NSW Supreme Court Judge Desmond Fagan has condemned traditional Islam and much of Quran in the clearest possible terms.
Judge Fagan today sentenced Sameh Bayda to 4 years prison for conspiring to do acts in preparation for a terrorist attack. Bayda's wife Alo-Bridget Namoa was given 3 years 9 months on the same charge.
Judge Fagan's sentencing remarks commence with these Catchwords, used by judges in the superior courts to index the matters considered in arriving at the Judgement:
- co-offenders married under Islamic rites
- offences and other matters relating to terrorism
- where offenders motivated to commit jihadist act for furtherance of Islam by violence
- general deterrence in light of prevalence of terrorist offending for furtherance of Islam by jihad
- whether offenders have resiled from extremist Islamic beliefs
Here are some extracts from Judge Fagan's Judgement. It's lengthy, but tremendously important and I'd highly recommend you put aside the time to read it.
(Islamic Bonnie and Clyde - Namoa and Bayda)
Bayda is from a Muslim family of Lebanese background. Religious teachers at a bookstore and prayer hall taught him militant Islam from about mid-2013, when he was 15.
Namoa was introduced to Islam by two female street preachers in 2012 when she was 14½. In her own words she was an Islamic fanatic from mid-2015.
Islam was the religion and ideology the offenders intended to advance by the acts for which they conspired to make preparations.
What constitutes a terrorist act is defined in s 100.1 of the Criminal Code. Paraphrasing and abbreviating the definition so far as relevant to this case, a terrorist act is as an act:
(1) involving the use of a weapon or weapons which would in the ordinary course of events cause serious physical harm or death to one or more persons AND
(2) intended to advance the cause of Islam by violence
From the early afternoon of 30 December 2015 texts were exchanged between them concerning an act of violence against non-Muslims which was planned by Bayda and encouraged by Namoa. She expected Bayda would be killed in this attack. Bayda’s responses confirmed he was planning an action in which he expected to die for the sake of Allah. The messages of both offenders were liberally punctuated with Islamic religious exclamations such as “Alhamdulillah” (praise to Allah) and “Subhan Allah” (God is perfect).
Namoa said she wanted to perform a jihadist attack in concert with Bayda, or to support him in such an attack, in these words:
I wanna do an Islamic bonnie and Clyde version on the kuffs haha.
The term “kuffar” or “kuffs” was frequently used by both offenders as a contemptuous reference to people who do not follow Islam.
At 10:18 am on 31 December 2015 Namoa was with Bayda and entered on his phone a note of support. She was clearly aware that Bayda planned to act in company. She wrote:
Be happy i wanna know yous are smiling before yous jump outa the car. No matter what the outcome is at least you didn’t pull out, do it for our ummah [Islamic community]. … note to the kuffar, DIE IN YOUR RAGE!! Boom bye bye
During the afternoon and evening of 31 December 2015 Bayda’s messages indicated hesitation. Namoa continued to encourage him, suggesting that he and his associates “make dua” (supplication to Allah) and “Go hard fisbilillah” (in the cause of Allah). She said “Allah will send some kaafirs your way if He wills for them to come your way”.
At 10:26 pm on 31 December 2015 a photograph of Bayda was taken on his phone, showing him in the driver’s seat of his van dressed entirely in black, including a head covering and a scarf over the lower part of his face, tied behind his head. The effect was to leave only his eyes showing. The photograph depicts Bayda making the one fingered salute used extensively in propaganda of the Islamic State (“IS”) to signify the oneness of Allah according to Islam. The photograph was sent to Namoa’s phone.
Illustrated instructions for stabbing a person with lethal effect and for making a bomb were saved onto the offenders’ phones.
Police found in Namoa's possession a Tactical brand knife, being a weapon of approximately 20 cm in overall length. This was in her handbag wrapped in a shahada flag (that is, a black flag bearing the messages in Arabic “There is no God but Allah” and “Muhammad is the prophet of God”). Photographs on Bayda’s phone showed that he had been in possession of the Tactical brand knife at his home in Guildford at some time before 13 January 2016.
I accept Bayda’s evidence that he and his friends were inspired by jihadist propaganda to plan a street attack upon non-Muslims. Some of the material on the offenders’ devices urged Muslims to attack and plunder Western civilians in their own countries in furtherance of their religious duty. An article entitled “Advice to Those Who Cannot Come to Sham” by Abu Sa’eed al-Britani encouraged precisely this kind of crime. Another article by al-Awlaki was entitled “The Ruling on Dispossessing the Disbelievers Wealth in Dar al Harb”, referring to the sphere of war, meaning anywhere not under Islamic control. This cited hadith as follows:
The Messenger of Allah said, “I was sent before the hour with my sword, and my sustenance is under my spear, and humility and belittlement is the destiny of whoever defies my commands”. The best and purest form of income is booty. The Messenger of Allah said: “… and the spoils of war are made halal [lawful] for me …”.
Bayda said that the jihadist propaganda he read online encouraged any sort of violent street crime against non-Muslims.
In the first half of 2013, at the age of 15, Bayda commenced to attend Bukhari House, an Islamic bookstore and prayer meeting room in Auburn. At about the same time he began to listen to lectures and sermons on the Internet which promoted salafist doctrine. In his evidence he described salafists as those who “take the Quran literally and they want to live exactly as Muhammad, the way Muhammad lived”, including violent subjugation of nonMuslims. Bayda said that during a 10 day period over which he slept at Bukhari House in July 2013 he was instructed by two men in their late 20s who “believed in jihad … so they followed like same beliefs as ISIS, al-Qaeda”.
Bayda gave this evidence regarding the teaching he received from these two instructors at Bukhari House:
I looked at them as very knowledgeable in the religion … they were teaching me about this whole new ideology and this whole new way to look at Islam … I started to … view [ISIS and al-Qaeda propaganda] online because this is what I was taught by them boys and this was at the time what I understood to be … the right interpretation of Islam.
He was shown by these two men “verses about jihad in the Quran” and they told him the history of the Prophet and his companions and “spoke about the violent activities that they did”. He said “they spoke about how evil democracy is” and supported what they said by reference to the Quran and other Islamic scriptures. When Bayda subsequently read IS and al-Qaeda propaganda online he found it consistent with what he had been taught at Bukhari House.
Bayda was watching jihadist videos quite extensively in June, July and August 2015. This developed into sharing jihadist ideas with his friends, in person and online, from early December 2015 and then a desire to undertake his own violent action against non-Muslims by the end of that month. One of the associates with whom he was talking about jihad from early December and who went out with him looking for victims on New Year’s Eve was a young man he had met at Bukhari House.
Namoa’s letter to the Court included this (emphasis added):
I got into propaganda first and then learnt the fundamentalist ideology through other Muslims on social media which I then followed being the only thing I’ve seen widespread online which was always labelled as the path of Islam. Following that I learnt the basics of Islam, such as the prayer and ablution in September 2015. I acknowledge that I was a fanatic and that I’ve accessed a substantial amount of Islamic State propaganda, as well as downloading various books and documents onto my phone.
Namoa rejected Australian laws and law enforcement authorities, saying “Allah is my legislator”. She spoke of having no interest in life on earth and desiring only death and paradise.
The material on Bayda’s phone included the following:
(1) Numerous videos of sermons delivered by Islamic scholars identifying in the Quran and in the example of the Prophet’s life a foundation for the belief that Allah has commanded the believers to kill or subjugate all non-Muslims.
(2) Instruction manuals on how to carry out lethal attacks on non-Muslims in Western countries.
(3) Still images and videos of Islamic combatants in the Middle East, either posing heavily armed or carrying out mass executions of bound and helpless prisoners, often by beheading.
(4) Conversations, in the form of exchanged text messages and/or images, between believers in the Islamic duty of jihad.
The message conveyed by the written and video-recorded propaganda on all devices was essentially as follows:
(1) All non-Muslims, being people who do not accept Allah as the one God and Muhammad as his Prophet or Messenger, are the enemies of Allah.
(2) It is a Muslim’s obligatory religious duty to wage jihad against (that is, make war upon) all non-Muslims everywhere, including civilian populations in the West.
(3) The obligation of jihad against non-Muslims is never-ending until Islam has been imposed universally and non-Muslims everywhere have submitted.
The passages from the Quran relied upon call for forcible imposition of Islam as an imperial project. The propaganda urges Muslims in the West to engage in terrorism upon the premise that their loyalty to Islam is higher than any loyalty to the nations in which they live, that they are residing amongst an enemy and that their religious obligation to dominate non-Muslims by force displaces the mutual obligations of citizenship under Western laws.
The countless images of death in the propaganda on the offenders’ devices and the relish with which the video recorded sermons and written articles speak of bloodshed convey a first impression of no more than depravity. However the sermons and writings are serious and scholarly religious teaching. They quote verses of the Quran which unmistakably instruct the believers to undertake jihad in pursuit of universal Islamic dominance. For example in one of Anwar al-Awlaki’s essays in “Inspire” magazine (Trial Exhibit FF) verses are quoted in these terms:
8:39 Fight them until there is no fitnah [disbelief] and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah.
8:60 And prepare for them what you can of strength and steeds of war that you may terrorise with it the enemy of Allah and your enemy.
4:84 So fight, [O Muhammad], in the cause of Allah; you are not held responsible except for yourself. And encourage the believers [to join you] that perhaps Allah will restrain the [military] might of those who disbelieve. …
Al-Awlaki’s essay, which is part of the evidence tendered to the jury, also quotes sayings of the Prophet to similar effect, such as the following (from two collections of Hadith):
The [Prophet] said: “I was instructed to fight mankind until they testify that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, they establish Salah [prayer] and they pay Zakah [tax on wealth for alms]. Whoever does so have protected from me his blood and his wealth.
The Crown’s witness, Dr Rodger Shanahan, gave evidence before the jury that in Islam the Quran:
needs to be understood differently to the Bible insofar as the Quran is the literal word of God, so delivered over a period of time specifically to Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel. The Prophet Muhammad then recounted or wrote down what he had been told in these revelations, and they are collated in the book we now know as the Quran. …
So when we talk about references in the Quran, that takes on a very important aspect within Islam, because that is essentially what God has told his followers to do.
The following are further examples of Quranic verses cited by contributors to the online propaganda magazines which Bayda had on his electronic devices. I quote them in the terms in which they appear in the evidence:
2:216 Jihad is ordained for you though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.
9:5 And when the Sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them … .
9:29 Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the people of the Scripture [Jews and Christians], Until They Pay the Jizyah [poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
9:33 It is he who has sent his Messenger [Muhammad] with guidance and the religion of truth, to make it superior over all religions even though the mushrikun [polytheists, pagans, idolaters, unbelievers] hate it.
9:73 O Prophet fight against the kuffar and the munafiqin [hypocrites] and be harsh upon them. 9:123 Fight those adjacent to you of the kuffar and let them find in you harshness.
An article in one issue of Dabiq, tendered from Bayda’s electronic storage, was entitled “Islam is the Religion of the Sword not of Pacifism”. It contains this argument:
Allah has revealed Islam to be the religion of the sword, and the evidence of this is so profuse that only a zindiq (heretic) would argue otherwise.
The article proceeds to quote from the Quran, including some of the verses set out above, and the following (being part of 47:4):
So when you meet those who disbelieve, strike their necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favour afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens.
The jihadist propaganda on Bayda’s laptop and hard drive (particularly the IS and al-Qaeda magazines) also relies upon the Prophet’s example of waging religious war in the 7th Century. The articles invoke the duty of Muslims to follow the Prophet’s example in all things as a central tenet of Islam. Writings of other Islamic scholars, ancient and modern, are quoted to substantiate that the war-making of IS in the Middle East against everyone except Sunni Muslims and the extension of this violence against Western communities are the fulfilment of all Muslims’ religious duty.
Islam as a legal and political system not limited to religion in the spiritual and personal sense:
Islam is supposed to be not just a religion but a total system of life, so for any total system of life you need a legal framework. … Islamic law as we know it, or the Sharia, provides guidance for how you are supposed to live your life in the way in which God willed you to do that. … [W]ithin Islamic law, different weight is given to different sources of Islamic law. Obviously the most weight is given to the Quran because that is the literal word of God, but that doesn’t give complete guidance for how people should live their lives. So in those vast areas that it doesn’t mention, … you take your guidance off what are known as the hadith, and the hadith are the actions or the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions.
So if Muhammad was chosen out of all people by God to receive the revelations, then it follows that the actions that he undertook and the words that he said should be the next most important source of law within Islam.
The offenders’ culpability for religious fanaticism
There is no suggestion in the evidence or in the arguments put on behalf of the offenders that the commission of this offence was induced in any degree by social or economic marginalisation or by any reaction to police vigilance and enforcement activities with respect to terrorism. The offenders simply adopted a fanatical Islamic hostility toward non-Muslims and toward Australia’s liberal democratic society in accordance with religious instruction they received, both directly and on-line.
Widespread sermonising and scholarship on the Internet, as tendered in this case, shows that those who believe Allah has instructed Muslims to impose their religion upon the world by violence derive this conviction from the Quran, believing it, as Dr Shanahan explained, to record “essentially what God has told his followers to do”. The propagandists whose writings are in evidence in this case and terrorists who respond to their call (like the offenders now before the Court) cannot sensibly be regarded as mere anti-social deviants. It could not be clearer that jihadi propagandists and terrorists are motivated by religion and are able to identify scriptural support for their actions. They consistently invoke belligerent verses of the Quran.
In the belief of the propagandists, shared by Bayda and Namoa at the time of their offence, violence toward non-Muslims is not merely an incidental tactic for attracting attention to the faith or to issues which concern its followers. Relying upon the parts of the Quran which they cite and upon the example set by the Prophet, the ideology espoused in the online jihadi literature embraces neverending war against non-believers as an inherent and central element of belief. This ideology elevates violence to the performance of a religious duty and an act of devotion.
Publicly disseminating in Australia the religious belief that Muslims are under a duty to attack non-believers (as taught by the online propagandists and by Bayda’s Islamic mentors in Sydney in 2013) is an incitement to communal violence. Since the commencement of s 93Z(1)(b) of the Crimes Act it would constitute an offence in this State, not excused by the reference to scripture.
Although Australian citizens are not subject to penalty for their choice of belief by which to relate to God, teaching a divine duty of violence against non Muslims is not within the law’s protection. It goes beyond personal religious experience and counsels criminal breaches of the peace. The whole concept of inclusive tolerance would be destroyed if respect and protection were accorded to beliefs that are themselves violently intolerant and that conflict with secular laws designed to secure diverse freedom of worship for all.
Bayda and Namoa should have understood that their belief in Allah’s instruction to attack everyone who has a different religion from their own and to seek to impose Islam by force would stand condemned by the standards of the civilised world. It should have been apparent to both of them that citing verses of the Quran and recounting deeds of the Prophet from 1400 years ago could not make such a purported divine command acceptable as a religious concept, according to reason and human decency.
Muslims who wish to live in peace with the whole community may reflect that if Islam accepts the entire Quran as Allah’s eternal instruction to believers, without explicit repudiation of verses which ordain intolerance, violence and domination, that unqualified acceptance will embolden terrorists to think they are in common cause with all believers and indeed that they are the spearhead of the religion. The scriptural support for the terrorists’ perceived obligation of jihad cannot be rebutted by Australian courts or law enforcement authorities. If the verses upon which the terrorists rely are not binding commands of Allah, it is Muslims who would have to say so. If Australian followers of the religion, including those who profess deep knowledge, were to make a clear public disavowal of these verses, as not authoritative instructions from Allah, then the terrorists’ moral conviction might be weakened.
The incitements to violence which terrorists quote from the Quran cannot just be ignored by the many believers who desire harmonious coexistence. Those verses are not ignored by terrorists. As seen in this and numerous other prosecutions, the hostile verses are inspiring serious crimes. In turn those crimes have the capacity to provoke social division and mistrust.
The apparent message of these verses is not answered by non-specific and unelaborated suggestions, from various quarters, that “there are other verses” or that “it is an interpretive religion” or that the hostile passages are “cherry picked”. Assurances are from time to time offered to Western communities that “Islam is a religion of peace” and that the faith of Muslims requires them to obey the laws of a country in which they are in a minority. But in the absence of express public disavowal of verses which convey Allah’s command for violence, as quoted in the jihadist literature tendered in this case, such assurances are apparently contradicted. Certainly that is how the matter is seen by jihadi propagandists and those who have followed them, including these offenders.
Bayda has encountered the differences between Australia’s liberal society and the teachings of Islam. Learned instructors in the religion have taught him, from the Quran and from the example of the Prophet as they recount it, that it is a Muslim’s religious duty to resolve the differences with violence.
Bayda said he could not live as a moderate Sunni and gave these answers when challenged as to why not:
A From what I’ve learnt about Islam.
A I’ve read many books about Muhammad, about the religion, I was spending time in the HRMU [High Risk Management Unit] with the rest of the extremists. From what I understand there’s only [-] a [person] who wants to practise as the Quran, as Muhammad taught, there’s only one way and that is to practice jihad and violence, ‘cause that’s what the Quran encourages. ….
Q I’ll ask you this way sir. Do you seriously say to his Honour that you could not see a way to practise Islam and to live in peace with your fellow man, is that what you’re telling his Honour?
Several aspects of the offence for which Bayda and Namoa are to be sentenced contribute to an inherent degree of seriousness. First, all terrorism offences have the propensity to cause generalised insecurity in the community. Secondly, where the ideological cause sought to be advanced is that of Islam, the crime involves an intention to intimidate the Australian public and/or Commonwealth or State governments, with the objective of destabilising the existing constitutional order. A crime of this nature is an attack on the framework of government and law.
Thirdly, any individual terrorism offence by which the ideology of Islam is sought to be advanced is a manifestation of what has become a persistent disruption of peace and security in the two largest cities of this country. Although the many individual Islamic terrorists who have been dealt with by the courts have not all acted in concert with each other, their separate offences have been unified by the perpetrators’ adherence to a single religious ideology which has the object of breaking down democratic government and replacing it with Islamic rule.
Taking into account these cases decided during 2018 and the attack by Hassan Khalif Shire Ali in Bourke Street Melbourne on 9 November 2018, the total over the past 15 years has now reached approximately 13 plots or actual attacks involving some 47 jihadists. More such cases are awaiting determination by the courts. This number of convicted Islamic terrorists whose offences span 15 years, all inspired by the same ideology and with the same objective, constitutes a significant phenomenon. This is to be taken into account in fixing a sentence which provides general deterrence.
Each offender was drawn into commission of this offence by indoctrination in Islamic jihadism. Neither has any other background influence or disposition toward crime. I find both of them genuine in their renunciation of fanatical beliefs. The need for general and specific deterrence is reduced. The realistic objective of facilitating rehabilitation is correspondingly more important in sentencing them. The offenders have expressed remorse and contrition, which I also find genuine. The public interest will best be served by moderation in sentencing.
Both offenders have at least commenced to develop reason and humanity in place of blind, submitting belief. The evidence heard since the jury gave their verdict justifies some confidence that on their return to the community Bayda and Namoa will show respect for the beliefs of others and for the laws of this country which protect the freedom of its citizens to pursue personal spirituality in their own way.
So much for the religion of peace.
His Honour has clearly set out the next steps for Islamic leaders.
It's up to them to repudiate the Quran. They must tell their followers it's wrong in its calls for jihad.
Muhammad wasn't perfect.
Neither is the Quran.
But sometimes out legal system gets it just right.
Congratulations on your scholarship and Judgement today Judge Fagan.
Australia and the free world are in your debt.
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