Entertainment TV Q&A: Terrorism ‘should be retired’
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Q&A: Terrorism ‘should be retired’

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What does terrorism mean? Was Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooting suspect, a terrorist?

These are the questions many have begun to grapple with since Man Haron Monis held 17 innocent people hostage in a café at Martin Place in December 2014.

Was Monis a madman, or was he a terrorist? The Q&A panel on Monday night attempted to come to grips with the word and how it has been manipulated since the World Trade Centre attacks in September 2001.

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The first Australian to face terrorism charges in Australia, Zaky Mallah, was among the audience.

ABC
Zaky Mallah happened to be asking a question on Q&A. Photo: ABC

Mr Mallah, who in 2003 was the first man in NSW charged under then new anti-terrorism laws, said he was held in the Goulburn supermax prison for two years wearing an orange jumpsuit as if he was a convicted, sentenced criminal, but was later freed on a plea bargain.

He had asked the panel about plans by the Abbott government to legislate to strip dual nationals of their Australian citizenship if they were involved with terrorist groups.

The 30-year-old was acquitted in 2005 on terror charges after he made a video which allegedly contained a threat to carry out a suicide attack on federal government offices in Sydney.

Senior Liberal Steve Ciobo, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Minister, said he wasn’t familiar with the details of the case, but that it was his impression that Mallah had been “acquitted on a technicality rather than it being on the basis of a substantial finding of fact”.

“As an Australian, I would be happy to see you out of this country,” Mr Ciobo told Mr Mallah.

“I don’t apologise for this point of view. My understanding is the reason you got off terrorist offences was because they weren’t retrospective in application.”

Joel Fitzgibbon, the Shadow Agriculture Minister, admitted he would personally go further than perhaps Mr Ciobo and would seek to withdraw citizenship from terror accused.

“If it means saving one life, I’m more open to pushing the envelope on civil liberties than many others in the room would be,” he said.

Liberal insider and Barton Deakin federal director Grahame Morris raised the risk of doing nothing.

“Just imagine if you are a legislator, one of these people did go overseas, came back and there was a disaster and they’d done nothing,” he said.

“Imagine the upheaval in this country, that the legislature knew this person was a complete lunatic and let him back into the country.”

ABC
Grahame Morris. Photo: ABC

With the mood lining up against Mr Mallah, he voiced an opinion that was quickly dismissed.

“The Liberals have just justified to many Australian Muslims in the community tonight to leave and go to Syria and join ISIL because of Ministers like him,” he said.

The show had kicked off with an interrogation of the use of the word terrorism.

American anti-poverty campaigner Linda Tirado opened up the debate, calling out the media in her country for “mishandling” the reporting of Mr Roof.

“He fits the textbook definition of terrorism. The reason we don’t do it is because racism exists,” she said.

“That’s an awful, awful part of the human condition and one we should be absolutely combatting.”

Mr Morris said it’s right not to call white mass-killers terrorists, unless they kill internationally.

ABC
Linda Tirado warned Australians not to become the United States. Photo: ABC

“That white supremacist lunatic in America, he was upset at the black community and is he a terrorist or just a lunatic? To me a terrorist is on a global scale is trying to change things in a very ugly way,” he said.

“Terrorism as we have come to see it now is more an international event that people are frightened of.”

Man Monis would be “a lunatic”, not a terrorist, he said under questioning from fellow panellist Dee Madigan.

Ms Madigan, a communications consultant, said “fear sells, which is why governments are keen to use the term ‘terrorism'”.

“When government’s polls go down, fear levels go up.”

Musician Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons also called it like he saw it: “I feel like the word ‘terrorism’ is a word the media uses to manipulate us. I just think it should be retired.”

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