Zaky Mallah on #QANDA

Speaking truth to power – on Zaky Mallah, Steve Ciobo & QANDA

Let me preface this by noting my own opposition to offensive violence in all forms; whether committed by soldiers on behalf of governments, individuals or extremist groups.

I strongly oppose the ongoing war in Iraq. I equally oppose violent attacks by extremist religious groups within Iraq. I also oppose violence committed by drunk individuals, and have repeatedly put myself at risk to prevent such violence occurring.

So, to anyone who wants to claim I’m on ‘the terrorists team’, here’s a big up yours (┌∩┐) in advance. I’m not on any ‘terrorist team’ but I’m certainly not joining YOUR team either.

I’m on a team which de-escalates conflicts.

Rather than further isolating at risk people in our society, I want to give them reason to join us.

Only if we break the isolation can we prevent extremist groups radicalising at-risk people. Only if we know who is at-risk, if we build relationships with them, can we help them.

If we fail to achieve that, then no matter how many of our rights we hand over to the intelligence services, we will never feel safe.

We could build a demon out of any isolated youth, using their google search history, porn habits, or threats and dodgy comments on gaming discussion forums. The list of things we could use to demonise a relatively average 21st century teenager is too extensive.

But are we going to do that?

Is that the society in which we want to raise our kids?

Will we become a fear-based society, where kids sit inside at school lunchtime because parents believe it’s too dangerous for them to play outdoors? Are we going to make monsters out of our at-risk children by further isolating them, or will we BREAK that isolation?

Are we ready to throw out the presumption of innocence, separation of powers and right to a fair trial? We’re already halfway there on refugees and data harvesting, why not citizenship?

These are the real questions playing out today, in response to Zaky Mallah’s comments on #qanda, and so far it feels like they’re being intentionally ignored.

When Zaky Mallah said “The Liberals now have just justified, to many Australian Muslims in the community, tonight, to leave and go to Syria and join ISIS because of ministers like him”, he was calling it as it is, not encouraging support for ISIS.

Tony Jones should not have dismissed his comment as “totally out of order”. I’d even argue it was wrong to apologise to the Government official who was the target of his comment.

Liberal Party MP Steve Ciobo had just finished telling all of Australia his own falsified version of Zaky’s case, seeming to misrepresent him as a terrorist who got off on a technicality. Steve then went on to tell this Australian born man that he should be kicked out of the country.

I don’t think Liberal Party policy has even gone that far yet? Isn’t it only for dual-nationals?

My understanding of Zaky’s case is like this:

As a 19yr old kid in 2003, Zaky was the first Australian charged with terrorism under Howard’s strict new post 9/11 laws. He served 2 years in maximum security prison while ‘awaiting trial’, before being acquitted of all terrorism charges in 2005.

Zaky did admit to creating videos in which he threatened violence against the Foreign Minister and Director of ASIO, after being denied the right to get a passport.

He was convicted of the non-terrorist charge of “Making a threat to seriously harm an officer of the Commonwealth (s 147.2)”.

He was acquitted of two terrorism related charges, when a jury found he had not planned to shoot dead ASIO and Foreign Affairs officers in a suicide mission (1).

That’s a HUGE difference from Steve’s claim Zaky was acquitted “because, ahh, at that point in time the laws weren’t retrospective”.

The law was applied to its’ full in Zaky’s case and Zaky was found not-guilty of planning a terrorist act by a jury.

So how does the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade get away with statements like the following:

“I’d be pleased to be part of a government that would say you are out of the country”.

A senior Government MP says he would be PLEASED to be part of a government which would force an Australian born Muslim, out of the country in which he was born.

An Australian born Muslim, who was quoted in The Australian Newspaper in 2011 as having found a “new appreciation for the freedoms found in Australian society” (2).

Waving that threat around, undermining the court systems. That is how you further isolate at-risk people in our society. That is how you cut off their trust and connection to us, and create a ‘them’. That is how extremists justify their own existence, in opposition to yours.

I’m not saying Zaky’s a good guy, I’m not saying Zaky’s a bad guy. You will all make up your own minds on that.

But can’t we at least get our facts straight?

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