In his eponymously titled January 11, 2016 article for The Australian, Henry Ergas leads off with a quote by the eminent French political philosopher, Pierre Manent: “Political correctness, is the language of those who are terrified about what would happen if they stopped lying”.
While writing about France and Islam, Manent could just as easily be talking about a concerning trend here in the antipodes: counter-radicalisation (de-rad theory) theory being used as a screen by a group of university academics for making a plethora of excuses for Muslim (and only Muslim) extremism here in Australia.
Muslim extremism operating in Australia is not, as those academics and politically correct media outlets here would exhort you to believe, the result of passive youth and others not so young “being radicalised”. It is about active agency.
Intentional use of the passive in sympathetic narratives by these disingenuous academics intentionally shifts the responsibility for anarchic violent behaviour to other actors. Some of these actors are variously labelled “society”, “the system”, “politics”, “radical mosques/imams” “racism” or, when all else fails, “the government”.
For example, mainstream media will blithely tell you that Australian Muslims like Mohamed Elomar and Khaled Sharrouf “were radicalised” here even though they were born in Australia.
Elomar, a Sydney-born boxer of Lebanese origin with a reputation for fighting dirty, “was radicalised” by notorious local hate-preacher Shekh Feiz Mohammad, also cited as a spiritual inspiration to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder of the Boston Bomber brothers.
Sharrouf, also born in Sydney of Lebanese parents, was, as the ABC’s Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop frames it “… a former drug addict and petty criminal with a long history of mental illness…”. He “was radicalised” by Melbourne based spiritual leader sheikh Abdul Nasser Benbrika, who was later jailed for 15 years for incitement to terror.
Junaid Thorne, a Perth (whew!…) ‘sheik’ with links to extremist groups including Millatu Ibrahim blames “the targeting of Muslims by the government and the media” for Muslim radicalisation and extremism in Australia. In essence, he claims to have “been radicalised” in Australia, because, he claimed, “…Muslim women are being attacked in the street’ in response to “the government” raising a terror alert “simply to justify the arrest and oppression of Muslims.”
Wassim Doureihi, yet another Sydney Muslim and member of Hizb ut Tahrir (a pan-Islamic political organisation, which has its aim the re-establishment of “the Islamic Khilafah), refused to condemn the violence and beheadings carried out by IS in the Middle East. Doureihi, for his part, “became radicalised” by Western governments’ (and Australia’s) “centuries of colonial occupation” and “interference in the Islamic lands”.
Sydneysider Mohammad Ali Baryalei, (sorry Sydney, nothing personal…), an Afghan refugee child migrant who became “…a drug-abusing brothel tout with underworld connections…” (thank you for clearing that up, Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop….), was Australia’s senior-most Daesh recruiter. He claimed that after 9/11, he felt he “was made” unwelcome in Australia despite having lived here 20 years previously (at that time) as a regular Aussie kid and teenager….
Zaky Mallah, a 31 year old Australian Muslim from……..Sydney who was jailed for terror related offences for two years states that one of the reasons young men find IS attractive is because it is a “war machine”. “People love guns, they love armies, they love tanks … it’s like a game,” he says.
Ismail al-Wahwah, a Hebron-born ‘sheikh’(!!) who lives in………Sydney and who goes by the nom de guerre of Abu Anas [true] (enough giggling all u Hebrew speakers…) supports revolution to overthrow non-Muslim countries or regimes backed by the West. As an Australian Islamist who enjoys Australian pluralism and free-speech, al-Wahwah supports a total ban on alcohol in Australia and mandates Islamic dress for all Australians, Muslim and non-Muslim. He also wants Arabic to be the world’s only language. But that’s not all. In September 2015, Abu Anas addressed Muslims in Sydney’s Lakemba where, in Jordanian accented Arabic, exhorted Muslims to wipe out the Jewish race; beginning (presumably) here in Australia. Surrounded by chanting flag wavers, he warned Jews should not expect to “live in safety” anymore.
Being greatly averse to being killed for being a Jew, I posit that such demonization of ‘other’, fuelled by Islamist religious belief here in Australia, makes a mockery of Australian pluralism. And Australian academics, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who use “de-rad” theory to deconstruct public-interest practical counter terror measures to Islamism to intellectualise violent, criminal, anti-human rights behaviour should no longer get the free pass many in the media allow them.
It is un-Australian to blame everyone but the terrorist(s) and their active enablers for their actions.
And it is disingenuously immoral for some (Muslim and non-Muslim) Australian academics to dissemble behind government research grants to theorize Islamist extremism within a paradigm of post colonial theory and blame-shifting, and not offer any similar analysis for the phenomenon of non-Muslim extremism in this country. Using intellectual discourse that analyzes and ‘explains’, Australian Muslim extremism within a framework of post colonial theory or metanarratives of any caliphate, real or imagined is unfair to those non-Muslim Australians who “are radicalised” by the advent of Islamism in Australia. Societies need to ensure respect for each and every person regardless of ethnicity or religion.
There are many more examples. However, the aim of this brief article is not to catalogue violent, racist Australian Islamists, but to highlight the unthinking ease with which this group of academics with links to overseas colleagues in the universities of Britain and America ascribes agency to other.
Blogger Iain Hill (August, 2014) may have got it mostly right when he wrote:
“…the fault for that [ascribing agency to other – author] has something to do with the sort of “hands off” and “don’t critque any aspect of an immigrant’s culture” mindset that is integral to the ideology of “multiculturalism” as it has been practiced here. If any sort of cultural critique is avoided or actively discouraged then we get the likes of Sharrouf and Elomar going on their head-chopping holidays.
….apologists for Islam will tell me that the majority of Muslim Australians are not all like Sharrouf and Elomar and I have no trouble accepting that. However, that small truth hides a bigger and more important fact, and that is that at its heart, Islam is just not suitable or at all consistent with a modern secular society that embraces personal autonomy and freedom of thought. (Iain Hall, Aug. 2014)
In Australia, there is currently a trend with a certain cadre of academics to white-wash such Islamists and bring them under a wider (and much less specific) banner of research into ‘online extremism’. Agency by Muslims here being generally sheeted home to others and not dealt with in the realm of personal choice and hence, personal responsibility.
A person chooses to become radicalised. S/he chooses to incite others. S/he chooses to kill. It is never the fault of anybody or anything else.
If I could give Sydney and its Islamists a miss for moment and move all the way across the pond: The defence for the younger Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, for example, cited the mitigating circumstances that Tsarneav’s parents divorced, he flunked out of college, and that he lost his financial aid at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth because of his woeful academic performance. Further, they sought to mitigate the calculated terror of Tsarnaev’s murders in the name of Islam a result of “being influenced” by his older brother (a boxer…..), of “being radicalised” by Anwar al Awlaki, US-born al Qaeda propaganda master, of being susceptible to Internet propaganda.
Not to be outdone, Tsarnaev blamed his college failure on events in “..Chechnya, a republic occupied by Russian soldiers where Muslims were being killed.” Even if Muslims were being killed in an insurrection in Chechnya, what all of that had to do with killing 3 Americans and injuring 250 other Americans as an Islamist, in Boston, has never been adequately explained.
After all, Tsaranev personally texted his friend that he strove for Jannah (paradise, as he understood it, for only a select few) through the shortcut of martyrdom. Tsarnaev personally believed that trouble in Muslim Chechnya justified his stated belief that it was the duty of Muslims to kill ALL nonbelievers if Muslims were being persecuted anywhere in the world; hence Boston…
The passive construction used so glibly by media and some Australian academics to frame Australian Islamists wilfully blurs the relationship between agent and action. “It deflects responsibility elsewhere, or omits it altogether, treating “radicalism” as a contagion that infects its host upon first contact.” (Caschetta, 2016). Citing Gore Vidal’s line that “the popular Fu Manchu theory that a single whiff of opium will enslave the mind” Caschetta, additionally points out that the one-whiff theory is “…not a good metaphor for Islamism. Islamism is inculcated over time. Teachers spread it schools…Imams and community leaders reinforce it in mosques and Islamic centres. Some communities ignore it, and some families tolerate it. ‘Sudden Jihad Syndrome’ only appears sudden to outsiders.”
The “was radicalized” construction is widely used in the media mostly by thoughtless repetition, and in certain sectors of Australian academia here as a ploy to deliberately obfuscate this seemingly inoffensive passive construction to provide a way to avoid what has increasingly become the un-nameable: Islamism as personal choice.
No, people make choices. Like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Australian Islamists cited above are/were social-media-savvy global jihadis who make/made personal choices. They were universally anti-social choices, not because we are Australian, but because they chose to abuse Australian traditions of a ‘fair go’, democracy, decency and tolerance.
It is time to stop ignoring personal responsibility in the realm of threatened radical Islamic terror in Australia. For this growing group of Australian academics who put out policy papers which advise our governments, “…counterterrorism policy must recognize that jihadists are not created accidentally or spontaneously. Speaking and writing as though they are…hinders clear thinking. And as Orwell put it, “to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political [and social -author] regeneration…”” (Caschetta, 2016)..
It is time, then, to examine more closely, the published papers and easily absorbed inferences of those Australian academics who deconstruct the principles of counter-terrorism to mask the real challenge to this country.
In the end, I believe Pierre Manent puts it best: “A free society is not one that gives equal respect to all opinions; it is one that gives equal respect to all persons, while treating every opinion as open to vigorous criticism”.
That’s the multicultural Australia I’m talkin ‘bout.