OUR WAY OF LIFE AT RISK
PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has singled out Islamic extremism as the greatest religious extremist threat in Australia.
In an emotional speech following Melbourne’s Bourke St attack, Mr Morrison said: “I’ve got to call it out — radical, violent, extremist Islam that opposes our very way of life.
“I am the first to protect religious freedom in this country, but it also means I must be the first to call out religious extremism.
“Religious extremism takes many forms around the world, and no religion is immune from it. But here in Australia we would be kidding ourselves if we did not call out the fact that the greatest threat of religious extremism in this country is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam.”
The strong comments were triggered by the lethal attack launched by terrorist Hassan Khalif Shire Ali on Friday, which killed cafe owner Sisto Malaspina and injured two others.
Police believe the way the 30-year-old packed gas cylinders into his Holden ute before setting it alight showed he aimed to cause mass casualties. But his failure to build a more sophisticated bomb is believed to have spared many lives.
Police hope items, including computers and phones, seized during raids yesterday will provide an insight into what motivated his actions.
Somali-born Shire Ali had split from his wife and become distant from his family in the lead-up to the attack. He also had drug and alcohol problems. He is understood to have visited Somalia before his passport was cancelled in 2015.
Prison officers searched the cell of a person known to Shire Ali at dawn.
Mr Morrison called on Islamic leaders to weed out the “evil thieves” who “prey on their community, on their vulnerable people, on their children”.
“There is a special responsibility on religious leaders to protect their religious communities and ensure dangerous teachings and ideologies do not take root here,” he said.
“They must be proactive. They must be alert and they must call this out in their communities and more broadly for what it is.”
The PM’s comments prompted an angry response from WA’s Labor MP Anne Aly who said Mr Morrison “does not know what he’s talking about” and accused him of “dividing the community” by singling out religious groups.
“I don’t care how politically desperate you are, now is not the right time to use language that’s going to divide the community,” the Cowan MP, a counter-terrorism expert, said.
“To use it for political gain and to use it to divide the community and to use it to divide Australians . . . I would like to see our leaders bring Australians together in a time of tragedy.”
Ms Aly said the threat to individual safety perpetrated by jihadists “pales in comparison to the number of women being killed every week in domestic violence”.
AFP national manager of counter-terrorism Acting Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney said Shire Ali was radicalised and had his passport cancelled in 2015 when he tried to leave the country bound for Syria.
But he was not being actively monitored. Mr McCartney said the attack was linked to Islamic State, but he did not believe Shire Ali, 30, had been in contact with the group.
Neighbours of Shire Ali have spoken of how mayhem descended on their quiet suburban street as officers carried out a pre-dawn raid on a bungalow in which the terrorist had been living.
One neighbour said Shire Ali had been living in the house for a year, but mostly kept to himself.
The hero policeman who fired the shot that fatally injured the terrorist and brought the terrifying attack to an end had only been working as an officer for a matter of weeks.
His actions and those of another junior officer who also confronted Shire Ali have been praised.
Police officers try to fight off assailant Hassan Khalif Shire Ali.
The officer fires at point-blank range.
One officer draws his gun.
Shire Ali clutches his chest and falls to the footpath.
Support: Sisto Malaspina’s colleague, Nino Pangrazio, is hugged by a police officer who confronted Hassan Khalif Shire Ali.