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Tony Abbott: Societies can’t ‘remain in denial about the massive problem within Islam’

Former prime minister Tony Abbott may be on the backbench but he’s not staying silent. Photo: Andrew MearesI would have won the next election: Tony AbbottShirtfronted: the story of the Abbott government

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has said Islam must change and called for a “hearts and minds campaign against the versions of Islam that make excuses for terrorists”.

In an opinion piece for News Corp, Mr Abbott writes that societies “can’t remain in denial about the massive problem within Islam” after terrorist attacks in Paris and the Middle East, the deaths of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson in the Martin Place siege last year and Curtis Cheng outside Parramatta police station in October.

“Dealing with terrorism and the Islamist fanaticism that inspires it is the great challenge of our time,” he writes.

And ns should stop apologising for the Western values that “have made our country as free, fair and prosperous as any on Earth.”

Mr Abbott said security responses and the work of military forces targeting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria were necessary, but at best were “containing the death cult – but not destroying it”.

He said succeeding would require a “religious revolution” within Islam.

Mr Abbott said surveys of British and French Muslims “typically show up to 30 per cent sympathising with the aims if not the methods of Islamic State.”

Although most Muslims utterly reject terrorism, some are all too ready to justify “death to the infidel,” he wrote.

“Demonising Islam generally or all Muslims could bring on the ‘clash of civilisations’ that academic Samuel Huntington feared two decades back and make ‘Islam’s bloody borders’ even more dangerous. But we can’t remain in denial about the massive problem within Islam.

“Islam never had its own version of the Reformation and the Enlightenment or a consequent acceptance of pluralism and the separation of church and state.

“Fortunately there are numerous Muslim leaders who think their faith needs to modernise from the kill-or-be-killed milieu of the Prophet Mohammed.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Abbott was being counterproductive and it was time for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to intervene.

“It is time for Malcolm Turnbull to step up and pull Tony Abbott into line,” Mr Shorten said.

“Making assertions about cultural and religious superiority is entirely counterproductive.

“Inflammatory language undermines efforts to build social cohesion, mutual respect and has the potential to harm the efforts of national security agencies to keep ns safe.”

The Labor leader said ‘s Muslim community had been working with police and security agencies to counter violent extremism.

“This is crucial work,” Mr Shorten said.

“Defeating terrorism is unquestionably the common interest of all people of every faith – and we must make it our shared mission.”

During an interview with Sky News on Tuesday night, Mr Abbott said the West should continue to work with what he called “live-and-let-live” Muslims, as he issued an implicit criticism of political leaders appeasing Islam by suggesting there was a crisis of confidence and a lack of self-belief in Western societies and governments.

“If there is a problem today it is not just a problem within Islam, which is very serious, but it’s also a lack of cultural self-belief within the West and ,” he said in comments markedly different in tone to the conciliatory words of Mr Turnbull in the wake of the Paris attacks.

“There’s got to be a very strong security response home and abroad,” Mr Abbott said.

“We need a strong hearts-and-mind approach. We need to work closely with ‘live and let live’ Muslims. There needs to be a revolution within Islam. We can’t do it; Muslims need to do it for themselves. The other thing needed is a restoration of cultural self-confidence in those who are supporters of Western cultural civilisation.”

Greens leader Richard Di Natale told Sky News on Wednesday Mr Abbott was “fanning the flames of division”.

“Tony Abbott should pull his head in, should go and find himself a nice hobby, maybe fishing or a game of golf,” he said.

“Tony Abbott is a very divisive force. This notion that he speaks to most ns is nonsense. What he does is he talks to a very, very small group within the n community who have views that aren’t consistent with a pluralist, modern, twenty-first century, multicultural nation.”

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