Sinister change in personality over the years

Sinister change in personality over the years
Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis.

Man Haron Monis has been described as a "shapeshifter" - and each of his twists of personality after he arrived in Australia more than a decade ago seemed to leave him increasingly sinister and deranged.

Monis adopted various names and guises as he went from Iranian asylum-seeker to "spiritual healer" to fanatical Muslim. Last week, he wrote on his website he had converted from Shi'ite to Sunni Islam, and supported Islamic State in Syria and Iraq militants.

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All the time, his criminal rap sheet in Sydney grew longer and his alleged crimes became more severe. He became increasingly estranged from the Muslim community, which largely regarded him as a lunatic, and had little success gaining followers in his crusade against Western warmongering.

Monis was a man who constantly craved attention for his personal causes and grievances. In the end, it seems, nobody was listening and he had little left to lose.

His many grievances go back decades. He fled to Malaysia in 1996 from Iran, leaving behind a wife and two daughters, before arriving in Australia, which recognised him as a refugee in 2001. Iran said he was wanted for fraud, but he claimed in his asylum bid that the Iranian authorities opposed his liberal views on Islam and that he had secret information about regime activities.

In 2003, he married a Sydney woman with whom he had two sons before they divorced. He then lived with Amirah Droudis, who was charged with his former wife's horrific murder last year.

Muslim community leader Ja- mal Daoud told The Straits Times that Monis tried to set up his own prayer hall in a Sydney suburb about six years ago, but "nobody came".

Monis would make speeches at any mosque that would have him - though in the end, none would - and sought out any journalist who would speak to him.

He ran his own website and Twitter account, furiously sending out messages and video rants proclaiming the truth of Islam or criticising Australian and Western foreign policy.

Upset by the war in Afghanistan, he began writing hate mail in 2008 to the families of Australian soldiers killed there. When he was charged, he took his appeal all the way to the High Court, and lost.

As his life went into a downward spiral in the past two years, his frustration grew, culminating in his last-ditch act for attention.

One of his former lawyers, Mr Manny Conditsis, told The Straits Times: "He may have thought, 'I have nothing to lose, I can't go to prison'... When he made the decision to take hostages, he knew he was going to die."

jonathanmpearlman@gmail.com


This article was first published on December 18, 2014.
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