During a heated interview with The Project’s co-host Waleed Aly on Tuesday night, former terror suspect Zaky Mallah refused to take responsibility for his damning comments about terrorism and the government.
Earlier on Tuesday the ABC admitted an error of judgment and said it would review the decision to permit Mallah to question Liberal MP Steve Ciobo on its Q&A program on Monday night about proposed changes to citizenship laws.
Appearing as a vetted questioner in the audience, Mallah, who was acquitted for terrorism charges, said Australian Muslims were justified to travel to Syria to join Islamic State (ISIL).
Mr Ciobo responded and said he would have no problem seeing him stripped of his Australian citizenship.
During the interview, Aly asked Mallah if he was worried that someone watching the Q&A program interpreted his comments as a “call to arms”.
Mallah replied: “Look, there are some young radicalised Muslims in the community at the moment who have always hated the Abbott Government, from the get-go.
“Last night’s incident from the Minister, who suggested stripping Australians from their citizenship, escalated things to a whole new level.”
But a frustrated Aly pushed Mallah to take responsibility for his “irresponsible” outburst during the pre-recorded interview.
“I’ve been on your program before and I’ve made it very clear that anyone who wants to go and travel to Syria or to Iraq to join ISIS, don’t go,” Mallah said.
“It’s an organisation that has hijacked Islam. It’s an organisation that has hijacked the jihad. I don’t support ISIS and I don’t support anyone leaving Australia and their families to head overseas and join this group,” he said.
Aly hastily replied: “You were asked a question about what you said and your response was to talk about how bad the Government was.”
“The inflammation in this came from you. It came from what you said. There might be people who interpret it, a lot of people did interpret it as a call to arms. Do you feel any sense of responsibility from people who would interpret you that way?,” Aly said.
Mallah lashed back: “I don’t hold myself responsible for the stupidity of the Abbott Government, and his Minister.”
“You’ve asked me a question and I’m coming to your answer. I’m an Australian. I was born and bred here. I love my country. I’m a man, I believe that Australia is a country of the rule of law. And the Abbott Government is trashing that,” Mallah said.
A furious Aly told Mallah he did not want to hear him blame the government, but instead talk about how he thought people would react to his words.
“I have already said to you I bear no responsibility. I expressed my views last night. I was entitled to, like everyone else did last night,” Mallah answered.
Aly then raised his voice and questioned Mallah’s intentions for going on Q&A.
“It seems to me you’ve completely misread what’s happened today. No-one is having a conversation about the government and the rule of law, that conversation was actually already under way. Your intervention completely blew it off the rails,” Aly said.
“Your intervention has made this about you and about radicalisation in the Muslim community and about the fact that words such as yours drive people toward that radicalisation. A conversation that you it seems you don’t even want to have now, having started it.
“I wonder if you’re aware that you are doing a lot more damage here than you realise?”
Mallah conceded perhaps the tone of his voice was “a bit harsh” but stood by his words.
“Sorry. That’s incorrect. Look, Australia champions freedom of speech. And I definitely had my say last night. And I expressed my views in the best way I did and the best way I could,” Mallah said.