Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Islamic extremism is the real issue.


I woke up yesterday morning as sad as everyone else. Two innocent lives lost after entering a café on Monday morning. Dozens of other lives changed forever. After staying up until 1.30am watching Sky News’ coverage, I thought I’d get another perspective, so I switched to Channel 9. My sadness quickly became astonishment. Not at what had happened but because I was being told by Channel 9’s Mornings show to sign up to the #illridewithyou movement. Not only that, but along with other media sources, we were being told the Sydney siege had nothing to do with Islamic extremism.
#illridewithyou is meant to be an Australian show of unity and solidarity toward moderate Muslims who may fear retribution from the Sydney siege. As well intentioned as the hashtag movement is, it is diverting attention away from the real issue. We aren't against peaceful Muslims. We want to talk about the Muslims who are killing us and a media push toward #illridewithyou is quelling any attempts to do so. 

Why would we promote a hashtag movement for an imaginary backlash toward moderate Muslims when the reality is three dead bodies were carried out of a central Sydney café? They weren't lying dead because of moderate Muslims. They were dead because of yet another Islamic extremist.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see the compassion in the movement, and I like the thought behind it, but on its own and as the main focus it doesn't do anything to provide a solution to the greater problem. At best it is a feel-good non-solution to something that might or might not happen to a group of people we don’t have a problem with.

The group of people we do have a problem with and where the core issue actual lies is with fundamentalists that for whatever reason are attracted to Islam and are killing people wherever they want.

I  read plenty of commentary yesterday and it is worrying how many do claim the Sydney Siege had nothing to do with Islam. It has everything to do with Islam. The terrorists are shouting that for everyone to hear. Remember the ISIS statement in September that had Australia trembling?
"If you can kill a disbelieving American or European - especially the spiteful and filthy French - or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be."
As I write this, reports are coming through about a Taliban attack on a school in Pakistan with reportedly up to 132 children dead. Will the left-wing media claim this attack has nothing to with Islam? Will they label the Taliban "self-proclaimed clerics"?

We watched on Monday as an Islamic extremist held 17 hostages in a cafe while demanding an IS flag. He reportedly wanted everyone to know the whole saga was an ISIS attack on Australia. He was wearing an Islamic headband. Sure he may not have been known to ISIS but you're kidding yourself if you think ISIS was not a driving motivation. His extreme Islamic views were well know to Sydney police and the media. 

ISIS told us weeks ago that someone could die at Martin Square. Two innocent people did die at Martin Square at the hands of an Islamic extremist waving an Islamic flag and we pretend it has nothing to do with Islam.

How many times does it have to happen before we realise this is not an issue with mental health or “self-proclaimed clerics”? 

9/11 - Islamic extremists. Bali bombings 2002 - Islamic extremists. Jakarta Embassy bombings 2004 - Islamic extremists. Bali again 2005 - Islamic extremists. London 2005 - Islamic extremists. Delhi 2008 - Islamic extremists. Boston marathon 2013 - Islamic extremists

The common denominator is Islamic extremists. We need to face this fact and we need to act, not react. Yes the extremists are not in sync with moderate Muslims and I feel for them but the fact is, for some reason, Islam attracts terrorists. 

The longer we pretend it's not predominantly an Islamic extremism issue (while they continue to wave flags proclaiming Allah is the one true God over beheaded children or hostages in a cafe) the longer we will watch as innocent people die.

I understand the argument that #illridewithyou is an attempt to provide charity and comfort to moderate Muslims who may feel insecure on our streets and I can see the great good this might do. However it can't be a diversion from the underlying issue. We need to ask ourselves, why do we need a hashtag to protect all Muslims in the first place?

Muslims know they can come to this country as it is relatively safe in comparison to others and Australian authorities will protect them as they protect every other Australian. That’s why they do come and they are welcome. We should always look after them and everyone else. We shouldn't make them the focus of another senseless terrorist killing spree in order to display our cultural diversity.

Chris Kenny wrote a brilliant piece in today’s The Australian  and touched on this point:
“The idea that Australia needs to prove its plurality and tolerance is as wrongheaded as it is silly. We have a vibrant Muslim community precisely because hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants know and value our free and tolerant society. And it is this same plurality and liberalism that makes us a target for the Islamic extremist terrorists.”
We don’t need feel-good hashtags aimed at potential recipients in order to show unity and solidarity. Take a look at the amount of flowers left in Martin Place today and the hundreds of Sydneysiders who lined up to leave them. Listen to NSW Premier Mike Baird when he says things such as:
“…whatever the test we will face it head on and we will remain a strong democratic, civil society.”
Or when asked if the siege will change life in Sydney:
"No, it won't and no it shouldn't,.. we are incredibly proud of this city. …the values we hold dear and will continue at every day to protect them." 
“We will get through this”
These are tangible examples of solidarity and unity. I wonder how many people made a point of riding home with our Muslim friends yesterday?

Yes there have been limited examples of racist violence such as the Cronulla riots in 2005, but as Chris Kenny says:
“The few isolated cases of Islamophobic responses have normally been strongly dealt with and denounced by our citizens, not to mention our authorities.
They are always regrettable and intolerable but are far from the norm — such behaviour is simply not Australia’s way — and any attempt to find equivalence between them and deadly acts of terrorism is insulting to the victims of terror.”
Extremist Islamic terrorists must be sitting back smiling as we continually fail to grasp the root problem. While we continue to miss the point with feel-good hashtags we continue to aid ISIS and the likes.

Wake up Australia, the issue is literally on our doorstep.

All the best,
Dom Meese

* Photo courtesy of Sky News Australia

7 comments:

  1. Okay, lets accept your premise that Islam is a problem that needs to be discussed. Not ISIS, not Wahabiism, not even dare I say Sunni Islam, but just good old fashioned Islam. Very well, nice original observation there. However you on one hand seem to go out of your way to say moderate muslims are indeed not the problem but then go on to say that the religion/ideology they follow is. Is that not a bit of a contradiction?

    But I digress, assuming everyone accepts your premise that Islam is the problem as it attracts so many terrorists, what would you like to do about it?

    I'm Kafir by the way in case you were going to try and respond with an ad hominem.

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    1. Hi Anoush

      You're accepting a false premise. I never stated good old Islam per se is a problem. I said Islamic extremism is a problem. I also said for some reason, and I'm not certain as I am not an expert in Islamic faith, Islam attracts extremists. The facts and figures back that up.

      To answer your question though, no I don't believe it is a contradiction because I don't believe Islam in total is a problem. As stated the problem is those that follow it extremely, which has nothing to do with moderate Muslims.

      Cheers

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    2. That seems like a convenient stance to take when making statements such as "It is everything to do with Islam". And wishing to counter a movement whose purpose according to you is to say that it "has nothing to do with Islam".

      But very well I'll take your word for it. Nevertheless, I would be interested in seeing these facts and figures to prove that Islam, not religion, or even monotheist religions, attract extremists. Especially when comparing with facts and figures to do with anti-abortion violence committed by Christian terrorist movements as well as terrorism employed for conquest or territorial independence such as the IRA or Lords Resistance Army, which by employing your same logic can be linked with Christianity.

      I admire that you acknowledge you are not an expert in the Islamic faith because that is the very problem with your argument. Islam is not in any way homogenous. It is incredibly heterogenous at least to the same degree as Christianity if not more so. I can concede that particular philosophies of Islam such as Wahhabism attract terrorists but to say something as basic and generalising as "Islam attracts extremists" is far too basic way of understanding a very complex issue and is not helpful.

      But in any case you didn't answer all of my original questions. You suggest that the illridewithyou hash tag is preventing us from dealing with the "root problem". What is it that you want to be done that we are not doing already?

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  2. Not convenient, but factual. If a gunman, who is a recent Sunni Muslim and known extremist, asks for an IS flag, states the siege was an ISIS attack on Australia and wears a headband that stages Islamic faith, how does it not have everything to do with Islam? Interpret it as you will but that is not implying Islam per se is the problem.

    It only took a quick Google search to find the following report.

    http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/210288.pdf

    According to the The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at University of Maryland the majority of terrorist attacks in 2012 took place in countries of Islamic faith. Page 4 says:

    Although terrorist attacks occurred in 85 different countries in 2012...over half of all attacks (55%), fatalities (62%), and injuries (65)% occurred in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Page 7 lists the top 10 perpetrator groups.

    The top 3 are Islamic and many more of the ten are too.

    A friend of mine asked me the same question you have. What to do? My response is two fold. The first should be basic, the second not so.

    One, the media and public need to stop trying to convince us all that these attacks have nothing to do with Islamic extremism. Man Monis couldn't have been more obvious. He told a Sydney Morning Herald journalist in September the time for speeches was over and that he needed to do something. He also wore Islamic clothing/flags etc.

    Two, the public need to educate themselves on Islam and how it works. The problem with this is, many can't be bothered or simply don't want to.

    However, I keep asking myself, what is a the trigger that causes a need to educate ourselves on Islam in the first place?

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  3. I think you misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that there is no correlation between terrorist individuals and the faith of these individuals being Islamic, I am saying that this does not necessarily imply causation, especially when examined in combination with other aspects of these terrorist organisations such as their political/philisophical ideology, the demograhics and history of the individuals involved in these organisations, and their goals.

    One example of this was if you were to read "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism" by Robert Pape, an acclaimed American Political Scientist at the University of Chicago. Although I'm afraid I can't link you to it because it is a book, if you were to read it or even the Wikipedia page summarising it you would see that the demographics of many terrorist organisations are far more complex than being about Islam. Take Hezbollah for example. Despite it being characterised as a Shia Islamic terrorist organisation by media, statistics concerning it's suicide bombers between 1982-1986 found that only 21% identified as Islamist, 8% identified as Christian, but 71% identified as Communist/Socialist. In fact he asserted that Islamist fundamentalism had a likelihood of *decreasing* suicide bombers because it does not appeal to the majority of suicide bombers, who are in actual fact often well educated, socially integrated and highly capable people for whom Islamic fundamentalism doesn't appeal to them. So why are we not instead having a conversation about political ideologies like socialism/communism?

    This is the problem with delving into identity politics without examining the *full* profile of terrorists. You run the risk of seeing a link or pattern through confirmation bias which does not show you the necessary full picture.

    The fact that you consider Man Monis *obvious* of that is even more indicative of the problem here. Man Monis as you observed was a *recent* Sunni muslim. He in fact converted only weeks ago from Shia Islam, despite being of Iranian background which is extremely rare. Why are we not having a conversation about Iranian Sunni converts? It would certainly narrow our list down of people to watch out for.

    He was previously a practitioner of black magic, this in itself being a huge irrational stance for a Muslim to take as in sharia law black magic can be punishable by death, and ISIS certainly would have enforced that. Given atrocities committed by black magic practitioners such as Charles Manson and Mr Crowley, why are not having a conversation about black magic practitioners?

    He was an Iranian refugee. Why are not having a conversation about whether we need to amend our migration laws to stop Iranian asylum seekers coming in? (stranger things have been done in Australia in the name of national security, and I believe could be legally accomplished).

    He was incredibly mentally unstable despite statistics showing the vast majority of terrorists and suicide bombers are not in fact mentally unstable or isolated individuals. A huge indication of this was his extremely irrational behaviour including one of his demands during the siege to be provided with an authentic Islamic State flag because he did not have one himself, which surely could not have been that hard to find for himself before hand given our number of Australian citizens who have left for Syria carrying such flags. Why are we not having a conversation about the state of mental health in this country, especially for men, which is still in dire need of attention given male mental health and suicide rates?
    PART 2 TO COME, This is a very long post I’m afraid.

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  4. PART 2:
    Finally he was an extremely abusive man to women. He cheated on his wife (which by the way is also illegal in islamic law and ISIS certainly would have executed him for that too), and was physically violent and abusive to female partners. Despite this he was released on bail and parole. Why are we not having a conversation about the state of domestic violence and male violence against women, given the impunity with which many offenders are treated such as not being sentenced strongly enough, Adrian Bayley being an indication of it still being the problem?

    But of course I'm being a little facetious in highlighting all these examples, I'm not genuinely wanting every single one of these elements to be examined. What I am saying is that with tragic actions such as these making blanket judgements about what to attribute it to is not helpful, and is actually contrary to the approach of terrorism experts. I noticed for example that even with the report you linked me, although the terrorist organisations were named, their religion was not *once* mentioned, it was just something you assumed from hearing the names of the organisations. This is because attributing it to the religion is a basic and inaccurate way of understanding why terrorists do what they do. It is in actual fact our *media* who decides that a huge degree of the problem is attributed to the religion, which may be why you took that stance as well. So I disagree with you that the media characterises that these attacks have nothing to do with Islamic extremism. For some media groups that is all they talk about.

    But there is one thing we can agree on, and that is that the public does need to educate themselves about Islam and terrorism. I find it curious that you imply there is some *trigger* for needing to educate ourselves on Islam though. Islam, like many religions, has a large proprotion of practitioners and wields political power and influence in many countries. It is just as necessary for this reason to also educate ourselves on Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism, though this is not exhaustive.

    In any case I thank you for taking the time to explain your arguments to me and included evidence in support of this as well. I'm going to make this my last comment in terms of this post, though of course you are still welcome to respond and I'll be sure to read it carefully.

    Despite all the tragedies we have had in Australia in such a short space of time, I sincerely hope you have a merry Christmas, surrounded by your loved ones, and in peace.

    Anoush.

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  5. Anoush, I think we can agree on one thing, and possibly I did misunderstand you. I agree that Islam is not the cause of terrorist attacks. However, for the media and public to say it had nothing to do with Islamic extremism at all is grossly inaccurate. Sure, Islam was not the cause but like many attacks in the past 15 years, the perpetrator was an extremist of the Islam faith and was blatantly parading messages about Allah being the one God and Mohammad being his prophet.


    Islamic extremism and its link to terrorism is what we should be talking about. We should also being asking why so many terrorist attacks are attributed to Islamic extremists. We should also be asking why these people, whether mentally deranged or not, are killing in the name of Islam and Allah.

    Your example about communist attacks between 1982-86, while I don't doubt its factual validity, is not relevant to today's situation. Communism copped its fair share of criticism during those years, as well as earlier years and probably still to an extent today. It doesn't play a role in Islamic extremism, unless I am wrong, which I may be.

    Yes Monis might have been into black magic and cheated on his wife etc, but that doesn't eradicate the fact he killed two people with Islamic flags, headband etc on.

    I read an article in the Australian today that reported that while Monis might have been a recent Sunni convert, his websites and Twitter account, which had 14,000 followers, was littered with Jihadism statements.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/sydney-siege-caller-rang-to-warn-about-gunman-man-haron-monis/story-fnqxbywy-1227163352879?utm_content=SocialFlow&utm_campaign=EditorialSF&utm_source=TheAustralian&utm_medium=Twitter

    To me, it is alarming that only weeks after converting to Sunni, he went and acted on his threats. So yes, maybe we should be talking about recent Sunni converts but we should definitely not be going out of our way to claim this man was simply a nut case and the siege had nothing to do with Islamic extremism.

    Re the report I mentioned, yes it does not attribute each group to a particular religion but it doesn't need to when these groups are killing in the name of Allah. Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist leaders state(d) loudly and proudly that they will target and kill Westerners and all non-believers in the name of Allah. So I believe it is completely fair for the media to report these groups as religiously motivated. I think it is incredibly naive to suggest otherwise when the perpetrators are saying it themselves!

    I would be happy to catch up with you for a coffee one time to discuss this further. I have learnt a lot from your posts and no doubt could learn plenty more. If this is something that appeals to you, and if you live in Melbourne, leave another comment with your contact details. I will write them down and contact you and not publish the post so others don't see your details.

    Otherwise, I wish you and your family all the best over the festive season.

    Cheers
    Dom

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