Terror label leaves multicultural communities ‘on edge’

Dominic Giannini |

Authorities needs to be aware of the impact talk about acts of terror can have, Dai Le says.
Authorities needs to be aware of the impact talk about acts of terror can have, Dai Le says.

Authorities need to consult multicultural communities to ensure labelling violent crimes a terror act does not alienate people, an independent MP says.

Dai Le, who represents the western Sydney electorate of Fowler where a bishop was stabbed during a sermon, called for police to be culturally aware of what declaring a terrorism incident could do to a community. 

It could stoke fear and increase Islamophobia, Ms Le warned.

“When we talk about a terror act, we just need to be aware of how that language lands in a community like Fowler,” she told ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

Dai Le
Dai Le wants police and intelligence agencies to better engage with multicultural communities. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

She questioned how fast it took law enforcement to brand the April 15 stabbing of Assyrian bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel at a church an act of terror, echoing the concerns raised by the Australian National Imams Council.

The council on Friday contrasted the terrorism declaration with authorities’ response to a stabbing massacre at a Sydney shopping centre, which it said was “quickly deemed a mental health issue”.

There had to be a strong connection between police and the community to ensure people felt safe, Ms Le said.

“Many of our communities who escaped tyrannical regimes … with that word, what it brings on is people are feeling, ‘Oh my God, terror has followed us’. That will make people live on edge,” she said.

“I hope that they know what they’re doing when they label a criminal act with such a label and that they will reassure our community as soon as possible to ensure that people who have escaped terrorism from the Middle East, that they feel they are safe here.”

Police and intelligence agencies should engage with multicultural communities to inform their advice, the independent MP said. 

The disparity in police response was a double standard and affected the perception of law enforcement and the judicial process within the community, Australian National Imams Council’s Ramia Abdo Sultan said on Friday.

The teenager accused of attacking the bishop was charged with committing a terrorist act.

Five other teens allegedly linked to the 16-year-old were charged last week following raids across Sydney.

The arrests of the boys, all under the age of 17, followed an investigation into a group allegedly adhering to religiously motivated violent extremist ideology.

Sydney church stabbing
A teenager accused of stabbing a Sydney bishop has been charged with committing a terrorist act. (Paul Braven/AAP PHOTOS)

Police will allege the group was planning a future event, NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said. 

It was concerning some of the teenagers arrested had images of beheadings on their phones, she said.

“Those images have been circulating for years now unfortunately, but it does concern us greatly where we’ve got young people with those images on their phone,” she told Sky News on Sunday.

Queensland man Joel Cauchi, 40, killed six people during a stabbing rampage at Westfield Bondi Junction on April 13 before being shot dead by police.

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