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Monday, April 30, 2007

Former prime minister says discrimination against Muslims rising in Australia

The government is partly to blame for an increase in discrimination against Muslims in Australia, a former prime minister said Monday.

Malcolm Fraser, who headed Prime Minister John Howard's Liberal Party when it was last in power from 1975 to 1983, said Australia's reputation as a successful multicultural society was threatened by its treatment of Muslims — a minority of 400,000 among 21 million.

"Today, for a variety of reasons, but not least because the government has sought to set Muslims aside, discrimination and defamation against Muslims has been rising dramatically," the 76-year-old former center-right leader said in a lecture on contemporary Australia at the Australian National University.

The federal discrimination watchdog, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, interviewed more than 1,400 Arab and Muslim Australians in 2003 and found that 93 percent believed there had been an increase in racism, abuse and violence against their groups after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.

The commission heard that women wearing jihabs feared being spat on as they walked their children to school and others suspected they had been refused jobs because they had Muslim names. [Link]

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