The man who held 17 people hostage for over 16 hours during the Martin Place siege in Sydney was not a terrorist. Man Haron Monis, or the ‘fake sheik’, was not a ‘real’ Muslim and did not have any links to radical Islamic groups. His actions on that Monday morning did not have any political overtones or an agenda influenced by an extremist religious ideology.
Well, that’s certainly what it appears the government, authorities, experts, and mainstream media want you to believe.
After watching live broadcasts of the event for over 16 hours, I lost count of the amount of times that news broadcasters, government representatives, and various other panel experts refused to admit that Monis’ actions were terroristic in nature, done in the name of extremist Islam. Time after time, expert opinion after expert opinion, government representative after government representative, audiences were explicitly told during the siege not to jump to any conclusions, as the gunman’s motivations were still unknown.
The very first images to be streamed live around the world were of hostages holding up a black Shahada flag in the café window which stated “There is no god but Allah; Muhammed is the Messenger of Allah.” The headband that the fake sheik was photographed wearing through the window translated into the war cry “We are ready to sacrifice for you, O Muhammad.”
Whatever you do, just don’t jump to conclusions yet.
Within hours, the gunman (not terrorist) was identified as Man Haron Monis, or as the Australian media had previously labelled him, the fake sheik. The fake sheik was an Iranian refugee who came to Australia in 1996, and was granted refugee status in 2001 after he had lied about his claim. Amnesty International backed his story in which he stated that he deserved a protection visa because he had written material which criticised the Iranian government, that he was an official cleric, and that he had involvement with the Iranian intelligence services which put him at risk.
Shortly after settling in Australia, he became well known to federal and state police as well as Australia’s security agencies. At the time of the siege, he had a string of criminal convictions and was on bail for violent criminal offenses. He was also wanted in his native country of Iran for allegedly committing fraud.
Between 2007-2009, he penned poisonous letters to the families of deceased Australian soldiers who had been killed in Afghanistan. The families of Private Luke Worsley, Lieutenant Michael Fussell, Sergeant Brett Till, Private Gregory Sher, Corporal Jason Marks, and Private Benjamin Ranaudo all received disgraceful letters which accused the soldiers of being “killers” and “murderers.”
Monis was charged for writing these letters in 2009. Later that year, he chained himself to the Downing Centre Local Court in protest, claiming he was simply a peace activist. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to 12 charges of using a postal service in a menacing, harassing, and offensive way and was sentenced to a two-year good-behaviour bond and 300 hours of community service.
In 2009, Monis also delivered a hate-filled sermon to a packed prayer hall in Western Sydney. During his phony lecture, he denounced all other religions, advocated violence, and called for Islamic justice to be delivered through a caliphate with one religion. It was around this time that, astonishingly, Monis dropped off the national security watch list.
In November 2013, Monis was charged with being an accessory—before and after—to the murder of his ex-wife, who was allegedly stabbed 18 times and set alight in an apartment stairwell. He was granted bail.
In March 2014, Monis was charged with sexually assaulting a young woman back in 2002. During a court appearance in October this year, he was subsequently charged with an additional 40 charges of indecent and sexual assault relating to six other women. He was due to face court again in February 2015.
The fake sheik also ran a number of websites and social media accounts which he used to spread his perverted and violent ideology. A series of YouTube posts containing a link to one of his websites featured his current wife, Amirah Droudis, describing herself as a terrorist and expressing her happiness with the 9/11 attack and the Bali bombings. Droudis has been charged with murdering Monis’ first wife—the same murder that Monis was charged with being an accessory—and she, along with Monis, were out on bail.
Monis also used his website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts to further spread his twisted and hate-filled messages. He had nearly 14,000 likes on his Facebook page by supporters and sympathisers of his extreme views. He questioned the legitimacy of our government sending troops to the Middle East and accused anyone who supported this to be a racist and terrorist. On the day of the siege, Monis posted the following message on his website:
“Islam is the religion of peace, that’s why Muslims fight against the oppression and terrorism of USA and its allies including UK and Australia. If we stay silent towards the criminals we cannot have a peaceful society. The more you fight with crime, the more peaceful you are. Islam wants peace on the Earth, that’s why Muslims want to stop terrorism of America and its allies. When you speak out against crime you have taken the step towards peace.”
Monis had also paid $500 to register the phone number 1300-4-JIHAD, but please, don’t jump to conclusions about his motivations just yet. You can also refrain from using the words Islam, Muslim, or terrorist to describe this event because they apparently had nothing to do with this man’s actions either.
The incident has been vehemently labelled a criminal act—an ‘ugly incident’ in the words of our prime minister—carried out by a deranged lunatic. The media has been busy diverting our attention from the obvious and glaring facts which are staring right back at us. It appeared that everyone steered clear of mentioning this in fear of being labelled Islamophobic scaremongers, so the media constantly felt the need to urge viewers not to jump to conclusions.
As images of the black Shahada flag being held up by hostages in the window of the Lindt Café were being broadcast around the globe, we were again told that the attacker’s motives were unclear. As hostages were forced to post Monis’s demands on their own social media accounts—the first of which was to bring him an Islamic State flag—words such as Muslim, terrorist, and Islam were omitted from almost every media outlet reporting on the event.
My frustrations throughout the day were growing. Not only had this contemporary form of terrorism finally founds its cowardly way to Australia, but the government and media were consistently failing to acknowledge what was going on.
In one on-air interview, a caller from an adjacent building who had been placed into lockdown uttered the words “Islamic terrorism” during his phone conversation. He was immediately shut down by the presenter who appeared to be under strict instructions to avoid this “fear-mongering” language at all costs. Audiences were then reassured that the motives for the attack were still unclear in a fashion similar to the backpedaling one might see if someone accidentally told your children that Santa isn’t real.
Almost immediately after news of this siege broke, a very good friend of mine and my former Tactical Assault Group – East team commander messaged me saying, “Terrorists have taken a café in Martin Place. Lindt Café. An Arabic flag is up. Can’t believe we’re not on team for this.”
If the exact same chain of events unfolded in the Lindt Café on that fateful morning without the flag, then I can guarantee that his message would have read something to the effect of: “Hostage situation in Martin Place. Lindt Café. Can’t believe we’re not on team for this.”
The writing was on the wall. Or, in this case, the flag was in the window. The intentions were clear, the motivations even clearer. For those of us who have enjoyed a professional career which has centered on addressing this exact type of threat, it was not hard to see what was going on. Even if the media had reported the obvious, it would not have made the situation any less acrimonious. But the fact that those reporting and commenting on the situation refused to acknowledge it for what it really was certainly made it more so.
(Images Courtesy: NBC News)