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Lone wolves and cities in terror

If western values are threatened, we must protect them, not betray them

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Yacqub Khayre (right) and Abdirahman Amend leave the court in Melbourne, Thursday, The two men were today acquitted planning terrorist attack whilsy three co-accused were convicted. Photo: AAP Image/Julian Smith

13 June 2017

Is this how things are going to be from now on? Are we going to be facing random acts of senseless violence on a daily basis coming from every part of the world? Are we going to get used to it? And when it happens in our cities, are we just going to be asking ourselves if it is 'ISIS' or 'Ice' related - or both?

We know it's probably both, offering an ironic twist to Karl Marx classic aphorism of Religion being the opium of the people. For the current generation of terrorism, it is the combination religion with 'opium' that fuels these deranged minds.

The Brighton incident brought all this to the surface, revealing how 'lone wolf' terrorism is changing in itself - and it is also changing our idea of a terrorist attack and public safety.

Not that an act of terror is supposed to make sense - in fact, no kind of violence is ever supposed to make sense - but it is telling that, even now, what happened in Melbourne reminds mostly of something that a meth addict would do, under the influence, rather than an act of a 'soldier' fighting for a cause. Which is exactly why ISIS is happy.

While covering the case, Fairfax media printed information released by the Police:

"The IS magazine Rumiyah, as part of its "Just Terror Tactics" series a month ago, urged supporters to carry out an attack inside a building, using hostages, and for the terrorist to "keep some of his victims alive and restrained, making for a more lengthy and drawn-out hostage scenario".

"One may then notify the authorities, explaining to them that he is a soldier of the Islamic State and informing them of what he has just done," according to the article.

"The intention of this delay is therefore only to prolong the terror, as the ideal scenario is that they storm the location and he is killed as a shahid [martyr] – inshaallah – after having inflicted upon the kuffar [the infidel] a just massacre."

The purpose, the article said, was "not to hold large numbers of the kuffar hostage in order to negotiate one's demands," but to sow terror."

Consider it done. Terror has been sown. Now we wait to see it start bearing fruit. It will be quicker than we can anticipate.

For instance, the Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, already came forward announcing a plan to allow police to have 'shoot-to-kill' powers.

"As we have seen as recently as this week in Melbourne, and on the weekend with the cowardly, evil acts in London, we need to be ever-vigilant to the emerging and evolving risks of terrorism," she said.

"NSW will continue to have the toughest counter-terror laws in the country and we will now give our police clear protections if they need to use lethal force against terrorists."

Police are a major component of the social contract, in which, as envisioned by such philosophers as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, citizens entrust a public agency to use force in the name of society for the protection of society and its individual members.

What is definitely not part of the social contract is the other notion stemming through the seeds the terrorist have sown: that of 'internment'.

Pauline Hanson - who else? - wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, stating: "Those on watch lists who are not Australian citizens need to be deported and those who are, interned to neutralise their possible harm to this country".

The idea of citizens being interned echoes some of the darkest pages in Australian - and the US - World War II history. It seems that we have learned nothing from this.

And this was not even the most disturbing idea to be heard this week.

Former Australian army general Jim Molan called for 'Secret tribunals' for terrorist cases: "We put the case to detain that person to a tribunal perhaps that is briefed into the highest classified level of intelligence, and that fellow could then be detained if they decide that is the case," he argued."Two things occur if he's detained – and he's maybe detained for a week, for a month, for three months, for six months, the tribunal would decide that. What is achieved is that the chain of events that lead to a terror attack could immediately be broken".

If only it would be so easy.

And if only our public sphere was so preoccupied with finding a solution to other causes of alarm, such as domestic violence, which kills far more Australians than Islamic terrorism can ever do.

But no, the public sphere is obsessing over the notion that we are at war, and start calling for the suppression of civil liberties. TV presenter David Koch entered the debate this week, tweeting that "Those on terror watch lists [should be] presumed guilty until they prove their innocence".

Let's say it one more time. If we believe that our Western values are being threatened by Islamic terrorism, then we should do our best to protect them and reinforce them. And reinforcing them means more democracy, more freedom, more humanism, more openness and more inclusion. Not suppressing liberties. Not creating a police state. Not interment. Division and hatred and fear is not the answer, it will just cause more trauma. Those campaigning for it, don't seem to even know Australia. While we still wait for the latest census data, even if the Muslim population has doubled (which is unlikely), this means that they account for no more than 5 percent of Australians. These are Australian citizens, taxpayers, peace-loving families that contribute to society, people like us. If there are bad apples among them, they are surely not more in proportion than what happens in other communities - and they are certainly less in absolute numbers. Protecting the rest of society from them is a priority, of course, and it should be done by addressing the causes, what makes someone a sociopath.

There must be other ways of dealing with this. Some answers come from the Muslim communities themselves. Last week, more than 130 Imams and religious leaders in the UK refused to perform the traditional Islamic funeral prayer for the terrorists, effectively severing their ties with Islam and the Muslim culture. By this kind of excommunication, they are sending a powerful message. You can't be religious and a murderer. You cannot believe in God and take lives. You're not Muslim. Just a terrorist.

It's a start. We should build on that.

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