An outspoken public intellectual has told 7 News that the threat of Islamic terrorism in Australia from ‘lone wolf’ attacks is ‘not going away’.
Author, philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris, who is in Australia for a series of talks on his work, said a single person can easily decide they ‘want to wage jihad on infidels’ after being inspired of their own accord.
Australia has been rocked by ‘lone wolf attacks’ linked to Islamic extremism in recent times, including in December 2014 when Man Haron Monis held customers and employees hostage in the Lindt chocolate café in Sydney.
While in October last year, 15-year-old Farhad Jabar Khalil Mohammad shot Curtis Cheng dead in another Islamic-linked attack.
“The phenomena of the ‘lone wolf attacker’ means that these people do not need to have any connection with a terrorist group,” Harris told 7 News.
“So it is hard to see how, in any conceivable future, you can prevent that from happening. It is here to stay.
“What we do hope to stop is the global jihad insurgency which is drawing a lot of energy from the Muslim community. But it is hard to see the lone wolf story going away any time soon.”
However, Harris said that such small-scale ‘lone wolf’ attacks are not going to “destroy our way of life” in the West.
Harris’ latest book is Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue, which he co-authored with British activist Maajid Nawaz.
On the topic of how Australia’s Muslim community can assist in curbing radicalisation, he said there is a need for Muslims to speak honestly about the situation.
“We have a problem which is really unique to Islam at the moment,” Harris said. “It’s not bigotry to say that as a non-Muslim. It is also not helpful to deny that as a Muslim.
“The problem we run into globally is that so many Muslims are afraid of being the target of intolerance that they do not want to lend any credence to the idea that there is something special going on in the Muslim community, or within the religion of Islam.”
However, Harris said there is a reason we are worried about Islam in a way that does not concern us about Mormonism, Anglicanism or any other religion.
“Muslims tend to deny the nature of the problem and claim that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. That is incredibility unhelpful,” Harris said.
“This problem is only going to grow, so to be dodging it, and branding anyone who discusses it as a bigot, is a dishonest thing to do.”
In October last year, the billboards promoting Harris’ talks in Australia this week were rejected by advertising giant APN Outdoor.
APN Outdoor felt the ads did not comply with the Outdoor Media Association’s code of ethics, which states ads cannot include material that vilifies religion.
Harris said he simply found the whole episode ‘amusing’.
“I wasn’t aware there would be those kind of restrictions on those types of things [advertising billboards], but it is not a total surprise. It was just amusing.
“I would add that the text of the billboards were never written by me to be put on a billboard. They were provocative sentences pulled out of my books,” Harris added.