The media also have a responsibility to treat these events with care.
AFRICAN Australians and Muslim Australians stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their countrypeople in rejecting terrorism and in supporting a fair and just society. We have come to this country in the hope of finding a land of peace and freedom.
But in the present economic climate, some young people become marginalised and disaffected. It is people such as these that recruiters - be they drug dealers or religious extremists - look for and despite efforts by African communities, especially the Somali community, to engage young people in sport, education and social excellence a few people remain marginalised. This is probably not helped by what they hear of the situation in their homeland.
What most people hear of Somalia centres on warlords and pirates and the chaos of an ungovernable state. But there has been progress towards solving the problems.
Not only have there been recent political and military changes in Somalia, but the UN, the European Parliament and the US are devoting a lot of time to this issue. It’s not just concern over the growth of piracy and terrorism; they also are worried by the potential for a huge human rights disaster in the region.
It is almost impossible to figure out the different factions operating in Somalia and the different names. The country is split into a number of states and it seems as if every month a new one emerges. And bandits and warlords are taking advantage of the absence of military and police control to terrorise, rob and murder the people.
The world now knows that this complex situation has to be fixed. And it also has to fix the problem of disaffected Somali youth feeling that their needs and those of their ancestral country have been ignored.
The raids across Melbourne yesterday will not solve these problems but they are an encouraging sign that the authorities are up to the job of catching terrorism in its early stages.
That said, we must beware of overreaction to the problem here in Australia. Terrorism thrives when it is able to provoke authorities and communities to overreact and behave unjustly.
The media have a particular duty to behave responsibly. This morning, after 19 raids by 400 police, only one person was charged. Yet the media revealed one address and gave enough information to identify another. That is cause for grave concern.
The basis of our fair society is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
These media actions could lead to attacks on the innocent, including children. They could also prejudice and threaten the process of justice.
Australia’s best defence against terrorism is a fair and inclusive society, which is what African-Australians and Muslim Australians are working to achieve.
Strengthening the ties of family and community is our strongest safeguard against extremism.
African-Australians fear reprisals, just as they reject extremism and terrorism and fully support yesterday’s raids.
Despite their support for the police action, many in the African and Muslim communities in this country are already being targeted. Callers yesterday to talkback radio programs fuelled heated reaction and increased the likelihood of attacks on innocent people within the Somali community.
Most Somali Australians are peace-loving members of our society and they are committed to supporting Australia’s safety and security. As a society, we have to address the challenges facing refugees settling in our country rather than simply blaming terrorist groups in places as far away as Somalia and Afghanistan.
These young people are living with us and we have to ask the question as to why they are not satisfied with our systems. Terrorists hope that their actions will cause reprisals and prejudice against the innocent. This creates a fertile recruiting ground. It also creates a particular need for responsible media coverage.
Berhan Ahmed is chairman of the African Think Tank. He is Victorian of the Year 2009 and a nominee for Australian of the Year 2009.