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Mosque firebombed in Australia

Immigration Minister Ruddock described attacks on Muslims as un-Australian  

SYDNEY, Australia -- A mosque was firebombed in Australia overnight as race hate against Muslims simmered in the aftermath of the deadly attacks on New York and Washington, police said on Friday.

Police in the eastern state of Queensland said two Molotov cocktails were thrown at the mosque in the city of Brisbane but there were no injuries and only minor damage.

Police were looking for a male caucasian who was seen in a car outside the mosque at the time.

Australian church leaders have appealed for tolerance after suspicions hardened that Tuesday's terror attacks in the United States may have been planned by exiled Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden, currently sheltered by Afghanistan's hardline Taliban.

Local Islamic groups have reported that a bus full of Muslim schoolchildren was stoned in Melbourne, a mosque was smeared with faeces in Western Australia, Muslim women have had their veils ripped off and anti-Arab graffiti is appearing.

Australian Muslims also came under attack during the Gulf War in 1991 and in the immediate aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Chairman of the Community Relations Commission in New South Wales Stepan Kerkyasharian said the commission condemned all such acts of violence.

"The tragic and inhuman acts in the U.S. should not be used as an excuse to wrongly accuse, vilify and damage the properties of Australians on the basis of their religions," he told CNN.

He said the commission had set up a hotline for Australians to report acts of vilification following the terrorist actions which had "been running hot".

He said they had reports of people chasing Muslims in cars, abusing them and spitting on them.

Members of Australia's Sikh community -- whose males traditionally wear a turban -- had also been verbally abused, assaulted and spat upon.

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock on Friday urged Australians not to make scapegoats of the innocent.

"This is un-Australian and denies people a fair go," Ruddock said in a statement.

But the government has also joined in to some extent in the vilification, using the levelling of New York's World Trade Center after hijacked planes were ploughed into its twin towers as justification for its hardline stance against boat people.

The government has turned away four boatloads of mainly Afghan and Middle Eastern asylum seekers since the end of August, and on Thursday senior ministers, including Ruddock, warned that illegal immigration could become a "pipeline for terrorists."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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