White Supremacist Stabs Man in Sydney, But Terrorism Police Stumped as to His Ideology

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White Supremacist Stabbing

White supremacist Brenton Tarrant, an Anglo Australian man from the NSW town of Grafton, walks into two mosques in Christchurch in March 2019 and guns down 51 Muslim worshippers.

The killer produced a far-right manifesto. He had links to Australian and global neo-Nazi networks. Yet, he’s never officially been considered an Australian terrorist.

Why? Well, white men can’t terrorise, especially Australian ones: for a start, the majority of them aren’t Muslim.

Yet, last week, 19-year-old white Australian Jordan Patten strolled into the office of Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp, as he was dressed in a military-style uniform, in order to behead the politician with a knife.

Patten backed out, however. But he was deemed a terrorist. He’d produced a Tarrant influenced manifesto. And the PM even cried about it.

Then, on Tuesday this week, a 14-year-old white teen dressed in army camouflage gear stabbed a 22-year-old Chinese man in the back at Sydney University. And this white kid had come to the attention of police last year, when he made violent threats at school, citing Tarrant as an influence.

But NSW police assistant commissioner Mark Walton said post arrest that the ideology of the 14-year-old boy, was unknown, but it’s likely “categorised as mixed and unclear”, and he added that “it’s not religiously motivated”. So, obviously, the boy is not a Muslim.

Rather, Walton explains the white boy holds to “a salad bar of ideologies”. And just why Inspector Plod is confused after the kid has identified himself as a white supremacist is unclear, but perhaps, it’s not on-brand because the victim wasn’t a Muslim or a Black or Brown person or First Nations.

But Walton might want to consult with One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson, as she can confirm that persons of East and Southeast Asian appearance were the chief targets of white supremacist attacks in the 1980s and 90s, or he could even just watch Romper Stomper, to get an idea of that salad bar.

A far-right smorgasbord

“The second teen stabber inspired by Australian neo-Nazi and mass shooter Brenton Tarrant in less than a week,” antifascist researchers the White Rose Society wrote on X, following Tuesday’s incident.

“Are we ready to have a real conversation about far-right extremism yet, or are we still slandering students who oppose genocide?”

Probably the latter, would be the answer to the question that appears rhetorical, as the fact is that Patten was close to last week beheading a NSW Labor MP with a knife – a very time-consuming and messy approach to take – yet that’s been swept under the carpet since, even with the PM crying.

And as for this week’s teen stabber, last year he was actually charged with planning a terrorism attack, contrary to section 101.6 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), which carries life imprisonment. However, the Children’s Court eventually dismissed the charge.

The white teenager was charged over the school incident, in which he threatened to carry out a “Christchurch-style” attack. And the kid was made to take a NSW Department of Communities and Justice deradicalisation program. Yet, the authorities still can’t work out his political persuasions.

NSW police minister Yasmin Catley is none the wiser. She confirmed the boy had been engaging in the program, and it was understood that he wasn’t part of a “network”. Although there is vast far right global networking online that ASIO is well aware of that doesn’t seem to count in these cases.

And despite all of this, as of Thursday, the counterterrorism unit, which has been put on the case, still hasn’t charged the white teen with terrorism as it can’t identify a distinct ideology.

So, it appears that detectives have been stuck at the salad bar for days now, suggesting it might be an all you can eat-type situation.

Terror designations in technicolour

“Police have stated that a motive must be established to classify this incident as a terrorist act,” said the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN) in a statement on Wednesday.

“This approach echoes the response to the Bondi incident, where mental health was considered, unlike the Wakeley incident, where a Muslim teenager with mental health issues was labelled a terrorist within hours.”

The issue AMAN is pointing to, and has well documented in the past, is that the Australian political establishment and its law enforcement agencies are quick to label a Muslim person as a terrorist, however when it’s a white Australian they go to great lengths to avoid labelling them terrorists.

AMAN further explains that the international law definition of terrorism is politically-motivated violence. However, under Australian law, terrorism is defined as violence motivated to advance political, ideological or religious causes.

The advocacy group argues for the removal of both ideological or religious causes from the local definition, with the reason being that currently the authorities are running around trying to find this white boy’s “ideology”, but if he was a Muslim, this would likely be labelled religious terrorism.

Indeed, acts by Muslims are the only ones that local authorities ever apply the religious terror designation to. And in doing so, what’s conveyed is that the religion of Islam inherently advocates terror, when really if a Muslim or a Christian perpetrates terror it’s to progress a political aim.

So, many ideologies to choose from

An example of why AMAN wants to remove ideology from the terrorism definition might be that counterterror police are trying to search for the ideological motivation of a teen who was charged with terrorism last year and has openly stated an affiliation with white supremacist terrorism.

Another case involved a white man going on a killing spree in a Bondi mall on 13 April, and while police said he appeared to target women, just like other attacks across the Anglosphere by men known as incels, who are far right associated, no terror designation was made or contemplated here.

But the clincher came when two nights later a 16-year-old Muslim teen stabbed a priest in a church in Wakeley, as he was labelled a terrorist within hours. The NSW police terror unit didn’t spend days attempting to identify the difference between a tomato and a cucumber, as he was plainly Muslim.

And a week later, the terrorism police executed 13 warrants at the homes of Muslim teens, arresting seven and eventually charging five of them aged between 14 and 17. And none of them had any distinct set out plans to commit terrorism, however some are now facing life imprisonment.

So, it’s highly likely that just like last week’s incident with Patten, this week’s 14-year-old stabber scenario will disappear into the ether.

And as for the justice department’s deradicalisation unit, it might be a good idea to ask its clients what ideology they hold to during a session, so as to save police officers from having to toss the salad themselves later on.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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