A majority of people polled by a New Zealand magazine say they will not stop going to Indian doctors just because of the 25-day arrest and jailing of Muhammad Haneef on terror charges.
Most of those who responded to a survey by The Global Indian magazine also felt that the Australian government was unfair to Haneef and needs to apologise to him for causing him so much distress.
AdvertisementAccording to the Auckland-based magazine, the respondents were undecided over Haneef's innocence but a majority felt that the Australian government was not fair to the Indian doctor who has since returned to Bangalore.
Haneef was arrested at Brisbane while on his way to India and charged with providing "recklessly" a SIM card to terror suspects in Britain. He endured 25 days in Australian custody before a court let him go free.
An overwhelming 88 percent felt that they would not feel uncomfortable being treated by an Indian doctor.
One respondent from AFP (Australian Federal Police) said: "As member of AFP, I know his case was not solid... He was used by both my department and John Howard as a political scapegoat for the new terror laws which breach a person's civil rights."
The Australian government did not hear what Haneef was saying, said another respondent. "The Australian Police made up their decision that Dr. Haneef was a terrorist without even listening to (his) side of the story."
Some disagreed. "National security against terrorist is far more important than the civil liberties of one individual who despite a lack of evidence may well be involved with the UK terrorists," was one response.
According to Global Indian, a few respondents towed a common line.
"All men are presumed innocent until found guilty. The Australian government deliberately leaked news to tarnish his standing and sow the seeds of guilt in the public's mind. This goes against the grain of rule of law."
About 57 percent of the respondents felt that the government should apologise to Haneef.
Two of three Indians polled were worried that the Haneef incident would have unfavourable implications for foreign-trained doctors in Australia.
"The spotlight will be on foreign doctors, specially Muslim doctors, who are visible migrants and cannot blend in like white doctors from European/Western countries," said one respondent.
However, a respondent who supported the Australian government's move said the government has "to be proactive and act on the information on hand. (They) don't have to wait till civilians are killed before acting".
Over half the respondents (60 percent) felt that Haneef should fight to get his work visa reinstated. While one said that if he was innocent, he should fight, another added: "Why should he fight? It should be automatically reinstated."
The responses of over 100 participants are not surprising, says Sangeeta Anand, editorial director of the magazine. "They largely reflect the feelings expressed in the community.
"However, terrorism is reality today no matter where we live," she added. "Terrorists have no nationality. Each government has the interest of its people foremost, but the need to maintain a fine balance with human rights cannot be sacrificed."
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