From Outlaw Motorcycle Gang to Journalism: Mahmood Fazal's Story - #91

From Outlaw Motorcycle Gang to Journalism: Mahmood Fazal's Story – #91



here's a shout-out to our latest patrons on patreon thank you so much for your support your help gives us a chance to just create more great content for you listen to Laura Higgins Erin Elyse Galbraith Jason Higginbottom mix Natalie Lane Taylor keet Elisabeth Campbell Bridgette Walker s'en Blair Jason Gillick Diane Hughes Paul Victoria Brooke Rebecca Rawlings Kirsten ratchet sorry if I am pronouncing these incorrectly but doesn't mean I don't love you any less Emily Lancashire Jeremy Laidlaw Kath Gosselin and Robert McKinnon please be advised this podcast contains descriptions of graphic violence and it's not appropriate for children this is Australian true crime with Emily Webb and guest co-host crime writer Vicki Petraeus come with us as we go beyond the news cycle to find out how people become killers how people become victims and what happens next dan Geelong raised Mahmood Fazal is a university educated former member of an outlaw motorcycle club there's a unique perspective from the inside now as a journalist Mahmood is exploring the fascination with violence and the real cost of this obsession I think there's a mystique around motorcycle clubs and particularly outlaw motorcycle clubs that the public are curious about can you explain to us I don't know if there's a hierarchy with clubs or what is an outlaw motorcycle club you have had ties with the Mongols are they big club in Australia yeah they are one of the biggest clubs at the time I originally joined the Finks motorcycle club and we were the first club in Australia to be declared a criminal organization and we appealed it in the High Court one that appealed but then Abbott threw another million dollars at the opposing forces and we couldn't fight that this was all about the consorting so if like I was mates with you and I'm not in the Mongols but I'm like having a coffee with you they'll called the Vlad laws yeah where if more than two members were seen in public that would be sent to prison so three or more members consorting which is consorting to commit crime it got to the point where if if they was getting a beer in the pub they would go straight to prison that's without court it's like getting a fine – really trakone in law and we were the first club to be slapped with it but we also took it to court and we couldn't fight the appeal purely because we didn't have the funds I mean blogs were putting their houses up everybody sold their bikes in Queensland at one point to really you know fight the system that it all broke down and as a result a way to bypass those laws and to UM bypass the fact that we weren't allowed to exist as the Finks motorcycle club in the state of Queensland we patched over to a club called the Mongols who are one of the most notorious motorcycle clubs in the world they started just after the Hells Angels in the 70s they were started by maxi and Latino veterans in the United States returning from the war because the Hells Angels unaccepted white members so they started this club to rival them called the Mongols and they've had a pretty bloody war for that socal patch I mean I know about SoCal because I watched Sons of Anarchy no no that's fictional but I think some of it would have been based on reality you just shut it Maya my perception look I did I think I was like a lot of people who thought they were getting an insight into outlaw motorcycle gangs but I mean Australia has had a history with outlaw motorcycle gangs and I was the milp era Massacre Angels Australia New Zealand were the first chapters exported out of California I think it was actually New Zealand then Hells Angels London and then it's slowly spread but Australia's had its own clubs for a very long time as well there's some very old Australian clubs not not a outlaw historian maybe like the coffin cheaters and the Fink's especially the things been around since the 70s and we had some pretty diehard old-school real-deal outlaw by keys but yeah that's all changed now so tell us about how you came to being part of a motorcycle club outlaw one in particular I was just running around the wrong neighborhoods yeah old were you probably 21 yeah and I was probably mixing with the wrong people I had made developed a bit of a reputation for myself and some people I knew in prison got patched into the Finks at the time motorcycle clubs were competing for power and all patching in middle easterners it was revolutionary in a cultural respect because outlaw clubs for a long time was seen as very white Anglo you know swastika wearing counterculture movements or whatever that towards late 90s early 2000s its began to shift in Sydney especially and then around 2010 onwards it happened in Melbourne where yeah Middle Easterners were being patched in what was happening your life at the time or what attracted you to get involved I just went down there I knew people from other outlaw motorcycle clubs growing up but we never wanted to become part of what they were doing so what did you think they were doing like what wasn't attractive before you decided to join well I visited clubs I've been at the Hells Angels clubhouse in Thomas town and I've visited like other motorcycle clubs two or three other motorcycle club houses at the time and they just didn't seem to be like us you know Arabs from the southeast suburbs we didn't fit their identity you know a lot of these guys big bearded fat-bellied Ozzy dudes who listen to rock and roll what wasn't asked we were listening to packing you know we liked driving souped-up cars and mercs and shit like that and these guys were into these weird shuffle heads and old motorcycles and we didn't get it we like Japanese motorcycles to be honest at the time or like do caddies and shit like that when I was introduced to the Finks it was just a bit different there a bit more you rolled up to the gates it was like very organized very militant and the guys at the club were more aligned to us from an identity perspective they were rockin like tienzin shocks and weren't big gold chains and there was like Maseratis in the carpark so we thought if I you know this is this is glamorous to us it's like straight Fame glamour you know they had diamond Rolexes and yeah we were just into that sort of shit yeah we were into the aesthetics of it all you know they had probably two dozen strippers at the house you know in our eyes when you come from an area like that it on that's the life you're a young guy you've been listening of rap music you know you've been brainwashed into thinking that making it is aligned to a lifestyle of excess and we thought we found that and so I wanted cash my chips in and were you looking for a sense of belonging particularly at that time I wasn't looking for a sense of belonging I had boys we had a crew we were pretty connected in our own area we didn't really need to belong to them but I think we were looking for an identity as young Muslim migrants we felt other party I think at the time outlawed by keys were like also other dice aasaiya tea but they were like the poster child of counterculture and anti-social behavior and that's that's what we wanted to do we wanted to be and the kists in the most revolting way and the media taught us that these guys were the best at it so we thought fuck it why not for a gang that probably is made up of anarchists of people that are anti law what kind of rules did you have to obey as part of the club yeah well I was a meth addict before I joined the club and I got beaten out of me very quickly yeah when you prospect for a club all the stuff you read in the news is bullshit ice is strictly prohibited you can't have anything to do with it and if you do get caught out there are very severe repercussions it wasn't difficult to come off because I think I needed that sort of regimented tyranny in my life which I hadn't had a very loving parents who let me do and get away with a lot so and suddenly yeah bound to this code and you know and you've seen how severe the repercussions can be you straighten yourself out pretty quick smart also because you want to earn that patch so you want to prove to certain people that you got what it takes a lot of the guys that have done really well you know the motorcycle clubs that aren't their stripes been there for a long time they don't even drink interesting ass I can enforce rehab I guess the perception is that it'll be like a free-for-all but to be very clear this is strictly with the Finks at that time in Melbourne I'm not talking on behalf of every other club not representative of outlaw motorcycle clubs or anything like that it was just our chapter our club at that specific time was like that there were other clubs where other shit was going on where maybe they were doing things like that it was a bit more gung-ho what other rules did they have because I've heard that some of the club's could have quite strict rules no drugs what else weren't you allowed to do there's a lot of rules that rules are kind of aligned with street culture and where we came from so it wasn't like we were taking on all these new rules those rules are second nature to anyone who's been running around and making moves in the street you don't talk to police obviously you don't abide by any authorities the Finks was an interesting Club because it didn't really have a hierarchy it's the only club in Australia that hasn't had a hierarchy that was just one side in advance there wasn't a treasurer there wasn't a president vice-president there was only aside in at arms of every chapter and his role was by and large to make sure everything was gone all right not telling people what to do but this was the old Fink's there's a new finger as well I have nothing to do with and I don't know how they do things but the old things before they patched over to the Mongols that's what it was like so how long were you involved or like in that scene six years or some yeah what impact did it have on your life I know that you've you know a journalist and you're working for Vice and you're doing really interesting exploration about violence as a what meaning does it have for people did your experience push you into doing all that yeah I think Club has a lot of benefits in certain respects but some people can go into it and take advantage of it and and can be manipulated by it it just depends what your purpose is within a club if you go to a club to make money you might find yourself in very sticky situations but you know if you genuinely love motorcycles and a bet for Brotherhood and just want to fuck the system off you could have really good time and never cop a charge or a conviction in your life there's dudes in the club that like that and every club that are like that they just have a love for this 1% of spirit of just being on the outliers of society and having this community where you can just do whatever the fuck you want on a Friday night and burn rubber and ride around with the Packer guys who a one-percenters it's very freeing but a lot of the things that happened in my life that resulted in me not being part of the club had nothing to do with the club there was a lot of violence that I was involved in and that my connections were involved in here and so I lost a few friends in the space of a couple of years and I ended up leaving the club but I'd been an office parrot in the club for a lot of years so I'd gained respect and I'd put in for the club and it was all done very respectfully yeah is it a matter of your values no longer aligned with theirs or your values change or what is the leaving moment you don't really leave a car often kicked out of one unless you have some extreme circumstances I had some pretty extreme circumstances so it was all done pretty respectfully up you know I buried a very close friend of mine and multiple other friends in the space of two years so they gave me a bit of a break I don't think it's a question of my values are now better than theirs because I'm you know just different you know or just shifted I guess when I was at the club I was in the state of mind that I thought I understood violence and I thought there was a place for violence and I thought violence could get results I didn't like the way society work largely because I couldn't get a job well no completed University so I was just pissed off in them and it was kind of like a confirmation bias the things that worked for me were largely criminal elements and criminals and they've people that made sense to me so it was just a series of things that confirmed these outlaw ideas in my head and I thought I understood the way people like me were treated by society and the way that we should behave as a retaliation or reaction to the way we're treated by society and that's just commit violence make money by any means necessary and you quickly realize that there's other repercussions for things like that and it's not the law all the time I've got many friends in prison one stage I had more friends in prison than on the outside you know I've got cars during 15 year its 20-year sentences who were incarcerated at the ages a 22 but the other things it's within that world there's a lot of jealousy greed you stand over people maybe five years later they'll come back to your house and let off shots and you gotta constantly be watching your back and things like that yeah in my head it was all just a game until you reach a certain level and people stuck any shot did you have a particular tipping point that you said this isn't working anymore it wasn't like the club this isn't working it was like that lifestyle is not working for me yeah married my best friend Yahoo's shot in the face yeah it wasn't it wasn't good not me you know going to his house and his mum's asking you you know to give her answers and because I was a high ranking Mikey at the time I was suspected of being involved something I don't know and then other people that I knew getting murdered and this is all in Melbourne like it's all on the record it's been written about multiple people that I knew died in rapid succession and maybe I lost my balls and I yeah I mean I'm very aware so talking way to why we men the club I'm going yeah and I'm like oh yeah what Sons of Anarchy and as if that's even any I might even watch that it is interesting it's Melbourne and the experience of you know we are a very multicultural City but there's experiences people have and they are not given the same opportunities as if you grow up in the eastern suburbs and you're white and you go to I don't know some private school or something I think you're in a really unique position where you've got that insight into what it's like we talked a lot about male violence and young youth offenders and you know now is get the sense and the belief that it's because of feeling alienated from society and you said you couldn't get a job when you finished uni what were you studying at the time oh into art school studied film right all that stuff I was really well educated but very privileged upbringing my dad sacrificed a lot to give us the best possible education and I did quite well I had the cliche story I had teachers that really inspired me to read books even when I joined the Navajo motorcycle club I was always reading yeah I was an obsessive reader what do you read oh I read everything yeah back then the first book he introduced me to was Dostoyevsky's House of the Dead which is about Dostoevsky's time in prison in a Siberian prison camp and then I just I would read anything but along that line like I loved Celine's writing journey to the end of the night I loved first I loved everything yeah I'll read whatever Amy says there's poetry class I'll ski Blanche oh I loved hukou obviously especially he's writing about the prison system I guess that's another reason why I was able to climb the ranks because I read and a lot of these guys haven't had tertiary education they just assumed that I had this edge looks like knowledge is power and it allows you to move you know yeah move navigate different situations you know you studied psychology yeah that was towards when I was wrapping up at the club did that give you any insight into violence now that you're looking at violence and the meaning of violence and and how violence occurs in our society through your podcasts did your psychology studies start that journey or had you already started thinking about that I think I had already started thinking about that psychology degree just helped me make sense of ideas and how rigorous scientific research is and how on how critical you have to be of ideas and arguments and things like that thing else that biggest takeaway I got from it and a lot of these broad generalizations that I'd made about society and the way I was being treated well I thought I was being treated weren't actually true or backed up by research when you did it's like studies it was just me just confirming my ideas by getting involved in crime and I probably shouldn't have yeah I think my main purpose for it was to somehow so writing all this stuff and getting involved in the podcast was to in a way give people that experience where my work seems as though it's romanticizing a culture that's actually quite shocking and you know all the Rolexes and having all these women and nightclubs in your booth you know carrying ten grand with you everywhere you go it's all of like a fucking Mirage because one day you know you will get whisked away if you're enjoying this episode you might like episode 24 Australian gangs yesterday today and tomorrow with Suzanna Lopez you'll find a link to that episode in our show notes after the break Mahmood talks about capitalism and outlaw motorcycle clubs today coming up on Australian true-crime what's a woman's place in the world of an outlaw motorcycle club and Mahmood makes sense of violence through his own podcast violent times it's a cliche story I mean I grew up watching gangster films but I never realized that it's not a cliche it's the truth you're just kind of wind up in prison or get shot at and for some people when they get shot out they think I can go two ways they get even more reckless or you know they straighten themselves out but when it happens multiple times yeah I kind of just wanted people to somehow feel that shock that this isn't just a rap song like you think motorcycle culture and gang culture is cool but it certainly applauded by people who come from to Iraq and think it's sexy or something but people actually doing it from commissioner housing who have no hope who haven't had the opportunities even someone like myself has had and it's easy to just paint them with a brush and say he didn't have to slang heroin when it was 12 when actually he's mother was a sex worker and his dad left him in a commission housing and there's all these other mitigating circumstances that people aren't willing to understand so I like to humanize people that have committed quite atrocious crimes because there's always more to a story I think that's what we talk about a lot on this podcast we talked about the ripple effect so it's not just what happens it's what happens after and talking a lot about the impact on people families of perpetrators you know friends of victims all that kind of stuff and I think you're right know we sometimes get called oh you're bleeding hearts oh yeah crazy feminists because I just feel like you've got to look at the broader picture I'm interested about the perception and the reality you've described about what a woman's place is in this world if you sort of change to view about women or of course so what's a woman's place in the world of an outlaw motorcycle club really exists sometimes I have like family nights where everyone brings partners in and everybody equally calls up the treasurer to let him know not to call the strippers in that night just because they don't exist in our environment doesn't mean there's no respect there's a lot of respect for women in outlaw motorcycle clubs in a very old-school kind of way I mean I've seen people get their heads caved in on a Friday night they've made a passing comment to someone's partner and they've got absolutely destroyed in that sense especially a lot of the high ranking members they try to teach the young guys how to change their attitudes towards women a lot of these guys spend a lot of time in prison they haven't had relationships in the way we might have on the outside you know a lot of them have only had sexual relationships five sex workers and they haven't had intimate relationships in a kind of natural way that others might have so their thoughts might seem deranged but it's because of the way they were nurtured I think to speak to women I mean by and large they treat women with the utmost respect but there is obviously a problem and that problem is often explained by their upbringing they've seen domestic violence in their homes a lot of the time and sadly they don't know how to engage with the opposite sex how did you get involved with voice and how did you end up doing the podcast it's bit of a long story how I got involved advice but I basically are pitched a documentary that I was planning to make in the south eastern suburbs it was about a bunch of young Muslims who were being radicalized but then there was a series of raids where all those guys got incarcerated so it killed the video right entry piece and then I wrote the story for Vice and they printed it and gave me a column and then from there I just started pitching ideas and I pitched this idea about violence to try and make sense of violence in my own head by speaking to people who had been affected by it everybody's relationship to violence is different and that's why I'm always interested in how people define violence and how they make sense of it and whether they think it's necessary and when do they think it's necessary and at what point would they excuse it would they excuse it when someone's standing in their daughter's bedroom 3:00 a.m. or do they excuse it systematically like in the sense of indigenous incarceration like at what point do we need to engage with it those sorts of ideas patterns are your findings when it was a crime writer when we interview a person after person after person you start to see patterns and you start to learn about your world in all of the people that you're interviewing from I think it was an sas guy and then the Japanese I've got to say it right Yakuza what patterns are you seeing what new knowledge are you kind of going oh well every time I think I've got a pattern and I've worked out a string it's so slippery though there are way too many factors to find a clear threat with outlaw motorcycle clubs it felt more like it was about maintaining order discipline and a sense of outlaw enforcement or something with military they were defending the country unarmed and it's the same thing order discipline isn't because we're intuitive for outlaw motorcycle gangs that order which seems to be the very thing that you're escaping from ends up being a core belief hmm yeah maybe that's a pattern yeah I think that's because the military and outlaw motorcycle clubs are interconnected because the culture Springs from the military so a lot of those ideas are entrenched in the fabric of outlaw motorcycle clubs but not anymore I mean if you look at the way some clubs are operating today they're just like transnational crime syndicates they've got nothing to do with outlaw motorcycle culture at all they don't even ride bikes do they hello to them no they don't but the executions and the money everything is so so much more brazen there's no more countercultural element to it it's purely capitalism which is everything that the scene was born against yeah is anything really surprised you on your journey with during this podcast has there been a moment that's really stood out to you that I shocked you or has profoundly affected you there was a moment when I was with a team they were from the second commando regiment and just the atmosphere in a room full of men who have killed multiple people I don't know not a spiritual person but usually feel something a heightened tension and the only time I'd ever felt that before was when I was visiting acacia unit in Bowen prison which is the most supermax prison in Victoria and you've got to go through three checkpoints to just visit someone and even then you're visiting them through reinforced glass and it's all recorded but that was interesting that I had only felt that atmosphere of heightened violence and death at those two moments that was pretty shocking to me and how openly commandos talk about PTSD and how they suffer from it and the sacrifice I guess they make to themselves is it something that modus outlaw motorcycle gang members suffer from considering that you have violence and friends dying is that a new witness a lot of it these are prevalent in gangs yeah it's different because no one talks about it there are suicides that happen in outlaw motorcycle clubs but no one talks about mental health in outlaw motorcycle clubs because it's kind of assumed it comes with the territory you have to be a little bit unhinged to get involved in a life like that but for the most part the club is your escape it's your Prozac it gives you a moment to breathe when you're on the road with these guys that you really care and admire that um but it's never spoken about because I guess you're in a very macho masculine environment that exercises bravado a lot of the time you want to look tough you don't want to look like you've got problems even though people were brazenly eating xanax and prozac and Sarah call saying high doses medicating no no yet they were prescribed oh yeah it's very hard to get circle on the street yeah doctors gotta give you that I'm remembering um we did an episode with a guy called James Harding who was you know a hard man bit of stand over man while he was a stand over man and he just hit that point Maurice Ike I cannot do this anymore and he now works with men it's got a thing called hard cuddles and it's actually working with men talking about stuff that you were describing because he said when they were you know doing their jobs in the drug scene stand over stuff just people were really suffering and these men was suffering in silence and just you know no avenue to talk about these kind of things and we touch on it as well with police officers about PTSD the stuff they have to say so I think it's a really interesting point especially when you talk about men's mental health you know in the suicide rate just that space to be able to feel like you can acknowledge that you're struggling James are saying he used to have guys they'd be doing a job he said he found guys would open up to him they were struggling with feelings of fear and a lot of drugs and alcohol self-medicating in that way yeah I guess with us it was like the same way that commandos spoke about it in the sense that throughout the first few years when you're coming up you learn to desensitize to any thought that and that might give you a moral compass so by the time you are involved in serious crime there on missions or doing quite aggressive stand overs you're so desensitized to any thought pattern that everything is just off impulse and you don't care about anything you just do and the most successful or the most violent of the most brazen criminals have no critical thoughts interrupting what they're about to do it's purely impulsive and ruthless is there a toll though or an eventual toll yeah well it's like the commandos they come back but the toll is it's got a bit of a lag to it so you need something to trigger that PTSD they might call it or whatever and then it slowly creeps up and the more you distance yourself the more it preys on you yeah people do suffer from it I mean we've got to do is go to a prison visit and talk to people once they've had time away from the gear away from the drugs to really think about shit they've done they're all suffering and they're openly suffering and the prison environment doesn't help it at all it makes them worse so you mentioned you've got friends and some family members in prison do you in a way mentor them through things or you just they're as you know I'm here for you were they involved as well with the kind of life you were living or yeah you don't even need to enter them after they do five years in a prison like Darwin they know they realize what they've done wrong but it's incubated in there you can't escape it you just with people that are propelling these ideas again it's the masquerade that you do on the street is the same imprison and you just you've got an image to uphold and everyone's looking for a reason to judge you and so you have to keep up the spray face but when their family members visit them books that are all over the papers for committing multiple notice oh they'll break down in front of you they'll tell you how they really feel and yeah it's a complicated thing but yeah definitely does damage them and that's why they turn to drugs and they smoke ice because it's a momentary escape and it derails their thoughts from suffering to pure impulse what did you find the typical background to the young men who were joining the clubs when you joined you said that you were an unusual candidate because of your education what was the typical new member there isn't really a typical just purely in our club there wasn't a typical recruit yeah they're all varied some people just got out of prison some people they've been in prison they just love motorcycles but the people that wanted it for the wrong reasons they got weeded out very quickly you know you can act a certain way and have this brave face and showboat and when you've got a prospect for 12 months you get found out real quick if you act a certain way if you try to be macho in a row full of men who are who are a lot tougher than you it'll get disordered real quick if you go into an environment like that acting like you're bulletproof they'll throw you into an environment where you'll be tested and they fold very quickly I've seen guys that roided look like Annie fresh out of fucking I don't know you can look like that and have tattoos all over your head and I've seen those guys buckle the fastest it's always the quiet ones in the guys that it's just you can sense it as a feeling where where you're in the company real men all these fake guys they crumble very quickly and they don't last very long either they wound up in prison on you know some bullshit charge what are you working on at the moment still writing for Vice and working on putting out more podcast episodes and try to keep getting bigger and craziest stories hopefully throughout the whole asia-pacific region to kind of find out why people from different cultures wind up doing the same things and facing the same consequences I think it's really interesting what you're doing and I mean I've seen stuff with other people overseas that Ross Kemp doing his gang stuff but I like your approach to things because you've had the lived experience yeah being biased but they're all storytellers aren't we and you've got a really important story to tell and that's the best we can do yeah I feel like you know people have written about crime for so long but nobody's written about crime from the inside and given the criminals a platform to voice their opinion and that's a by and large main reason why I wanted to be a journalist because when I was in the club there were so many bad reports and bullshit from a lot of bullshit was written about people I knew and we will just kind of let it slide and we laughed about it but really it it creates a toxic environment because other people would read these bullshit reports in the papers and we act off them and that's what the media doesn't quite understand that when you criminals don't really talk to the media but they all read and consume the media and if someone get to report about someone attempting to murder someone or allegedly attempting to murder someone people are reading that and they react off that because they're very paranoid and they're very insecure so if it gets badly reported and it does a lot of the time and it still does a lot of the time there's severe consequences and I'll talk people get buried it's a really good insight to hear that though because I've been a journalist you know I read stuff as well I mean we're producing journalism here but yeah the power of words and think it was James again he said he reckons that criminals are the biggest he calls and gigs like gossips out they all love talking to each other what's happening yeah all just a big gossip yeah your family read it and people outside of that world did they read it and become influenced by it everybody gets influenced by motorcycle clubs go to war because of it and it's just bad reporting it's just flaky sources I don't know who their sources up and how they verify their sources and what how they verify what their sources are saying because some of it is just absurd we've had conspiracies where we believe the police were involved in leaking bad information to journalists and then a war breaks out on the street and people get murdered you

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