David Irvine (pictured), chief of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), said during a rare public address at the Sydney Institute that there was a "real and persistent threat" of a local extremist attack, with a "worrying trend of home-grown terrorism".
There had been three major plots foiled in the past decade which "would have been the work of home-grown groups, with little or no direct contact with al-Qaeda or its overseas affiliates", with 23 convictions for extremist crimes.
"ASIO needs to recruit more people from within our newly arrived migrant communities," he said.
"Connected to this is the need for ASIO to develop even better outreach into our different ethnic communities, particularly Australian Muslim communities.
He stressed that Islam was not the enemy, also urging Australians as a whole to refrain from blaming particular groups for a "tiny number of misfits or malcontents" among them.
"My constant message to our valued Islamic community is very simple: 'ASIO is not against Islam, it is against terrorism; against terrorism that kills both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. To achieve our common goal of a safe and harmonious community, we need to work with you'."
He cited the twin attacks in Norway by anti-Islamist Anders Behring Breivik as a reminder that "the threat to our people can come from different directions, and in different guises - even from those who are blonde and blue eyed".
Ahmed Kilani from Muslimvillage.com welcomes Mr Irvine's call for outreach and cooperation with Australia's Muslims, but has called for ASIO to be more open in its relations with the Muslim community.
He says the relationship between Muslims and the intelligence agency has been uncertain since the September 11 attacks.
"Although it's 10 years later, we welcome the comments but I also think there'll be a lot of suspicion in the Muslim community just in the way that ASIO has been engaging with them in a very covert way, in a very unofficial way, would lead to a lot of suspicion and mistrust for what's happened in the past," he said.
"The first that we hear of this is through the news media; no-one in the Muslim community's heard of this approach.
"Although I welcome what he's saying, really we need to see a real change in the approach for it to have any credibility."
"ASIO seeks to recruit Muslim spies" ABC News January 25, 2012
"Australia seeks Muslim spies" news 24 January 25, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today