‘Everyone wants to die for Allah’: Teen tells inside story of Australia’s most-watched Islamic State group
Three years ago Hamza was a 16-year-old with a world of problems.
One of his brothers was in jail for murder, another brother was running with a violent Sydney crime gang, and Hamza was dreaming of his own impending death.
“I got scared and I asked God to give me a second chance,” said Hamza, who spoke with the ABC’s 7.30 program on condition that he only be identified by a pseudonym because he said he feared for the safety of family members, some of whom do not share his belief in violent jihad.
- Hamza, who knew Farhad Jabar, adopted hardline Islam in year 10
- He supports radical Islam, but says he does not want harm in Australia
- Asked whether he supports IS: “If I say yes I’ll get in trouble, and if I say no, I’ll be a liar”
- Hamza supports beheadings in Syria and Iraq and thinks sharia law should be implemented globally
- Video: ‘Everyone wants to die for Allah’, says convert to violent jihad (ABC News)
Hamza grew up in a family which embraced a moderate version of Islam.
Then, in year 10, he was introduced to an ultra-orthodox movement within Sunni Islam known as Salafism.
“I called someone, one of the brothers I knew from high school, and I asked him, because he used to be religious from high school, and I asked him a couple of questions and he said come hang round with me. And he just taught me,” he said.
The man who took Hamza under his wing was Omarjan Azari, an Afghan-Australian who last year was charged with conspiracy to murder over an alleged plot to abduct and kill a random Sydneysider.
Since his adoption of hardline Islam, Hamza has been a member of a small group of young Islamic State supporters in western Sydney whom police and security agencies believe are committed to violent jihad in Australia.
Hamza says while he supports radical Islam, he does not want to cause harm in Australia.
Inside story of young men involved in terrorism raids
This is the first time the Australian public has heard the inside story of one of the young men involved in recent terrorism raids in Sydney.
His story sheds a light on the world of teen radicalisation — a poorly understood issue which has gripped Western governments due to the increasing youth of terrorist plotters.
On Thursday, police charged Alou with helping commission the shooting murder of NSW police accountant Curtis Cheng at Parramatta earlier this month.
Alou allegedly gave a gun to 15-year-old schoolboy Farhad Jabar and counselled him to undertake the attack in a meeting that day at the Parramatta mosque.
Hamza also knew Jabar and the pair studied the Koran together at the mosque.
“He was just a quiet dude, stuck to himself, always in worship, that’s it … always in his own corner, reading the Koran, doing worship,” Hamza said.
While he says he is not committed to violent jihad in Australia, Hamza’s view of Islamic State — the most brutal and powerful of the dozen or so Sunni militant groups fighting against the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Asaad — is less clear.
When asked if he supports them, he replied: “I’m not going to answer that, because if I say yes, I’ll get in trouble, and if I say no, I’ll be a liar. I accept some of their opinions and I disagree with other opinions.”
Hamza’s intractable radicalism ‘alarming’
Former NSW Police counter-terrorism investigator Peter Moroney listened to the Hamza interview and said Hamza’s views and his intractable radicalism were concerning.
“He’s very evasive in his answers … His simple answer was, if I say I [support Islamic State], authorities will come to me, but if I say I don’t, I’m a liar,” Mr Moroney said.
Mr Moroney said the interview was illuminating because it revealed the shadowy world of how Australian teens were being radicalised.
“We know that in general terms it is the young guys that are susceptible — they perceive they don’t have an identity within this community, they come from a broken family history, they generally have a connection to crime — and when you put all that in the mix, that’s when you’re creating a nice base for that person to be [radicalised],” he said.
Australian society a ‘den of immorality’
Hamza supports beheadings in Syria and Iraq and believes strict sharia law should be implemented across the world.
“What’s happening overseas? Sharia is expanding: people that steal get their hand chopped off; people that kill, they need four witnesses and they die; people that smoke drugs, there’s no cigarette, there’s no alcohol, there’s no brothels.”
In comparison, Australian society was a den of immorality, he said.
“Look at it, there’s brothels, every corner you go there’s a brothel. There’s strip clubs, there’s people drinking, people committing fornication in front of other people, like, they have no shame.”
The group of young men he is part of is made up of teenagers and men in their early 20s.
Most became friends through a small group of public high schools in Sydney’s west.
Most study the Koran under a small group of hardline salafi sheikhs and pray at the Parramatta mosque.
‘Like gangsters, they have a brotherhood’
The group has been labelled the shura — an Arabic word for council — by police.
“We advise each other,” Hamza said.
“One person has a decision and we ask each other if it’s right or not, shall we go, shall we do it, shall we go to this place, help out. It’s like that.”
Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.
The group’s religious observance is also central to their bond.
“What’s haram [forbidden] in our religion is to listen to music, to talk to women, to intermingle with other people, to do a lot of other bad stuff like listen to music and go night clubbing, all this. This is not part of us, the non-believers do it.”
The bond between the young men in the group remains strong.
“[It’s] like gangsters — they have a brotherhood, we have our brotherhood. Because a brother said a believer is one body, so I feel his pain.
“If he gets hurt, I feel his pain. If I get hurt, he feels my pain. That’s how we are. We stick together.”
You can watch the full story from 7.30 here.