You Can’t Negotiate With Religious Extremists

Terrorism left its calling card in Sydney today. I think we all kind of knew it was coming. We just didn’t know the where?, or the when? Both of those questions were answered when a middle-aged fanatical Jihadist, walked into a busy café, in the heart of the city, around 9 in the morning. He was armed with a sawn off shotgun and proceeded to take more than 20 people hostage. What followed was a siege lasting 17 hours. It ended around 2 am, when heavily armed police stormed the café, after hearing the sound of gunshots coming from inside. Minutes later, three people were dead. The fanatical jihadist hostage taker, and two of his hostages, a man aged 34 and a woman aged 38. Australia is fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. We knew there would be consequences. The Islamic State publicly vowed revenge against innocent people to be chosen at random. But you can’t stop living your life, just because a group of religious crazies threaten you, or want to attack you for the way you choose to live. Nor should we.

Authorities know quite a bit about the Jihadist hostage taker but I don’t want to waste oxygen talking about him to any significant degree. He was Iranian and a Muslim convert. A self styled cleric who was convicted of sending poison pen letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed during the war in Afghanistan. He was also on bail for being an accessory to the murder of his wife, who was stabbed and set on fire. He persuaded his girlfriend to kill her.   The self-styled Jihadist also faced 40 sexual assault charges after complaints from seven women who attended one of his ‘spiritual healing sessions.’ The Jihadist likened himself, on his own webpage, to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, claiming the police charges against him were laid for “political reasons.” His website also carries a quote, posted earlier this month, stating: “I used to be a Rafidi, but not any more. Now I am a Muslim, Alhamdulillah.” ( Praise be to Allah)

During the siege, this religious fanatic forced his hostages to hold up a black flag, with Arabic writing, against the window of the cafe and record video messages on their mobile phones, listing his demands. The videos were initially posted on YouTube but were immediately removed on the advice of police. Deep down we all knew, right from the very start of this, it was going to end badly. Of course, there will be the inevitable questions: Should this man have been released on bail? Had he been identified as a religious extremist and placed on a watch list? If not? why not? His lawyer described him as a ‘damaged goods individual.’ There will also be scrutiny of how the police handled the siege. We received many public assurances from the New South Wales Police Commissioner, the Premier of New South Wales and the Prime Minister that the police were professionally trained to deal with this type of crisis and we should all have faith that they can bring about a peaceful resolution.

Bring about a peaceful resolution? Are you kidding me? When they said that I began to get very worried. For a start this was not a normal siege by any stretch. Most sieges are an attempt by the hostage taker to achieve some personal advantage. The Jihadist who walked into that café only had two purposes, to die killing innocent people and secondly to create maximum publicity so that when he did, everyone would remember who was responsible and, hopefully, from that time on, live in fear of it happening again. He didn’t care that he would be killed. In fact he was counting on it. You can’t negotiate with people like that. You are wasting your time to even try. But the New South Wales police did try. They didn’t comply with his demands but they tried to negotiate with him. And they waited.

Now I don’t want to sound like some armchair quarterback replaying the calls that were made with the benefit of hindsight. I understand the police had a nightmare on their hands. But I will be honest and say I think it was a serious mistake to wait for the shooting to start before they did any shooting themselves. It might sound harsh but being reactive is too late. The horse has bolted. The hostage taker is already doing what he came to do from the moment he walked into that café. We live in a different world. There are people in it who have no regard for their own life as long as they can take the lives of innocent people. The hostage taker in Sydney made it pretty clear who he represented, and what this was about, right from the start. You don’t negotiate. You wait for an opportunity or, you create an opportunity, to use lethal force against him. You certainly don’t wait until he starts killing people. It’s a harsh lesson that maybe the New South Wales police are about to learn.

The Foot In The Mouth

I hate to say it. But, the Prime Minister of Australia suffers from foot-in-mouth disease.

His latest crazy utterance concerns the referendum debate for independence in Scotland. Yes. Scotland. Why he would bother to buy into that is a complete mystery to me.

But he did. And in doing so managed to mightily offend a very large number of Scottish people.

Scotland is deciding if it wants to be free of the UK and go its own way as an independent country in much the same way that the United States did with Great Britain. In Scotland’s case they won’t have to fight a war. Simply vote yes or no on the issue in about a month’s time.

At the moment the latest polls in Scotland are suggesting that a majority of Scots people are in favor of independence. But there is still a lot of water to pass under the bridge before the referendum and anything could happen.

To put this in context, the Australian Prime Minister happened to be in London for talks with the British Prime Minister David Cameron who was no doubt bemoaning to his antipodean counterpart that Scottish independence was not a good idea as far as the Poms were concerned.

Cue Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to announce at a London Press Conference that an independent Scotland would not be in the best interests of the international community. Say whaaa?

Abbott then went on to assert that “ the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, not the friends of freedom, and that the countries that would cheer at the prospect of the break-up with the United Kingdom are not the countries whose company one would like to keep.” Say whaaa?

Of course it was enough to get the Scots including their First Minister positively choking on their haggis.

Mr Abbott’s remarks were called “bewildering and ludicrous”.

The Scottish Government weighed in saying “Many Australians, including the great number with close Scottish connections, will look on in bafflement at these remarks – Australia is a country that has gained its independence from Westminster and has never looked back.

“Scotland’s referendum is a model of democracy, which has been cited as such internationally, including by the US secretary of state. An independent Scotland will be a beacon for fairness, justice and cooperation in the international community – and a great friend of Australia.”

The Scottish Government went on to rightly point out that Australia and the United States had prospered as independent countries able to make their own decisions and with populations never contemplating any prospect of that being reversed.

Enough said. So what is the moral here?

I think a sound piece of advice to follow whether you be Prime Minister or average Joe. If you have nothing to say then say nothing.