Understanding Islam – and Ministerial Behaviour

Today’s Australian provided my best laughs for the New Year – but also again highlighted the failure of experts and Ministers to understand how to present the threat from Islam.

Ministerial Behaviour

Many laughs come from the over-the-top discipline accorded by Turnbull to (now ex) Minister Briggs for cheek/neck kissing a (female) public servant in a Hong Kong bar, and for his follow up reproach of Minister Dutton for mistakenly emailing an opinion of a journalist as a “f…king witch”, intended to go to a colleague but instead going to the journalist herself. The journalist herself seemed to accept that being described as a witch is par for the course of being a journalist (and it should add to her readership in the Sunday press).  Females have written most of the Letters to the Ed in today’s The Australian and these letters also saw that Briggs and Dutton behaved badly but not bad enough to be punished by more than a quiet phone call. But the  letter from Bev Green brought most laughs from me, viz

“I am 60, have four degrees including a masters in clinical psychology and I wish more men would peck me on the cheek and tell me I have piercing eyes. They used to in my younger days and I loved it. That a minister should lose his job and reputation as a result of this act in a world where women are oppressed, raped and confined to their homes is a world gone mad in my opinion”

Bev Green, Yokine, WA

Will Turnbull issue a rules of behaviour of ,when with the other sex, how both male and female Ministers can behave? Has male kissing on the cheek of a female gone out of fashion? What can we males do when faced with “piercing eyes”?

Understanding Islam-Mark 2

My last Commentary (Jan 2) drew attention to the conclusion in the article by expert theologian Mark Durie that “it is reasonable for Australians to hold the Muslim community to account for the utterances of their leaders” and to the completely off track assessment of the Koran by Multi-Cultural Affairs Minister Fierraventi-Wells. There has been no reproach of her by Turnbull, presumably because she was appointed by him and possibly because his views are the same.

But the latest developments do emphasise the need for the formal statement I have suggested should be made by Turnbull on (in particular) what Australia’s public attitude should be to the sects in the Muslim religion which appear to support jihadist behaviour.

The need is enhanced when it is now revealed that the Australian Navy has until very recently employed a 26 year old Muslim, Captain Mona Shindy, as strategic adviser on Islamic affairs and that she has circulated highly questionable views via Twitter on what attitude should be taken to Islamic related issues (see this article on Islam in our Armed Forces). The closing of the Twitter account last month may result from her outlandish  proposal to remove the word “Islam” when reporting on ISIS/ISIL or Daech and her view that these groups have “nothing to do with Islam”. But she (and other navy officers) clearly needed “guidance”.

And there is a serious question as to whether, in present circumstances, the recruitment of Muslims into the armed forces should be continued. At the least, any proposed appointment of a Muslim as an officer should be confirmed only after she/he has been subjected to intensive grilling and that the candidate shows an understanding of the jihadist groups (a couple of years ago the Americans lost a number of soldiers in a military camp when a jihadist Muslim officer fired a gun several times). We need to be sure that any Muslim naval officer will give the order to fire when an Australian frigate is confronted by extremists.

There is also a need to “educate” our experts much more on how to respond publicly to the Islamic threat. This extends to retired generals as well as the head of ASIO. The strategy of how to handle the threat both here and overseas is determined by the government on the advice given by experts, of which former General Peter Leahy is one. In his article today Leahy claims the take-back of Ramadi by Iraq forces with advice from Australian forces shows “there is no need for Australian boots on the ground”. A fine opinion but such a strategy should be determined by the government, which would need to take into account that IS militants have counter-attacked and that a number remain in Ramadi with their powerful suicide “armaments”.

There is also the question of what wider policy other western powers might now adopt against IS. Leahy himself rightly concludes that “the real fight is how to counter the radical ideology” and that “there is much more to come in the schism between Sunni and Shia in the global fight against terrorism”. Of course, Australia could not contemplate putting boots on the ground on its own. But with a revival (of sorts) in Iraqi forces and an open division between Saudi Arabia and Iran it may be opportune  for western powers to take action (not the useless diplomatic stuff) to at least establish areas in Iraq/Syria which are law-abiding, relatively speaking.

Foreign Minister Bishop says in today’s Australian that “we are deeply disturbed by the recent executions carried out in Saudi Arabia”. But they are par for the course for that country, which (of all things) is on the UN Human Rights Commission. Last year there were over 100 executions there. What Australia should be saying is that we are disturbed at the failure of Saudi Arabia and Iran to establish  a clear separation between government and religious bodies and an improved legal treatment for civilian protesters. It also needs to be  made clear that we do not accept the stated religious objectives of either country (there has been a biased reaction to the Saudi executions: Iran treats its “offenders” badly too).

Finally, my attention has been drawn to a book available on Amazon entitled ”Twilight in America: The Untold Story of Islamic Terrorist Training Camps Inside America” and published in April 2012. The author is Founder and President of Christian Action Network. The story is that “protected under the guise of religious freedom” military training camps are being established by Muslims in remote parts of America. “In the privacy of Muslim compounds … they are preparing our own citizens to wage a holy war –jihad – against America”. An earlier report by Christian Action claimed that in 2009 there were 35 such camps.

The extent of this possible threat is difficult to assess from here but the stated action would be consistent with the objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood which is well established in the US and which seeks to penetrate bureaucracies and education agencies. Whether anything similar is being attempted here is not known, although extremist Benbrika (now in jail but soon to be released unless mooted action is taken to keep him under detention) did operate shooting training camps in outback NSW before he and 3 or 4 colleagues  were jailed.

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