By Janet Fife-Yeomans and Simon Black
May 30, 2013
THE message from the young men was blunt: "You're not in Australia now."
They weren't standing on a street in Iraq, Afghanistan or Lebanon. This is Banks town.
It is a safe suburban street surrounded by family homes but there are fears areas just like this are in danger of being turned into ghettos by young men - usually born in Australia to Lebanese parents - who are cannon fodder for hard-line Muslim preachers. They are part of generation jihad.
A recent two-year federal parliamentary inquiry into multiculturalism was swamped by concerns about the rising influence of Islam in Australia and fears that organisations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and conservative imams were "promoting the radicalisation of second-generation Muslim youth and voluntary social exclusion".
"This was thought to support the formation of Muslim-only enclaves, leading to long-term problems such as unemployment," said the report, released in March.
An Islamic women's group told of the influence of alarming conservatism that was even demanding gender segregation at weddings "within parts of the Lebanese community in Sydney".
The same characters and organisations keep popping up to attract young acolytes.
Like the radical political Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, Sheik Feiz Mohammed, the Global Islamic Youth Centre at Liverpool, Auburn's Bukhari House Bookshop and prayer hall, of which Feiz Mohammed is a director.
Head of the Middle Eastern Crime Squad, Detective Superintendent Deborah Wallace, said even convicted murderer Bassam Hamzy, founder of the Muslim gang Brothers for Life, had achieved an almost mythical status from behind bars.
So far intelligence agencies have stayed one step ahead of the terrorism threat.
Milad bin Ahmad-Shah al-Ahmadzai, 23, has been under surveillance by counter-terrorism police since he was 19 and this week was arrested for allegedly threatening to "slit the throat" of an officer, a court heard on Tuesday.
Al-Ahmadzai, Sydney born and bred although he has identified himself as "ethnic Pashtun from Afghanistan", has also previously been pinpointed as a threat to soldiers on Australian soil.
Community leaders’ talk about how the young people are not just influenced by what's happening locally but what is happening overseas.
ASIO director-general David Irvine has warned of a dramatic increase in the number of young ethnic men travelling to take part in the Syrian war. "We are talking in the hundreds and not the tens," Mr Irvine has said.
Community leader Dr Jamal Rifi has seen them come back.
"When they come back they are radicalised," Dr Rifi said. "They look on people with a high moral ground, 'I went there and I fought for these causes, blah blah blah'."
The Syrian conflict has spilled over into violence in Banks town where a gang of Sunni Muslim men have been accused of extorting businesses owned by Shia men in retaliation for the Shia supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Hizb ut-Tahrir's Australian leader recently called on the country to become an Islamic state ruled by Islamic law and for a boycott of Anzac Day.
Spokesman Uthman Badar, 28, denied the movement was extreme and said the Muslim community was being demonised in Australia.
"There is a ridiculous amount of surveillance by ASIO and tapping of phones. You are further alienating these people," Mr Badar said yesterday. In Islamic book stores, in cafes across western and south-western Sydney and in each other's homes, these are the sorts of "leaders" looked up to by the disaffected young men as they talk about how badly life treats Muslims.
Add unemployment to the mix.