SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Australia and Southeast Asia must re-double efforts to share intelligence and make sure Paris-style attacks can’t be replicated in the region, Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said on Wednesday.
Islamic State last year captured parts of Syria and Iraq, and declared the creation of a caliphate, or state, governed by its hardline interpretation of Islam. The militant group has since made claims to violence outside its domain, including last month’s deadly Paris attacks that killed 130 people.
Hundreds of Indonesian Islamic State sympathizers and some Malaysians and Singaporeans are believed to have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq, succumbing to a torrent of propaganda on the Internet. Government officials say Southeast Asia faces the risk of attack when they return, and have agreed to step up cooperation including sharing of intelligence.
“The fact that the national security situation has significantly deteriorated for all of the countries in the region, including Australia, means we need to re-double those efforts,” Keenan told Reuters in an interview in Singapore.
Next week, Australia marks the anniversary of a siege in central Sydney in which a gunman with radical Islamist sympathies took over a cafe. Two hostages and the gunman were killed when police stormed the building.
Keenan said there is no war against any religion, and denounced comments by U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump who has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States following last week’s massacre in San Bernardino, California, by a Muslim couple.
“That is entirely the wrong response,” Keenan said. “When we look at Southeast Asia, we get a good example that we are not somehow at war with a particular religion. And neither do we need to target Muslim Australians or anywhere else in the world.”
Muslims must work together to ensure that Islam is a religion of peace, former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday, and referred to Islamic State as a “death cult”.
“It is very important that Muslims look into their hearts and ask themselves some profound questions about their faith,” Abbott said in a lecture in Singapore.
Reporting by Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Rujun Shen in SINGAPORE; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel