Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Imam called him 'captain of Team Australia'

His comments came after senior members of the Muslim community boycotted meetings with the Prime Minister

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott attempted to defend his questionable use of the phrase “Team Australia”, which saw senior members of the Islamic community boycott a meeting on Monday, by claiming that an Imam called him the country’s “captain”. 

On Monday, Mr Abbott said people migrating to Australia must “join our team”, prior to meetings with Muslim community leaders to discuss the government’s proposed expansion of anti-terror laws amid fears fighters radicalised in Iraq and Syria will return to the country.

The talks came before footage emerged of an English-sounding Islamic State fighter, believed to be part of a trio of British fighters, beheaded war journalist James Foley in the Syrian desert.

But leaders, including Ghaith Krayem, the head of the Islamic Council of Victoria, boycotted the meeting in response to Mr Abbott's comments. He said that he was offended by the suggestion that anyone who questioned the Prime Minister was automatically against Australia.

He added that the description of a migrant community was incorrect as nearly half of those he represents were born in Australia."

Krayem and Silma Ihram of the Australian Muslim Women’s Association, who did attend, said called Mr Abbott’s use of words “divisive”.

“[The prime minister] is doing very well at being divisive…referring to Muslim migrants when many are born here, giving short deadlines for meetings, little information, finger pointing that this is your problem and if you don’t fix it, we will. It doesn’t help to get respect,” Ms Ihram told the Guardian.

Read more: Abbott says ‘No to Scottish Independence
The harrowing truth behind Thai 'fertility tourism'
Australian national tweets photograph of son with severed head
Australia’s Treasurer claims fuel tax increase won’t affect poor people ‘because they don’t have cars’

But Mr Abbott remained defiant and reiterated to Australia’s ABC broadcaster that he expects everyone to be on “Team Australia”. He then tried to explain why he adopted the phrase, and proceeded to label Muslim groups “petty” and “foolish” for boycotting the meeting.

“Well, obviously the most important thing is to talk and that's why I was disappointed that a small number of Islamic leaders, community leaders, thought rather foolishly boycotted that meeting, and I doubt that sort of thing will happen again because it's so self-evidently petty to do that kind of thing.

He continued: “I dare say not everyone would use the phrase but I've used it and I'll keep using it because I expect everyone to be on Team Australia.

“As one of the leading Imams said to me at the end of one meeting, we're all part of Team Australia and you're our captain.

"So I imagine that from time to time they would want a different captain but nevertheless, that's what he said, that we're all part of Team Australia and you're our captain."

As controversy surround anti-terror laws continues, the senior members of Australia’s Islamic community outlined their concerns in a letter on Thursday, including how they “unjustly target Muslims,” and that Mr Abbott is merely seeking approval for laws that they claim have already been decided, ABC News reported.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss