SYDNEY (AFP) - Deposed Australian prime minister Tony Abbott declared on Wednesday (Dec 9) that "all cultures are not equal" and the West should proclaim its superiority over Islam, which has a "massive problem", in comments slammed as divisive.
Mr Abbott, who was ousted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a Liberal Party coup in September but remains in politics, urged the West to "be ready to proclaim the clear superiority of our culture to one that justifies killing people in the name of God".
The staunch Catholic also urged Australians to stop apologising for their Western values.
"We can't remain in denial about the massive problem within Islam," he wrote in an opinion piece for the mass-market Sydney Daily Telegraph.
"Islam never had its own version of the Reformation and the Enlightenment or a consequent acceptance of pluralism and the separation of church and state.
"Fortunately there are numerous Muslim leaders who think their faith needs to modernise from the kill-or-be-killed milieu of Prophet Mohammed."
Mr Abbott, who briefly trained as a Catholic priest before entering politics and was once dubbed the "Mad Monk", added that Australians should do more to promote Western culture and stop being "apologetic about the values that have made our country as free, fair and prosperous as any on earth".
"It's not culturally insensitive to demand loyalty to Australia and respect for Western civilisation. Cultures are not all equal," he said.
Australia, a key US ally in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has foiled six attacks on home soil by radicalised Muslims over the past year, according to the authorities.
But several have been carried out, including a 17-hour siege at a central Sydney cafe in which Iranian-born self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis and two hostages were killed.
Mr Abbott is the most high-profile Liberal to urge more debate on Islam and terrorism, joining other politicians who have made similar calls.
Labor opposition frontbencher Ed Husic, who is of Bosnian Muslim origin, pleaded for social cohesion after Mr Abbott's remarks were published, urging conservative politicians to think carefully about their words.
"We are as one to work against those who want to tear at those liberties," he told reporters.
"Please... let's do this in a way we lock arms to achieve this rather than pushing people away."
Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale called Mr Abbott a "an incredibly divisive, destructive force within the Australian political landscape" who did not speak for most people.
"The sooner Tony Abbott disappears from the Australian political scene, the better for him, the better for the Australian community," he told Sky News.
"Tony Abbott should pull his head in."