If the government is to be believed, there are special rules of
logic and judicial process that apply solely to alleged terrorists.
Consider Mr Ruddock's recent statement that Habib
and Hicks could not be brought back to Australia because there was
nothing that they could be charged with. His statement shows a blatant
disregard for the presumption of innocence, since neither Habib nor
Hicks have been convicted -- nor charged -- with anything. Somehow, the
logic has become so warped that innocence under Australian law is a
reason to keep people detained.
Mr Downer's statements are even more extraordinary. He said, ``People who muck about with organisations like al-Qaeda are bound to get themselves into a great deal of trouble''. Shouldn't our foreign minister know that it is not up to him to dish out legal judgments off the cuff?
Izhar Ul Haque has been treated with similar disdain. Izhar, of course, is not even an alleged terrorist. The only allegation made is that he trained with an organisation in January 2003, which was not even a proscribed "terrorist group'' until 10 months later; a group that terrorism expert Clive Williams, says "would be unlikely to be interested itself in terrorist activities in Australia''. There has not even been a suggestion that Izhar was involved in, or was planning any kind of terrorist activity.
This has not stopped Izhar from being held at the Supermax Facility at Goulburn, alongside convicted mass murderers like Ivan Milat. Visiting Izhar is almost impossible given the stringent and time-consuming security checks. He hasn't even been convicted.
Izhar is my friend. I've known him for four years. He even attended my wedding. We would see each other at the Muslim prayer room at UNSW. We would attend study circles on topics such as the daily practice of Islam together.
He is the antithesis of the terrorist stereotype. He is extremely sociable and interacts daily with non-Muslims and Muslims alike. He is bright, happy and polite. He never said anything improper, he is liked by everyone who has met him and he treats Australia's laws with the respect they deserve.
For him to be treated as a dangerous threat to Australian Security feels like a macabre re-enactment of the sketch from Monty Python's Holy Grail, where four heavily armed knights are threatened by a dangerous fluffy rabbit. To assert, as Downer did, that "This is exactly what the Federal Police should be doing, making absolutely sure that people are properly protected in this country'', is ridiculous, given that Izhar is not even accused of having done anything that would have endangered Australians and that he cooperated with all security agencies. In its zeal to show the Australian people that it is doing something to protect us from terrorism, our government is sacrificing some of the things that we treasure most about Australian society: the presumption of innocence and the concept of a fair go for all, even if they have brown skin, or practise Islam. In the process, it is destroying the lives of people who are amongst the best and brightest in Australian society, all at the altar of supposed national security. Izhar Ul Haque is one such example, but will it be the last if this government is allowed to continue with such behaviour?
Dr Mohammed Waleed Kadous is a former president of the Islamic Society of the University of New South Wales
Sydney Morning Herald, 20 April 2004
On 15 April 2004, Izhar Ul Haque, a medical student at the University
of New South Wales, was arrested on terrorism charges allegedly for
training with Lashkar-e-Taiba. This article was published a few days