Ali set his Hilux on fire before stabbing passers by. Picture: David Caird
Ali set his Hilux on fire before stabbing passers by. Picture: David Caird

We can’t pretend this wasn’t a terror attack

Good on Scott Morrison for calling out the Bourke Street attack for what it is: radical, violent Islam in its worst manifestation.

Shamefully, too many others are reluctant to name the evil that claimed the life of an innocent, elderly restaurant icon, Sisto Malaspina, who had simply gone to help his soon-to-be killer, and left two others badly injured.

I was hosting a television show on Friday afternoon when details began to trickle in to the newsroom about the major police operation unfolding in Melbourne's city centre.

At that very early stage, while the attack certainly seemed to bear all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack, we had to be cautious not to leap to conclusions about the motivations of the offender.

But as the true picture gradually came into focus, and police made it clear they were treating the incident as terror, responsibility fell on all of us with a platform to be frank about the motivations.

We now know 30-year-old Hassan Khalif Shire Ali had been communicating via Facebook with the country's most notorious terrorist Khaled Sharrouf - notorious for posting a photograph online of his young son holding up a severed head - with Shire Ali describing himself on the social media site as an Islamic State "mujahid" [jihadi].

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Friday’s attack what it was — an act of terrorism. Picture: AAP/Ben Rushton
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Friday’s attack what it was — an act of terrorism. Picture: AAP/Ben Rushton

Authorities confirmed Shire Ali had been on an ASIO terror watch list and that he'd tried to leave the country for Syria in 2015, an attempt that cost him his passport.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Yet, check the naked desperation of those attempting to minimise the role of extremist Islam in last week's events.

Instead of condemning the radical interpretation of her faith, Muslim Labor MP and so-called counter-terrorism expert Dr Anne Aly admonished Morrison for using divisive language.

"The Prime Minister needs to do a little bit of Terrorism 101 before he starts talking in short phrases and catchphrases and know what he's talking about before he starts dividing communities and pointing fingers at radical Islam," Aly told Sky News over the weekend.

"Is it the biggest threat here in Australia in terms of violence and victims of violence? The biggest victims of violence in Australia aren't victims of violent terrorism, they are victims of domestic violence. When we look at all forms of violence, violence perpetrated by violent jihadists, or radical Islam as the prime minister wants to put it, pales in comparison to the number of women who are being killed every week in domestic and partner violence."

What a logical fallacy.

Melbourne hospitality icon and co-owner of Bourke Street’s Pellegrini’s, Sisto Malaspina died on Friday after he was attacked by Ali. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty
Melbourne hospitality icon and co-owner of Bourke Street’s Pellegrini’s, Sisto Malaspina died on Friday after he was attacked by Ali. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty

Car accidents and suicides also claim more lives than Islamic terrorism, but that does not mean we should obfuscate and deny the major threat the latter poses to society.

Then again, Aly is the same expert who went onto Q&A in 2015 to defend Zaky Mallah, the featured audience member from the previous week who had been convicted for threatening to harm ASIO officers and exposed for making threats about gang-raping conservative female columnists.

"Yes he's said some shitty stuff but he's also said some good stuff as well," Aly said at the time. "And the shitty stuff he says, it's because he's not groomed, he's not media savvy, and he's not politically savvy. But he could be a really strong voice and a really powerful voice."

Instead of uniting behind the prime minister, the Australian National Imams Council also came down hard on Morrison, saying on Sunday: "It is extremely disappointing in such difficult times and during a national tragedy … to see our nation's leader politicising this incident and using it for political gain."

Meanwhile, certain media outlets were quick to play up the old "mental illness" chestnut, with Fairfax publishing a story entirely revolved around claims from "sources close to the family" that Shire Ali had struggled with mental health and substance abuse issues.

"Facts which are otherwise conveniently ignored by some MSM," tweeted Muslim activist Mariam Veiszadeh, sharing the piece online.

It's as if delusional thoughts and violent jihadism are mutually exclusive.

Labor MP Anne Aly said the Prime Minister needs to do some “Terrorism 101” following the attack. Picture: Kym Smith
Labor MP Anne Aly said the Prime Minister needs to do some “Terrorism 101” following the attack. Picture: Kym Smith

Then there was comedian and The Project regular Meshel Laurie, who brushed off Victoria Police's own definition of the incident as terror, instead pushing a conspiracy against people of colour.

"It's really very simple," Laurie tweeted. "A Terrorist attack is any attack carried out by someone brown. Any attack carried out by someone white is anything but a terrorist attack. It's not hard guys. Come on."

Shire Ali may well have been "brown", but he also was radicalised and, according to authorities in the know, plotting a mass terror attack; he may well have succeeded, too, had he been bright enough to figure out how to ignite the three gas cylinders he'd packed in the rear tray of his ute.

Downplaying the role radical Islam played in this horror does a disservice not just to the innocent victims caught up in this particular attack, but the many thousands around the world who've lost their lives to this brand of evil.

Caroline Marcus is the host of Saturday Edition and Sunday Edition on Sky News.



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