• Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during House of Representatives Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. (AAP)
The Lebanese Muslim community organisations have condemned Immigration Minister Peter Dutton for suggesting the arrival of Lebanese Muslims in the 1970s is partly to blame for Australia's struggle with foreign fighters.
By
SBS News

22 Nov 2016 - 12:16 PM  UPDATED 23 Nov 2016 - 6:33 AM

Lebanese Muslims have slammed Immigration Minister Peter Dutton for suggesting former prime minister Malcolm Fraser made a mistake in allowing Lebanese Muslims to migrate to Australia in the 1970s.

Mr Dutton said the descendants of these migrants represented a large portion of those who had recently travelled overseas as foreign fighters.

"The advice I have is that out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim background," he said in parliament after being pressed on the issue during Question Time on Monday.

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The Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA) has issued a statement condemning the minister's view.

"Mr Dutton's comments are baseless, unfounded and uninformed," said association president Samier Dandan.

"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."

In a video, Mr Dandan said: "Let us not beat around the bush here, what Mr Dutton said was racist, what he implied was racist, and the lack of outrage in Parliament reflects on the racism underscoring much of how we talk about minorities in Australia."

The Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) has released a statement labelling Mr Dutton's comments "racist" and "outrageous". 

"The ploy of shifting blame exposes the government's abdication of its responsibility to deal effectively with the threat of terrorism," the ANIC statement said.

"For more than forty years Australian Muslims of Lebanese background have been making significant and positive contributions to farming, education, health and much more."

The opposition and the Greens have also reacted to Mr Dutton's comments.

On ABC News Breakfast this morning, Labor MP Tony Burke, said he expected Australian security agencies would be disappointed.

"Peter Dutton has just attacked a group that has been cooperating so closely with our security agencies and I think they would be devastated and shocked that a minister would do that," said Mr Burke. 

He also questioned Mr Dutton's reasoning.

"What's his argument? His argument is Malcolm Fraser should not have allowed certain individuals into Australia based on their race and religion because of the grandchildren they would have?" he said.

"This is a bizarre, weird argument of radical profiling."

Fellow Labor MP Chris Bowen joined the criticism.

On ABC Radio National he said: "I look at all the Australians of Vietnamese, Cambodian or Lebanese heritage who've started businesses, grown their businesses, invested in their children's education and who've made an enormous contribution to Australia. 

"To see the immigration minister get up and say well 20 or 30, 20 or 30 children or grandchildren Malcolm Fraser should have somehow divined through DNA testing that somehow or other in 30 years time some of these will go off the rains, and that brought into question the 1970s immigration program, I mean I just thought that was a new low." 

Greens leader Richard De Natale also offered this quip on Twitter:

Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim called for Mr Dutton's resignation over the issue.

"To link second- and third-generation Australians to terrorists is just a step too far, and he's just gotta go.

"This is a pattern of behaviour from Mr Dutton that basically exposes him as a racist, he's gone too far, and the Prime Minister now has no choice but to sack Mr Dutton."

Mr Turnbull supported Mr Dutton Tuesday. He said there were lessons to be learned from past immigration policies and government should should seek to improve on them.

"Peter Dutton is a thoughtful and committed and compassionate immigration minister. He's keeping our borders secure," he told reporters in Canberra.

He added the government had moved to a more skills-based migration program since the 1970s.

But he said the "greatest failure of immigration policy" occurred under Labor, saying it outsourced immigration to people smugglers, which allowed 50,000 unauthorised arrivals and 1200 deaths at sea.

'Not a fair judgement'

Sydneysider Omar Chave, a first generation Lebanese Muslim said he believed Mr Dutton's was inaccurate.

“It's actually quite disappointing to hear anyone making those kind of negative comments. I find it a quite bias point of view and quite narrow considering it's a minority of people in society not doing the right thing,” he said.

He believes the majority of Lebanese immigrants are hard-working business owners who contribute to the country.

“It's not a fair judgement. I mean if we were to say, would it be fair to say no Anglosaxons should be allowed to come into the country because of Port Arthur and things like that, it's not a fair comment to say.

“The majority of Lebanese Muslims in this country are contributing to society, are law abiding citizens, and if you want to use the example of a minority few that are doing the wrong thing, it's not a fair judgement at all."

Another Sydneysider, Sam Manoun, told SBS News he did not take Australia's decision to allow his family to come to the country lightly.

“We've come in, we've been accepted, and we feel like we owe everything to this country and we hopefully received that in return, we have received that in return," he said.

“When people go out and say things like the immigration minister, unfortunately, it reflects poorly.

"I don't think it's the true opinion of everyone.”

With AAP

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With AAP.