Saturday, May 28, 2016

Memoirs of a victim of Wahhabi violence

1) When security agencies siding with extremists!!!

After my recent bad experience with AFP, who conspired with the Lebanese authorities to ban me from entering that country, memories of early bad experiences with security agencies came flashing back.

Australians need to understand where all this radicalisation came from. In the next few weeks I will highlight my experience of the possible reasons.

On 21 August 2012, upon receiving a message of my friend Khaldoun, I shared a link on Facebook. The link was about the first Australian who had died in Syria fighting alongside terrorists. At the same time his supporters here in Australia (all extremists) were spreading lies and hailing him as a hero aid worker.

Within minutes of me posting the link calling this man for what he really was, a terrorist, I started receiving hundreds of abusing and threatening messages. At that time, we were amid council election and I was running for a spot on Auburn council. The other major parties were running Lebanese background locals as leading candidates. Both originally from Al Minieh in the north of Lebanon.

Surprisingly, I was the only person who was receiving abusive and threatening messages. Khaldoun, a well-known active community member, never received similar threats.

Once the threats become serious I reported them to Auburn police station. I was sure the police would take such threats seriously especially the death threats and the threats to kidnap and rape my children.

All these threats came after I “dared” criticise a well-known radical extremist. This whole saga was about terrorism links and radicalisation in our society.

Instead, every time I attended Auburn police station to report such threats I was treated with utter contempt.

On 27 August 2012 while walking along a main commercial strip in Auburn, I was surrounded by a group of extremists who blocked my path outside Al Bukhari bookstore. These individuals started shouting, pushing me and threatened to kill me. I didn’t want to escalate matters by calling on friends and supporters to come and assist me, instead I opted to take refuge into Auburn police station which was situated less than 50 metres away from where this serious altercation was taking place.

Again the police took my statement.

I thought this time it would be different since now the threats and abusive language had progressed into physical attacks. I decided to escalate the matter to someone higher than the police.

I collated all the statements I had given to the police, I attached the recording of one of the threatening messages and I wrote a detailed account of what was going on. I sent everything in an email addressed to both the NSW Minister for Police and my local Labor MP and minister for Internal Affairs.

Given the seriousness of all that happened I was convinced that I would promptly receive some kind of communication from either one or both these offices. To the surprise of my family and friends I heard nothing!

I decided to follow up with a phone call to my local MP’s office Jason Clare and the office of the Minister for Police. Both staff members who answered the phone suggested I go to my local police station. The staff member at Jason Clare’s office even volunteered to give me the number of the police hotline.

Still dumbfounded by the lack of support from authorities I started contacting several journalists with whom I had worked together in the past. Again I was surprised by the lack of interest in such a story especially when it had been all over the media about the death of the Australian terrorist.

The only journalist who was interested was Dan Box from The Australian.

After The Australian published “Syrian conflict fires local Muslim strife” (30 August 2012), things moved very quickly.

On the same day, 30 August, I received a phone call from Auburn police station asking for a meeting to discuss things. I was so angry and disappointed from both police station and the minster that I refused to meet with them. A friend at the station called again and urged me to come to a meeting. I agreed to meet with them at around 2 pm.

At the meeting there were three people: agent of Anti-terrorism task force, commander of Flemington Area Command and community liaison officer.

The polite atmosphere did not last long. Surprisingly, the agent from Anti-terrorism taskforce accused me of provoking the extremists with my comments about Mustapha Al Majzoub and my referral to him as terrorist. Following is what was said in that room between myself and the taskforce agent.

Jamal: but he is a terrorist.

Agent: how do you know that he is terrorist?

Jamal: from the reports on your desk

Agent: what? How do you know?

Jamal: so you and your minister think that I am an amateur activist who has no information or networks?

At this stage, the language of the debate had changed.

Agent: but we are concerned about your safety

Jamal: good, my safety does not mean that I should be silenced or my democratic rights violated. I have the right to express my thoughts freely and enjoy the safety and respect. If others do not like my comments or articles, they can resort to legal system, not to bullying and assaults.

Agent: but we are dealing with organised criminal networks.

Jamal: this is your job to insure safety and security among our society. If I can’t express my opinion then I might as well move to Saudi Arabia or Qatar. If my migration was about improving my financial situation only, I will be better off working in Saudi Arabia.

The meeting was concluded with the promise of action to end the campaign of threats and bullying against me.

I was asked by the anti-terror taskforce agent not to leak to the media about the details of this meeting. I assured the agent that this will remain between us as long as they would help improve the situation.

The meeting was the first serious meeting with some officials to communicate my concerns.

Surprisingly, following the meeting, I ceased to receive threats. No more sms, minimal Facebook abusive comments, no further phone calls and no more confrontations in the streets. Even on Election Day, we did not experience any serious incident.

Relating to AFP saga of conspiring with foreign power against well-respected community active member, the lack of police actions against extremists’ threats, assaults and violence have very serious meaning.

I hate to conclude that our security agencies directly or indirectly, actively or subtly publicly or secretly were responsible somehow of radicalisation reaching this serious level never seen in Australian history.

No clever person can be convinced that within less than 5 years, radicalisation in this country could have reached this level without the help or inaction by our authorities.

Authorities need to come and tell my family why they ignored our suffering for years.

It is still vivid in my mind the day I was accused of “asking for it”. It was my fault that extremists were threatening to kill me only for expressing an opinion (which turned out to be true anyway).

Despite all that has happened to me and my family, despite our authorities conspiring against me siding with the extremist, despite been let down by our security agencies, despite all this, I am still proud to be in the frontline of fighting against radicals.

In the next article: when authorities recognise and award extremists for spreading extremism...