive Vic Alhadeff said.
“Sharia law requires that non-Muslims be regarded as second-class citizens and, furthermore, when one looks at the website of this Hizb ut-Tahrir, there is a lot of inflammatory hate speech … it calls for death to Jews and things like that.”
A spokesman for Mr Iemma said the State Government had no power under racial vilification laws to ban the group.