(CNSNews.com) - Australian Muslims should do more to condemn terrorism, Prime Minister John Howard said Monday in an interview marking the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Howard and his deputy have been under fire in recent days for comments urging Muslim migrants to embrace Australia's values and shun extremism, but he rejected the criticism.
"We shouldn't pussyfoot around," he told The Australian, a national daily. "People in Australia are in no doubt that extreme Islam is responsible for terrorism."
"We are not attacking Muslims generally but you have to call terrorism for what it is -- it is a movement that invokes in a totally blasphemous and illegitimate way the sanction of Islam to justify what it does."
If would be helpful if, on occasion, moderate Muslims would "come out and be more critical of terrorism," he said.
Howard repeated his earlier assessment that "there is a section of the Islamic population which will not integrate ... [and has] values and attitudes which are hostile to Australia's interests."
"I would like the rest of the Islamic community to join the rest of the Australian community in making sure that the views and attitudes of that small minority do not have adverse consequences."
Referring to the heightened security measures put in place in Australia and elsewhere as a result of 9/11 and the subsequent Bali bombings, in which 88 Australians were killed, Howard said critics should blame the terrorists, not governments, for such steps being necessary.
"I find it amazing civil libertarians run around and attack me, or [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair or attack the police."
Howard was in Washington on September 11, 2001, and the day's events prompted him invoke the mutual defense provisions of a half century-old bilateral defense pact.
Since then, Australia has strongly backed the U.S.-led war against Islamic terrorists, supporting it politically at the U.N. and elsewhere, as well as militarily, with troops participating in the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Howard attended a 9/11 commemoration service Monday at the American Embassy in Canberra, where he said the al-Qaeda attacks were directed not only at America but at those who valued freedom everywhere.
A minute's silence was held to remember the 3,000 people killed in the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon, and rural Pennsylvania.
Recalling the day of the terrorist attacks, Howard said in the interview: "I knew ... the world was quite never going to be the same again. You couldn't escape the realization that this was something like nothing else."
Australian opposition leader Kim Beazley of the Labor Party said some things in the campaign against terrorism had been done well, but charged that the war in Iraq had been a "distraction" and "a serious mistake."
In a television interview earlier, Howard said Iraq was a better place because of Saddam Hussein's removal.
"It's all very well to criticize what has been done there by the coalition, but you have to ask yourself where would we be now if we hadn't taken that action and where would we be if we unilaterally pulled out, which is what is being urged on us by the Labor Party and by President Bush's critics in the U.S."
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