I am nominating today’s commentary as a Special Issue not because it is grand final day but because The Age has published my letter in today’s edition with only minimal editorial change and as No 2 in the list. The Heading is unfortunate, however. It really only applies to the No1 letter, which was authored by an honorary senior fellow at Melbourne University. He argues that IS should not be associated with Islam itself as there are many examples in history of the “death cult” which Abbott attributes to IS and those death cults, he claims, have not been associated with religion. Such comments illustrate the extent of ignorance of Islam even amongst educated people and make one wonder how such honorary positions are obtained at my old university.
Interestingly, while The Australian and the Financial Review have run editorials on the issue, neither The Age nor the Herald Sun did. Both, however, had front page photos of Haider’s funeral, with the Herald Sun showing a woman covered fully in black (except for eye slots) and headed “Death Stare, Mourner Wears Provocative Black Mask to Funeral”.
More generally, today’s press contain a plethora of articles and analyses relevant to assessing the extent of the terrorist threat. These all reinforce what I have been stressing viz
there is an urgent need to bring out into the open that a not insignificant proportion of Muslims in Australia accept the use of violent behaviour and public statements need to be made saying that advocacy of violence by any actual religion (or presented as such) is not acceptable and must be made a criminal offense. It has become absurd for our leaders to continue running the line that those advocating violence or actually using it have no religious connection. But if that is regarded as impolitic they should at least acknowledge that there are large groups committing or advocating violence and which purport to reflect the Muslim religion.
Terrorist Threat in Australia
The background story on the radicalisation of Haider is not complete but it adds considerable weight to impressions to date that a significant number of radical preachers and radical groups exist in this country and that, within the circumscribed Muslim group in Australia, they have the capacity to exert significant influence (see “Piecing puzzle of how Numan Haider turned radical” below in The Australian). Those within this group are also open to influence from overseas and the web.
Adding to this analysis is the suggestion that, relatively and absolutely, Australia appears to have one of the largest group of radicals of any country ( See “Never mind Iraq invasion, the US exports fewer jihadis than us” in The Australian below). But this analysis is limited in the sense that it relates mainly to those wanting either to fight overseas or to support them. Within Australia there would be quite a few others who accept the use of violence and the establishment of a sharia state. The British survey of Muslims reported below (See “Entrenched British Muslims more prone to radicalism”) shows only a 1% support for terrorist acts (but that would mean over 20,000) but a much larger one (10% or over 200,000) for violence in defending religion.
How Extensive is the Overseas Threat?
It is not feasible to report here on the analyses today of the Islamic terrorist threat overseas. The Australian has excellent articles by Alan Dupont (Professor of international Security, NSW Uni), Richard Kerbaj (Security Correspondent for London Sunday Times), and Chris Kenny and Greg Sheridan of the Australian itself. The heading to Sheridan’s article – “The civilised world is losing the war on terror”- raises what I regard as the key question of whether those who believe in western values have the political ability and capacity to effect both military and cultural responses. Even The Age’s political editor has an article headed “A challenge for us all”. But he illustrates the problem in concluding that “the way to minimise risk is hardly rocket science” and quoting simplicities from a social researcher viz “the response is to redouble our commitment to making communities function the way we want them to, and the way to do that is to be inclusive”.