You Can't Make This Shit Up.

A message from your local Melbournian Chief of Police (Simon Overboard):

Inclusion is the key to social harmony

* Simon Overland
* August 8, 2009

We must not tarnish a whole community because of the actions of a few.

IMAGINE how you would feel if a member of your family was a convicted terrorist. This is the reality for one man in Melbourne who has been working with Victoria Police to help us understand how to deal with convicted terrorists and identify ways minimising the spread of radical views that can ultimately lead to terrorism.

Hmm. If he were guilty, I'd be really pissed. Let's turn it around a bit: Imagine how you'd feel if a member of your family was a victim of an accused terrorist who was allowed to walk because we didn't respect the tolerance and diversity he brought to our shores.

Our work is focused on the causes of radicalisation - what causes these people to become radicalised in the first instance, what measures we adopt to reduce the appeal of the extremist message, and how we reintegrate convicted terrorists back into the community so that they can lead normal lives.

It was a significant step for this man to help us, but goes to the heart of the issue currently before us. The Muslim community is working with us because it understands that vulnerable, isolated and alienated young people are often easily cultivated to engage in criminal activity.

What are the causes? How about the decadent Western Society where "sexuality education" is considered okay for primary school children. Then there is the denigration of religious values of a large section of our population, and one upon which a lot of our freedoms and legal system are founded.

As for this (apparently) lone muslim working with the police, he is indeed a brave soul and to be commended for his action. Those of you who believe in the efficacy of prayer would be wise to add him to your prayer list, because in his community, he's likely to be shunned or worse if his name gets out. (Check out 005.051 for what the quran says about dealing with infidels).

Victorians woke this week to news that several young men had been arrested after one of the biggest counterterrorism operations in Australia's history.

While these serious criminal charges are now a matter for the courts, this event has undoubtedly had a significant impact on the broader Victorian community as well as the Muslim one.

I understand that this week's events have caused people to feel concern and even shock, none more so than in our Islamic and Somalian communities. Not only do they have to deal with their safety fears, more regrettable is that some people have jumped to the conclusion that all Somalis and Muslims have strong links with terrorism. This type of uninformed view must be totally rejected.

And not only do non-muslim people now feel less secure in their homes due to the very real concern that the nice family down the road might contain a rogue operator, they should also be careful not to look sideways at their neighbours in case the neighbours get upset.

In this day and age, offence and insult are what you declare them to be, and because they are subjective in nature, there might be a bit of difficulty with the authorities if a complaint is raised against you.

But we mustn't worry about that.

That is why it is disappointing to hear that there has already been a backlash. We have anecdotal evidence of people shouting abuse at Somalis in the street, of emails circulating branding local Muslim leaders as terrorists or supporters of terrorist activities and a general heightened mistrust of anyone from those communities. This is not the way we should be dealing with these types of issues. This is not the time to be divisive, to overreact or to unfairly lay blame. We should instead be focusing our efforts on cohesiveness. One of our best defences against terrorism is being open, tolerant and inclusive - not to judge all by the actions of a few. These people live and work in our communities, and they contribute. They add to the vibrancy of our cities and they bring cultural experiences we could all learn from.

True. Some of the restaurants* are worth singing about so we should all bow down at the altar of cultural relatavism.

As for the anecdotal backlash, a bit of name calling isn't exactly in the same league as a few cartoons that some deem offensive.

*disclaimer: I have never actually eaten at Stalactites, but I'm a huge Weddoes fan, as are mates of mine from Queensland. We're talking fanatic enough that I had to show them where the restaurant is the first time they came visiting down south, and enough that I cried when they broke up.

Importantly, we should all share in the responsibility by respecting and accepting diversity and difference. Not just because it enriches our lives, but because alienation is one of the biggest risks we face. Disengaged, vulnerable, marginalised people are more likely to develop the type of views that can lead to involvement in all forms of crime and antisocial behaviour, not just acts of terrorism. And vulnerable young people, who may feel a loss of their own identity or culture, are often targeted and cultivated by influential people.

In a way, what we are seeing with terrorism is the extreme of this. Further social isolation and stereotyping is not going to help this complex issue. We need to engage with the vulnerable to avoid leaving ourselves open to all forms of criminality, including terrorism.

It's all very well holding your arms out to include everyone, Simon, but some people just don't want to be included in your warm and fuzzy embrace.

Some would rather it the other way around.

We must exercise restraint and understand that while these are very serious charges they are in no way reflective of the broader Somali or Islamic community.

They are not terrorists. They do not support terrorism. They are peaceful communities, who have integrated well and deserve our respect and understanding.

Perhaps not, but they are not very vocal about not supporting terrorism or the "[D]isengaged, vulnerable, marginalised people" who might be suspected of being not too happy with their life and opportunities in this country.

I have no problems respecting people who earn respect, but far too often this small segment of the community have nothing but complaints about what they have here.

Collectively we need to ensure that this continues to be the case. Islam is not the problem. Social isolation and disengagement stemming, from among other things, racism and negative stereotyping, is [sic] the real problem.

Islam is not a race, and it is a particular interpretation of islam which is a major problem.

Members of these communities are working closely with Victoria Police to deal with these issues. We will continue to work with them to build social cohesion. The affected communities recognise that this is the only way forward.

Those affected communities would consist of muslims, I presume, and working together with the police, building social cohesion,[.pdf link] whatever that is.

I suspect that it consists of a lot of nodding in understanding when told of how our society has failed recent immigrants. Why is it that we rarely seem to hear of recent immigrants praising our way of life?

Equally, we need to continue to counter the message being perpetuated by terrorist groups and their supporters at all levels. It's crucial that everyone in the community works together with us to make this happen.

Victoria Police will continue to maintain strong and supportive relationships with the Islamic and Somali communities and we will continue to protect the security of all. To them I say that we understand the impact these types of issues have on your community.

We have a proud tradition in this country of welcoming people from all backgrounds - let's continue that tradition and embrace the multiculturalism that has provided us with such a rich culture in this city.

Simon Overland is Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police.

Simon Overland is also the Chief of Police who in all earnestness told an audience of Jewish people (and a few gentiles like myself and Col. Robert Neville that he believed that people needed to be somewhat proactive in their own self protection. For example, don't leave a laptop in the car and then bleat to the police that it's been stolen.

He was aware that the Jewish community in Melbourne takes steps to secure their own.

The fact that in the Melbourne suburb of Caulfield the audience members had to get past two security guards and a metal detector, then a further security door did not appear to be in any way shape or form ironic to him as he spoke.

Considering that synagogues and other meeting places for Jews in Melbourne need to supply their own security guards and other protection, perhaps there are other communities that may need some sort of reassurance.

Then again, maybe I'm just racist.

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