Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Terror, Response and Responsibility

Former UK Police Commissioner Lord Stevenson is partially correct. Writing in the News of the World, he remarked:

“When will the Muslim community in this country accept an absolute, undeniable,
total truth: that Islamic terrorism is THEIR problem?”
His comments echo those of former National Crime Commission head Peter Faris and others who argue that, while all Muslims aren’t terrorists, all terrorists are Muslims. Faris has even argued that special ID cards should be introduced which identify a person’s religion.

Yes, terrorism is a Muslim problem, but not (and in some cases, not just) for the reasons polemicists and Muslim-haters suggest. Rather (or in addition), it is a problem because Muslims are victims of terror.

In fact, more Muslims than non-Muslims have died in terrorist attacks in Indonesia, Pakistan, Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey and other Muslim-majority states. Almost each day, the same number of people die in Iraq as died in London on 7/7.

So how does characterising terror as essentially Islamic assist in the fight against terrorism? Apart from upsetting Muslims, who are just as much victims as anyone else, what does it achieve?

Indeed, it isn’t just a tiny minority of Muslims seeking to kill and maim people or seeking to finance such operations.

In recent years, UK and Australian police have also conducted raids on members of Tamil expatriate communities, believing some Tamil migrants are financing the Tamil Tigers, an organisation again actively pursuing terrorism in Sri Lanka.

Tamil Tigers have turned suicide bombing into an art form. Their antics have killed and injured civilians not just in Sri Lanka but across the Indian sub-Continent including a former Indian Prime Minister. And they aren’t the only fanatics killing in the name of some ethno-religious identity.

Some fringe American Indian organisations are known to be supporting and bankrolling the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Pro-RSS programs are regularly played on Sydney community radio stations. Scottish writer William Dalrymple has documented the RSS’s record in orchestrating the killing of literally thousands of members of religious minority communities in India, including Australian Catholic missionaries.

In 2002, RSS activists systematically slaughtered over 3,000 people in Gujarat. That’s more than the combined toll in the total civilian toll in Lebanon and Israel over the past month of shelling and bombardment.

But in what sense do the activities of the Tamil Tigers and the RSS reflect on Hinduism and Hindus? Are we hearing calls for Hindus to fight extremism from among their ranks?

But as the saying goes, never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Some people want to believe that all terrorism is committed by Muslims. And that all forms of Islamic teaching support chauvinism and terror and violence.

There are those like Canadian theatre critic Mark Steyn for whom the world is a stage effectively divided into two camps – Muslims and the civilised West. In an article for London’s Daily Telegraph, Steyn once remarked that violent trouble-makers always seem to have the name Muhammad.

Of course, Muhammad is also a name shared by some extraordinary people. Including American boxing legend Muhammad Ali and famous sufi poet Muhammad Jelal ad-Din Rumi.

In fact, Muhammad is the world’s most common male name. So if certain terrorists are named Muhammad, what does that prove?

Of course, Steyn is no intellectual, nor is he a law enforcement expert. Steyn is a polemicist trying to be funny. But the issues he pokes fun at aren’t so humorous. By giving terrorism the label of “Islamic” and by marginalising Muslims, Steyn effectively becomes a polemicist for real terrorists who want the world to believe their acts are genuinely Islamic.

In effect, Steyn is providing free propaganda services for groups like al-Qaida.

Terrorists are killing people. They are killing more people in Iraq and Pakistan and other Muslim countries, even more than they are killing people in Western and European cities like London and New York and Madrid and Istanbul.

But returning to Lord Stevenson. All this talk of Muslims needing to loudly shout and scream and dance and sing and pierce their nipples and tattoo their buttocks with anti-terror messages is just plain nonsensical and counter-productive. I mean, how many times do we need to condemn terrorism when we always seem to be its primary victims?

Those who claim Muslims don’t condemn terror enough obviously cannot be helped by myself. The best advice I can give them is to visit an ENT specialist and get their hearing checked.

In fact, rather than focussing all their resources on loudly condemning terror, Muslims need to keep doing what they have always done - to be vigilant, to report any unusual behaviour they notice, to always be on the lookout.

At the same time, Muslims need to work with their countrymen and women who are committed to fighting those forces working against social cohesion. They need to fight the likes of Mark Steyn, Pauline Hanson and other members of the “white trash brigade” (no, these aren’t my words) who use people’s legitimate fears about terrorism to spread conspiracy theories in the manner similar theories were spread by supporters of National Socialism against Jews in the first half of the 20th century.

Most importantly, Muslims need to continue supporting Australian values. We need to be truly conservative, to support our multicultural status quo. We need to resist the monocultural revolution currently supported by some of the near-senile fruitloops and Joh-for-PM enthusiasts that congregate from time to time on op-ed pages.

At the same time, Muslims need to take on board that miniscule 2% of Steyn’s white-trash message perhaps worth considering. When Mark Steyn says that Muslims need to recognise terrorists from amongst their ranks, we should agree and do something about it.

And that means opposing those forces within our community that foster extremism. We need to recognise our own Mark Steyns – the thick-Sheiks, the mad Mullahs and those preaching an isolationist form of religion that breeds resentment and hatred.

Muslim communities need to start looking inward. For too long, we have been focussing on just being ordinary Aussies lie everyone else. Meanwhile, our mosques and institutions are being dominated by non-English-speaking muftis and middle-aged men who treat Islam as a foreign cultural artefact.

We also need to protect our most vulnerable ones – young people and Muslim converts – from the nefarious influence of religious nutcases seeking to preach a fringe suicidal ideology. The best means of inoculating young and new Muslims is to expose them to mainstream theology.

Muslims also need to assist governments, law enforcement and intelligence officials by providing them with information (and not just apologetics) about the nature of politicised Islamist ideologies and their influence in Australia. We need to provide real information to ensure that officials don't just hear and believe the tripe that emerges from the xenophobic lunatic-fringe.

To some extent, Lord Stevenson and Mark Steyn are right. Muslims desperately need to expose and deal with their own Mark Steyns. Muslims also need to provide real facts and information about themselves.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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