Mr Dutton suggested the arrival of Lebanese Muslims in the 1970s was partly to blame for a small number of Australians joining ISIS/Daesh as foreign fighters.
“Mr Dutton’s remarks unfairly stigmatise one migrant community and serve only to promote division and undermine our vibrant multicultural society,” Mr McMillan said.
“We need to name that for what it is – racism.”
During Question Time in Parliament this week, Mr Dutton said 22 of the last 33 people charged with terrorist-related offences in Australia are from “second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim background”. He also said the Fraser government “made mistakes” by “bringing some people in” during the 1970s.
“Mr Dutton’s attacks defy common sense. No single generation can be held to account for the actions of future generations,” Mr McMillan said.
“Political leaders need to uphold and promote what is good about our society. The Immigration Minister has a special responsibility in this regard but he has failed us all.
“The Uniting Church stands in total opposition to all forms of racism as incompatible with the Christian faith. [Assembly resolution 85.162]
“Comments that provoke fear, misunderstanding and distrust only serve to divide and isolate Australians from each other.”
On Thursday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised Mr Dutton for doing an “outstanding” job, describing him as a “thoughtful and committed and compassionate Immigration minister”.
National director of UnitingJustice Australia Rev Elenie Poulos expressed her disappointment at Mr Turnbull’s refusal to condemn Mr Dutton’s remarks.
“Does Mr Dutton personally believe that predisposition to terrorism is an inherent trait of a certain nationality or faith? Or is he saying these things for perceived political advantage?” Ms Poulos said.
“Whatever the case, Mr Turnbull should pull Mr Dutton into line and make a clear statement of support for Australians of Muslim faith and Lebanese heritage.”
Rev Michael Barnes, the convenor of the Church’s national committee on interfaith relations, reaffirmed the promise made by the Church at its formation in 1977 to “work for the eradication of racism within our society and beyond”.
“We will always stand against racism in our society,” Mr Barnes said.
“We value our good relationships with the Australian Muslim community and the extraordinary contribution to this country made by successive generations of Australians of Lebanese heritage.”
Labor MP Anne Aly, the first Muslim woman elected to Parliament, revealed her family received death threats this week following Mr Dutton’s comments.
“Already there are reports of death threats against prominent Muslims,” Mr Barnes said.
“I am extremely concerned by the permission being given by too many of our politicians for the expression of racism. What was once dog-whistling is becoming more overt and shameless.
“This is not the kind of future we want for our country. We seek a vibrant, diverse and inclusive society where all people feel valued. Now, maybe more than ever, we need leaders who will call us together to build this future in hope and love.”