Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended Islam and other religions after he was repeatedly questioned about the motives of the hostage-taker involved in the fatal Sydney siege earlier this week.
Speaking to ABC AM presenter Chris Uhlmann, Abbott said individuals like Man Haron Monis – the gunman who held 17 people hostage for more than 16 hours in the Lindt Cafe at Martin Place – may claim to be acting under the aegis of faith but religion is not to blame.
“Over the years Christianity and Catholicism has been criticised up hill and down dale… But we don’t blame the Pope for the IRA and we don’t blame the Catholics living next door for the folly of some people – the folly and madness of some people – who may claim a Christian motivation and I think we need to be similarly careful and cautious in these other areas,” he said.
The prime minister said that while these offenders claim to be acting in the name of God, faith leaders do not support these acts.
“They claim to be acting in the name of religion but there is no serious religious leader who is defending this,” he said.
“If you take the ISIL death cult in the Middle East – it has been roundly condemned by all of the leading Sunni scholars It has been roundly condemned.
“The phrase I like to quote is my friend Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia who is a devout Muslim but he says that the ISIL movement is against God, against Islam and it is against our common humanity.”
When asked whether there is a need for Islamic leaders in the West to have an honest conversation about why significant minorities within their community support and sympathise with violent jihadism, Abbott said it was already happening.
“I’ve spoken to Islamic leaders in recent months and they know that the victims of all of this include them because they are injured when any of us are injured,” he said.
“This mutual respect, this notion that we should treat others as we would be treated ourselves, this is at the heart of our society. I think it’s at the heart of all decent societies and I think all Australians regardless of their religion get that.”
Abbott added that he had not heard of anyone saying the Sydney attack was a justifiable response to something that Australia might have done.
“I haven’t heard anyone say that and frankly anyone who does even think that is dead wrong – absolutely dead wrong,” Abbott said.
“This was the act of a deeply unstable person with a long history of violence and mental illness. This was the act of someone who is way beyond any mainstream – any mainstream – and has been rightly, absolutely repudiated by all of the communities of Australia.”
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