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Scott Morrison's balls

Editorial Staff

If enough people get to see it, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's press conference in Bourke Street, Melbourne this morning will go down as one of those jaw-dropping moments in politics. It was a no-holds barred, balls-out, unequivocal challenge to "communities" in Melbourne to identify and report indicators of extremism for the sake of Australia and, importantly, for their own sake. A straight-talking poli? Strewth.

Yesterday, Australian media reported that some Muslim leaders had called for an apology from Morrison after he made comments about radical Islam following a terrorist attack in Bourke Street, Melbourne on Friday.

The facts are simple: Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, 30. an Australian of Somali origin crashed a "ute" loaded with gas canisters in the busy street in the old City and then stabbed Sisto Malaspina, a pioneer of Melbourne's coffee culture, killing him. The pick-up was on fire after the crash, pictures show. Hassan was shot dead by police. Evidence was that his actions were motivated by radical Islam and his attack fit squarely within the definitions of terrorism. On Saturday, Morrison told reporters "We would be kidding ourselves if we did not call out the fact that the greatest threat to religious extremism in this country is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam." That caused some to criticise him.

This morning, Kuranda Seyit, the executive director of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations, said that Morrison's comments were 'irresponsible'. 'Let's call this out for what it really is. It's political expediency and it's timely to try and create a wedge between the Muslim community and the broader community..It really undermines the great work that we've been doing.'' he told the Seven Network.

Morrison visited Pelegrino's Bar, where Malaspina had retired but still sat every morning with a newspaper and a cup of coffee. This morning the café reopened, with a newspaper and a cup of coffee at Malaspina's seat at the end of the bar. After he left, Morrison was pursued by reporters and he was in no mood for compromise. "I am calling out the community," he said. Australian politicians are not renowned for stringing sentences together and entire paragraphs are often well beyond them. Maybe they should get angry more often. In a fluid and lucid response, he said that Hassan should not be regarded as a migrant: he was five years old when he entered Australia and he was an Australian citizen. "What happened here, happened here," Morrison said. "He was radicalised here."

In an extraordinarily unguarded but carefully worded (incredibly so, as it seemed to be entirely off-the cuff), reply, Morrison said that it was the job of families, of religious leaders, of their wives, to identify those who showed signs of going off the rails. There are, he said, some 400 people on watch lists and more than 200 under enhanced surveillance. They knew little about Hassan and they should have known more but that can only come from the people who know people like him.

The torrent of criticism for Morrison's views reveals the range of hard-line Islamic groups across Australia. For examples, see https://www.dailymail.co.uk/ne..., a newspaper we would rarely give credence to but, in this case, has collated comments from a surprising number of groups, mostly pushing a radical if not extremist agenda.

Morrison was clear: all Australians must be safe. Yes, he specifically mentioned the radicalisation of Muslims but he also mentioned his own religion and how the pastor and his wife would identify problem members of the group and would "know what everyone is up to." For those who listen, what Morrison was actually saying was that isolationism is a two-way street and Muslims must integrate so that society can be protected.

When in Rome....

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