On Friday the 9th of November, Hassan Khalif Shire Ali set alight his Vehicle and then stabbed three people in the Melbourne CBD. He was shot dead by police, and one of the people he stabbed died at the scene. It was a horrific and devastating attack. That should be condemned by all. Within hours the media was announcing that it was a terrorist attack, and maybe it was. It has now been four days, and the media is still covering the attack. The media has been discussing the loss of life, and the perpetrator Shire Ali, but also the heroes, such as the police who were at the scene and the ‘Trolley Man.” However, the police have also been criticised for shooting Shire Ali, especially since the police officer who fired the deadly shot only graduated from the Police academy three months ago. The loss of life and the injuries (both physical and mental) are all tragic, however, in my personal opinion, I don’t believe the media’s coverage or our Prime Minister’s various public statements have been productive for the Australian Community.
For example, Scott Morison in one of his various public statements stated that Muslim Leaders have to take more responsibility for stamping out radicalism in their communities. (See article from the Sydney Morning Herald) While at the surface level this seems like a fair statement, it creates an ‘Us and Them’ dynamic. This dynamic divides Australia even further and after an attack like this, we need to come together not be pushed further apart. Regardless, this argument/statement falls flat as it has been released that Shire Ali had not attended his Mosque in nearly 20 years. How were the Muslim Leaders supposed to take more responsibility when he wasn’t even present or apart of his Islamic community.
The media is not innocent an innocent bystander, it has been creating fear and spreading hate. But what can we expect? Fear sells newspapers. How can newspaper headlines like “Kick Them Out” and “Refusal to tell the truth on Islam” be acceptable? This is racism, this is marginalising an entire group, because of the act of one man. This coverage has been continuous, and unforgiving and the fact it has been in combination with the words of OUR Prime Minister, it is disastrous.
Regardless, it has also been released that Shire Ali was delusional and paranoid, as well as suffering from substance abuse. We don’t know if he was on drugs at the time of the attack because the toxicology report hasn’t been released to the public yet. Furthermore, a family friend has stated that Shire Ali believed that people with spears were following him. He was legitimately delusional. He was not mentally sound at the time of the attack; and we will never know if he perpetrated this attack because of his delusions, or if it was an act of terror. We can make assumptions and try to piece it together but we will never know because he is dead. To make matters worse, Scott Morrison also dismissed any and all claims about the mental health of Shire Ali, in saying that it was merely an ‘excuse’ for his actions. The last time I checked, Scott Morison wasn’t a psychologist, a mental health professional or someone that had even met Shire Ali, so how can he have the audacity to even make that call.
To prove the point about the damage that the media and specifically Scott Morison have caused in their coverage of this horrific attack we can simply reflect on popular Google searches performed since the attack. “Muslim Scum” has been searched exponentially more since this attack and Google refers to this tremendous increase in searches as a ‘Break out.’ “Muslim Attack” has been searched 1200% more, “Muslim Terrorist” has also been searched 250% more, and “Islamic Terrorism” has been searched 50% more. Is this not damaging to a whole community of people, the fact that people are searching and thinking that Muslims are Scum, and that Muslims are terrorists. This is simply not the whole truth, the large majority of people in the Islamic Community are loving and kind, this small majority that commit these terrible acts, make it so much harder for that majority. So I believe that the Current Government and the media with their cheap tactics need to have a serious look at themselves and realise that what they say and what they publish has a major effect on so many innocent people. As a society, we need to look past this hate and move past the fear. We need to create a loving and inclusive community that embraces our diversity, and works together to eliminate terrorism and extremism together. This cannot and will not be achieved if we continue to accept the ‘us and them’ dynamic. We cannot and will not have a constructive and safe society if we all continue to be absorbed by the fear and hatred that covers our screens and newspapers.