Published in the Daily Telegraph, 1 June 2017
The coroner’s report into the Lindt Café siege should be the wake-up call that Australia desperately needs. There was a litany of errors that ultimately led to the deaths of two innocent people at the hands of an Islamist fanatic: he should never have been granted refugee status given the lies he told; he should never have been granted bail for his role in killing his ex-wife given his long criminal record; and he should never have been treated as crying for help given that he said he was trying to punish Australia and Australians.
The basic problem is that contemporary Australia has a tendency to treat people with kid gloves even when they’re abusing our goodwill. This is true in a whole host of ways. We give welfare rorters the benefit of the doubt. We give economic migrants pretending to be refugees the benefit pf the doubt. We make excuses for criminals rather than making punishment fit the crime. But above all, we refuse to believe that Islamist fanatics really mean it when they say they’re coming to kill us.
Since 9/11, it should have been obvious that there’s a strain of Islam that believes quite literally in “death to the infidel”. The root cause of this disorder is not mental illness, poverty, Islamophobia or western foreign policy. It’s in the Koran which too many people take literally. We pussy foot around the fact that many passages of the Muslim holy book command things that are completely incompatible with modern western life and even justify terrorism.
Of course, there are some pretty blood-curdling passages in the Bible too but there are popes, archbishops and moderators-general to tell us how it should be interpreted to suit the modern world. Islam mostly lacks this interpretive tradition. Official Islam has been largely untouched by the precepts of the enlightenment. Indeed, there’s a chronic tendency to make excuses for bad behaviour by the “brothers” or to deny that it’s even happened.
Instead of demanding that Muslims in our country conform to our rules, we try to create “safe spaces” for everyone even though that sometimes means creating very unsafe spaces for us. So the Centrelink rules are unofficially adjusted to tolerate multiple wives; schools allow Muslim boys to refuse to shake female teachers’ hands; and municipal pools are segregated to appease medieval attitudes to gender. In other words we tolerate from hard-line Muslims what we would not tolerate for a second if it emanated from any other source.
Well, we should stop apologising for ourselves and making excuses for others and start insisting on one set of rules for all Australians. And in the process we should celebrate the vast majority of decent Muslims who try to make the most of their lives and to get along with other people just like the rest of us.
All governments, I regret to say, have made the mistake of giving “professional Muslims” platforms (via official advisory bodies) that end up promoting difference and making identity politics worse. I can understand the thinking behind the Iftar dinner at Kirribilli House last year but its practical impact was to give hardliners a status denied to integrated Muslims let alone leaders of others faiths.
The single most important lesson the coroner identified is the difference between a domestic siege and a terrorist one. Terrorists don’t care for their hostages’ lives or even for their own. Islamist terrorists think that killing innocent people is virtuous and that their own death is martyrdom. So the first thing that needs to change is restriction on police powers to “shoot-to-kill”. Anything that hinders police’ ability to neutralise a terrorist puts innocent people at even greater risk.
The next thing that needs to change is hesitation about cooperating with other agencies. NSW police made little, if any, use of the army’s sniper capacity or expertise in storming buildings even though the government put the commandos at Holsworthy on alert and offered their services. Even though the state police should remain the lead agency for relatively small-scale incidents, police shouldn’t hesitate to make use of the military where their expertise might help.
There should be no serious criticism of the tactical police who actually stormed the building. Many of them had been on duty for more than 12 hours. Given the possibility of a bomb, they thought it was a potential suicide mission. Tragically, one hostage was executed and another died in the cross fire but all the others were saved. The problems were higher up the line: the failure to appreciate how terrorists operate and to change procedures accordingly; the over-reliance on psychiatrists with no understanding of the Islamist mindset; and politically correct fixations about a potential Islamophobic backlash. There is no safe way to storm a building with an armed terrorist holding hostages but, clearly, as the police now accept, it would have been better done with the police taking the initiative rather than the terrorist.
There is another massive problem that was beyond the coroner’s remit: what to do about returning Jihadis? The only safe Jihadi is one who’s been lawfully killed, lawfully imprisoned, or thoroughly converted from Islamism. The government has stripped dual national terrorists of their right to return. We need to find ways to keep all the others out of the country or in gaol. The government has made it an offence to travel to designated terrorist zones, without lawful cause. We need to ensure that every returning Jihadi can readily be charged and convicted, possibly through the creation of special courts that can hear evidence that may not normally be admissible.
After every terrorist atrocity, western politicians intone that terrorism will never beat us. We can’t just say it; we have to mean it. That means standing up for ourselves all the time, not just after innocent people have been killed.