Due to the time needed to complete the sale of the house Felicity and I owned at Malua Bay, I have not been able to send a Commentary since 29 May. With the house sale completed today, it is opportune to comment briefly on an attempt by Turnbull to portray a close relationship with Australia’s Muslim community while at the same time acknowledging that “in this age of terrorism –overwhelmingly inspired by radical Islamist ideology –our security agencies must have the trust of Isalmic communities in order to succeed”. Attached are reports from today’s Australian, which gave front page treatment to Turnbull’s dinner invitation “dozens” of Muslims.
Turnbull’s use of “radical Islamist ideology” as the main cause of terrorism appears to reverse his earlier denial of any connection between terrorist activity and religion. It coincides with the killing of nearly 50 in the US (and the wounding of many too) by an IS sympathiser but again played down by Obama as no more than a lone wolf; the killing of an off-duty police commissioner in France by a jihadist previously jailed; the murder in open daylight of an MP in the UK, which may be an Orlando copycat.
But Turnbull also attempts to play down the influence of “terrorist” Islam and the need for any further government counter-vailing action. Note in particular his comments that:
- All Muslims should not be tagged with responsibility for “the crimes of a tiny terrorist minority”. That is totally misleading, of course. Very few are tagging all Muslims. But there are many more Muslims than a tiny minority who are supportive of jihadism and the fact that most terrorism is derived from Islam should be a major concern to the government and Australians more generally. Yet under Turnbull Australia has become less involved in the Iraq/Syria fighting notwithstanding the invitation by US defence secretary ;
- “We continue to reform our national security laws to give our agencies the powers they need”. This ignores the need to give our agencies the power and instruction to prosecute those advocating violence as well as those actually pursuing it. Of particular relevance here is whether there is sufficient checking of those admitted as immigrants;
- He made no reference to Islamic terrorism in his short speech to the “dozens” of Muslims he invited to dinner at Kirribilli House. This invitation was a major initiative but was it approved by other senior ministers? Is a short speech the way to explain the concern which many Australians feel about the attitudes of the Islamic community and the extent to which they are acceptable to those not in that community. Would it not be better to publish a major document explaining the norms in Australia, including the treatment of women ;
- He repeated his earlier statement to the Islamic Council that Muslims are “an integral part of an Australian family that rests on the essential foundation of mutual respect and understanding”. But the family does not include one of the Sheiks invited to dinner who would not have been invited by Turnbull if he had known of earlier pronouncements by the Sheik supporting death to homosexuals. The Muslim attitude to homosexuals has been a major issue in the Orlando incident because the terrorist attacked those attending a gay club. One wonders if there are other examples where there would be intra-family differences and whether they would have been excluded from the guest list – sharia law or jihadism? Note also that Turnbull blames his department for the invitation to the anti-gay guy.
Turnbull is in one sense on safe ground with Labor because that party will also seek friendly relations with the Muslim community. Unless the so-called right wing of the Coalition insists on additional action to preserve Western culture we will move in the same direction as Britain and France, where there are in effect now two communities in one country. Interestingly, in France there is currently a major dispute over the country of origin of artists who are to participate in the commemoration of a major battle in World War I. Would Australia invite a Muslim singer at an Anzac function?