Australia: Islamic leader appeals for moderate language from imams

A respected Australian Islamic leader appealed for imams to preach moderation to the country's young Muslims as a way of countering fanaticism.

Ameer Ali, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, was speaking Sunday after 18 Muslim men were arrested last week in a string of raids that police and lawmakers said foiled a catastrophic terror attack.

Intelligence agencies believe the men were part of two linked terror cells operating in the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne and say they were led by an Algerian-born radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakr.

All 18 men are in jail awaiting trial on terror charges. They are accused of stockpiling chemicals to make the same type of explosives believed to have been used in the deadly bombings of London trains and buses in July.

About 300,000 Muslims live in Australia and "the vast majority aren't fanatical," Ali told the Ten television network.

But he warned that around the world extremists were distorting Islamic teachings as a way of recruiting new terrorists.

"There (are) people who use Islam in order to get support, that's what's happening all over the world," Ali said.

"That's why we are appealing to imams to be clear in what you're saying because Arabic is a rich language, you use one word, it's got 10 meanings, so when you talk to the youngsters be clear in what you're saying," he added. "Don't allow them ... to fall into the trap of these fanatical groups in our midst."

But Ali warned the Muslim community would find it difficult to keep tabs on extremism and report it to authorities.

In a speech Saturday, Prime Minister John Howard issued a call to Muslim leaders to better police preachers.

Howard said it was up to "leaders of the Islamic community to ensure as best they can, with our cooperation, that those within their midst who might seek to pervert the minds particularly of the young, to a distorted obscene form of Islam are identified and dealt with as best they can."

Ali agreed imams should be moderate but added: "a community organization like mine is not a police force", AP reports.

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