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Mon Jul 06 06:58:25 SAST 2015

Film protests were 'extremism', says Australian prime minister

Sapa-AFP | 20 September, 2012 09:43
A protester holds a home made sign during a rally in Sydney's central business district, September 15, 2012.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday called on immigrants to learn English and respect women as she condemned protests against an anti-Islam film as "extremism".

Gillard, the country's first atheist prime minister, said living in Australia's culturally diverse society came with the obligation to leave "old hatreds" behind and "find shared identity on common ground".

"Multiculturalism is the meeting of rights and responsibilities; the right to bring to this nation as a migrant your heritage and your culture and your language and your religion," she told parliament.

"It's the meeting of those rights with the responsibilities... to find work, to learn English, to uphold our rule of law, to be a full participant in our democracy, to recognise women as equals in our society."

Gillard said true multiculturalism "includes, not divides" and dismissed as the actions of a few the violent protests in Sydney against the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" in which police were injured and eight people arrested.

"What we saw on the streets of Sydney last weekend was not multiculturalism, it was extremism," she added, calling for any differences of opinion to be resolved peacefully.

Police used pepper spray to contain a group trying to gain entry to the US consulate in Sydney on Saturday. Six police officers were injured and two demonstrators were bitten by police dogs during the protest.

The scenes evoked uncomfortable memories of alcohol-fuelled race riots on Sydney's Cronulla beach in December 2005, linked to tensions with the Muslim community, and police urged calm.

In cities across the Muslim world protesters have vented their fury at the US-made film, targeting symbols of US influence ranging from embassies and schools to fast-food chains. More than 30 people have been killed.


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