We mustn’t give in to forces of hate

Over the past year we have watched on as a series of devastat­ing acts of terror­ism have rocked the world.

We wit­nessed the horror as a truck delib­erately rammed a crowd in the city of Nice, killing 86 people and injur­ing 434. A further 32 lives were lost amid bombings in Brussels. They followed rampages by gunmen on the streets of Paris, and a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in the United States.

Just last week a man ploughed a truck into a busy Christ­mas market in the heart of Berlin. The majority have been crimes against humanity in the name of Islam, perpetrated by people whose beliefs and actions are rejected and reviled by the vast majority of Muslims.

While distant, all these attacks have fuelled anxiety of a kind not matched since the atrocities of 11 September 2001. That fear and anxiety hit home on Friday [23 December], the last working day before the Christmas weekend, with the arrest of a group of young men within our own com­munity who are accused of planning a string of terrorist attacks on Melbourne.

The alleged targets were Federa­tion Square, Flinders Street Station and St Paul’s Cathedral, three of our city’s most famous landmarks. After a series of raids across Mel­bourne’s north-west suburbs, four men were in custody late yesterday.

The details are frightening. Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton revealed the attack involved “explosive devices”. Police also be­lieve guns and knives were to be used. Nearly all the men were Australian-born and in their 20s. Some had a Lebanese background, while one was Egyptian-born. “These individuals have been per­sons of interest for some period of time,” Mr Ashton said. “They’re people we have been concerned about.”

The Age commends the swift and decisive action from the Kasselholm task force, the Australian Federal Police and the Victoria Police. As a result of their diligence, work and bravery, Melbourne has nar­rowly escaped a terrible crime, of the sort we have witnessed in so many other cities.

But the news of the plot has hit close to home. It was the news that many of us feared. Instead of Islam­ic terrorism on our television screens, this was terror planned for the heart of our city.

As The Age has pointed out repeatedly over the past year, we should be under no illusions. The terrorism threat in this country ahead of Friday’s events was “prob­able”. To date, Australians have en­joyed a life relatively unaffected by the horrors of the kind that have struck Paris, Nice and Berlin.

There are the obvious precau­tions at airports since the attacks of September 2001, and added security at major events and at some buildings. It was only this time last year that Melburnians were learning to deal with a security fence, a so-called “ring of steel”, erected around the MCG for the Boxing Day Test. Par­liament House in Canberra will soon be ringed by a similar security fence.

But it has still been possible to wander into a music concert, summer festival or major sporting events without much fear or intru­sion by security and guards.

But erecting a fence does not stop an attack. Over the decades, terrorism has shown itself to be a crime of almost limitless cruelty and imagination. While the targets marked in the latest plot are all high-profile, terrorists have a proven capacity for deadly sur­prise.

There is no doubt the events of Friday will cast a pall over Christ­mas for many. But [it] is important to remember that this is the time for peace on earth, and goodwill to all.

Attacks, such as the one planned for Melbourne, are designed to create hate and division within our com­munity. We must not give in to that hate. As Premier Daniel Andrews said, what was planned were not acts of faith, but of evil.

Only by working together, Chris­tian and Muslim, believer and non-believer, can we identify those in the community who wish to do us harm.

From: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-editorial/melbourne-terror-raid...