On Melbourne — stray thoughts

So sad.

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You probably know what that represents. One positive element has been that amazing homeless man who steered a shopping trolley at the terrorist!

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As for the terrorist, this is what we know so far. Some of the responses from various quarters have been helpful, some almost certainly not: see Australian Imams and Muslim groups say Scott Morrison’s speech following Friday’s Bourke St mall knife attack went too far.

I see since writing that Scott Morrison has discounted the possible role of mental illness. I suspect that will turn out to be a major factor. One should also note that the vast majority of refugees, Muslim or not, do not figure in terrorist incidents in Australia, other than among the victims.

In my own case I am reflecting on experiences from 2005, when I was still working at Sydney Boys High, which I often called “The Mine” at the time. The Melbourne terrorist, we are told, was 30, so in fact he was the same age as the Muslim students I had to do with back in 2005. He was therefore 10 years old or less when he arrived in Australia during John Howard’s Prime Ministership, and almost certainly did not arrive by boat.

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That is a gathering in the Great Hall at Sydney Boys High in 2005. See my posts from 2009: Some non-fiction read recently 2b – the personal component  and Some non-fiction read recently 2c – tentative conclusions.

This goes back to 2005 and a particularly interesting if controversial event. On the day I was not there, as I had to attend a meeting of ESL teachers at Erskineville – or was it Arncliffe, one of the last such meetings for me as I retired the following year. But I did know all the participants at The Mine end, and I posted on it at the time and the following year. See Salt Mine and Islamic Students7.30 Report: The Mine and the IslamistsThe Mine and the Islamists: cause for concern?. On Floating Life Apr 06 ~ Nov 07 there is also a major entry from April 2006.

What I found yesterday was a video* on YouTube of the complete 2005 Seminar referred to in those entries. The controversy centred on the guest speakers, Sheik Khalid Yassin and Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Wassim Doureihi. These people would fall in one of Michael Burleigh’s inner circles (see previous entry) but not necessarily, of course, into the innermost circle. While I had concerns about the Mine students involved, I very much doubt they would have even considered the innermost circle – quite the opposite in fact. (I also refer to these students in my Cronulla 2005 posts.)…

*That video is no longer accessible, but I have my own copy. More reflections on it:

I am really trying not to sound patronising, because I respect idealism and even cling to some to this day, modified as it might be by experience and knowledge, especially of history.

The young, confronted with a world that all will admit is not the best of all possible worlds, may react with cynicism, apathy, or a deep desire to make a difference. Those who desire to make a difference will soon seek out how to make a difference, and therein is some danger, as well, of course, as much of the hope of the world. Those boys at The Mine, just like their confreres in the rather fundamentalist Christian and Jewish or political activist groups in the school, look for people who offer convincing solutions. Now you have to admit that both those speakers in the 2005 seminar (the video linked from the previous post in this series) are quite excellent public speakers. As a former debating coach I wouldn’t mind having them on my team, and it is no accident that one of the two sixteen year old presenters was indeed a valuable member of his age-group’s debating team, as was the brave young lad in cadet uniform who got up to rebut what he had heard. (The body language going on behind him, if you have seen the video, is interesting; it’s almost as if the presenters wish there was a hook in the wings or a trapdoor under the stage.) That lad, by the way, is now one of my Facebook friends.

… the seminar the previous year directly dealt with the issue of terror. The tactic was definitely not recommended….

My point regarding some of what has been said about Melbourne is to note that there would be those who would see thought crimes in some of what was talked about at SBHS back in 2005 — indeed some did, as you will discover if you diligently follow the links above. However, none of the people involved in those discussions back then have committed acts of terror, though one (Wassim Dourehi) has been accused of radicalism and is almost certainly being monitored.

Looking back, I have no doubt, by the way, that the kinds of views espoused in that 2005 Seminar could lead into very dangerous waters indeed, but on the other hand they have much more in common than many would want to admit with Christian bigots I have heard or read.

Certainty in belief is not a friend!

Related: search this blog under Islam and terror.

And hasn’t it been wonderful that through all Australia and the UK and Europe those great gatherings marking the end of World War 1 passed without a terrorist incident!

Update

Having read the usual suspects in today’s Tele, it seems appropriate to add Curtis Cheng’s son calls for end to political ‘scapegoating’ of Muslims.

Alpha Cheng’s father was shot in cold blood by a 15-year-old Muslim boy, Farhard Jabar, outside the NSW police headquarters in Parramatta in 2015. Two others were jailed for planning the attack and supplying the weapon.

But he said that was no reason to victimise a community.

“I am tired of needing to explain to adults that the actions of these individuals cannot be attributed to an entire group of people. If I, of all people, can think this way, then sure as hell our ‘elected’ representatives can think this way too,” Cheng wrote in an opinion piece in Fairfax Media.

He said if anyone were to believe that all terrorists are Muslim, then “that person could, and should, be me”.

“It would be frighteningly easy – and I choose those words deliberately – to keep indulging this train of thought. It is not that hard, really.

“A Muslim killed my father. His parents were Muslims. He was manipulated by other Muslims. They are related to Muslims. They probably came from a Muslim country. It is all their fault, kick them out, keep them out,” he wrote.

But he said this was the narrative “those who wish to divide us” were trying to push to “victimise and persecute an entire group because of their religious/cultural background”….

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The game goes on…

And Tones is still doing excellent impressions of a Cheshire Cat! Mr Turnbull meanwhile hangs on, for now. This is the man of the hour. God help us all, I still say! And speaking of which…

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I find myself drawn to page 10! ‘Gullibility eroded’: Why a generation chose science over God.

Creationism continues to thrive in Professor Archer’s home country, where about 40 per cent of people still believe God created man. Surveys like his are rare outside the US.

Census data also indicates Australians are becoming less religious. In 1966, 0.8 per cent said they had no religion; by 2016, that number had risen to 30 per cent.

A spokesman from UNSW Campus Bible Study, the biggest religious group on the campus, said “we are thankful that God created us in his image, so that our lives have value and worth”.

Now in the event we soon have a Potato Head government, and some things get uglier than they are now, I file these:

If anyone should want to ban Muslims it would be me – but I don’t.

….I cannot deny that at least three Muslims are directly linked to my father’s death. His murder. I cannot deny that they self-identify as Muslim. Nor can I deny that Islamic State is the violent propaganda machine behind their twisted ideology….

We who seek to see the best in what Australians stand for must believe otherwise.

I support that those responsible need to be punished. I support law and order. I believe that inclusion, acceptance and respect are the most important values we all need to display to create the society that we can all thrive in. Arbitrary cuts to immigration will not do that.

However, I will admit that I am tired. I am tired of needing to explain to adults that the actions of these individuals cannot be attributed to an entire group of people. I am tired of explaining that terrorism is a criminal and political phenomenon, not a religious one. I am tired of explaining that despite my unfortunate tragedy at the hands of Islamic extremists, it is those in my life who just so happen to be Muslim who make me understand the richness of the human spirit. My best friend is of a Muslim background. I have met inspirational students, teachers, activists, and politicians, who just happen to be of a Muslim background. Being a Muslim doesn’t make them a good friend or person. In the same vein, being a Muslim doesn’t make you a terrorist.

If I, of all people, can think this way, then sure as hell our “elected” representatives can think this way too … and while they are at it, cease the never-ending scapegoating. …

Amen to that! And next:

Thousands of Muslims gathered together on Tuesday to show solidarity with drought-ravaged farmers as they celebrate Eid Al Adha.

More than 30,000 people attended Lakemba Mosque in Sydney, to conduct a special ‘rain prayer’ during the annual Eid celebration…

The ‘rain prayer’ comes as 100 per cent of NSW is declared drought-affected and has received less than 20 per cent of its usual rainfall since January.

This is also the warmest and driest July in 20 years….

POTUS/DOOFUS — no worse, much worse

One of my former students, a writer living in Europe, posted on Facebook: “I cannot believe what he has done now. The fact that I do not need to explain what I am talking about is enough.” A commenter noted: “I yearn for the day when we never have to say his name again, or look at his face, or hear his horrible voice” and my friend responded: “Or look at his tiny hands.”

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On US site Foreign Policy: Why Trump’s most un-American moment can’t be overlooked.

As a person of Jewish parentage, I feel the danger evoked by the president’s retweets especially keenly. When I was growing up, my mother would occasionally pull out a book of family photos from the former Czechoslovakia, where both of her parents had been born. The early pages were full of well-dressed Moravian urbanites from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Then there were photos of the smiling faces of their grown children, all people who were later murdered in the Holocaust.

Yes, truly vile. See London Mayor, UK politicians open fire on US President for retweet of far-right group. As every decent Briton (or Australian) should!

Instead of bothering with the Buffoon-in-Chief’s execrable taste in retweets, which says volumes about his tact and intelligence, visit 7 questions Muslims are tired of hearing. Or Hundreds of Muslims marching against terrorism in London ‘ignored by British media‘ (2015).

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Fact is DOOFUS apparently — according to that hack spokesperson of his — didn’t know what vermin he was retweeting! If anything this makes his offence worse! We should all always know what the source of our posts/tweets actually is!

Finally, an apt Twitter exchange:

Brian Klaas Retweeted Donald J. Trump

More people were killed in the Las Vegas mass shooting than have been killed by Islamist terrorism in the UK since 2005.

Brian Klaas added,

Do read Waleed Aly on terrorism today

Hard to fault what he says: Saying ‘enough is enough’ is to misunderstand terrorism completely.

What exactly is our end point here – our non-negotiable point of no return? Because there will always be a case to make. Take Iran: an awesomely brutal security state that has shown no compunction in imprisoning and torturing dissenters, and which defines its security threats extremely broadly. However tough we might want to be on terrorism, we will surely never match that. And yet Iran has just now witnessed a major IS terrorist attack of its own, despite being an overwhelmingly Shiite nation scarcely known for housing masses of IS supporters. The truth is that while hard police power is undoubtedly important, the track record of governments trying to eliminate terrorism predominantly by force isn’t an encouraging one.

That’s because at terrorism’s heart is the narrative that sustains it. That narrative is itself a complex of things: social circumstances, an array of grievances and crucially, an ideology that makes these things coherent and directs that anger towards an enemy. Islamism is currently potent because it does this so efficiently. You can’t imprison that potency out of existence. You can only try to make it ring less true, so fewer and fewer people are attracted to it. And given one of Islamism’s most common conspiratorial motifs is that Western societies are out to destroy Islam and will never accept Muslims, the road to internment seems a fraught one to walk. We’re fortunate for now such ideas are marginal in our politics. But we’re heading that way unless we can at some point look at our instinctive, visceral responses and say enough is enough.

A Muslim man named Sadiq Patel comforts a Jewish woman named Renee Rachel Black next to floral tributes in Albert Square in Manchester

A Muslim man named Sadiq Patel comforts a Jewish woman named Renee Rachel Black next to floral tributes in Albert Square in Manchester, Britain May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples

On terror — just for the record

A couple of days ago I posted on Facebook: So many really stupid things are being said now in the wake of the dreadful events in London, not least tweeted by Donald Trump, the unwise leader of the USA. When will we ever learn?

What follows is a few items for consideration. But first a couple of points of my own. It is clear that the hideous ideology ISIS embodies is Islamic, as Graeme Wood most convincingly demonstrates. See  his What ISIS Really Wants. However, that does not mean at all that Islam IS Isis. See for confirmation stories like London attack: Muslims raise more then £17,000 in 24 hours for victims of Westminster terror and families. Unfortunately reactions such as Pauline Hanson’s don’t seem to  comprehend that  elementary distinction. (The KKK and Kony’s infamous Lord’s Resistance Army are ostensibly Christian, but none of us is likely to identify all of Christianity with either.) Next, it is highly problematic that Donald Trump has taken sides in that well-known internal division in Islam between Sunni and Shia. The latest thing about Qatar is related in part to that. It is so ironic that both Al-Qaeda and Isis derive from the Sunni strain of Islam, not from the Shia, of which Iran is the main representative. Isis’s ideology is an extreme version of Saudi Arabia’s WahhabismSo from that country that Mr Trump seems to love so much nowadays where public beheadings are not uncommon: see Donald Trump fails to raise Saudi Arabia’s human rights record on Middle East tour.

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Saudi street scene

Next comes an interesting article in the last Saturday PaperTerror spokesman Abu Sulayman al-Muhajir on a new Islamic state. But first you do need to check out who this guy is: Abu Sulayman: The rise of Australia’s most senior man in Al Qaeda. He certainly has come a long way since Bankstown. Here is a quote:

Abu Sulayman met with Baghdadi half-a-dozen times, spending 24 hours with him on one of those occasions. He provided the following startling assessment of the Daesh caliph:

“Baghdadi has the brain the size of a peanut. A serious airhead, an idiot. I seriously had my bubble burst when I met him for the first time. I expected someone much deeper. He is not a sophisticated thinker. He’s a blustering buffoon. I’d describe him as having [US president] Bush’s intellect and Trump’s temperament. He was always ranting about the most childish issues. ‘Bring Julani to me now,’ he’d say. ‘How dare he not come and see me face to face?’ Very childish. And a horrible liar.”

Abu Sulayman also asserted: “Baghdadi is not ISIS,” claiming his title of caliph is “just a name” and that “other people are running the show”. When I asked whether these “other people” were Saddam-era Baathists, he replied: “Not Baathists. Others in the organisation.”

Next, in these days we would do well to study Wikipedia’s Terrorism in Australia just to get a due sense of proportion.

Finally, there is no doubt that what happened in Brighton Victoria the other day is dreadful. But it is also obvious that, as the Victorian Police Commissioner said in the press conference I watched on News 24 Isis claiming responsibility is something they always do, whether or not they really had any direct hand in the matter. Makes them look “good” to their deluded and demented fan base. And what about parole? Everyone from the Prime Minister down is wondering how on earth the perp was on parole, given that a few years ago he was acquitted on a charge related to a foiled terror plan concerning Holsworthy barracks in Sydney. But there you go — acquitted. The parole he was on had nothing to do with that.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Khayre had served time for a 2012 home invasion and could not get parole when his minimum sentence of three years was served because of “terrible behaviour” in prison.

He was granted parole in December last year. “(Since then) he’s been compliant, including drug tests, attending appointments and observing a curfew,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.

“As with all these matters though, we’ll look at each and every element of the act and if there are learnings and improvements that can be made, we stand ready to do that.”

In our system. which we are meant to be defending, you can’t go around locking up everyone who might do something. And when it comes to parole — sure, due caution: but it could be argued that in fact was observed in this case. Parole boards do not have psychic powers. So what is the alternative? Do away with parole altogether? There would be a host of undesirable consequences from that. See also Parole supervision and reoffending.

The current study sought to address two questions of importance to correctional policy:

  1. Does unconditional release increase the risk, speed or seriousness of further offending compared with conditional release?
  2. Does less frequent supervision increase the risk, speed or seriousness of further offending compared with more frequent supervision?

The results of this part of the study revealed that offenders who received parole supervision upon release from custody took longer to commit a new offence, were less likely to commit a new indictable offence and committed fewer offences than offenders who were released unconditionally into the community. The answer to question (2) is that more active supervision can reduce parolee recidivism but only if it is rehabilitation focused.

Update

See What the Islamic State Wants in Attacking Iran.

After years of waiting and wanting to strike Iran, the Islamic State claims to have finally done so. According to recent news reports, four militants went on a shooting spree in Iran’s parliament, while other operatives detonated a bomb inside the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, killing 12 people. If the Islamic State indeed ordered the attacks, it has struck at the temporal and spiritual heart of the Iranian revolutionary government.

The Islamic State has aimed to strike Iran since at least 2007, when it openly threatened to attack the country for supporting the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq. It regards Persian Shiites as apostate traitors who have sold out the Sunni Arabs to Israel and the United States. This determination to strike Iran marked a key difference with al Qaeda, which long held off attacking the Islamic Republic in order to use it as a rear base and financial hub…

The attacks follow several weeks of heightened rhetorical animosity between Riyadh and Tehran.