The claim of cause and effect does not add up rationally: a Danish caricature of Muhammad leads a successful kickboxer to plot to “kill as many Australians as possible to advance the cause of Islam.” There is much more to the story, including Fattal’s stint in a Lebanese prison where he appears to have been further indoctrinated.
The cartoon is ultimately an excuse seized upon in the context of a broader grievance culture, an obsession with “honor” (more accurately described as pride), and above all, a sense of entitlement to revenge that threatens to destabilize any society in which it takes hold.
Wissam Fattal’s descent from champion kickboxer to would-be terrorist appears to have begun at least six years ago, when a Danish cartoon sparked outrage, protests and several deaths across the Muslim world.
It was 2005 and Fattal, an expectant father with five siblings, was already a devout Muslim – but he was certainly no extremist.
At least, not yet.
The Danish cartoons appeared to change that, setting him on a path towards a criminal conviction for plotting to kill as many Australians as possible to advance the cause of Islam.
The cartoon did not throw some automatic switch in Fattal’s mind and turn him into a zombie bent on killing. There was a pre-existing context in which he processed his taking offense and decided on appropriate action.
Fattal, now 35, had just returned to his homeland of Lebanon when the cartoons were first published.
He was infuriated by what many Muslims believed was an insulting, offensive depiction of the prophet Mohammed.
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A protest he joined against the cartoons that year became chaotic, causing extensive damage outside the Danish embassy in Beirut.
It resulted in his arrest and a jail term of three months.
When he returned to Australia, he had changed noticeably.
“It was during this time in Lebanon that you became what could be described as particularly strong, devoted and fundamentalist in your religion,” Victorian Supreme Court Justice Betty King said as she sentenced Fattal to 18 years in prison on Friday.
“You became more religious and more fervent and fundamental in your views as time went on.”
Around the same time, he abruptly ended his kickboxing career. He had won several championships across the Middle East, but said his view of the sport had changed.
His religious beliefs became also become more rigid and simplistic.
By 2009, his attitude could be described in a single statement: Australia was at war with Muslims and it was up to devout believers like him to do something about it….