Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen, is the name Jacinda Ardern doesn't want repeated by anyone, which is silly, because if nobody supports him, nobody should fear his name. Samsudeen wanted to kill people in New Zealand because he had become a jihadist fascist, and we can all feel very lucky he does not appear to have succeeded. What he has done though is awful enough, to take advantage of people under Level 4 lockdown, already under considerable stress, to attack the community that gave him a place to live and gave him more freedoms than the country he came from, or that he would grant to others.
Terrorism is, after all, an act of war. It is a political act to of violence to spread fear and incite change. It is incompatible with a free society which offers ample opportunities for people to express their views, and have them judged in the marketplace of ideas. Of course those with totalitarian ideologies are uninterested in having such freedom, although they will happily exploit it to spread their ideas and to do harm to others.
There are important questions to answer, that can't be answered quickly:
- Did the Police follow all of the reasonable steps they could in surveillance of the terrorist? I've no reason to think otherwise, but it matters as the whole point of the exercise is to protect the public, and if there is any opportunity to not observe what the subject is doing, it is a risk to the public. If it isn't optimal, it should be revised.
- Should the assessment of refugee status be tightened up, and more scrutiny given to such applications? Particularly noting that the psychiatric assessment appeared to be an exercise in tricking the psychiatrist (let's not start to think how much of psychiatry is snakeoil)
- What should be the threshold for deportation for committing a serious offence? Should defrauding immigration about your status enable deportation?
- The terrorist was granted "protected status" presumably out of concern he may be tortured or subjected to cruel treatment if returned, but if the person presents a real, present danger to the public should this be able to be overturned if the "protection" obtained was on false grounds? Does the right to be protected from another state get overriden when his intention is proven to be to wage terrorist attacks against NZers?
- How long did he study under his student visa? Is there any indication that he breached its terms and if so, what sanctions were imposed, if any?
- Is "protected status" being generally applied to Tamils from Sri Lanka, or did specific conditions of his case indicate he was likely to be tortured or subjected to cruel treatment? Were these verified better than his original false claims for refugee status?
- Should terrorist protection orders be possible, so that someone who has expressed interest in waging terrorist attacks on NZ can be subjected to preventive detention?
- On what grounds was he denied GPS monitoring?
- He was sentence one year with supervision, at a local mosque. How well did it supervise him? Does anyone who interacted with him at the mosque share sympathies with ISIS or jihadist views generally? Was his supervision inclusive of a deradicalisation strategy?
- Who paid for his defence lawyers and his immigration appeal? Was it him or supporters of his, taxpayers or a charity? Have his sources of finance, or any charitable support be investigated?
Should the law be amended? Quite possibly, and sure care needs to be taken with reform. However, it is important to recognise that the core role of the state is to protect the public. Terrorism goes beyond criminal law and into defence, and the state should not act against people simply because of concern about what they think or what they are interested in, if they haven't expressed intent or taken action to support or engage in violent acts. The threshold for that is very difficult to define, but in this case the patterns of behaviour are multiple. Besides lying to obtain refugee status, he broke censorship laws about possessing content depicting murders and violence, and he demonstrably aligned himself with jihadism. Jihadism isn't just Islamist theocratic totalitarianism, but a belief in using violence to wage war.
So what now?
First and foremost, hopefully all of the victims will recover fully. Their ages are vast, and there is no sense yet of them being targeted for any reason other than being peaceful people going about their business. However that is what terrorism is all about. The victims deserve to be the priority, because the state has failed them.
Secondly, there should be a full investigation of procedures, from Police, through Immigration and the SIS. I'm not assuming anything was done wrong, but this could well have been much much worse. What if he had had a bomb? We can't take the assurance of any politician or official that everything that could have been done was done, on face value. It needs to be demonstrated that there weren't further actions that could have been taken and that needs an independent investigation.
Thirdly, if the law permits a dangerous individual who clearly presents an imminent threat to wander the streets, albeit with intensive surveillance, then this must be changed. NZ is fortunate that the number subject to this is so few, because this situation would be unsustainable with ten times this number of budding terrorists. It is important to preserve a right to a fair trial, but when someone has entered into the realm of supporting and promoting terrorism, it is not just a crime, it is an act of war and the state must act to protect people when the threshold is crossed in demonstrating intent to do violence. The line between simply expressing support for a theocratic Islamic state and actively supporting and expressing interest in engaging in terrorism is a careful one to define, and whether intervention to deradicalise is useful in some cases, vs. preventive detention in others needs to be considered.
Finally, the ideology behind the terrorist must be called out for what it is and is not. ISIS comes from Salafist jihadism, and it is a cancerous, toxic and murderous ideology incompatible with any civilised modern liberal democracy. Absolutely this is NOT what most Muslims in NZ belief, which is very important, but it is simply wishful tihnking to continue the fiction that it is "nothing to do with Islam". It is something to do with Islam. It's disingenuous and absurd to pretend it isn't primarily to deter Muslim hatred.
Those who tout Muslim hatred aren't fooled by pretending that ISIS isn't from a branch of Islam, just like pretending the IRA had nothing to do with Catholicism, even though in both cases it is clear that most adherents of both religious utterly repudiated terrorism in the name of their faith. The blatantly anti-Muslim attacks of the Burmese government have roots in radical Buddhism, but to taint Buddhists everywhere with that is wrong, but it is also wrong to pretend that the link is not there.
It is enormously positive that the Al Noor Mosque has spoken against the attack, and completely unsurprising that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has utterly condemned it. The GiveALittle page from the Al Noor Mosque is particularly generous and positive. Ahmadiyya Muslims are known for being possibly the most open, tolerant and generous sect of Islam, indeed it was five years ago that an Ahmadiyya Muslim in Glasgow was murdered by an Islamist who thought he was an infidel. Ahmaddiya Muslims have a special risk of being attacked by jihadists. Long may all of this continue, and long may NZ remain immune to the rise of jihadism seen in the past two decades in Europe.
As a footnote, it's also notable the somewhat different response by some to this attack, compared to the Christchurch mosque attack. Maybe it's because nobody has been killed, but the actions of Tarrant, the Muslim-hater (who happened to have an incoherent ideology which included respect for the Chinese Communist Party and environmentalism) saw an outpouring of calls to confront white-supremacy, "division" and hatred towards Muslims, which is fair enough. Yet the calls to confront Salafist and Wahhabist jihadism have not come, the calls to confront jihadism are muted.
After all this call by Green MP Golriz Ghahraman is right, in that white supremacy should be dismantled:
So have any Green MPs called to dismantle jihadism? All racial eliminationists ought to be confronted, but religious eliminationists too. Is it that white supremacy particularly agitates the hard-left, but Islamic jihad is seen as, somehow, not quite as distressing? We shouldn't forget the use by Green MPs of the long-standing slogan "From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free" used by Hamas to promote the destruction of Israel (as it means to clear Israel away from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean). Now by no means are they supporters of jihadists, but do the Greens think white-supremacy is widespread in NZ, but jihadism isn't? Why not confront both with equal vigour?
The Greens are loud on supporting Palestinian rights, as they are entitled to be, but hand in hand should be absolute clarity that jihadism is as morally repugnant as eliminationist white supremacism/neo-Nazism, and there should be no tolerance of either. This message should be clear across all political parties.
There is reasonable concern of some sort of moronic backlash against Sri Lankans and Muslims more generally. Only a moron would think this is anything to do with Sri Lankans (most aren't Muslims), and it's immoral and absurd to think innocent people deserve to be abused for actions they have nothing to do with. It is natural for people to fear the sorts of reprisals seen in some societies, but this concern has been expressed in a curious way by the Executive Director of Amnesty NZ:
Why just white people? Are white people known to be particularly antagonistic towards Muslims? Is Muslim hatred not seen in people of Chinese, Indian or Maori descent, or is it just the "ruling" "dominant culture" "racist" white people (who in the critical race theory hierarchy are the most privileged, powerful, depraved and guilty)? This will be news to the Rohingya facing oppression from Buddhist Burmese, or Muslims in India facing Hinduist bigotry, Uighur facing Han Chinese acts of genocide, or indeed Sri Lankan Muslims who in their homeland fear the Buddhist Sinhalese.
What "counter narratives" does she want put out? That Muslims don't support this? Reports so far demonstrate this, and it is far more credible promoting what Al Noor Mosque has done, than to have a self-righteous left "liberal" try to convince you (from the class of people deemed to be bad in character) to not abuse of people who share the same broad faith of Samsudeen. Indeed unless you circulate in circles of people who tend to think like knuckle draggers, this is at best pointless, and at worst going to generate antagonism. The terrorist was responsible for his actions, others are responsible for theirs. Would she ask Muslim people to put out counter narratives against ISIS and other Islamist jihadist groups, condemning them? Perish the thought. That alone demonstrates how absurd this really is.
People who engage in moronic counter-attacks against Muslims or Sri Lankans apply the same ideology as the dominant critical theorists do in believing white people are to blame for the jihadist, or indeed for Tarrant himself. They all share the philosophical view that individuals can only be understood by categorising them in identity groups. That what people are born as is determinative of their lives much more than their own actions, and that life and society is about battles of power, privilege and identity.
One of the clear ways to combat jihadism and white supremacy, and every other ideology branded lazily as "extremist" is to confront it with the focus on the rights of the individual, to respect the right of each other to live in peace and to pursue their own lives in peace, and for individuals to associate and interact voluntarily, and to find solutions to life and the universe under the non-aggression principle, and for the state to have as its number one priority, protecting us from those who reject this absolutely.