Last Friday, Melbourne’s Bourke Street saw another unspeakable tragedy, this time at the hands of a young man whose family and religious teacher have confirmed was afflicted with mental illness. Hassan Khalif Shire Ali stabbed three people, killing the beloved Melbourne community figure Sisto Malaspina before being shot dead by police.
As the nation came to grips with the tragedy, some Australian media outlets and politicians took the opportunity to score some cheap political points. The Home Affairs minister wasted no time in announcing potential changes to immigration laws, and our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison went as far as to “call out” what he said was the “real problem”, which was “radical, violent, extremist Islam that opposes our very way of life.”
This reaction bears comparison with a similar incident that occurred on the same street in 2017, when James Gargasoulas drove his car into a crowd of people, killing 6 and wounding 30. Since the incident, Gargasoulas has had continuous coverage about the impact of mental illness on his crime, none of which was declared a “lame excuse” by Scott Morrison, as he said on Monday in response to a statement by Shire Ali’s family.
The responses by the Prime Minister, the Home Affairs Minister, and the numerous media outlets who took the opportunity to dog-whistle about the Muslim community has been roundly criticised by Muslim leaders, with the Australian National Imams Council and the Islamic Council of Victoria both releasing statements expressing their condolences to the family of the victim, and condemning both the horrific attack, and the irresponsible response.
In their statement, the ICV said,
“the religion of Islam had nothing to do with the attacks last Friday. To insinuate otherwise is absurd.”
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