The Defence Department has charged and reprimanded two serving soldiers involved in making violent and racist comments in the wake of last month’s Islamic protests in Sydney.
Thirteen other soldiers have been formally counselled over their actions.
Defence launched an investigation after a group of Australian soldiers from the Townsville-based 3rd Brigade made threatening comments against the Muslim community on Facebook.
Those involved joked about using sniper rifles and machine guns on Muslims.
The remarks were made in the days after the Sydney protest sparked by an anti-Islamic film insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
These were some of the comments left on the Facebook page:
Give me a M4 and send to Sydney and I’ll do the dishes.
Could add a new meaning to clean up Australian day.
What about an SR-25? You could say some of those blokes look like farmers. Smile.
Mate, what I would given to drop the legs on a MAG 58, slap on a 500 round belt, adopt a stable firing position in the middle of the street and lay waste to every single one of those cancerous ****.
At least 20 people added that they liked what was being said.
And on the day of the Sydney protests, these comments were left:
The protests were triggered by a US film Innocence of Muslims, portraying the Prophet Mohammed as a womaniser and a paedophile.
Um, they are. And how many of these Muslims weren’t born in Australia? How many have read the Koran or been to Mecca?
And a sign said, ‘behead all those who insult the Prophet’. I know what I’m doing this week – getting my gun licence.
I’m getting one too.
Cronulla round two.
I was going to say Cronulla, ha ha.
I wonder if I could buy a flame thrower legally.
(From a previous report – Ed)
Some of the men making the comments have photos of themselves in uniform, including one person who has a variety of pictures of himself holding different machine guns.
Another of the men appears in a helicopter pilot’s uniform.
A simple search reveals photos of them on the Australian Defence Force’s public website or in Townsville media either during or after serving in Afghanistan.
Several Muslim organisations, including the Islamic Council of New South Wales, have received links to the Facebook page.
The council’s chairman, Khaled Sukkarieh, says he hopes the Facebook comments are just rants.
“We would be very concerned if former or current personnel of the ADF held such views, especially if they have served in Muslim countries or are serving in Muslim countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan,” he said.
“We would hope that these comments are just the ignorant rantings of a very small minority and not indicative of a big Islamophobic issue in the ADF.”
The Australia Defence Association told AM in a statement that if these men are serving members of the ADF they will have breached regulations about the responsible use of social media.
It says a second rule could have also been breached which is one of common sense, saying: “You don’t make the diggers’ life on the frontline harder by making stupid comments.”
In a statement to AM, the Defence Department says it was not aware of the Facebook page in question but it is now looking into it.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith says he has not seen the comments, but says ADF members need to act appropriately on social media sites.
“What they do with modern digital media runs the risk of what they think is private becoming public, and they’ve got to conduct themselves accordingly,” he said.
“They represent a uniform and represent the nation, so their comments have to be appropriate and their comments have to reflect the modern Australia, and the modern Australia is an Australia which says we are sensitive, sensible and tolerant about the different make up of Australia.
“We’ve got a well-deserved and hard-fought for reputation and we don’t want that sullied by stupid actions of a minority.”
Defence says two soldiers have been charged under the Defence Force Discipline Act and were formally reprimanded.
Disciplinary action is pending against one other soldier.
The Islamic community has welcomed the action.
Ahmed Kilani, who runs the Muslim Village website, says he is satisfied with the outcome:
“I think it sends out a strong message that we need to stamp out this type of mentality in the Defence Force or elsewhere in society,” he said.
Khaled Sukkarrieh from the New South Wales Islamic Council says he hopes other soldiers take note.