CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's most senior Muslim cleric came under fire from government ministers on Tuesday for linking the Paris attacks to racism and Islamophobia.
The Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, and the Australian National Imams Council — a national body representing Muslim clerics — issued a statement late Sunday offering their deepest condolences to the families and friends of victims of the coordinated attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people.
"These recent incidents highlight the fact that current strategies to deal with the threat of terrorism are not working," the statement said.
"It is therefore imperative that all causative factors such as racism, Islamophobia, curtailing freedoms through securitization, duplicitous foreign policies and military intervention must be comprehensively addressed," it said.
The statement was widely criticized by lawmakers and media commentators on Tuesday.
"There is no connection between the innocent victims of Paris and Islamophobia," The Australian national newspaper said in an editorial.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton condemned the statement and challenged the Egyptian-born religious scholar to condemn the attacks.
"I've condemned the comments and I think they are a very poor message to young Muslims and to people of good faith across the country," Dutton told Sydney Radio 2GB.
"The opportunity's there today for the grand mufti to come out and clarify his comments and make it very clear that he condemns these acts of terrorism, these murderous acts, without reservation as other leaders have done," Dutton said.
The grand mufti did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said "Australians were let down by the mufti."
Ikebal Patel, former president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, said the grand mufti could be viewed as an apologist for the attackers because of the statement.
"For the grand mufti to come out and make a statement of that sort when we don't have the details of what has gone on, it's disappointing," Patel said.