ISIS Suspect Arrested in Australia

Authorities arrested Haisem Zahab in early March 2017 in the rural town of Young, Australia, alleging that he used the internet to support the Islamic State in developing a guided missile.

The arrest has sparked renewed debate across Australia about Muslims in the country and the threat of terrorism. Craig Thomson of The Young Witness, the local newspaper, acknowledged in his response to the arrest that fear is a natural human response, but he continued by saying that spreading fear only helps ISIS’s message and, instead, the people of Australia should choose love, preventing one man’s actions from condemning an entire community of Muslims. Mostapha Ali, a local Muslim, reiterated that Muslims are equally excited to see the arrest made and support counterterrorism compared to other Australians.

The authorities have investigated Zahab’s family for 18 months under suspicion that some of them financed ISIS directly and potentially traveled to Syria to fight for ISIS, said the New York Times. Additionally, Muslim residents of Young emphasized Zahab as an outsider in the community whom had previously pleaded guilty to charges of drug and firearm possession.

The town of Young has a large Muslim population due to preferences by many for farming and raising children away from cities like Sydney or Melbourne.  However, Clarke Jones, a terror expert at the Australian National University, believes that those supporting foreign terrorism deliberately chose Young because police would not have suspected it as a potential location to investigate.

Australian leaders continue to struggle with fighting ISIS supporters without creating anti-Muslim sentiments among its citizens. UN Rapporteur Mutuma Ruturee also urged Australian politicians to refrain from bigoted speech in light of nativist sentiment in the country, according to the Guardian.