Howard shuns Islamic radicals

The meeting is part of Mr Howard’s strategy to promote tolerance and minimise extremism, and will include discussions on how to stop religious leaders from inciting violence and terrorism.

Those invited come from Muslim religious, community, cultural and academic fields.

The prime minister said representatives of extremist and fundamentalist groups have not been invited because he wants to marginalise such groups.

“I see no merit in inviting unrepresentative people who have an extreme view,” he told ABC radio.

“We want to discourage extremist views. To invite people who represent an extreme point of view is to give them disproportionate and unmeritous recognition which would anger people who are trying to do the right thing,” he said.

The meeting was called in the wake of the London bombings, following inflammatory comments by some local Muslims justifying the terrorist attacks.

Mr Howard said it is important to promote the values shared by all Australians.

“We want to promote the ideal of moderation and identification with the values that all Australians share,” he said.

“The overwhelming majority of Australians who are Muslims are wonderful Australians, who are as concerned as you and I are about terrorism and want to work with the government.”

While he acknowledged moderate Muslim leaders are unlikely to sway those people who hold extremist views, he insisted they still have some influence.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, Citizenship Minister John Cobb and senior departmental officials will also attend the meeting.

The president of the Muslim Women’s National Network Aziza Abdulhalim told the ABC the forum means Muslim leaders will have the opportunity to present their views on how to limit criminal activity and to emphasise that their communities are committed to supporting the law.