A new terror campaign aimed at young people — particularly Muslims — was launched in Sydney's western suburbs following the fatal shootings of two people outside Parramatta police station on October 2.
The tragic shooting of police technician Curtis Cheng by 15-year-old Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar and his shooting by special forces police have allowed fear-mongering politicians a new round of Muslim bashing. This time it is being led by the so-called “Mr Nice Guy” — New South Wales Premier Mike Baird.
In the early hours of October 7, NSW police and media helicopters began hovering over the western suburbs. More than 200 police raided homes in Guildford, Wentworthville, Merrylands and Marsfield, arresting five people.
By October 8, all but one had been released.
Police raided the home of a student from Arthur Phillip High School where Jabar had been a student. They also returned to some of the homes raided in September last year.
The home of Omarjan Azari, who was charged and imprisoned last year, was one of those raided again. They also raided the home of Mustafa Dirani, who was also detained during last year's Operation Appleby raids, but not charged.
Azari has been in Goulburn's Supermax prison since last year, even though police have dropped the charge of conspiring to commit a terrorist act. His lawyer disputes the other charges and says he will never receive a fair trial.
It was during the highly publicised raids last year that the police embarrassingly seized a widely available plastic sword. They claimed it was a “legitimate weapon”.
Of the five people arrested on October 7, one was just 16 years old. Strangely, a police spokesperson justified the raids on the ABC's 7.30 as necessary to find out who killed Chen — as if Jabar was not responsible.
Police alleged four of those arrested were “directly linked” to Cheng's shooting — which, in police terms, could mean something as innocuous as going to the same school or mosque. But by the next day, they had released all but one, meaning that they did not have the evidence to charge them with anything.
This state harassment campaign will not deter those already worked up and thinking about reacting to police harassment: if anything, it will fuel it. The police know that.
Why, then, do they do it? Clearly, the police, with their media accomplices, want to scare young Muslims. But they are wrong if they think this will deter young people from “radicalising”. This “permanent war” on the streets of Sydney — or at least on some streets — finds its echo in Australia's support for the permanent wars in the Middle East.
The harassment of young people — either of the Muslim faith or from a Middle Eastern background — serves the interests of the ruling class in deflecting attention away from their rotten policies that result in an array of problems young people have to deal with today: increasing isolation, alienation, mental health problems, entry into higher education and trying to find a job.
One parent of a student at Arthur Phillip High School told Green Left Weekly: “You'd think if police had to investigate something, they wouldn't do it by waiting outside the school. That's deliberately aimed at scaring the kids and fuelling the fire.”
The corporate media's role in this latest phase of Muslim bashing is also a disgrace. The embedding of journalists — including from the ABC — has reduced the pack to little more than the propaganda arm of the NSW Police.
Apart from any critical appraisal of why the raids were deemed necessary, what sums were spent and their impact on the wider community, it certainly means that those arrested will never get a fair trial. They are already “guilty”. The media is helping normalise Islamophobia.
Weeks after the launch of the federal government's botched “anti-radicalisation kit” — also aimed at young people — these latest raids show that reactionary federal and state authorities survive by fuelling fear and racism.
Politically aware young people — and others — do sometimes react violently to the state terror that Australian governments have signed up to in the Middle East. If your family is from that part of the world, your lived experience in this country includes living with permanent war, and its sometimes devastating effect on your community.
As a former teacher at Arthur Phillip High School remarked to Green Left Weekly, the students are well aware of imperialism — and their reactions to the permanent Muslim bashing varies.
Militaristic raids and shows of police power and brutality can be triggers. Certainly, they fuel the government's racist scare campaign against Muslims. It has to stop.