Is he or isn’t he?
For the first few hours after a 4WD vehicle rammed into pedestrians at the intersection of Spencer Street in Melbourne CBD, the authorities would not speculate about the perpetrator or his motives, which is only right considering they have not interviewed him by that stage. Many on the social media did, considering the photos of the arrest showed a man of the Middle Eastern appearance, to use the police/media report parlance. Many also “jumped to conclusions”, combining this information with the nature of the incident, i.e. running down pedestrians with a vehicle, like Nice, Berlin, London (twice) and many other recent terrorist attacks.
By the early evening it seemed like the jump was a jump too far, the Victorian police revealing the suspect, a refugee born in Afghanistan, had a history of mental problems and drug abuse. Sometimes people run over other people because they’re high and/or crazy, and not because of religious/political motives.
By today’s morning, the story was evolving:
Speaking on Friday morning, Victoria Police acting chief commissioner Shane Patton said the man had a medical appointment booked on Thursday.
“He is on a mental health plan and he was due for an appointment yesterday, which he missed,” Mr Patton said in an interview on Channel 9’s Today.
“During that preliminary interview with investigators who are looking at this matter, he spoke about dreams, he spoke about voices, but he also did attribute some of his actions to the poor treatment of Muslims.”
So perhaps high and crazy and resentful. No doubt we will learn more following the formal interview with the suspect as well as a medical and psychiatric evaluation, not to mention a more thorough investigation of his background. We will also hopefully learn more about the other individual arrested at the scene in possession of knives, who was allegedly filming the incident.
So was it an ice or an Islamic Caliphate Enthusiasm?
Why not both? They are not mutually exclusive.
From what we know so far, Saeed Noori, 32, is not known to intelligence and counter-terrorism authorities and has no obvious associations with ISIS or any other terrorist group or network, domestic or international. That can of course change, but probably won’t.
In any case, it’s not exactly pertinent; many of the recent “lone wolves” responsible for terror attacks throughout the West have had no formal associations with the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda by way of communication, training or financing, merely deriving the inspiration to act and to act in certain ways, which is the key element here.
This sort of freelance Islamist terrorism we have seen so much of over the past few years (mercifully at the expense of September 11-style more sophisticated and deadly attacks) tends to attract all sorts of misfits and denizens of the society’s margins: petty criminals, substance abusers, mentally unbalanced, never-do-wells. These people seethe with disappointment and resentment at the society and can be often attracted to the idea of giving their lives more meaning and importance by “avenging” themselves on those around them. These people don’t need a tour of duty of Syria or a radicalisation course at a local mosque, merely watching some TV and being inspired by seeing how others like them, the Muslim “wretched of the Earth” living in the West, have lashed out before when feeling angry, resentful, disappointed or victimised.
Nineteen people have been injured, including a two-year old child. One man is still in a critical condition. This is only days before Christmas. That no one has been killed is perhaps a little Christmas miracle in itself. But we can’t count on too many miracles.