Islam must face demons
Herald Sun May 24, 2017
ISLAM must face a deadly reality from within — its religion is providing the framework for mass-casualty terrorist attacks against innocent civilians.
The world’s suspicions the depraved mass murder of children and adults in Manchester was the work of an Islamic extremist were confirmed yesterday and claimed by Islamic State.
Labelling such attacks “Islamic terrorism” immediately draws politically correct accusations of Islamophobia, a strident defence that Islam is a religion of peace and that this is yet another example of a heinous act committed by a criminal who has hijacked religion.
Indeed, Islamic community leaders, including the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, has previously described Islamic State as “anti-Muslim” and prominent Muslims issue public condemnations when terror attacks occur.
But, while such statements are welcome, they do not address a fundamental problem: there are large numbers of radicalised Islamic extremists in Western nations willing to kill innocent people.
Nor do hashtags, candlelit vigils or social media campaigns combat the root cause of terrorism. Australia and other Western nations must have an open, mature conversation about Islam as both part of the problem and an essential part of the answer to it.
As we’ve seen too often in Europe it takes only a handful of extremists, or a lone wolf, to wreak horrendous carnage. Picture: Getty Images
As the horrible impact of the Manchester atrocity comes to light, we reflect on the faces of Saffie Rose Roussos, 8, Georgina Callander, 18, and others among at least 22 dead and 59 injured.
In Australia, more than 300 individuals are monitored as potential terrorism threats and 12 domestic plots have been foiled in the past two years. Another 100 Australians are fighting alongside IS in Iraq and Syria or supporting their efforts, and at least 70 have been killed in the conflict zone.
With approximately 500,000 Muslims in Australia, in context, the number of suspected terrorism sympathisers is low. But as we’ve seen too often in Europe — from Nice, Paris and Brussels to London and now Manchester, or even in Melbourne with the Anzac, Christmas or Mother’s Day plots — it takes only a handful of extremists, or a lone wolf, to wreak horrendous carnage. Our national terrorism threat alert currently sits at “probable”. If another terrorist strike occurs — after the Numan Haider, Man Haron Monis and Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar events — it is more than probable, in fact highly likely, it will be Islamic-extremist inspired.
Apologists argue a tormented and selective interpretation of the Koran and not Islam itself is to blame for terrorist acts. Yet there is no escaping the fact that since the world-changing September 11 attacks in the US in 2001, terrorism is a cancer that has spread from Islam’s extremist infection. In 2014, when Islamic State first emerged in some force, there were 18 civilian deaths in Western attacks inspired or directed by the group. That rose to claim 313 deaths in 2015 from 67 attacks and IS is now responsible for well over half the terrorist killings carried out in the West, including 6141 deaths in attacks on recent statistics.
It is now the world’s most deadly terrorist group, followed by al-Qaeda, Nigeria’s Islamist Boko Haram and Afghanistan’s Taliban — which account for more than 75 per cent of terrorism fatalities.
President Donald Trump’s words this week denouncing terrorism must be adopted loudly by Australian imams, Islamic families and the entire Muslim community.
IS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram have one deadly common denominator — they follow a violent Salafi form of armed jihad under the Wahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam.
Certainly, there are religious, political or cultural atrocities (terrorism) committed by a range of other groups, sects and criminals across the globe in recent and current times. They include the recent ethnic war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which claimed an estimated 5.4 million lives; “ethnic cleansing”, which has killed thousands of Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist-majority Myanmar; mass shootings in the US by crazed gunmen with anti-government agendas or, until mid-last year, the Marxist-Leninist FARC group that saw hundreds of thousands killed in Colombia. Even intra-Islamic conflict in the Middle East, pitting Shia against Sunni sects, results in huge numbers of casualties.
It goes without saying that Australia’s Islamic community, here since Afghan cameleers arrived in 1860, forms an important part of our cohesive, multicultural tapestry. But to ignore the threat from a minority section of the community who swallow poisonous digital-age propaganda will guarantee an era of perpetual terrorism remains.
Young, disaffected males, susceptible migrants or converts, some with criminal backgrounds or returning to a family faith with vengeance, self-appointed “imams” who spew anti-West rhetoric — they are the dangers that Islam itself must tackle if it is to secure the wider confidence of all Australians.
Such is the example of Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi.
English-born to refugee migrants, he turned on the homeland that gave him safe harbour and education.
While US President Donald Trump is a divisive figure, this week he said: “Terrorists do not worship God. They worship death. Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear ... if you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief and your soul will be fully condemned.”
They are words that must be adopted loudly by Australian imams, Islamic families and the entire Muslim community.
If inclusiveness is an universal virtue, then indeed Islam must go through Muslims themselves a reformation.