There is not any public domain evidence that Man Haron Monis was any kind of terrorist. Instead he appears to have been a mentally unbalanced man, using the cover of religion to justify a string of criminal delinquencies.
And therein lies the problem: sane, rational people have for too long excused lunatic words and actions because their perpetrators have found justification for them as religious freedom, and now even as illusory religious ‘rights’.
The epicenter of this disease afflicting Western democracies is not the Middle East.
It is the arrogantly assertive rise to astonishing public influence of American so-called Christian fundamentalists, who have a long track record, continuing unabated, of seeking to destroy every aspect of civilised behaviour, from education to an impartial justice system. What they demand, and increasingly get handed to them, is state-endorsed intolerance, misogyny, and a return to barbarbarism instead of common human decency.
Their spread to Europe and other parts of the world has not been so conspicuously successful as in the Red states of the USA, but they serve as a model for all the hatred and violence Americans like to ascribe to terrorists and Muslims. Yet no one questions their faith because no end of deranged self-appointed preachers can find justifications for Bronze Age barbarism on some parts of the Old Testament. A model copied faithfully in the Middle East, with the Koran.
It is these fundamentalists who are the biggest threat to Western societies, not the ill-educated peasants recruited to Islamic jihad.
And it is us, who stand by in politically correct paralysis, who allow this threat to grow.
How? By not vigorously rejecting the lie that religious tolerance is the tolerance of violent lunacy.
Grown adults are permitted to cover crimes and sociopathic acts by talking about being commanded to do so by voices, prophets, god, and even the devil. If I spoke to you about hearing voices I’m pretty sure most of you would quickly dismiss me as delusional. If I attempted to justify crimes that way I’d be locked up pretty quickly.
But not so with people claiming religion as cover.
Let’s consider Monis for a moment. He sent hate letters to Australian families of soldiers and others killed in the notional war on terror. If I had done that I would have been convicted, like Monis, but no public or private funds would have been available to me to lodge a High Court challenge, based on being some religious nutcase whose ‘rights’ must be protected.
While this case was wending its way through the courts, Monis became suspect of being an accessory to the murder of his former wife. A murder committed by stabbing and setting the woman on fire. A murder in which Monis’ girlfriend remains the chief suspect. If that had been a charge made against me I doubt I would have been granted bail, or been able to pay it from money I’m pretty sure was raised on religious pretexts.
But, if by some extraordinary circumstance, I had been granted bail, surely the subsequent charges of around 50 counts of sexual assault would have made even the most lenient of magistrates decide that I be remanded in custody without bail.
Was there really no pattern here to concern educated people about the risk Monis posed? OK, I’m willing to concede that no one coul have predicted he would take hostages in a Sydney CBD cafe., but is it not true that the irrationality of lunacy, and of religionist fanatics, is dangerous precisely because it is unpredictable?
I find it unavoidable to conclude that Monis was free to act as he did only with the collusion of magistrates suspending sound judgement to accommodate their politically correct notions about freedom of religion.
The problem here is that when magistrates and others charged with upholding the law can suspend their own rationality to accommodate religion, they also suspend the law and justice itself, which is often said to be blind to social standing and other circumstances.
Who will save us from the barbarian religious fundamentalists when our own law enforcement and judicial officers won’t? And who are the most menacing terrorists?
With America, the self-styled champion of Western democracy being so completely in the grip of the barbarians, how can it, or any other nation, make credible demands that other lunatics using Islamist justifications, cease and desist?
In Australia this has not yet been an issue of great concern or debate because Catholic and Protestant rivalries remained non-violent for most – not all – of the nation’s history. I’m certain there are many stories of Protestant establishment men and women barring opportunities to Catholics. But not by shooting them. Beheading them. Refusing them medical care. Or any of the other Bronze Age cruelties that barbarians seek to justify as acts of conscience.
It may already be too late for the US to reclaim some semblance of secularism about its affairs. But it is not too late in Australia.
Instead of focusing on a cowardly kind of political correctness, and being afraid to call lunacy what it is, we must ensure our legal system does not perpetuate the legitimacy of a two-tiered administration of injustice: one law for rational, sane, decent people, and another for crazy people spouting religious nonsense.
This is probably doubly the case with a number of notorious criminal families in Sydney shamelessly abusing religion as cover for drug dealing, pimping, standover tactics. and other felonious undertakings. They can see quite clearly how impotent our legal system is when its officers can no longer tell the difference between religious freedom and responsibility for dangerous criminality.
The reason for the rise of the secular state in the first place was the rational recognition that allowing religious zealots any ‘right’ to pursue their consciences always leads to murder and disaster. That is why this right does not exist. Religious freedom, at its worst, is limited to the freedom to pursue irresponsibility and silliness that does not intrude on others.
That is the lesson that should arise from the Martin Place tragedy. Not whatever self-serving blather is offered up by our notional leaders.