Iraq and Isis

The militant action by extremist Islamic groups in Iraq has had one useful result: it has led to a much wider realisation that one substantial group of Muslims interprets its religion as prescribing violent action not only against fellow Muslims who do not agree but the Western world generally.

Although local newspaper, The Age, has not advocated military intervention in Iraq, it has editorialised that “something needs to be done” to help those being attacked there. It has also published a letter of mine (below) suggesting that serious consideration needs to be given to intervention.

The Australian has also published numerous letters drawing attention to the extremist interpretation problem and today’s editorial (below) also highlights the problem in no uncertain terms viz “Every country whose nationals are heading to the terrorist front is potentially under threat”. The Herald Sun reminds us (below) that Australia already has extremists in residence, including the group of eight which was arrested and jailed before it could implement its bombing plans at the MCG. And while the group’s leader, Benbrika, is still in jail, some members of the group he led are out and, if one reads the original convicting judgement (which I have), it is clear none will retract on the violent interpretation view.

The question is what can be done to at least reduce the risk of violent action by Islamic extremists. Although he appears now to recognise that terrorism is a serious problem, it is extremely concerning that President Obama seems unable to take a lead in condemning the violent interpretation view. UK PM Cameron has at least made public the alarming assessment revealing that the extremists in ISIS have plans to launch an attack on Britain, which effectively endorses former PM Tony Blair’s long standing and recently repeated warnings. But the potential for losing votes by attempting to restrict possible activity by extremists is high given Britain’s larger Muslim population.

Here in Australia Abbott has rightly warned of the threat (“this is a very serious situation”) and it is encouraging that consideration is being given to cancelling passports of dual nationals who have been involved in jihadism overseas and to a tighter check on the credentials of migrant applicants. But consideration is one thing: particularly given the revelation that ISIS has developed ample funding to finance its already extensive activities (see below), more open action is required.

As I have argued in public presentations on the extremist problem, a more comprehensive strategy is needed and this should include the establishment of a position of Minister for Security or Counter-Terrorism, whose tasks would include promoting the virtues of our culture, criticising extremist interpretations of Islamic culture and the publicising of polling of attitudes adopted by Muslims generally. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute should be charged with researching extremist activity and publishing widely its assessments, including on TV. (possible other action by the Federal government is discussed in a presentation I made in 2010 to the University of the Third Age on “The Threat from Islamic Extremism – Why (More than Ever) Governments Need to Lift their Act”. This is available on my web.)