It is amazing how the vicious circle of terrorism and the war on terror can transform a peaceful society into one of fear and hate followed by violence in a matter of weeks.
It all started with reports of atrocities committed by ISIS against its Muslim opponents and minority communities and then the highly publicised beheadings of Western journalists. The US suddenly woke up to the threat posed by ISIS and Tony Abbott happily volunteered to drag Australia to join the coalition of War on Terror 2.
Concern was now raised that a number of Australians who have left to join the US supported coalition to fight the Syrian repressive regime were in fact ending up with ISIS. This caused the alarm bells ringing and the rush to revise the national security bill, the so called anti-terror laws giving unprecedented powers to security agencies to monitor citizens.
A number of Government politicians found the opportunity to play the divisive politics of us and them, Team Australia and the Non-Team Australia, burqa policemen and anti-sharia vigilantes. Some sections of the mainstream media together with the usual shock-jocks ramped up their vilification of Islam and demonisation of Muslims to whip up the frenzy of hate.
Then came the largest police raid in Australian history, 800 police and ASIO officers raiding a couple of dozen Muslim houses, arresting 15 and releasing all but one on the same day. Some lessons can be drawn from this exercise. Such a huge operation netting only one person and a sword allegedly to be used for beheading. Was this an intelligence failure? Well the positive side is that our police force does not make trumped up charges unlike police in many other parts of the world.
Then came the stabbing of two police officers and the shooting death of the assailant in Victoria. Government politicians had a field day by saying, I told you so and quickly moving forward on the new anti-terror laws. The media went into yet another frenzy with headlines “Jihadists Amongst Us”, “Jihad Joey”, “How Many More”, “Face of Hate”, “Driven to kill”, even before all the facts of the incidents were known.
The result of this irresponsible behaviour by some politicians, tabloid media and shock-jocks is a surge in Islamophobic attacks, tensions between communities, all around fear and as community leaders have warned, this could lead to snowballing of hatred, violence and ultimately rioting in the streets.
Responsible behaviour from all sections of society can only save us from a potentially disastrous outcome.