Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that mental health issues with the Bourke Street attacker are an “excuse” and has solely blamed homegrown radical Islam.
He has also called on the Muslim community and its religious leaders to be more vigilant against radicalisation within their communities.
The 30 year-old attacker, Shire Ali, lit his truck on fire and went on a stabbing rampage in Melbourne’s CBD on Friday, killing one man, Sisto Malaspina who was a renowned community member. Shire Ali later died in hospital after being shot by a rookie police officer during the incident.
The attack was captured in phone recordings and was widely shared across social media and news outlets. One bystander was seen using a trolley to help police try to subdue Shire Ali.
Mr Morrison said that Shire Ali “was a radical extremist terrorist” and that he would not accept mental illness as an excuse for his actions.
When met with suggestions that his comments were designed to rally racists, he rejected them as a “tired excuse for not dealing with this problem”.
He said that he believed the majority of “hard working, respectable” Muslims in Australia want their community to be safe from radical extremists who are “infecting their young people and others with hatred and false teaching”.
Mr Morrisons’ comments on the incident caused the Australian National Imams Council to respond negatively, with Secretary Sheikh Moustapha expressing that the Prime Minister’s comments were “really wrong and unfair”.
Mr Moustapha disagreed with the implication that Muslim Australians weren’t being vigilant enough against extremism and said that they were “doing whatever we can” to stamp out extremism early on.
With reports of Shire Ali’s deteriorating mental state leading up to the attack, leading mental health expert Professor Patrick McGorry said that it reinforced the need for increased mental health treatment. He said that he agreed mental illness could not excuse this kind of attack, but that proper treatment may be critical in preventing it.