Recently, I’ve come across some high-quality articles written recently countering, either directly or indirectly, the slothful induction plaguing so much commentary on the relationship between islam and terrorism.
First, Gerard Henderson, writing in the Weekend Oz on October 18:
On October 5, I appeared with The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe plus others on the ABC’s Insiders program. Seccombe criticised the Prime Minister’s statements about Islamists. Abbott’s comments were directed at his government’s policy of attempting to prevent radical Sunni Islamists departing Australia with the intention to kill Shia Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.
Seccombe’s position was that the Prime Minister exaggerated the threat of Islamic State fighters to Australia and Australians. He alleged Abbott is “clearly conflating a small handful of allegedly Islamic – but really, you know, not; they’re Islamic in the same way the Nazis were Christian, right?”
No. Wrong on all points. Those who have joined Islamic State are avowedly Islamic. Moreover, they plan to establish a Sunni caliphate ruling in accordance with sharia law. Seccombe may claim the members of Islamic State are not Islamic but that is not how they view themselves. His approach is an attempt to distance Islam from Islamist extremists.
The Seccombe threw the switch to moral equivalence. Hence his line that the “Naizs were Christians”. In face, the Nazi movement was a secular organization that advocated paganism …
When I mentioned to Seccombe on-air that Nazism was a secular movement, he was none too impressed. During a break in the program, while a video clip was shown, I commented that Pope Pius XI had condemned Nazi German in a papal encyclical in 1937. Seccombe looked at me as if I had made this up. In such discussions, a little bit of historical knowledge can be helpful …
Obviously the Nazis overwhelmingly targeted Jews, not Christians. But the Nazi leaders were not Christian. The unfashionable fact is that Islamic State’s leaders are all Muslim. It’s just that alienated types such as Seccombe and Flanagan like to underestimate the intentions and beliefs of the West’s enemies.
Secondly, while cleaning through some old papers I came across this article by Clive Kessler in The OZ of May 27 last year:
To give tacit assent to the proposition that beheadings have no place in the history of Islam – and that those who behead others are acting (as London Mayor Boris Johnson rushed forward to suggest) purely out of their own private tortured imaginations and draw nothing from Islamic tradition – is simply dishonest, intellectually and politically.
“It is completely wrong to blame this killing on Islam,” Johnson said. “The fault lies with the warped mindset of those who did it.” For him this was an “obvious point”, not a gesture of appeasement nor the thin end of a capitulationist wedge.
It is condescending. It fails to take Islam and its history seriously. It is irresponsible and it is disappointingly inadequate. Better is needed and owed.
This society needs to be able to conduct a mature and responsible discussion about Islamic civilization, its evolution and its relation to the societies of the West.
To do so, we must find, and make available, a place for that kind of informed consideration.
That place lies in the space between two extreme positions – two polar opposites that, in so many ways, are mirror images of each other and of each other’s terrible simplicities.
On the one side stand those, the defensive community apologists, who say: Islam is ours, it is us, and it is without flaw or fault. Don’t you who are not part of it dare to speak of us or to touch upon it in any way.
On the other are those such as Geert Wilders, who say: Islam is you over there and it is no part of us, it is the other; moreover, it is inherently bad and for decent people it is beyond the pale.
The neglected, and still largely uncultivated, space in between them is the terrain where responsible discussion of these issues may take shape, where the “clarification and negotiation of differences” can occur – and where the basis of a decent “sharing of the world can be worked out.
That space, and that process of engagement, needs to be filled with something better than the facile – and ultimately fearful, not respectful – evasion of Cameron and Johnson.
And lastly, David Kilcullen in the Weekend Oz of November 1 just past:
While ever there’s an entity – Islamic State, al-Qa’ida, the Taliban – that can attract and motivate disaffected young people in our societies, preying on their idealism and alienation, drawing them into what the late, great Time correspondent Jim Frederick called a “hyperviolent, nihilistic band of exterminators”, the threat will remain. WE can lock down our societies, destroying them in the process, or we can seek to remove that entity …
Attackers are often disenfranchised, alienated, marginalized young people, frequently converts: society’s losers, who see radical Salafi-jihadist ideology as a way to be part of something big, historic and successful. They’re not really self-radicalised. Rather, they often access online terrorist materials (increasingly in English) for inspiration, instruction and training, or link up online with radicals who groom them for action …
The emergence of Islamic State has reinvigorated a global movement that seemed to be flagging after the death of Osama bin Laden and in the wake of the Arab Spring. Salafi-jihadist groups in North Africa, South Asia, Indonesia, The Philippines and even Latin America have been re-energised by the movement’s success in Iraq and Syria, and by the declaration of the caliphate.
Kilcullen’s article is worth reading in full.