Miracles do happen! Even so I was surprised to open today’s Age and find they had published my letter arguing for action to expose and attack extremist Islam. It was also the lead letter. The Australian also published a letter by me in similar vein, along with other “strong action” type letters (see both my letters below) and an excellent editorial which identifies in no uncertain way “that Islamist terror cannot be bought off; it wants nothing less than a totalitarian caliphate for the planet. Jihad denialism, which wilfully obscures the wellsprings of Islamist violence, has limited appeal in Australia although its supporters include progressive elites with their media megaphones” (see Editorial on Terrorist Risk).
A question which arises is how exactly did PM Turnbull react. His immediate statement acknowledged that it was an act of terrorism but made no reference to the likely source being Islamic (see attached Turnbull on Manchester). He also said that the government is developing a plan on how to deal with threats to mass gatherings, but made no change in the “probable” threat level even though a possible network was involved in the bombing. He does seem to have been involved actively , however, in using question time to tackle Shorten, who he described as “captain of fantasy” (see Turnbull in Q Time).
Meantime, ASIO head Lewis told a Senate estimates hearing “This is not the end, it’s not the beginning of the end, it’s more like the end of the beginning. We don’t see this finishing any time soon.” Immigration Minister Dutton has been active on 2GB radio (Hadley interviews him once a week instead of Morrison). He said that Australians who went overseas to fight with ASIS deserve to be killed, that the ABC’s decision to axe the program by Yassmin Abdel-Magied was a “good start” (adding that there is “one down, many to go”) and describing the behavior of Tony Jones (who runs Q&A) as “a disgrace”. Justice Minister Keenan said those who returned from overseas would be prosecuted for their crimes and Brandis foreshadowed legislation allowing the Australian Defence Force to be called out to assist in terrorist events. Former PM Howard also joined in with a warning that “attacks were likely to happen again”.
Such developments in Coalition policy and attitudes are promising. But Turnbull seems largely to be missing. As leader he needs to make a statement confirming that the source of the problem is the extremist version of Islam and saying that Australian policy is now aiming to pass legislation allowing action to be taken against those who indicate support for the extremist version either by what they say or what they are detected as planning. He should indicate that if necessary a constitutional change will be sought. In short, as stated by Trump in Saudi Arabia, Australian policy would be based on driving “out the terrorists and extremists” wherever this is feasible.
An approach along these lines is warranted by the Coroner’s report on the Lindt Café incident, and the inadequate response since then in NSW in particular, as well as the latest reports on the Manchester bombings. The latter indicate inter alia that:
- The entire family of the terrorist may have been involved, in one way or another, in links to a terrorist group or groups and may have had connections with the Paris and Brussels attacks. Of particular interest is that the terrorist’s mother is apparently a nuclear scientist (see Terrorist’s Family Involved);
- There were extremist teachings by a brother at a local mosque;
- The bomb was particularly sophisticated and its construction was likely helped by an “expert” (sic);
- The terrorist was partly motivated by revenge for the killing of children in Syria/Iraq and a belief that UK and US forces were involved;
- There are claims that warnings had been made well before the bombing to police and intelligence agencies that the man who became a terrorist was a danger.
This and other reports not only indicate the extent to which the North (in particular) of England has been penetrated by extremist Muslims but how difficult it must be for police and intelligence agencies to keep track of what suspects are doing. Incidents in Australia have suggested the same problem exists here. But my conclusion is that there now needs to be action that will threaten to impinge on human rights, and as such be subject to strong protests, that will require a strong political leader. Human rights must be protected but they must also be more subject to intrusions to ensure our democratic society prevails.
One last word. This report of the failed attempt to stop action by extremists in southern Philippines indicates that Christians were being beheaded. Yet we continue to have very little response by our Christian churches.