How did the media in Melbourne react? Perhaps the worst response was from Professor David Wright-Neville. In a column in the Herald Sun, he ran with the theme that it is "frustrated aspirations" amongst Muslim immigrants, including low levels of employment and education, which allow them to be "easily manipulated" and lured by "simplistic explanations" into terrorism. The professor even blamed "racism and other forms of social exclusion" by Europeans for terror attacks.
This is a template which doesn't fit the facts. The leader of the terror group, we are told, is a neurobiologist. The others are doctors. None of them suffer from a lack of employment or education. None of them is likely to be duped by simplistic explanations.
And, far from suffering exclusion, these doctors were catapulted into high-paid, high-status professions, arguably at the expense of the thousands of native born Britons and Australians who wish to be trained for careers in medicine.
A more realistic appraisal was penned by Ian McPhedran, the Herald Sun defence reporter. There have been suggestions that doctors were chosen for infiltration into the West because they were less likely to be placed under scrutiny by the security services. McPhedran provides information that doctors were, in fact, spared such scrutiny. He quotes Australian National University terrorism expert Clive Williams as follows (regarding those approved for the 457 temporary skilled visa scheme):
We would normally go with people whose backgrounds we can check, but when there are shortages, such as with doctors, we can't be too fussy.
McPhedran points to a further problem of scrutinising medical professionals granted visas to work in Western countries - the sheer numbers involved. He states that there are 1950 Iraqi-trained doctors working in Britain and up to 26,000 from the Middle East. (These numbers are so large that they need to be confirmed.)
To his credit, McPhedran draws what must surely be a reasonable conclusion: that the current immigration policy is flawed and must be reviewed:
The Gold Coast link will trigger an immediate review of the 457 temporary skilled visa scheme, particularly of those visas held by Muslim doctors working temporarily in Australia.
There will be howls of protest, but if the safety of the people demands that some rights are temporarily curtailed, so be it.
If not, the next car bomb might be in Kings Cross, St Kilda, or Fortitude Valley.
The one problem I have with McPhedran's comment is that I don't see that it is a right being curtailed: is it really an automatic right for foreign born doctors to come to work in Australia?
(Further evidence that the sheer size of Muslim immigrant communities makes vetting problematic is provided by Randall Parker. British security had intercepted conversations and knew an attack was coming, but were already monitoring 30 current plots, 200 suspected terror cells and close to 2,000 known suspects. They were unable in this situation to pinpoint the exact timing or location of the attacks.)
Finally, the Melbourne Age provided us with a column by Waleed Aly, a lecturer in the Global Terrorism Research Centre at Monash University. Aly's argument runs as follows:
1) Terrorism can only be defeated by winning the hearts and minds of Muslims.
2) Muslims dislike America.
3) Muslims do want Western ideals of freedom and democracy.
4) Muslims dislike America because America isn't serious in supporting freedom and democracy, as evidenced by the failure to recognise popularly supported Hamas.
5) The West needs to be more sincere, more charitable and more self-sacrificing in its dealings with the Muslim world to overcome the impression of hypocrisy.
If we were to take Aly's analysis seriously it would mean:
a) being mired forever in the mission of winning the approval of the Muslim world. Do we really want to act in ways that the Muslim world is likely to approve of? Mightn't Muslims take advantage of the terms of engagement by continuing to find reasons to disapprove of the West, which the West would then have to make up for?
b) accepting, despite the evidence of events in Iraq, that the Middle East is serious about Western style democracy.
c) accepting the logic by which democracy in the Middle East is likely to deliver anti-Western Islamic governments, such as that in Iran.
Think of what has recently happened. Six well-educated professional men are granted a privileged status in the West and they respond by launching terrorist attacks intended to kill hundreds. Are we really supposed to conclude that we are at fault, and that we need to further prove our good intentions to such men?
I can't see us winning them over. Those recommending a disengagement are likely to be vindicated as the attacks continue.