ABC TV’s late night current affairs show Lateline interviewed a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir – a radical group prime minister Tony Abbott flagged he’d like to ban – and it was just nuts.
Presenter Emma Alberici spoke to Wassim Doureihi from the group and after they said thank you to each other, it rapidly went downhill, as her guest refused to answer her questions and they repeatedly locked horns, talking over the top of each other in an 11 minute 30 second interview that was both frustrating and fiery.
It quickly went downhill after her opening question “do you support the murderous campaign being waged by Islamic State fighters in Iraq?”
Doureihi responded that he wanted to “take a moment just to take a step back”.
The argy-bargy began and Doureihi, while saying he’d answer the question, didn’t.
Alberici pressed again: “Do you support them or not?”
Doureihi: “The fact that we don’t want to have this discussion now is indicative of where the entire discussion on the war on terror narrative goes. The fact is the entire response isn’t what Muslims are doing or may not be doing, but no-one legitimately or sincerely is discussing what Western governments are doing in the Muslim world.”
Alberici tried once more and then it began to explode. Here’s the transcript
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Well let me explain something very clearly. I will explain very clearly.
EMMA ALBERICI: Answer my question, please.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: I’ll explain to you why the question itself is quite disconcerting, because what we’re talking about is a particular reality where millions have lost their lives. Countries have been destroyed, homes …
EMMA ALBERICI: You are clearly obfuscating …
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Absolutely not.
EMMA ALBERICI: … and I did not invite you …
WASSIM DOUREIHI: No, I reject that, I reject the accusation.
EMMA ALBERICI: … onto this program to do that.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: I’ll say very clearly: why is it not offensive …
EMMA ALBERICI: Why will you not point blank condemn the actions of IS fighters?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Why is it not offensive – because the question itself is offensive.
EMMA ALBERICI: Men who cut off the heads of innocent journalists and aid workers. Why will you not take the opportunity?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: You can ask the question – you can ask the question …
EMMA ALBERICI: You have a national platform here.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Yes. And I’m quite aware of that.
EMMA ALBERICI: Why don’t you adopt the leadership that many have obviously given you responsibility for?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: The question is: why won’t you allow me to answer the question that I deem appropriate.
EMMA ALBERICI: Answer it.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: I’ve answered the question quite – quite directly. We’re talking about a reality in which millions have lost their lives directly as a consequence of the foreign policies of countries like Australia and …
EMMA ALBERICI: And you have made that point and I allowed you to make that point.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: But what hasn’t been made, what hasn’t been made is what are we going to do about it? There is little discussion …
EMMA ALBERICI: The viewers will make their own judgments about the points …
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Of course they will. And I have absolute trust in the Australian population.
EMMA ALBERICI: … you have made. And now I would just draw you back to my question.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Yeah, and I’ll keep repeating the same point. This cannot possibly be our entry point in this discussion …
And on it went, full of sound and fury, signifying no-one’s sure what.
She asked if he was “outraged by the image of an Australian-born child of seven years old holding up severed heads like trophies in Iraq or Syria?”
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Let me tell you what I am outraged by.
EMMA ALBERICI: So you won’t even answer that question.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Are you going to allow me to answer – are you going to allow me to answer the question?
EMMA ALBERICI: What are the Australian public to make of this kind of …
WASSIM DOUREIHI: If you wanted a one-way discussion …
EMMA ALBERICI: No. I think you’re the one who wanted the one-way discussion.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: If you wanted a one-way discussion, you would not – you did not – you did not necessarily have to invite me.
EMMA ALBERICI: I am asking you legitimate questions, …
WASSIM DOUREIHI: You’re asking the question, baiting for a particular response.
EMMA ALBERICI: … which you have obviously come here knowing you didn’t want to answer.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: No, you’ve come to push a particular view. Because you’re not getting the answer you want …
EMMA ALBERICI: No, I’ve come here to ask you answers so you can …
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Because you’re not getting the answer you want.
EMMA ALBERICI: I just want – in many cases I just want a yes or no.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Let me make it very clear: you’ve invited me on to this platform to express my views.
EMMA ALBERICI: Yes!
WASSIM DOUREIHI: You’re not allowing me to do that.
EMMA ALBERICI: But you want to express your views quite separate to the questions that I’m putting to you.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: I’m answering the question that I deem appropriate.
Watching was a little like a couple of boxers throwing plenty of punches, with no blows really landing, but still they kept swinging.
You can watch it yourself here.
The encounter ended on a surreal note after Alberici said they were out of time and Doureihi countered “Very conveniently”.
“Thanks for coming in nonetheless,” said the host.
“It is my pleasure,” said her guest.