What Was "Mentally Unstable" About the Perpetrator of the Sydney Lindt Café Terror Attack? - An Interview with Dr. Michael Welner

by Jerry Gordon (January 2015)


Sheikh Man Haron Manis: long assuming the stage even before Sydney Lindt Café terror
Source:  AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Neither the late Katrina Dawson, 38, mother of three and a rising star in the Sydney bar or regular patrons thought anything out of the ordinary having a morning coffee at the Lindt Café in Martin Place, the heart of the city’s business and financial district. Neither did the other patrons, whether they were regulars, Christmas shoppers or tourists. At 9:42AM Monday, December 16, 2014 a bearded man wearing a head band with an Arabic inscription, clothed in a long white tee shirt entered carrying a blue bag causing terror. He extracted from the bag a pump shot gun and a Hizb ut-Tahrir black flag with the white inscription of the Islamic Shahada, "There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God." He then asked the terrified patrons to stand against one of the windows with hands pressed against a window facing Channel 7 across the way holding the Shahada flag.  The 16 hour standoff ended when police Swat teams entered early Tuesday, December 16th amidst exploding flash bang grenades and semi-automatic gunfire. This occurred after a sniper reported “hostage down.”

The perpetrator of the hostage taking was self-styled Muslim Cleric, 50 year old Man Haron Monis, who was eventually  shot dead.

Unfortunately Ms. Dawson and Lindt Café manager, 34 year old Tori Johnson, were killed. Johnson had tried to seize the perpetrator’s weapon. Five others were wounded including a policeman whose head was hit by shotgun pellets, the others suffered gunshot wounds. Earlier in the hostage standoff, two patrons and three Lindt café workers escaped when the perpetrator nodded off. 

The shock was that this could happen in broad daylight and according to Australian PM Tony Abbott, it was “the worst terrorist incident in 35 years in Australia.” The largest terror event was Australia’s “9/11” that occurred in Bali, Indonesia on October 10, 2002. 200 Australians lost their lives when an Indonesian Al Qaeda affiliate bombed a popular tourist nightspot. Hundreds of Sydneysiders poured out expressions of mourning with memorial floral tributes placed at the Lindt café site praying to comfort the loss of Ms. Dawson and Mr. Johnson and those injured in the explosive shoot out that ended the hostage stand off.

Monis, the perpetrator, was an Iranian national who had been given asylum as a political refugee in 1996 by Australia. He was a self-styled Muslim cleric who ran a so-called spiritual health center. He was notoriously well known to Sydneysiders. He had been the subject of more 40 charges of sexual assault. He was free on bail but facing charges as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, 30 year old Noleen Hayson Pal by Monis’ companion, Amirah Droudis, a convert to Islam who left her Greek Orthodox faith. Monis’ ex- wife was stabbed more than 30 times and lit on fire in the stairwell of an apartment complex in April 2013. Ironically, Monis might have been thwarted from his lethal spectacle in Sydney, had he been remanded to police custody.

Monis had, in earlier years, raised the public ire of Australians for letters sent to the families of Australian soldiers killed in the Afghanistan war, accusing their sons of committing genocide against civilians. He was sentenced to 300 hours of community service for this action. One deceased Jewish Australian soldier’s family was told in their letter from Monis that “Jews were no better than Hitler.”

Monis, while originally raised as a Shia in Iran, recanted his sect and allegedly recently converted to become a Sunni Muslim. He could be seen on the streets of Sydney in a Sharia compliant gabila with white turban, and girded in chains parading with handmade posters accusing New South Wales police and prosecutors of violating his human rights. Monis’ lawyer, Manny Conditsis said he may have been “unhinged about the prospect of more jail time” and had “nothing to lose.” Conditsis defended his late client’s allegations of being tortured while in custody, found him extremely fundamentalist but “not a jihadist.” Conditsis contended the only reason that Monis walked free until trial was the alleged poor case the New South Wales prosecutors put on in court.

Monis, in his new role as a Sunni extremist wanted to create a spectacle. He seized the opportunity to carry out his jihad against the innocent patrons and staff at the Lindt Café in Sydney’s financial district. He had nothing to lose; he was free awaiting a court appearance in February of 2015.

After all, if ISIS could behead Muslims and infidels, more recently Christian children, in Syria and Iraq, then Monis could kill his infidels in Sydney’s Martin Place. ISIS had urged local Jihadis down under to follow in the way of Allah.

Tolerant Australians fearful of retribution against the country’s estimated 500,000 Muslims established a ride sharing social media message, #IllRideWithYou. Prime Minister Abbott, who called Monis “mentally unstable,” said:

It was an appalling and ugly tragedy. This is a very disturbing incident. It is profoundly shocking that innocent people should be held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation.

CBS News cited earlier efforts by Australian counterterrorism officials concerned about an ISIS spokesman specifically targeting Australians:

Australia's government raised the country's terror warning level in September in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL. Counterterror law enforcement teams later conducted dozens of raids and made several arrests in Australia's three largest cities - Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. One man arrested during a series of raids in Sydney was charged with conspiring with an Islamic State leader in Syria to behead a random person in Sydney.

In September, ISIS  spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued a message urging attacks abroad, specifically mentioning Australia.

There were the usual cries of “lone wolf” by Australian and US counterterrorism experts and news commentators. Former CIA deputy director, Michael Morell, a CBS news contributor on national security, said social media facilitated the directives from ISIS.

Against this background we reached out to renowned forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Welner, Chairman of The Forensic Panel, to present his professional assessment of  the Sydney Lindt Café terror episode. He has been the lead examiner in a range of highly complex and high profile criminal and murder cases, including the Guantanamo military tribunal that convicted Canadian Al Qaeda operative, Omar Khadr.   

Dr. Welner is sought out in particular because of his ability to go beyond the customary bromides served up following major disasters and deaths and complex legal proceedings, including terrorist events. Readers are familiar with our recent interview of Dr. Welner on jihadist recruitment in American prisons in the October NER..

Watch this recent CNN interview with Dr. Welner discussing whether mental illness motivated  the Sydney terror incident and the assassination of two NYPD officers in Brooklyn by a convicted felon:

We reflected on Australian Prime Minister Abbott’s depiction of Sheikh Monis as "mentally unstable" and wondered what insights Dr. Welner might have into the evidence now available of the Lindt Café tragedy.

 

Jerry Gordon:  Dr. Welner thank you for consenting to this interview.

 

 

 

Dr. Michael Welner:  My pleasure, as always.

 

 

 

Jerry Gordon:  Australians are  grief stricken over the tragic hostage standoff with loss of lives and injuries on the  early morning of December 16th at the Lindt Café in downtown Sydney. It was perpetrated by an Iranian political refugee, a self styled Muslim cleric, Man Huron Monis, killed in the police action. Australian PM Tony Abbott suggested the perpetrator Monis was "mentally unstable" was that the case in your professional opinion?

Dr. Michael Welner:  The first thing one has to establish in such questions, is:

1) What is the nature of the crime; and

2) How do the perpetrator’s actions relate to his customary behavior and his customary ideas.

Monis declared his allegiance to and influence by ISIS with the first words of his announced hostage-taking, after calmly sitting with other patrons and staff in the Lindt Café without any remarkable behavior. The hostage-taking had little to do with the Lindt Café and more with what was across the street, Channel Seven. This brought Monis instant hyper exposure that then drew in the coverage of other competing news networks, and with that, international news. Monis’ demands principally related to attention from the Prime Minister and acknowledgment of his actions in the name of ISIS. Sheikh Monis (as he was known by other Muslim elders in Sydney who identified him as such) neither killed, demanded money, nor the release of prisoners, nor his own safe passage. After a long standoff in which he injured no hostages, he began falling asleep whereupon he was attacked by a manager who was himself killed by Monis’ gun as they struggled for it. Police intervening in the ensuing chaos then reportedly killed Sheikh Monis and one other hostage.

In October, Canadian Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot an unarmed Canadian soldier outside a war memorial in Ottawa. Martin Rouleau-Couture ran over an Army officer with his car in Quebec. Both incidents happened soon after ISIS called upon Muslims to take it upon themselves to attack Canadian military and police without seeking the input of others. Both Bibeau and Couture could not get travel permits to leave Canada in order to fight for ISIS in the Middle East. This holiday season, France has seen multiple high-visibility lethal attacks from ISIS loyalists on French Christmas shoppers, again following public calls by ISIS spokespeople for individuals to kill others around them. These incidents reflect killings in which lone killers, without apparent logistic support from an organization, initiated abrupt, murderous attacks. Australia similarly drew exhorting from ISIS spokespeople to Muslims residing there to kill others around them.

Sheikh Monis’ crime, on the other hand, did not kill abruptly. Although his own writings demonstrated a recent pledge to loyalty with ISIS, his was a spectacle crime without murder for many hours. More importantly, Monis’ had a long history of dramatic and attention seeking public behaviors advocating against Australia’s military participation in the Afghanistan conflict. He wrote bitter and angry letters to families of dead Australian soldiers, tasteless to the end of earning him prosecution and conviction. He chained himself in public and claimed to have been tortured by the authorities in connection with his political “peace” advocacy. And so Sheikh (a term meaning a respected elder) at 50 was well known to Australian law enforcement and to media – and had attracted over 14,000 followers on Facebook. 

Monis also had a string of sex assault accusations against him by women who claimed he lured them with services that bore no references to his devout Muslim faith. At the same time, less than a year before the Lindt Café hostage incident, he was arrested for collaborating with his girlfriend on setting his ex-wife on fire and killing her. So Monis’ outlandish behavior went beyond the props of whatever Shiite or Sunni garb he donned and touched risk and death to others.

Mental illness is only distinguished as illness because the thinking and behaviors it affects is unwanted and unacceptable to that person when he is in a healthy state.

Monis’ behavior was entirely consistent with a highly attention-seeking personality who reveled in the spotlight that his letter-writing brought him and the platform he assumed that brought him so many followers.

That Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott deemed Monis mentally unstable was intellectually and factually dishonest. Monis neither evidenced any history of psychiatric hospitalization or treatment. Moreover, his criminal history, like the hostage taking, was deliberate, premeditated, organized, and agenda-oriented. A mentally unstable person, especially following the ISIS-Western murderous proxy script, would have walked into an establishment and killed as many as possible before being himself destroyed. Monis’ actions and history in Sydney demonstrated that he assumed the ISIS designation with aims at a show-trial in which he could emerge as a fluent spokesperson for Islamist entitlement to murderous attitudes toward the West. In my professional opinion, Monis was willing to die, but took a risk that he could ratchet up the drama and emerge an even more visible Muslim activist.

The Prime Minister’s use of the term "mental instability," without specific evidence for same, followed the same marginalizing of Monis as a “self-styled” Sheikh and “self-styled” peace activist. But other Muslims referred to him as Sheikh, and he had many in his ideological cohort, including a devout Muslim girlfriend who lectured in recorded tapes on his website and was willing to engage in femicide in a distinctively Muslim style (immolation) with Monis.

When we otherwise deem behaviors and thinking mentally ill because the rest of us find them unwanted and unacceptable, we use the term "mental illness" the way the Soviet Union once did. Namely, if the state disapproves, it’s mentally ill. While that may serve public policy, it has nothing scientific behind it and is easy to abuse. Worse yet, it stigmatizes the mentally ill because we have more fears of stigmatizing another population.

Gordon:  Monis had a history of prior multiple charges for sexual assault arising from his so-called spiritual healing practice. Some years ago, you published pioneering research into drug-facilitated sex assault, which you pointed out to be a crime of those who were otherwise integrated into the community or socially successful professionals, be they colleagues, business owners, and even health care professionals. What in your opinion motivated his record of violence?

Welner:  Sexual assault in which an offender gains access to victims under false pretense is antisocial behavior perpetrated under cover of law-abiding legitimacy. It differs from those assaulters who dispense with ruses to entrap prospective victims and simply attack or rape targets with weapons or brute force to restrain them. But it is rape nonetheless, and the victim no less violated. The conviction of Jerry Sandusky and allegations against Bill Cosby (if true) illustrate that people can be sexual predators even as they are role models to others.

Sex assault investigation and disposition remains a complex problem, especially when evidence can be eliminated. An articulate perpetrator of bearing can explain away an encounter, particularly when he has a wife or otherwise submissive partner to vouch for his alibi. Alleged victims can be opportunistic and when not, may still be dissuaded by the consequences of their exposure. Even those who stomach the fortitude to endure the skepticism and proving grounds for sex assault complaints are sometimes crushed by prosecutorial decision-making that essentially protects a seemingly respected perpetrator. One such example is the college football star Jameis Winston, who only this week again eluded discipline even as he testified that he interpreted “moaning” as consent.

Avoiding prosecution, for those who are good talkers and have clever modus operandi, proves to facilitate their re-offense. High degrees of recidivism may be seen in such perpetrators. And so Monis’ history of sexual assault may not only reflect his expression of his fantasy life, but an entitlement borne of his success in avoiding accountability for violating others.

Gordon:  We have witnessed many spectacular honor killings that have occurred in the West, including America. Do you consider Monis’ and Droudis’ crime in that category and why not?

Welner:  Wife burning is too common a crime among Muslims to be dismissed as a by-product of mental instability. It is a common misconception that femicide occurs in Muslim cultures because of actual or perceived dishonor, whatever non-Muslims feel about its criminality. However, the “honor killing” explanation is no different from any defense of justifiability – the claim does not make it fact.

Femicide is far more a manifestation of how women are devalued in many Muslim cultures, especially in countries whose legal systems protect perpetrators who claim “honor killing” as a motive. The prevalence of femicide in Muslim societies is in direct relationship to societal attitudes that the lives of women do not matter. In reality, femicide among Muslim households is no more related to “honor” motives than it is the “exploding stove” that is implicated in femicides in which Muslim men cover murders of their wives as accidents. The silence of the international feminist movement to this reality (as well as on human trafficking) illustrates the cowardice of its core.

What is notable about this case, however, is the partnership of a dominant ex-husband with his Muslim-convert girlfriend (Droudis was born Anastasia Droudis, and converted from the Greek-Orthodox church). Just as Monis was a "spiritual advisor" able enough to lure women to being vulnerable to be preyed upon, so he was capable of seducing a recent convert in the form of her absolute loyalty to him to violent criminality toward a rival. That Droudis defends Monis now is testament to her allegiance to him. That Droudis, a woman of no remarkable violent criminality, was implicated as the prime mover in the femicide speaks to Sheikh Monis’ capacity to manipulate.

Charismatic and highly publicized offenders do quite well in attracting females – sometimes especially after they have become notorious. This includes even rapist murderers, in my experience. The Droudis-Monis relationship, after his publicized arrests for highly insensitive letters to the families of fallen Australian servicemen, speaks to this area of penologic and forensic interest.  

Gordon:  Monis’ lawyer stated that his client was unhinged about the prospect of serving more prison time for his role in his ex-wife’s murder and thus had nothing to lose. Was that a motivating factor in your professional opinion?

Welner:  Consider the source: Monis’ criminal defense attorney would be expected to portray his client in most sympathetic terms. With that caveat, it is true that a person confronting the possibility of lengthy incarceration is under tremendous stress. A person who is habitually attention seeking will do so in times of trial and lowest esteem.

It is also true that Sheikh Monis’ history, as above, is that of a highly manipulative character. He may also have calculated, quite cleverly, that expressing his allegiance to ISIS would have been diversionary enough, especially if he were party to a show trial following the Lindt Café hostage crisis. The murder trial for his ex-wife would have been swept away and dealt with in abeyance. Given Monis’ history and his actions, I think this is the more likely scenario, especially since he did not kill anyone until a struggle ensued and aimed to resolve the crisis from his end without violence but rather his own international celebrity-seeking. I consider this a street-smart calibration of how the broader media and general public reacts to Islamist threat with peculiar denial and adamant attempts to make the aggressors feel as comfortable as possible.

I am reminded, in this regard, of my experiences in the American criminal justice system. Sex offenders are routinely regarded as the lowest humanity among criminal defendants, and judges have conspicuously less consideration of their civil rights. Murderers are far more protected in my experience. Those who are capital murderers, or those eligible for the death penalty, attract an unusual level of legal talent to defend them or to handle their appeals. But nothing compares to what I have seen with al-Qaeda among the American law community.

Al-Qaeda defendants attract pro-bono defense from the top law firms in the United States. It is the height of tragic-comedy to see how these firms and their Jewish and Christian lawyers, who would be slaughtered by the defendants if they had half a chance, fall over themselves to defend terrorists with every fiber of their being. Some of these attorneys now occupy the most influential positions in the Department of Justice. History will prove that fiascos like the Bowe Bergdahl case happen because of decision-makers with worldviews that are completely at odds with the national security interest. And in that vein, I have counseled sex offender defendants who have approached me, whose guilt was obvious and so I could not help them, that the justice system would show them no compassion --- that (with tongue-in-cheek) if they declare allegiance to al-Qaeda (or ISIS) that they will have the most exceptional legal talent doing everything they can to help them regain their freedom. There is something in this whole Sheikh Monis story that reminds me of this perverse state of affairs in numerous Western justice systems. Monis may be the first prominent criminal defendant to have been outlandish enough to commit himself to such a stunt. I am frankly surprised that I have not yet seen it otherwise.

Gordon:  Monis had engaged in street theater in Sydney garbed in Sharia compliant gabilas trussed in chains saying that he had been tortured while in custody. Is that typical behavior for someone convicted of violent crimes?

Welner:  No it is not. Violent crime carries with it a variety of motivations, from financial predation to revenge to sexual opportunism, for example. Violent criminals are not typically driven to call attention to themselves. Such a personality is one whose attention-seeking has been useful enough to him in other instances to have reinforced this behavior, particularly during times in which he otherwise faces substantial life challenges.

Gordon:  Monis and his companion Droudis had been engaged in a campaign of scurrilous letters sent to the grieving parents of Australian soldiers killed in the Afghanistan conflict. Were they motivated by Islamic doctrine or self promotion to draw attention to a reprehensible cause and for what gain?

Welner:  There are many ways for one to express opposition to the Australian military role in Afghanistan, and many Muslims and non-Muslims do so. For those motivated to write, there are an endless supply of media outlets and other public forums in which their ideas can be aired and can influence others. The fact is that these letters were likely far less obscene than what one finds in the comments sections of relevant news articles published on the internet; or, what folks tweet. Furthermore, considering Monis was hoping to influence others, the quality of his correspondence would never have influenced their recipients.

Compassionate appeals to mourning families to reconsider their politics would never have resulted in criminal prosecution. Americans recall Cindy Sheehan and how her grief was massaged by antiwar activists, along with Ms. Sheehan’s own pathological need for the public eye, into photo-ops to embarrass the President waging war. But even a man like Monis, sophisticated enough to tout himself as a peace activist, used the vector of his contact with grieving families to mock and to maximize their pain. What gives?

It was, in my professional opinion, the stunt of having engaged grieving parents that was more important to Monis than the letters and their content. It was all about the spectacle.

Gordon:  Droudis and Monis also sent a letter to the parents of a fallen Australian Jewish soldier likening him and all Jews to Hitler. Is this a reflection of primal Islamic Antisemitism or morally reprehensive behavior to attract notoriety?

Welner:  It is neither. Jews are, sadly, reflexively defensive to others who draw parallels of Jews and especially Israel’s behavior to that of the Nazis. The comparisons require complete ignorance of history, which most Jews do not have, at least of this generation. However, Jews are afflicted as a general rule with self-doubt. Leftist Jews in particular identify with their aggressors the way a very sick rape victim blames herself for the attack.

No doubt some leftist Jews in Germany during Hitler’s rise did as much to the end that they convinced themselves, at least until they were in line waiting to be gassed, that Nazism had some basis in legitimate grievance. And more recently, the capitulationist attitudes of some Israelis, even in the face of thinly-veiled and sometimes undisguised Palestinian irredentist desires to exterminate every last Jew from the area, reflect the same pathological self-doubt.

Nazi-comparison imagery is routinely utilized by Palestinians, their advocates in the Arab World, among anti-Semites in the European-dominated intellectual circles and even among those self-loathers in Jewish intellectual circles who seek the approval of the aforementioned. It transcends hatred. Rather, this is done because invoking Hitler is an effective rhetorical device to manipulate the self-doubt tic that is the sad pathology of the psyche of so many Jews in positions of intellectual and political influence, including in Australia.

Gordon:  Australian and US Counterterrorism experts say it is difficult to monitor the behavior of what some call lone wolves but we choose to call Islamikazes. Is that a legitimate excuse or does it constitute evasion of responsibilities to monitor Islamic radicals in Western countries?

Welner:  It is difficult to monitor the activities of a person who keeps his own counsel. That is why ISIS does just as William Pierce did when he popularized the idea of the lone wolf among American white supremacists. He advocated the “leaderless resistance” among those who did not share news of their violent criminality with others, and therefore would create no witnesses. I once interviewed Joseph Paul Franklin, who was the template for Pierce’s writings on the topic, for many hours and so I understand the mentality of the lone wolf well.

Monis had long associations with Islamist groups. He was indeed on the radar of responsible intelligence agencies as far back as 2007. But he dropped off. So the argument that an intelligence service is incapable of tracking radicalized persons is false. What is happening, however, is a strong push among intelligence services, particularly those who are influenced by infiltrators from the Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in the United States, to reclassify seditious Islamist organizations as peacefully motivated, and with it removing their adherents from scrutiny.

The Edward Snowden revelations made it clear that the United States and Western countries have massive capabilities to monitor the activities of private citizens, and that they do. It is true that the decision of a solitary actor as to when to strike is harder to track. But other cases such as the Boston Marathon bombings, in which the United States was reliant upon Russian intelligence to solve a crime on its own soil, introduce the question of whether intelligence agencies miss what they refuse to look at. The current mayor of New York famously dismantled the NYPD anti-terrorism monitoring of local mosques, a component of an NYPD that many American intelligence professionals quietly acknowledged as the most effective anti-terror intelligence unit in the United States. So the facts are that a certain evasion is taking place.

What is unclear is how meaningful that evasion is. If terror incidents happen that could have been avoided, this idea gains traction. Until that happens with greater frequency, however, we will not know whether we are witnessing an evading of intelligence responsibilities or our leaders are simply assuming a lower profile in intelligence gathering.

With that said, the readiness to die for the cause of Islam is different from Kamikaze tenets of selfless loyalty to Japan, where it originated. Islamist self-destructiveness is cultivated among young males, sexually repressed and manipulated with promises of 72 virgins. This is precisely why Islamist self-destructiveness and ISIS recruitment have been more successful with late adolescents and young adults. That is an age of conflicted sexuality and faith, and of vulnerability to messianic indoctrination of ultimate reward. It is another reason why I do not experience the 50 year old Monis as suicidal for redemption or gratification’s sake. He obviously was partaking of this world, or he would not have earned himself the sexual assault charges. And those of devout faith do not behave this way. So while he may well have been devout, his was the faith of other pontificators like Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden, who were old enough to have relegated beliefs about 72 virgins and martyrdom to a yen for hookers when one had freedom of movement and pornography when holed up in Pakistan.

Gordon:  Former CIA deputy director Mike Morrell, who is a CBS news contributor on national security, points to possible direction by ISIS though social media as a probable cause for Monis’ behavior. Do you agree with his assessment and if not, why?

Welner:  Sheikh Monis himself made it clear from the outset that he was acting at the behest of the ISIS movement. To argue otherwise is to essentially adopt the position that when Maj. Nidal Hassan was running around Ft. Hood yelling “Allahu Akbar,” he was merely clearing his throat.

Gordon:  What suggestions do you have for the New South Wales, Federal Australian police and US federal and local law enforcement counterterrorism echelons to prevent a possible repetition of a similar event?

Welner:  Canada has demonstrated sage policy in this regard. Denial of the presence and influence of terrorism, and its recruitment within the Muslim community, has to end. Canada is able to respect its very free and vibrant Muslim population while holding it accountable for actively resisting rejectionists aiming to get a foothold. Seditious Islamist groups who masquerade as peaceful interlocutors have no standing with the Harper government, unlike in America, where CAIR bullies media and lawmakers alike.

It is also imperative to engage the national Muslim organizations to collectively denounce domestic terrorism as unwanted, embarrassing, and reflective of Islam in a humiliating way. If the Muslim communities vomit out the terrorist element from within, because of how it creates suspicion of Muslims as a whole, public safety is maintained.

To say that terrorism is not part of Islam today is an obvious lie. It is out of control overseas, and even in many parts of Europe, but it doesn’t have to be seeding in the United States or in Australia. For Islam itself to denounce it with ferocity, as has happened in Egypt since Morsi’s ouster, would properly marginalize terrorist elements and prevent their gaining influence.

This is no different from how we deal with racial hatred toward blacks in the United States. No one is dishonest enough to pretend that racial hatred of whites toward blacks does not exist. Rather, this prejudice is so forcefully denounced that there is a huge social disincentive to be open to racist attitudes, whatever one’s vulnerability. Islam in Australia and in America has to deal with its terrorist adherents in the same way.

In order to do that, however, governments cannot pretend that Islamist terrorism does not exist, or is relegated to the “mentally unstable.” It is noteworthy, for example, to point out that the Muslim Brotherhood is outlawed in Egypt, even as its loyalists maintain high positions of influence in the White House and State Department. The EU has removed Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations. Yet Europe’s lawmakers are under no illusions; they, like localities across Syria and Iraq, have opted for surrender out fear of the Islamist bully. This will only accelerate the foothold the terror organizations gain in their countries, be they through formal presence or more ideological foothold among rejectionist populations who refuse integration and demand governance by Islamic law.

Gordon:  Given your development of the Depravity Standard, how would you rate Monis’ crime, and why?

Welner:  The Depravity Standard would appraise the Monis hostage taking in comparison to other kidnappings. Apart from the timing of events, to seize as many as possible, the Monis crime distinguishes itself for its intent to terrorize – referencing the risk of destruction elsewhere – and carrying out a crime to show off. Otherwise, there are comparable cases, for example that in the Nariman House in Mumbai in 2008, that manifested far more evidence of depravity.

The Depravity Standard, which appraises the severity of a crime to inform criminal sentencing and release decisions, is informed by 25 different examples of intent, actions, attitudes and victimology. The items being researched are incorporating public opinion across a variety of demographics to refine the weight that would be attached to crimes such as the Sydney hostage taking, relative to other kidnappings. We invite your readers and all members of the general public to contribute to shaping future sentencing by participating in the Depravity Standard survey research, at www.depravitystandard.org. Your voice counts and this landmark project figures to influence future major crime justice, as well as even knotty issues such as those before the international criminal courts.

Gordon:  Dr. Welner thank you for presenting your professional views on the Sydney terror episode.

Welner:  You’re welcome.

 

_____________________________________

 

Also see Jerry Gordon's collection of interviews, The West Speaks.

 

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