Self-proclaimed religious leader Sheik Haron, aka Man Monis, has chained himself to a fence outside a Sydney court where he appeared today on charges of using the postal system to harass. Haron is accused of sending rather nasty letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan:
I feel bad that you have lost your son but I don't feel bad that a murderer of innocent civilians has lost his life.
Haron is claiming to be a "peace activist". Interestingly, ABC News stories covering Haron's court appearance link to one another but do not link to an earlier article by Rachael Kohn titled "Radical Muslim cleric goes unchecked". Kohn's article "questions how Sheik Haron has been allowed to proliferate his own brand of extremism for so long." Unusually for the ABC, Kohn's item pulls no punches:
Islam, they say, is not about the violent jihad which terrorists espouse, it is about peace. Yet in Australia, the Muslim community missed an opportunity to expose, denounce and shut down the antics of a religious extremist, who for at least the past two years has been using the internet, CDs and other means justifying violent jihad.
The trouble is that Sheik Haron, as he calls himself, can seem a bit too loony to take seriously, but this is a mistake. The self-styled mufti is no shrinking violet when it comes to promoting hatred of the West and justifying violence in the name of Allah. Nor is he lacking funds to produce his elaborate propaganda.
I have been one of his targets, along with other public figures, including the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Melbourne magistrate, Judge Peter Reardon, who presided over the case of five men charged with planning a terrorist attack against the Holsworthy Army base [The Australian, Aug 26 2009].
I have read the sheik's faxes, letters on custom letterhead, and CDs in which he openly promoted the glorious calling of jihad against the West and celebrated the deaths of Australians in war and in the Victorian bushfires.
According to him, the deaths of both soldiers and civilians were the work of Allah, who metes out punishment to those who offend or harm Muslims.
In a fax he sent to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with a copy to me, he asserted that the deaths of people in the bushfires was Allah's revenge on Australians, because the government did not oppose the death penalty for the Bali bombers. It's clear where his sympathies lie.
Kohn can't understand that the mainstream Muslim community looks the other way when their fellows preach hatred and violence:
In the many media conferences and interfaith meetings I've attended, Muslims have regularly complained that the media cast them in a poor light.
However valid that complaint may be, it loses all credibility when they don't go after the radicals in their community.
If they don't, the media will do it for them.
And in the case of Sheik Haron, he was really very hard to miss.
The worry is not that radicals like Haron will convert masses of Muslims into Australia-hating jihadis but rather that his message will seduce a select few highly motivated adherents keen to kill for God. As can be seen in the tragic events at Fort Hood one determined man with a gun can wreak havoc. We do not need a sequel to Port Arthur or a bomb going off in a crowded shopping centre.