The Sydney hostage crisis ended up in three dead, including Haron Monis, the hostage taker. While ISIS was quick to claim credit over this incident, as one might say, be careful what you wished for. From what we learned so far, Haron Monis is far from the ideal jihadist, a warrior of Islam. To put it bluntly, he is a nutjob: "He had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability.” Granted, being a nutjob is not a disqualifying factor to be a so-called holy warrior. In fact, based on what we learned so far, one who usually answers to the calls of the ISIS, they are generally young, restless, saddled with identity crisis -- and they are always useful as cannon fodders. The rest usually grow quickly disillusioned and run back home.
When I heard about the so-called “Sydney Siege,” two things immediately came to mind. First, I hope my students are paying attention to this story, especially those students who recently wrote a paper for me on Australian foreign policy (particularly as it pertains to ISIS).
Second, I expected the events at the Sydney Chocolate shop to be characterized as an act of terrorism, since the perpetrator was an alleged radical Muslim—apparently, he even requested an ISIS flag from Australian authorities. So far, much of the media discussion so far has talked about the events and the perpetrator through that lens. The problem, in my view, is that Man Haron Monis, the hostage-taker, wasn’t really a terrorist. Sure, he certainly “terrorized” the people who he held captive as well as Australians who followed the events in the media, and he was clearly was willing to use violence against innocent civilians. However, Man Haron Monis wasn’t politically motivated individual, a hallmark of terrorism. Rather, he was simply a madman.
He has been accused of hiring a mercenary to kill his ex-wife. There are also a few dozen sexual assault accusations against him. This was a likely felon, an unbalanced, unstable, mentally ill person. It just so happened that, as a Muslim, Mr. Monis gravitated to radical Islam. Radical Islam channeled and gave meaning to his psychotic behavior. But he just as easily could have turned to a different extremist group or organization for self-identity, and those entities would have dictated who he should’ve targeted, harmed, and killed. He’s less Osama bin Laden and more Charles Manson.
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