Monthly Archives: January 2016

When faith takes up arms, silence is no option

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.

Not what it says on the tin….

A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, I initiated a conversation with a tweeter who stated that articles written by him on violent extremism, left and right, had earned him plenty of hate mail here in Australia. Over time, Wahid al-Jamal told me that violence and extremism of any colour were anathema to him and that Daesh was an evil, corrupt and violent organisation which did not represent Islam. Intrigued, particularly because he identified as being a Lebanese Muslim, I began thinking about the nexus between that statement and the case of Arab terror in Israel. Specifically, I explored the nexus between ongoing violent Arab terror in Israel and academia.

I do not talk about “Palestinian” terror, because the term Palestine as it used in the ME conflict is an Arab-paid, Russian-inspired marketing subterfuge to corrupt and mislead once-honest UN organisations, and to garner the support of generally well-meaning, altruistic, democratic Europeans who cannot, or do not know/care how to confirm facts for themselves.

Marketed as victims in an on-going ‘resistance’ against a foreign colonial oppressor, the current Arab-Israeli conflict now essentially involving Hamas, Fatah and Hezbollah (HFH) on Israel’s eastern, western and northern borders respectively, has cornered the international market with a narrative that is as false as it is absurd.

But, more importantly, in the Israeli context, it has turned on its head paradigms of right, of justice, and of decency and subverted well-intentioned international law striving to avoid conflict that saw two horrendous world wars in twenty years, into the very tool used by the Arab League and its European enablers, to discriminate against a Jewish State that has arguably given more to the world in numerous fields of endeavour in 50 years than Islam has contributed in the past 800 years. What three wars failed to achieve, a Judenrein ME, the Arab Muslims hope to achieve through lawfare.

In the narrative I mentioned above, the central theme is the delegitimisation of the State of Israel on the grounds of illegal occupation driven by greedy colonising European Jews with no claim to a Muslim-majority Levant.

It also includes the claims that “Palestinians” are indigenous to the Levant, that Jesus was a “Palestinian”; that the polity “Palestine” has existed since before the Roman conquests and that the very “Palestinians” themselves are descended from the extinct Canaanites who disappeared as a group some 3000 years ago.

The vast majority of “Palestinians” today are, by definition, Muslims.That they should claim that they are descended from a tribe which vanished some two thousand years before the birth of Mohammad is unususal. That they should claim “Palestine” as a polity is downright odd because if it was a polity, then at the very least it would reasonably be a Roman or Jewish polity…… Or that the Romans then converted to Islam before Mohammad was born. Or that todays Jews are apostatic Muslims who lived in Abrahamic times knowing full well that they were always “Palestinian”.

Or something.

In recent polls in December 2015, 63% of Arabs in Judea and Samaria said they believed in violent jihad as the path to creating a “Palestinian” state. Israel’s own Israeli Arabs, on the other hand showed a majority vote to remain in Israel and not transfer to the Palestinian Authority if a two-state solution came to pass…..

Historically, these “Palestinians” are descendants of migrants from Transjordan, Southern Syria and Egypt. Mainly farmers and small traders, many, too, came from modern-day Iraq following news of better living and farming standards in Jewish Judea and the Galilee following the land purchases of the early Zionists and the draining of the marshes.

As for those Muslims (read Islamists) who believe in a crusade (jihad) against whoever is flavour of the month, I refer to the article “Foreign Terrorist Fighters: Terrorists or freedom fighters?” by Hamed El Said from Manchester University citing Scott Atran’s 23 April 2015 speech on Daesh to the UNSC: “None of the ISIS fighters we interviewed in Iraq had more than primary school education, some had wives and young children. When asked ‘what is Islam?’ they answered ‘my life.’ They knew nothing of the Quran or Hadith, or of the early caliphs Omar and Othman, but had learned of Islam from Al Qaeda and ISIS propaganda, teaching that Muslims like them were targeted for elimination unless they first eliminated the impure.

What this implies in the Israeli context is that while a relatively few Muslims in the 67 year Arab-Israeli conflict were undoubtedly motivated by idealism and empathy for perceived injustices, the vast majority of the Levantine Arabs, the footsoldiers who sustained Arafat’s war lacked even “…basic knowledge of Islam and [had] more varied and diversified motivations’ (Said 2015).

As an aside, I was amused when Said’s article went on to talk about the issue of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs…) in Arab conflicts in Syria and the problematicity of what to do with those people when they returned back to homes in Europe and elsewhere. I quote: “There are also FTFs who are joining other war-zone areas in different parts of the world. The total number of FTFs that are currently involved in fighting for one group or another around the world, according to the same UN Report mentioned earlier, exceeds 30,000 individuals. As a Canadian researcher noticed: “There are also dozens of other Canadians who have fought in Sri Lanka, Somalia, Israel, (emphasis added) and Afghanistan…” Said is referring here to Foreign Terrorist Fighters fighting in the IDF……

Invoking Mark Sageman, and quoting Malet, Said continues: “Whenever and wherever there were injustices, whether real or perceived, certain individuals motivated by empathy, compassion, idealism, and the desire to help others take action to correct what they perceive as injustices. This was the case in Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa, Cuba’s Castro…and Israel (emphasis mine) in its wars against the Arabs (Sageman, 2008). Israel calls the equivalent of its own FTFs “Lone Soldiers.” Today, the Israeli Army itself “reports 4,600 foreign Lone Soldiers currently serving” in its ranks, “over one-third of whom are American (it is unclear how many hold dual citizenship)” (Malet, 2014).

If you are one of the three readers of my blog, you will know that the Israeli Hayal Boded is so called because she has no family in Israel during her army service. To equate Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Israeli Lone Soldiers in an anthology devoted to countering violent terrorism as Said does, says much about the integrity of this academic. Either that, or his is a propaganda puff piece for those who provide his research grant. This because I do not accept that someone writing in the field of countering extremist violence is not astute enough or diligent enough to research his terms.

On the one hand, I know that professors, even in Manchester, are only human. On the other, however, I know too that in conflating the horrors of Nazi German ideology, the pain and injustice of apartheid South Africa and the wild ideological excesses of Cuban socialism with the birth of modern Israel Said compounds his earlier error of fact and is, at this stage, no longer making an error. Rather, it appears to be an insidious attempt to fly under the radar of informed and knowledgeable academia and to influence those who simply do not have time to check facts. And for those of the populace who rely solely on electronic media for their “fast-facts’ world view, writing like Said’s only distances, not engenders, meaningful cooperation with what essentially appears to be a Muslim think-tank.

In allowing himself the luxury of partisan socioreligious perspectives in linking Israel as a de facto violent extremist entity, Hamed El-Said dissembled behind the mantle of academic ‘respectability’ and used it as a Trojan horse to permeate an anthology devoted to countering extremist violence.

It was not what the writing said on the tin……….