Forest Jihad? Firebug? Another Conservation Blunder?It looks like the fires that hit Marysville and Churchill were deliberately set. (AP) If so, someone is definitely to blame for the fires, the destruction, and the deaths. And, there's been an arrest.
Judging from what I've read in the Australian news, people down under are taking a rather serious look at creating an effective emergency warning system for Victoria. And, one article from New Zealand mentioned that Australia's conservation philosophy is similar to California's: let tinder build up until it explodes. Until a big burn, there is a sort of visceral satisfaction to preventing brushfires: but I hope that approach may be re-examined now. ("Conservation, Crispy Koalas, and Common Sense" (February 14, 2009))
The Herald Sun wrote that the man who's been arrested in connection with the Churchill fire is a 39-year-old who's liked by his mother - but nobody else. Apparently, he likes to set fires in his back yard, and ignites the occasional tire: creating quite a stink. Literally and figuratively.
We probably won't know his name for some time: the court's forbidden that sort of detail from being published.
Probably just as well, considering the crowd of enthusiastic death-wishers who gathered around the police van that was transporting him at one point. I get the impression that he's even less popular than Stewart Parnell, the American who decided that it was okay to put salmonella-laced peanut paste in the country's food supply.
Even though it's beginning to look like the Victoria bushfires are a combination of natural disaster and old-fashioned firebug fling, it's still possible that "forest jihad" was involved.
Muslims Arrested! Free Speech Trammeled! Islamic Extremists in Australia!I'm not so sure about the "free speech trammeled" business. Green Left ("Terror sentences: criminalising talk" (Green Left (February 7, 2009)) might have a point: except that in this case, the people who were jailed really weren't at all nice. In fact, they might be considered dangerous.
They were convicted of belonging to, and financially supporting, a terrorist organization. And "possessing material in preparation for a terrorist act."
In theory, I'm all for freedom of expression. But, I draw the line when it comes to 'expressions' like the attack on New York City's World Trade Center.
An analogy might be useful: Say there's a shopping mall. A fellow, wearing black body armor and carrying enough munitions for a Schwarzenegger movie, comes in the door. He's carrying a sign that says "death to shoppers."
Does it really make sense to let him walk around the mall until he opens fire?
Is it a serious attack on free speech to stop him before somebody gets killed?
I could, in a strictly theoretical and academic way, argue 'yes' to both questions. But, I live in the real world: so I'll say 'no.'
Abdul Nacer Benbrika and Company: Sincere, Dedicated, and DangerousAbdul Nacer Benbrika's name came up in the comments of an earlier post.
I also ran into Benbrika in Australian news, about a week before the Victoria fires. He, and six of his followers, have been sentenced because of their religious beliefs.
That sounds awful, but in this case the religious beliefs involved killing lots of people at a sporting event. That may not sound nice: but, according to Benbrika, it's okay. They weren't Muslims, and anyway Australia is a 'land of war.'
I don't think that's so much an indictment against Islam, as another example of how people can, given a running start, justify just about any disgusting, destructive, lethal act - and make it sound virtuous. It's not just religion that's used as a justification. Think about terms like 'enemy of the state.'
The Herald Sun had a rather detailed article on Abdul Nacer Benbrika's trial and sentencing. Here's an excerpt:
"...Benbrika, a fan of Osama bin Laden, regarded the destruction of the 'kuffar' — Arabic for 'unbelievers' — as an essential aspect of the Islamic religion, said the judge.
" 'The jemaah would achieve this by acts of terrible violence in this country, or perhaps elsewhere,' Justice Bongiorno said.
" 'In Australia, such terrorism would be directed towards coercing the Australian Government into withdrawing Australian forces from Iraq, as the presence of such troops in that country was seen as oppressive to Muslims and the Islamic religion.'
"In his Supreme Court sentence the judge said it appeared none of the men had denounced their violent jihadi views despite large amounts of character evidence on their behalf...."
Sounds to me like Benbrika and his followers were quite eager to be victims of oppressive non-Muslims.
What, if Anything, does Abdul Nacer Benbrika have to do with the Victoria Bushfires?Aside from demonstrating that Islamic terrorists do exist in Australia, I don't see much of a connection. Something may come out as time passes, of course.
The Benbrika trial, with sentencing just a week before the Victoria bushfires, does help explain why there was so much speculation about Islamic terrorists being responsible. Given the circumstances, it would be very easy to fall into the 'after that, therefore because of that' error in reasoning.
And, that 39-year-old suspect may turn out to be a Muslim. He may even have been part of Benbrika's outfit.
At this point, we just don't know.
More-or-less related posts:
- "Conservation, Crispy Koalas, and Common Sense"
(February 14, 2009)
- "Why Don't I Write About [insert website name here]? "
(February 14, 2009)
- "Islamic Website Called for 'Forest Jihad' - But Still No Evidence in Victoria"
(February 9, 2009)
- "Australia's Victoria Fires: Mass-Murdering Muslims, a Media Hoax, or Something Else?"
(February 9, 2009)
- "Australia's Victoria Bushfire: Arson, Probably; Muslim Plot? Unlikely!"
(February 8, 2009)
- "Murderous Muslims, Catholic Extermination Camps, and Common Sense"
(February 8, 2009)
- "Castro, Cuba, Guevara, Traditional Gatekeepers, and the Information Age"
(January 30, 2009)
- "Another War-on-Terror Blog and Simplistic Views"
(January 11, 2009)
- "Hamas, Palestine, Israel, and How to Seem Sophisticated"
(January 3, 2009)
- "Accused arsonist 'lit fires monthly'"
Herald Sun (February 15, 2009)
- "Jihadists celebrating Victoria fires; taking joy in the scenes"
The Australian (February 15, 2009)
- "Australian firefighters close to containing blazes"
Reuters (February 14, 2009)
- "They died on their knees in prayer"
TimesOnline (February 14, 2009)
- "Keep out: blunt message for fire 'tourists' "
The Age (February 14, 2009)
- "Fires fuel the blame game"
nzherald.co.nz (February 14, 2009)
- "Vigilante fears as man held"
The Sydney Morning Herald (February 14, 2009)
- "Kiwi fire victim died trying to protect wife"
stuff.co.nz (February 13, 2009)
- "Suspect arrested in deadly Australia fires"
The Associated Press (February 12, 2009)
- "Benbrika case shows limits of current Australian counter-terrorism strategy"
Jurist (February 9, 2009)
- "Terror sentences: criminalising talk"
Green Left (February 7, 2009)
- "Abdul Nacer Benbrika and six followers jailed"
Herald Sun (February 3, 2009)
- "Trial told of AFL grand final 'terror plot' "
The Age (April 15, 2008)
- "Terrorism accused 'planned grand final attack' "
ABC News (Australia) (April 15, 2008)