Why It Matters

Tackling terror Down Under

For Australia, the shocking news that a deadly shooting last Friday was carried out by a 15-year-old radicalised Muslim has sparked national self-analysis about the large number of disaffected young people turning to religious violence.

As analysts noted, Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar was too young to vote, legally drive a car or buy cigarettes. Yet the Iranian-Australian teenager was able to get a gun and was sufficiently motivated by religious zeal or hatred of his adopted country - or both - to shoot a police employee in a busy Sydney street. Farhad was shot by police soon after.

The attack against police was not the first in Australia by a radicalised Muslim teenager. Last year, 18-year-old Abdul Numan Haider stabbed two Australian Federal Police officers in Melbourne before being shot dead. Also, large numbers of young people, including high school students, have joined or tried to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

But the latest shooting has been accompanied by a marked change of tone in the national debate.

There appears to have been less of a knee-jerk clamour for a tough national security response and instead an attempt to better understand what is driving young people to want to commit such terrifying crimes.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott increased security spending by A$1 billion (S$1 billion) in two years and proposed tough new laws, including bans on travelling to designated terrorism hot spots in the Middle East and a proposal to strip dual nationals associated with terrorism of Australian citizenship.

His successor, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, has taken a different approach and been praised for his attempts to involve the Muslim community in shaping a response.

"There was nothing (under Mr Abbott) for early intervention and there was nothing that empowers the mums and dads to be secure and be confident to put their hands up if they notice any change in behaviour in their kids," Muslim community leader Jamal Rifi told ABC News.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2015, with the headline 'Tackling terror Down Under'. Print Edition | Subscribe