Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) chief says radical Sunni Islam creates terrorists, not being a refugee | Australia news | The Guardian

Spymasters versus demagogues:

The head of Australia’s spy agency, Duncan Lewis, says people become terrorists because they adhere to a violent interpretation of Sunni Islam, not because they are refugees.

Lewis has come under intense pressure from conservative commentators, including the News Corporation columnist and Sky News broadcaster Andrew Bolt, after his response to questions from the One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, on 26 May about whether there was a connection between terrorism and refugees.

The Asio chief told Hanson at Senate estimates last week he had no evidence of any connection. He said the source of terrorism wasn’t Australia’s refugee program, but “radical Sunni Islam”.

Bolt’s critique was echoed by the former prime minister, Tony Abbott, who suggested Lewis was tiptoeing around the subject. “Asio has to command the confidence of the Australian community, and that’s why you’ve got to be open and upfront about these things,” he told 2GB.

Hanson later told 2GB the response from Lewis at estimates was “not what the Australian public want to hear”.

She was “gobsmacked” by his evidence at estimates.

On Wednesday morning Lewis had a rare public interview with the ABC. He stood by the evidence he gave last week, but provided some more context.

“We have had tens of thousands of refugees come to Australia over the last decade or so and a very few of them have become subjects of interest for Asio and have been involved in terrorist planning,” he said.

“I’m not denying that. I’ve not said that there are no terrorists who have not been refugees or who have not been the sons and daughters of refugees born in this country.

“But the context is very important. The reason they are terrorists is not because they are refugees but because of the violent, extremist interpretation of Sunni Islam that they have adopted.”

Lewis said sons and daughters of refugees were “in the group that have resorted to radicalisation but I think it is very wrong to say that it is because of their refugee status”.

“They are radicalised for different reasons,” he said.

He said he had no intention of appearing contemptuous of Hanson’s line of questioning: “The point I am making is we need to stick to the facts.”

Source: Asio chief says radical Sunni Islam creates terrorists, not being a refugee | Australia news | The Guardian


About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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