Men arrested over an Islamic State plot to wreak havoc on Christmas Day in Melbourne, Australia, have also been implicated in fires that burned a suburban mosque.
Police say the Dec. 11 fire at Imam Ali Islamic Centre, a Shiite place of worship, was set by the jihadis who also planned to blow up a prominent cathedral, a historic and busy metropolitan train station and a major cultural center on Christmas Day in Melbourne.
The two men, Ahmed Mohamed, 24, and Abdullah Chaarani, 26, are alleged to be Sunni extremists and inspired by Islamic State. They were already in custody awaiting trial over the plot. A third man, Hatim Moukhaiber, 29, an alleged accomplice in the arson, was arrested over the weekend.
Mohamed and Chaarani will also be charged with committing acts of terrorism over another arson attack on the same mosque on November 25.
“It is clear that these arson attacks were designed to intimidate and influence those that attend this mosque and the wider Islamic community. These actions have no place in our society,” said Ian McCartney, the Australian federal police counter terrorism assistant commissioner.
All three men face life in prison if convicted.
In other news from Australia, Muslim businessman and human rights activist Jamal Daoud said he supports banning the public wearing of burqas to prevent future terror attacks.
Noting that only a very small percentage of women wear the head-to-toe garment that veils every part of the body (save the hands, feet and sometimes eyes), Daoud said, “This will help with security, national security and preventing terrorist attacks. We support such a move.”
Daoud was attacked in a supermarket by someone wearing a face veil. Because of the covering, police were not able to identify and bring to justice the individual behind the attack.
Daoud added that such covering is not required by Islamic Law and there is “no mentioning of covering the face in any Koranic verses.”
He said other Muslims may be afraid to publicly back a ban since they may be afraid of being associated with the far right.
Similar bans have been introduced in France, Belgium, Bulgaria and The Netherlands.
Australian Senator Pauline Hanson recently made waves for wearing a burqa to a senate meeting to make the point that the garment should be banned. Hanson was heavily criticized for the stunt, which other politicians and counter terror officials said was insulting to the Muslim community and only served to tear down bridges.
“I think things such as that don’t obviously help with our drive to build social cohesion. We work really closely with community leaders here in Victoria, as they do in other states, and things like that tend to undermine that process, I have to say,” commented Ross Guenther, a police assistant commissioner.