"Greater need and urgency" among jihadists to punish countries that have launched airstrikes against Islamic State
Motivated by the Islamic State’s calls to strike the West, home-grown terrorists are becoming a real threat on the domestic front, counter-terrorism experts say.
"What makes this ISIS call for self-starting jihadists across the globe to do something is they can now do it for a cause that’s unique, establishing a global caliphate, which has an appeal," said Brian Glyn Williams, a professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
Williams told Aleteia that there is a greater need and urgency among jihadists to punish countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, France, the United States and other nations that have launched airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria.
"The message ISIS is putting out there is that they are calling for ad-hoc attacks to punish coalition countries, which is unprecedented," Williams said.
On Dec. 15, Man Haron Monis, an Iranian-born self-styled Muslim cleric with a lengthy criminal background, held several people hostage in the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney, Australia. Monis, 50, was armed and forced his hostages to hold a black flag with Islamic lettering in the cafe’s windows, evoking the Islamic State lifting its black flag over conquered territory.
The 16-hour standoff ended when police stormed the cafe, leading to a gun battle that left two hostages and Monis dead.
Several media profiles on Monis painted the picture of a violent individual who even after he fled Iran and obtained asylum in Australia, continued to be estranged from society and railed against his host country’s government and culture.
"It’s pretty obvious that the perpetrator was a deeply disturbed individual," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters during a press conference, adding that Monis was "well-known" to law enforcement authorities and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.
According to published reports, Monis was facing 45 pending sex-related criminal charges at the time of his death. He was also accused of being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, who was stabbed multiple times and burned. His criminal history extended back to his native Iran, which he fled in 1995 for allegedly committing fraud, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars News.
"This guy should have been in jail. It’s clear the police knew who he was," Humera Khan, executive director of Muflehun, a counter-terrorism think tank, told Aleteia.
Monis also spread extremist beliefs on the Internet. Though born a Shiite, Monis converted to Sunni Islam and pledged alliance to the Islamic State on Twitter and his website, which described him as a Muslim cleric and activist who has "continuously been under attack and false accusation by the Australian government and media" since he started a "political letter campaign" in 2007.
According to Australian media reports, Monis wrote tasteless letters to families of fallen Australian military members. He also condemned Australia and Western governments for "launching" wars on Muslim soil, and his hyperbolic rants attracted almost 13,000 followers to his Facebook page.
"This guy is a very vivid illustration of the problem. There are too many of these attacks," said Edward Turzanski, the co-chairman of the Center for the Study of Terrorism at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Philadelphia-based think tank.
Turzanski told Aleteia that the Sydney hostage situation was the latest in a string of attacks motivated by a distinct "Islamist mindset" that abhors the West and sees it as an oppressor and enemy of the Muslim world.
"We’re not saying all Muslims are terrorists, but the people doing these attacks are Muslims of a specific kind. They engage in violence to impose their strident views," Turzanski said.