The Iman who believes 9/11 was an “inside job”
Sitting with the Imam a mosque in Perth, he says he has no information that could assist me about a young man I'm trying to locate.
I think he knows exactly who I'm talking about. Perth's Muslim community is small. The young man's passport has been cancelled due to an adverse security assessment and he is of the same ethnic heritage as the Imam.
The Imam doesn't lie. Instead, every question asked is met by a question, not an answer.
Anyway, why should he help me? Muslims get burned by media interactions, I get that. There's nothing in it for him.
As the topic closes, he begins to talk about 9/11. How it was an inside job.
You know the story: the US wanted to start (another) war in the Middle East so they destroyed the biggest icon in their greatest city to give them justification.
The Imam said it was obvious the planes could not have brought the Twin Towers down - from an engineering perspective, impossible. Both buildings were fitted with huge implosive devices. He's watched videos about it.
The men who hijacked the four planes that day? They never existed. Just a fantasy to help sell the story.
There are people sitting outside the 9/11 memorial with pamphlets that say the same thing. They're not Muslims. They're insane.
At least Muslims come to it with a perspective not borne of paranoia or mental illness. They can argue that their entire religion has been tarnished long after the dust of the towers has been tidied away.
I begin to tune out as the Imam explains that Osama bin Laden died years before the 2011 Abbottabad raid.
I look around the room. "Do you reckon ASIO has installed cameras in the mosque?" I ask him.
"Do you think so?" he says, again turning the question into a question. "ASIO sometimes comes to see me for a chat. I try to get them to listen to my conspiracy theories," he laughs.
The truth is I know a fair few non-Muslim Australians who believe these same conspiracies. For them, all it means is they expend unnecessary energy.
The Imam is different. He has the attention of young people.
I don't believe he sympathises with terror. I believe he is a peaceful man who would try to change the mind of a young person who felt inclined to go abroad to fight, or to attack people here.
Yet his views, expressed so blithely, represent a mindset that is not simply harmless.
It seats and stokes a narrative of discontent, 17 years in the making, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria and Iraq again, and on to London, Paris, Nice, San Bernardino and Melbourne.
Paul Toohey is a News Corp chief reporter.