A day after the government and moderate Muslim leaders pledged to join forces in the fight against terrorism and blend Australian values with Islamic teachings, Prime Minister John Howard on Wednesday said schools and mosques would be monitored to ensure they did not foster terrorism.
"We have a right to know whether there is, within any section of the Islamic community, a preaching of the virtues of terrorism, whether any comfort or harbour is given to terrorism within that community," Howard told Southern Cross radio network.
Aljazeera reports that Australia's Muslim community has reacted with anger and shock to Howard's decision to have schools and mosques monitored.
Howard said he supported spying on mosques to observe training of imams and what was being taught in Islamic schools, as part of a campaign to overcome what he described as the spreading of extremist ideas in the name of Islam.
Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network convener Waleed Kadous said the government should consult schools and mosques rather than spy on them.
"Such hardline talk only isolates some parts of the Muslim community even further and makes it harder for cooperation between the Muslim community and the government"
Civil rights activist
"I don't know why he is resorting to such tough kind of measures when frankly, he could consult with members of the community," Kadous told Australian Associated Press.
"Such hardline talk only isolates some parts of the Muslim community even further and makes it harder for cooperation between the Muslim community and the government," he added.
Opposition Labour Party Leader Kim Beazley said government funding should be cut to any school preaching extremist views.
"Labour believes funding for schools should also be conditional upon ensuring students are not exposed to extremist material or teachings," Beazley said.
Education Minister Brendan Nelson and Citizenship Minister John Cobb will spend the next few weeks meeting Islamic leaders to flesh out proposals that arose from Tuesday's summit of government and Islamic leaders, including ways of appropriately training imams in Australia and ensuring schools teach Australian values.
Nelson said Muslims who did not want to accept local values should leave Australia.