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National Times

Anti-Muslim tub-thumping helps extremists

Rachel Woodlock
March 23, 2011


Why would anyone join an extremist Muslim fringe group that hates democracy and wants to impose a myopic interpretation of Islamic law on everyone? What could possibly attract an educated young man living in a free society to join a movement that glorifies suicide bombers?

These are questions that worry all sorts, from German chancellors to Camden locals, and drive an industry of Islamophobia. Whether it's US blogger Daniel Pipes musing that President Barack Obama might be murdered by Islamists for being an apostate, Infidel author Ayaan Hirsi Ali describing Muslim women's clothing as gradations of "mental slavery", or outspoken Christian spokesman Patrick Sookhdeo questioning moderate Muslim leaders' calls for peace and co-existence as Islamically-prescribed deception, they foster the worry that where Muslims live, violence and even terrorism follow. Understandable, given the Islamophobia industry makes its coin generating fear of Islam and Muslims.

It is Sookhdeo's Christian charity, the Barnabas Fund, that is spear-heading a new campaign to boycott halal meat in Australia. "Say no to the Islamification of our food," the website urges, and a petition has found its way into various Australian churches warning that the availability of halal food in big supermarkets ''may be interpreted as an assertion of Islamic supremacy''.

Sookhdeo, who is on a visit to lecture concerned Australians on such topics as ''the Islamisation of society'', argues that the problem is with Islam itself.

In his 2007 book Global Jihad: The Future in the Face of Militant Islam, Sookhdeo warns that ''non-violent Islam is like a cone balanced on its point; it cannot exist in that state indefinitely but is bound to fall, i.e. to give rise to violent elements.''

For Sookhdeo and his alarmist confederates, original Islam is inherently violent and any alternative reading by peaceable Muslims is either ignorance or dissimulation. His call for Islamic reform as a way to rehabilitate Muslims is disingenuous, for how can any such reformer escape the sinister accusation they are merely engaged in what Sookhdeo describes as taqiyya - a last-resort permission to hide one's religious identity in the face of persecution.

There is no escape from this circular reasoning in which Muslims are urged to prove their loyalty to the nation-state, and upon presenting themselves as loyal are then accused of hiding their disloyalty.

It is precisely the futility some Muslims experience when faced with such fearmongering that contributes to what social psychologists tell us is a sense of ''blocked progress''. That is, while most Muslims can buttress themselves against prejudice, seeking support through various sources of well-being, a minority will seek maladapted solutions. Some turn to gangs and criminality; a small number will join militant religious groups that provide them with a sense of connection and identity.

As researchers in Britain, France and Australia have noted, "home-grown" members of militant groups do not generally possess a high degree of religiosity and knowledge of Islam before their radicalisation. Put another way, it is not religious Muslims we have to worry about, it is when ordinary Muslims feel trapped in limbo: they belong neither to their parents' devout traditional cultures, nor to their Western host nations, which sends the message: Muslims don't belong.

This explains, in part, why such groups have been able to recruit Western-born and educated young men to their ranks. It is not poverty that spurs their attraction to fanatical counterculture groups, but their sense (rightly or wrongly) that the broader society specifically targets and blocks them from achieving normal goals.

The good news is that we can cut the oxygen that fuels the flames of their fanaticism by actively countering anti-Muslim paranoia. It has been argued that fundamentalist religious groups lose their ability to competitively peddle their wares in societies in which there is religious freedom and the state ensures social services are provided to all - this means facilitating the settlement and integration of Islam and Muslims in Australian society. It is precisely because Islam is not inherently violent, as is demonstrated by the productive and peaceful lives that the vast majority of Australia's 340,000 Muslims pursue, that permitting them to build and maintain the infrastructure of their communities - mosques, schools and businesses - alongside other religious and secular groups, will provide protection against violent extremism.

It is not that we should look to Europe in fear and anticipation, but that Europe should look to Australia's model of proud commitment to multiculturalism and diversity.

Rachel Woodlock is a researcher and doctoral candidate at Monash University's Centre for Islam and the Modern World.

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  • Rachel have you talked to Abu B Bashir in Indonesia about it?

    Varsity Lakes
    Date and time
    March 23, 2011, 7:21AM
  • Ahh Rachel,
    Yes, it's all the fault of the west that Muslims kill innocent people.
    This poor downtrodden, peace-loving religion, is under constant attack from the West, and these poor souls are so disaffected that the only thing they can do to improve their self-esteem is strap a bomb to a mentally handicapped child and send them into a market place, or leave bombs on trains, or assassinate people who say things they perceive to be negative towards Allah.
    All religions, particularly Christianity these days, are "under attack". Mention a Christian god on these pages and wait for the vitriol to pile in. But Christians don't threaten to bomb the newspaper, or threaten your life. do they Rachael?
    I have no belief in any God - I'm a believer in science, but I'm starting to come to the conclusion that Islam is not compatible with the west. To me, it IS a religion of anger, of fury, of vengeance, of intolerance. Freedom is not a recognised word in the lexicon of Islam.
    And ask yourself, how many Muslim countries are democracies - certainly not Malaysia, or Indonesia, Turkey - perhaps not. In fact, are any truly democratic? Plenty are dictatorships.
    I Have to burst your bubble Rachael. The elephant in the world's room is Islam, nothing else.

    Date and time
    March 23, 2011, 7:27AM
  • Rachel other ethnic groups in socities face exclusion and discrimination yet don't go around blowing up trains and killing innocents.

    For example you don't see christain miniorities in middle eastern countries murdering civilians despite the fact christains face far more oppression from muslims in arab countries then muslims do from non-muslims in western countries.

    Lets not also forget muslim immigrants to western countries continually show intolerence to the culture and values of their adopted countries eg. asking for Sharia law, referring to woman as uncovered meat etc. Obviously not all muslims have these views but in regards to intolerence muslims are no better then any other group and are infact probably worse.

    It is easy to blame others for your own failings. And to make excuses for your own failing by blaming others. The problem lies at home within the muslim community and culture not outside it.

    Date and time
    March 23, 2011, 7:29AM
  • Ah yes, it's all our fault when the islamics blow up bars in bali, buildings in new york and churches around the globe, not their religion which preaches that 're-verts' (who are what us westerners are) are punishable by death.
    Look to europe you say, what, look at the violent muslim slums in paris? look at the white flight seen in sweden from certain cities with growing muslim populations? look at the islamic terroism in Russia???

    Date and time
    March 23, 2011, 7:33AM
  • If Rachel Woodlock is correct, there must be a helluva lot of disenfranchised and alienated Muslims around the world.

    Ben Derusai
    Date and time
    March 23, 2011, 7:33AM
  • Finally words of wisdom splashed on the pages of sensationalist mainstream media.
    Whilst across the ditch in 2005, just after the London bombings, and the execution of Jean Charles de Menezes
    I asked the same question,
    One of the bombers was a British born Jamaican, How was that possible, Jamaica is equivalent to Tonga in religiosity almost Fundamentalist Christian. How could such a person turn so radical.
    Returning to Sydney in November that Year I joined a gym in the inner west. On the 11th or 12 of December in the afternoon I went to do my normal work out, Walking into the gym was very unnerving I was the only white client in the gym. This was the weirdest feeling I have ever encountered at a Gym.
    During my work out I asked one of the guys to Help me with loading a bench and do some spotting.
    All of a sudden the atmosphere changed hostility diapered, even though we didn't have much to talk about and admittedly there was a bit of speech and understanding issues, we treated each other as equals.
    During the time when John Howard's form of Nationalism was high in the minds of the locals, two individuals can break the prejudices of the group and find a connection.

    Dandenong Ranges
    Date and time
    March 23, 2011, 7:43AM
  • This no doubt well-intentioned article is nevertheless a product of massively-entrenched mis-reportage, biased reportage and non-reportage in Australia and the other Western Murdochracies.

    Sociologists have found that Muslim-origin terrorists are primarily motivated not by religion but by the horrendous crimes committed by the West against Muslims.

    Thus in the last decade or so the West has been bombing 10 Muslim countries (Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan) and has been variously occupying (i.e. US or US-backed troops on the ground) the territory of all but 2 (Yemen and Sudan).

    The consequences of this de facto anti-Arab anti-Semitic Western violence are horrendous. Thus post-invasion violent deaths and non-violent avoidable deaths from deprivation in the Occupied Palestinian, Iraqi and Afghan Territories total 0.3 million, 2.6 million and 4.9 million, respectively, these estimates being consonant with independent but also UN data-based estimates of post-invasion under-5 infant deaths totalling 0.2 million, 0.8 million and 2.6 million, respectively.

    Peace is the only way but unfortunately there will always be a minority of people in any society who resort to homicidal violence. Thus active or passive "homicides per million of population per year" are 0.1 (Westerners, including Israelis, killed by Muslim-origin terrorists), 0.5 (Israelis killed by Gaza rockets; Western rapist husbands killed by raped wives), 15 (Israelis murdered by fellow Israelis), 56 (Americans killed by Americans), 473 (Detroit, Michigan homicides), 1,400 (Occupied Palestinian excess deaths from Israeli-imposed deprivation) and 18,000 (Indigenous Australian deaths from White Australian-imposed deprivation).

    Who are the "terrorists"? Western state terrorism is vastly more deadly than Muslim-origin non-state terrorism.

    Dr Gideon Polya
    Date and time
    March 23, 2011, 7:44AM
  • Tell that to all the Christians currently being murdered by their Muslim neighours! They even kill their own if they're not of the same sect.

    Thanks, but I'd rather not embrace my fellow Muslim neighbours as one never knows what lurks in the heart of darkness.

    seen enough
    Date and time
    March 23, 2011, 7:44AM
  • The reason democracy does not thrive in islamic societies is because islam refutes the concepts of tolerance and democracy. Islamic leaders have said this repeatedly. In many islamic societies Sharia or islamic law prevails. In some regions of islamic Pakistan (Swat for eg) non muslims must convert to islam or pay the Jizziya or religious tax. The real reason we have disaffected muslim youth is because they have been brain washed into believing they are the victims. Better non PC education exposing muslim atrocities worldwide would be the only way to detoxify minds and make them realise the facts.

    Date and time
    March 23, 2011, 8:05AM
  • So when Muslims bomb coptic Christains in Egypt is that due to western racism and discrimination as well?


    Date and time
    March 23, 2011, 8:06AM

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