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Australia- Lebanese MP AGREES that most terror suspects are Lebanese-Muslims
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Australia- Lebanese MP AGREES that most terror suspects are Lebanese-Muslims


A second generation Lebanese Christian MP has agreed with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's claim that allowing Lebanese Muslim refugees into Australia in the 1970s was a 'mistake'. 

Michael Sukkar, MP for Deakin in Victoria, backed Mr Dutton after he came under fire last week for suggesting the Fraser government 'did make mistakes by bringing some people in' to the country during the 1970s. 

When pressed on who he was referring to during question time on Monday, Mr Dutton pointed the finger at Lebanese-Muslim immigrants, stating they were responsible for 66 per cent of Australia's latest terror offences.

According to The Australian Financial Review, Mr Sukkar told the party room that Mr Dutton's comments were 'spot on' and stressed that voters in his diverse electorate had no tolerance for terrorism.

Another conservative Liberal MP reportedly agreed with Mr Sukkar, saying: 'We can't just wish away the issue.' 

North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman told Tuesday's Coalition party room meeting the recent commentary on Muslim immigration had been 'unhelpful', but did not go as far as to name Mr Dutton.

Mr Zimmerman said he was concerned about undoing good relationships that had been formed with migrant communities, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. 

However Mr Sukkar, whose father was born in Lebanon, dismissed Mr Zimmerman's comments, instead throwing his support behind Mr Dutton.

Another MP said Sukkar 'smashed' the North Sydney MP on the topic, adding that Zimmerman had 'completely misread the mood of the party room.' 

The exchange caused Australia's first female Muslim MP Anne Aly to erupt in anger on Monday, while Opposition Leader Bill Shorten slammed the comments as 'disgraceful'.

Outside of the Senate, community representatives for Lebanese Australians expressed equal amounts of outrage at Mr Dutton's 'baseless' and 'divisive' comments.

'Mr Dutton's comments are baseless, unfounded and uninformed,' association president for the Lebanese Muslim Association Samier Dandan said in a statement.

'The Australian Lebanese community is not political fodder. Mr Dutton is accountable for his divisive rhetoric and we would remind him that he and his government's responsibility is to preserve our successful multicultural country.'

The Australian National Imams Council also released a statement slamming Mr Dutton for his 'outrageous' and 'racist' comments.

'No community deserves to be tarnished by the actions of a very small minority,' the ANIC statement said.

'The ploy of shifting blame exposes the government's abdication of its responsibility to deal effectively with the threat of terrorism. It also confirms the base strategy of pandering to the extreme right within its party.'   

Randa Kattan, CEO of the Arab Council Australia, told The Guardian that the minister's comments were divisive. 

'It's outrageous that he would go out of his way to tarnish an entire community in that fashion,' she said. 'I think what Peter Dutton said embodies the problem of modern politics, which seems to identify problems without any solutions.' 

Linda Burney, Shadow Minister for Human Services, tweeted a photo of a personal letter addressed to Mr Dutton.

'I was extremely disappointed to hear our community denigrated in what I hope is the result of ignorance, but which I fear may have been in malice,' she wrote.

'A written response with your apology to the community in Barton or a clearer explanation of your comments would be much appreciated.'

Twitter was flooded with messages of condemnation directed at Mr Dutton.

'I immigrated to Australia from Lebanon when Mr Fraser was PM. I'm not a 'mistake.' I'm a proud Australian Lebanese Muslim. Shame on you, Peter Dutton,' wrote Sam Bazzi.

'As a Lebanese Australian, I find Peter Dutton's comments insulting and degrading,' tweeted Mina.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressed the controversy, saying Mr Dutton was doing an 'outstanding' job and adding he was 'entitled' to reflect on past policies.

'There is no question that there are lessons to be learned from previous immigration policies and the minister was reflecting on, you know, on policies many years ago,' Mr Turnbull said.

'He's entitled to do that. But the critical thing is - I'm not making any comment on his remarks other than to say that it's fairly fair for all of us to reflect on past policies and how effective they were or not and seek to improve, in the light of that, to improve what we're doing now.'

The Prime Minister also said earlier in the press conference that Australia is 'really admired around the world for the success of our immigration program.'

The Immigration Minister's comments have drawn strong criticism, especially from his political opponents but support from his colleagues. 

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described the remarks as 'disgraceful', and called for Mr Turnbull to intervene and force Mr Dutton to apologise.

'Enough is enough,' Mr Shorten said.

'Our hardworking migrant communities shouldn't have to tolerate this kind of ignorant stupidity and he needs to immediately apologise.' 

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young went further during parliamentary question time, lashing out at Mr Dutton as a 'racist bigot' before begrudgingly withdrawing the 'unparliamentary' comment.

'I stand by it. I think Peter Dutton is a racist bigot,' she said.

'It is my opinion. I will withdraw it for the sake of the chamber but honestly, I believe it.'

Labor MP Time Watts took to social media to express his outrage, calling the comments 'extraordinary'.

'The Minister for Immigration seems to think that criminal behaviour by 'second and third generation migrants' (AKA 'Australians', AKA the grandchildren of migrants) is attributable to immigration policy,' Mr Watts wrote on Facebook.  

It was during the debate Mr Dutton made the comments about Mr Fraser making 'mistakes'.  

When Opposition Leader Bill Shorten asked Mr Dutton which communities he was referring to, Mr Dutton said he was bullying him and said he would stand up for himself.

'I won't be bullied by this great fraud of Australian politics... Where I see extremism I will call it out.'

Ms Aly then gestured so angrily towards Liberal National MP George Christensen, that her leather jacket fell off her shoulders.

Daily Mail Australia has contacted Peter Dutton's office for further comment. 


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