What David Hicks might say, if he was allowed to:

Eight years ago I converted to Islam. I was completely transformed by its pure expression of monotheism, its compassion, its sense of community, and its role as the religion of the oppressed and the wretched of the earth.

For various reasons I became involved with a particular and fanatical version which I now regret. The late Sir James Killen was once an organiser for the anti-Semitic League of Rights, Pierre Trudeau was once a member of a fascist Quebec separatist group, WD De Klerk was originally an enthusiastic builder of apartheid, US governor George Wallace was a white supremacist who became a champion of integration, and there are many other examples of people who started from the wrong place and changed and grew.

The test of character is what you become, not what you were. Some people fall into alcohol or drugs — I fell into a sect that preached hate rather than love.

I regret many parts of my life. What I don’t regret is where I first went — to Kosovo. In the 90s, Margaret Thatcher had been one of the few Western politicians to argue that the Balkan Muslims should be provided with arms in order to defend themselves.

Like many mujahadeen who had risked their lives fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, I — not yet a Muslim — went to help defend a people who had been deserted by the West. While the armchair warriors and the think-tank commanders fulminated and struck moral poses, I went to fight and die if necessary in a region where the televised slaughter of Srebrenice was still fresh in the mind.

Whatever one believes about military intervention, when push came to shove you never had the guts to interrupt your lives and stand up for people that you, too, believed to be lethally oppressed. Now having ‘confessed’, after five years of psychological torture, you call me a terrorist.

If I had returned to Australia in 1999 you would have called me a hero.

Peter Fray

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