To be in ‘good book’ of the US and England, the ASIO Bill was first introduced in early 2002, following the tragedy of September 11, to allow the Australian security agency, ASIO, to hold and question any person, including children, incommunicado, effectively indefinitely, without access to a lawyer. It was part of a major worldwide crackdown on ‘terrorism’.
The Howard Government's recent amendments to lift the age from 14 to 16 years old, to limit interrogation to 24 hours over 7 days, or allow limited access to a lawyer subjected to ASIO scrutiny were no consolation. There is a growing fear the new legislation will only allow ASIO a legal basis for further harassment, set-up and jailing of people of the Muslim faith.
According to a representative of, from the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV), the new laws will be used to discriminate against individuals in the Islamic community.
Speaking to ABC’s Rachel Carbonell on ‘The World Today’ (ABC, 17 June 2003), Goolam Laher said that as a peak Islamic representative group, the ICV, was concerned that this piece of legislation was being introduced at a time when the Islamic community was being marginalised and being treated and labelled as terrorist.
Even before the ASIO Bill, Muslims around Australia have reported increased levels of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice, discrimination and vilification, resulting in fear, isolation and uncertainty.
With fresh media allegations linking Muslims with ‘terrorism’, and the passing of the ASIO Bill, the ASIO is now on the loose; free to target Muslims at will, even if they have not broken any law. ASIO will not be obligated to inform the arrested persons why they are being detained.
Violent raids, interrogations and surveillance of those labelled or stereotyped as ‘terrorists’ by ASIO and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), especially since September 11, had made the community unsafe, particularly for Muslims.
Under the ASIO Bill, security agents will be allowed to break into Muslims’ homes or snatch Muslims from their workplace for interrogation at any given time for interrogation for seven days. All of this will be merely on the basis that Muslims may have crucial information.
Muslims will be jailed for up to five years if they refuse to assist security agents, and they will be denied the right to lawyer, unless approved by ASIO. And no contact with family or friends will be permitted during the seven-day interrogation/detention. Legally Muslims will have no such rights as the right to silence and the presumption of innocence.
Even when represented, Muslims will be restricted both in terms of the choice and the role of the lawyer. ASIO will be empowered to limit or even bar the involvement of the lawyer during interrogation.A grass-root movement to take up the issue of Muslim rights is the only viable option. And Muslims should do that for themselves.
The so-called concessions will not be enough to safeguard to protect Muslim rights. The peak Islamic organizations are totally naïve into thinking that making occasional statements or expressing their concern would somehow be enough to safeguard the rights of Muslims of Australia.
Know your enemy!
No time to waste. Act now!
Tomorrow it will be too late
What You Don’t Know Can Kill You