Having done our duty to draw attention to the abominable slothful induction with regard to islamic terrorism on the part of our authorities, we are happy to say that we can balance that yang with yin provided by three commentators writing in last weekend’s Weekend Australian.
Yes, three people who ‘get it’, and aren’t afraid to speak truth to power in the pages of the national broadsheet.
First, excerpts from Chris Kenny, ‘Confront the facts: terror is here long term’:
You didn’t need the wisdom of hindsight to spot the folly; regular readers will know this column has often highlighted what I’ve dubbed jihad denialism.
My blog warned back in May 2013 that we were deluding ourselves: “A combination of wishful thinking, political correctness, anti-American smugness and blissful ignorance has created a zeitgeist of complacency about a threat that is still very real.”
Even as the Martin Place siege unfolded in Sydney last December – while lives were still in the balance – people were quick to claim this was not a terrorist act. And an invented case of Islamophobic abuse triggered the “I’ll ride with you” hashtag.
While more than a dozen innocent people were still held hostage at the barrel of a gun – before two of them were killed – social media was preoccupied with the imaginary personal abuse of Muslims on public transport.
Islamist extremism is a hydra-headed threat that is killing innocents, destroying nations and confounding security experts.
Since 9/11, jihadist terror has killed 130 Australians overseas. For the first time since 1915 it has claimed victims on our shores, and 41 of our soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.
In the past 13 months three innocent victims have been killed (along with three terrorists) in three attacks in suburban Melbourne, downtown Sydney and Parramatta. Yet the response to these attacks in our public debate seems no more enlightened than it was in 2001 – in some ways it has become more confused.
Politicians, law enforcement authorities and the media are reluctant to speak in forthright terms about the threat. We seem more intent on political correctness and avoiding any inadvertent offence in Muslim communities than on levelling with the public about a real and deadly threat.
This is patronising to Australian Muslims as well as to the rest of our overwhelmingly cohesive and tolerant nation. This pussy-footing also encourages common misapprehensions about the nature of the threat and how to deal with it. It leads to politicians and commentators focusing on the grievances of the extremists, which do not provide the ultimate motivation for jihadists but are often used to foment dissent and help recruitment.
A focus on these grievances – whether it is the Palestinian issue, a foreign war or alleged Islamophobia in the West, plays into the Islamists’ hands because it fans resentment in potential recruits, foments political and social discord and shifts the blame on to others …
But there is danger in paying too much regard to these grievances, even though we know they must be given some consideration to minimise opportunities for extremist recruitment.
Importantly, we must always avoid turning the blame for Islamist violence on to ourselves …
In a media conference after the Parramatta shooting, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said there was “nothing to link this event” to terrorism.
This was surprising given we later discovered the 15-year-old yelled “Allah Akbar” while he murdered a stranger and fired more shots. The commissioner has explained that at the time the gunman hadn’t been identified. Yet days later the ABC was railing against what it called the terrorist “narrative”, preferring to explain the shooting as a response to school bullying.
On ABC radio’s PM program reporter Peter Lloyd said: “The (terrorism) narrative is supported only by the violent execution of a police employee by a teenager expressing disputed phrases before he was gunned down.”
Mental health issues, social dislocation and access to weapons are all, of course, live issues and contribute to these events, but the ideology and motivation is Islamist extremism and it manifests itself in terrorism. This is what we are up against.
Once a person has committed to jihadist extremism, anything can be a weapon – terrorists have used bombs, knives, cars, planes, ropes or have thrown people from buildings – and anyone a victim.
Those who use the low number of domestic victims to downplay the threat conveniently forget the mass attacks that have been thwarted (the AFL grand final was a target, as was the Holsworthy army base) or the real potential for any single suicidal extremist to kill many more than we have seen in Australia so far. Even the limited domestic attacks have levied a heavy toll in security costs, inconvenience, public concern and social disquiet.
Whether or not some people refuse to see this evil, hear about it or speak its name, Islamist extremism still will be a pernicious threat. We are dealing with an unspeakable evil – Salman Rushdie has called it a “deadly mutation in the heart of Islam” [Ed: yes, some people still don’t get the message that terrorising infidels is not a mutation but part of islam’s genetic programming: to use a common phrase, it is not a ‘bug’, but a ‘feature’ of islam. Even Kenny doesn’t want to admit the truth of this.] – capable of flying passenger planes into buildings, bombing nightclubs or beheading innocents …
Such facts can’t be dismissed as scaremongering. The unifying thread is Islamist extremism and it is among us now …
This is an insidious dilemma we will be confronting for decades to come. While the political/media class may like to create its own politically correct hierarchy of threats and carefully select its own vague language, it doesn’t get to choose the extent or nature of the terrorist threat. That will be decided by the Islamist extremists.
Next, excerpts from Gerard Henderson, ‘It may be unfashionable to say so, but Abbott’s ‘Team Australia’ does make a lot of sense’:
On Tuesday, senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, when speaking of Cheng’s murder, said “young people can go off the rails for a number of reasons”. But shooting a victim at the back of the head at point-blank range on a public street is not what the term “going off the rails” means …
Sure, the overwhelming majority of Muslim Australian are peaceful and law-abiding. But a small minority are not. All those who are serving, or have served, time in Australian prisons for terrorism-related offences are Muslim. According to the available evidence, Jabar shouted “Allah, Allah’ before he murdered Cheng. Moreover, as Tony Blair pointed out earlier this month, Islamists enjoy “significant” sympathy within mainstream Muslim communities.
And some fearless RealTalk from Rodger Shanahan, ‘In the PR war, don’t mention the R-word’:
The desire to airbrush religion form terrorist and foreign fighter recruitment activity has seen politicians and public figures tying themselves into knots.
Trying to avoid using the R-word, NSW Police Commissioner Andre Scipione noted during his press conference about the Parramatta police shooting last weekend that “we believe (teenage gunman Farad Jabar’s) actions were politically motivated and therefore linked to terrorism”. There was no mention of the nature of that political motivation or why religion wasn’t considered to be a motive.
The federal Criminal Code Act 1995 defines a terrorist act as advancing a political, ideological or religious goal.
The following day, Fairfax Media columnist Tim Dick spoke of the shock of the act and that it was not so much the murderer’s “obscure political purpose”, but his age that was of concern.
Without doubt his age was concerning, but again there was no mention of what that political purpose was, or nay thought that it could equally have involved an obscure religious purpose.
Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs Concetta Fierravanti-Wells recently claimed that some young people were attracted to becoming foreign fighters because they had been lured with promises of drugs, women and weapons, while others went with criminal intent so they could rape, plunder and pillage.
Nowhere in any of this is there a sense that the motivation may be religious, or that most videos glorifying the fight in Syria and Iraq are about helping Islam to victory over the unbelievers, idolators and apostates the jihadists claim are arrayed against them, and to impose Islamic law over the lands it conquers.
The unpalatable reality is that the actions of domestic terrorists and foreign fighters and their facilitators are not politically motivated, they are religiously motivated.
People aren’t attracted to fighting in Syria or Iraq because they’re Arab nationalists or Syrian-Australian dual-citizens or would-be humanitarian workers or because it’s cool. They’re attracted because it gives them a sense of empowerment through their religious identity. Recruiters portray such jihad as part of a distorted sense of religious obligation and social media is awash with religious references to the fighting.
When as influential a religious figure as Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Egyptian cleric watched by tens of millions on TV network Al Jazeera Arabic, told a rally in Qatar in May 2013 that every Muslim trained and capable of fighting should do so in Syria, then you know that this is about religion.
Police and politicians naturally treat cautiously in ascribing intent to violent actions before they have sufficient information, and politicians want to lower the temperature by avoiding besmirching winter communities for the actions of a few. This is understandable and commendable, but if we don’t acknowledge the religious aspect to the radicalisation process then we will have no hope of understanding or resolving this phenomenon.
There are two forces of radicalisation in Australian (and other Western) Muslim communities: disengagement from mainstream society and engagement with an interpretation [Ed: yes, apparently even Rodger is caught up in the excuse that it’s a matter of interpreting such verses as Surah 9.5: ‘kill them wherever you find them’] of Islamic that condones, if not demands, the killing of others. The first of these forces is the one security agencies and the community concentrate on, with good reason …
The second force, engagement with a religious identity that is intolerant of others to the extent of demanding violence against them, is entirely new territory and one in which Australia is thankfully not experienced. This force, unfortunately, has emerged from the contemporary Muslim community.
Authorities are concerned that attraction to this intolerant strain of Islam [Ed: is there any other ‘strain’?] is spreading to an increasingly younger demographic. But we shouldn’t equate what we are seeing with normal teenage contrarianism, as some have tried to do. While teenagers are programmed to rebel, secular, Buddhist, Hindu or Christian adolescents in Australia are not rebelling by seeking to kill people in far-off lands in the name of religion, or plotting to kill their fellow countrymen for the same reason. The overwhelming majority of Muslim teenagers are not seeking to kill people either, but the uncomfortable fact is that some are.
So the question needs to be asked and answered: why have some interpretations of Islam motivated hundreds of Australian and thousands of European Muslims to go to the Middle East to kill others, or seek to kill on home soil?
Such a question is an uncomfortable one to ask in a multicultural society such as ours. To ask it is not to be an Islamophobe. Indeed, I would argue that not to address the issue leaves the field open to Islamophobes to vent their intolerant and uninformed views.
Addressing these issues of religions identity is one in which not only the government and Islamic community leaders have a role, but the Islamic clerical leadership too. The authorities can talk all they like about inclusiveness and tolerance and multiculturalism, but they have no religious credential s and can’t quote the sunnah or hadith to invalidate erroneous Islamic concepts. This is the preserve of Islamic clerics.
And while the clerics undoubtedly say the right things in the closed confines of the Friday khutbah at mosque [Ed: not a safe assumption] and the radicalised fringe will ignore them, they are virtually absent from the broader national debate and effectively invisible to the broader public.
Muslim community leaders frequently accuse the government of failing to undertake meaningful dialogue with them, but a similar accusation could be levelled at the community itself …
Being a religious leader requires one to lead. Clerical leaders need to engage with the public and explain why some Muslims are attracted to the idea of killing in the name of religion. They need to explain what they are doing to promote the peaceful interpretation of Islam. Advocacy for fighting in the name of Islam is not coming just from Google, Twitter and Facebook, as the Grand Mufti claimed. It is also coming from foreign and local clerics.
So a more aggressive counter-narrative needs to be adopted, including the public criticism of other Islamic scholars when necessary. The clerics, for example, could have loudly and publicly repudiated the views of Qaradawi. They could have attacked the irreligious nature of minor clerics such as Australian citizen Mustafa Majzoub, who fought and died in Syria, rather than let him be portrayed as some form of humanitarian worker. [Ed: And why do you think they didn’t? Might it be that they silently agree with these clerics? Might it be that the Koran gives them no leeway to agree with these people? Start thinking, please.]
What we need are more examples of that Australian national characteristic: straight talking.
And not just from the clerics, Rodger. But also from our journalists and politicians and police leaders.