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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14750

Dr ALY (Cowan) (12:57): I start with the words 'Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un': to God we belong and to God we shall return. It is what Muslims say upon the passing of their brethren.

I really struggled to find words in the aftermath of this heinous terrorist attack. I also struggled with many conflicting emotions. I struggled with anger, sadness and despair, but also hope. Sadness at the loss of yet more lives to the scourge of terrorism, regardless of where it comes from, regardless of who the perpetrator is and regardless of what cause the perpetrator wants to communicate. Sadness that 50 innocent people were gunned down, were terrorised, while performing Friday prayers in the sanctity of a mosque. Sadness that it was an Australian who perpetrated this terrorist attack. Sadness for the people of Christchurch, for the people of New Zealand, for this most heinous attack on their society, on their harmony, on their country. Anger, because for years I've been warning about this—and not just me; other members of Muslim communities, other academics have called for more action to be taken against rising white supremacism in this country. Anger, because each time we warned about it we were told to shut up; each time we were told to sit down; each time we were told: 'No, no, no, this is not an issue. The issue is Islamic terrorism.' Each time we were silenced. I know that I got death threats when I raised the issue in public, as an academic, based on my research, of rising white-supremacist and right-wing extremism. I know that friends of mine—other academics, other members of Muslim communities—had death threats and were sent some really horrible things on social media and in the mail for daring, just daring, to say: 'Hang on a minute. This is an issue.' So, yes, I was angry that this had happened.

I felt despair that the things we say, the political and media discourse in Australia, contributed to this. Terrorism does not happen in a vacuum. People do not become radicalised to a violent ideology in a vacuum. There is an enabling environment in which people become terrorists. I do not buy the Prime Minister's words yesterday that this person was radicalised overseas. No, I'm sorry: radicalisation doesn't happen that way. Radicalisation happens in an enabling environment where people, like this terrorist, believe that their views are justified because the media and the political discourse keep telling them that they are justified; keep telling them that Muslims are objects of fear, Muslims are a mistake, Muslims are a disease that needs to be vaccinated against and Muslims are a problem that needs a final solution. That's what causes radicalisation. That's what emboldens people who believe in a warped ideology to continue on a pathway of violence and become operative in that violence.

Yes—sadness, anger and despair. But, when I look back on these events and what happened after these events, here's the thing: I don't remember the face of that terrorist. I don't remember his name. I don't remember what he said. I don't remember what he tried to say. I have no memory. I have no space in my mind for a memory of him. I remember the victims, and I remember the ways in which we all came together to condemn this form of terrorism. I remember the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, and the way in which she carried herself with such grace, and the compassion that she showed for the people of Christchurch. I remember our leaders standing up yesterday and condemning this act, and I will remember our Senate's motion to censor the disgusting words of somebody who uses a political platform to peddle hate, spread fear and incite violence. I remember standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, with my Muslim sisters at the West Swan mosque and saying prayers for the dead. I remember the flowers and the cards that were left at mosques and places of worship. I remember the beautiful messages of condolence that I got. I remember the phone calls from my colleagues. And I should make special mention here of the member for Berowra, because his message was the first message that I received on that Friday. It was a message of compassion, of solidarity and of condolence. It was the first message I got and it came from somebody on the opposite side of politics. What does that tell you about the human spirit?

The things that we remember after a terrorist attack, the things that we hold in our hearts after a terrorist attack, are the things that demonstrate and prove that terrorism will never win. It doesn't matter where it comes from, it doesn't matter who perpetrated it; terrorism will never win, because the human spirit will always rise above.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): I understand it is the wish of honourable members to signify at this stage their respect and sympathy by rising in their places, and I ask all present to do so.

Honourable members having stood in their places—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the Federation Chamber.