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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn