Wednesday, September 24, 2014

24-Sep-14: More on the Islamist knifing attack on police in Melbourne

Portrait of Abdul Numan Haider from his Facebook page
[Image Source]  
In Melbourne, Australia, additional details are emerging about yesterday's police shooting of an attacker ["23-Sep-14: Knifing attack on police in Australia: attacker is now dead"]. 

The 18-year-old attacker, Abdul Numan Haider, a recent graduate from Springvale Islamic College, "planned to behead officers and post the images online". While his attack on the police was done with a small knife, he had a larger knife as well as an Islamic State flag on his person. He was shot to death by police from the Joint Counter Terrorism team (blending Victoria Police and the Australian Federal Police) after he stabbed two of them.

Quotes from the Melbourne Age report today:
  • Police say he was part of a small group of Islamic Melbourne men who have been sharing violent hate messages. His passport was cancelled as police became concerned although they chose to meet him outside a police station to avoid inflaming the situation...
  • Police believe the plan was to follow instructions from the international terror group Islamic State and behead the officers, cover the bodies in the flag and then take photos to post via the internet.
  • He had been the subject of police investigations for the past three months as he had become increasingly radical.
  • Schoolfriends said he showed no signs of violent behaviour in secondary college.
Abdul Numan Haider again
via Facebook
According to an ABC report today (also quotes):
  • Haider, whose family are from Afghanistan, had also been associated with the radical Islamic group called Al-Furqan... Based in Springvale, in Melbourne's south-east, associates of Al-Furqan were the targets of terrorism raids by Victoria Police and the Australian Federal Police in 2012.
  • Chief Commissioner Lay said Haider attacked a police officer who tried to shake his hand outside the station, and then stabbed another officer, about 7:40pm (AEST) on Tuesday. "When our police members have approached this young man, one's extended his hand to shake his hand and the response has been he's been stabbed in the arm," he said. "The attacker then turned on the second police member and stabbed him three or four times in the body and in the head. The first wounded member has then shot and killed the young man."
So is this about a young man in the grip of Islamist kill-mania? Or just one big misunderstanding? Here's how the premier of the Australian state of Victoria sees it:
  • Premier Denis Napthine said it was important that the incident did not divide the community. "Let me make it very, very clear, one of the greatest strengths, one of the greatest assets we have here in Victoria is our harmonious, diverse, multi cultural, multi-faith community," Dr Napthine said. "We shouldn't let a single incident divide that. We need to show each other respect, be tolerant and remain united...  It is imperative that we do all that we can to reassure all members of the Victorian community that everything is being done to protect our safety and making sure that our community continues to work together as a whole Victorian community..." [source]
And the response of  Melbourne's Islamic community leadership?
  • Leaders of Melbourne's Islamic community have criticised police over their investigation into the fatal shooting. Gaith Krayem from the Islamic Council of Victoria said police were quick to jump to conclusions... "There needs to be a proper process as there always should be when police are involved in a fatality. What we do know is that there's an 18-year-old young man who is dead this morning, there are two police officers in hospital, there is a family who is grieving." Mr Krayem said the public needed to reserve their judgement until a full and objective investigation has taken place. [source]
  • "Unfortunately we've had inappropriate language coming from very senior politicians, including the prime minister... It increases the tension." [source]
  • "Immediately, individuals such as this unfortunately are given these labels of a radical, or a terrorist, or an extremist," he said. "Unfortunately, because of the environment we're in, as soon as you label somebody like that, people don't want to then question what occurred. We don't know really what happened when this young man arrived at the police station." [source]
The Al-Furqan centre in Springvale South, a Melbourne
neighbourhood: "Islamic Centre promoting Tawheed (monotheism)
based on the Quran and Sunnah (According to the way of the
Prophet (Peace be upon him), his companions and
righteous predecessors)
" [website]
From this distance, we are certainly in favour of people questioning what happened. We wish the Islamic leadership did the same. And having done that, that they then promptly share their findings with the rest of the community. They are in a better position than most of their neighbours to put one Islamist-flag-waving teenager with a knife - and a desire to stab people to death - into a meaningful context. Giving someone the "labels of a radical, or a terrorist" has consequences of the most serious kind. If the label happens to be accurate, it's something that ought to be done as soon as possible so that other people can be safer, and the life-and-death threat identified and addressed in the right way.

Several reports today say Haider was part of a radical community called Al-Furqan led by Harun Mehicevic, also known as Abu Talha. The Al-Furqan sheikh's background [source]:
  • He came to Australia from Bosnia as a young adult in the mid-1990s, and... has a Pakistani-born wife and six children... Somewhere along the way, Mehicevic turned to a conservative and purist form of Islam known Salafism. He became a follower of hardline Melbourne cleric Sheikh Mohammed Omran, and associated with Abdul Nacer Benbrika, who is serving a 15-year jail term for planning a terrorist attack in Melbourne in 2005. 
  • Sources within the Islamic community have described him as a ''cult leader'' and ''charismatic but totally delusional''. They say he has gathered a multi-ethnic group of 20 to 30 young men around him, and they are fiercely loyal to him. ''He tells them exactly what they want to hear,'' a source said. ''Hate the kuffar [unbelievers]; hate the system.''
  • Although some of [his followers] are of Bosnian origin, they wear clothes of Pakistani or even Saudi Arabian appearance as a way of proclaiming their hardline beliefs.
  • Some families were so concerned about the hold Mehicevic had over their children they moved overseas to get them away from his influence.
As of this morning, Sheikh Mehicevic/Abu Talha declines to confirm (or deny) Haider’s alleged involvement in the group. But:
Speaking outside a Springvale flat near the Al-Furqan bookshop, the controversial sheik said the group was working on a statement to be released later today. [Melbourne Herald-Sun, today]

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