By Dr. Ameer Ali, New Age Islam
23 October 2015
From whichever angle a Muslim looks at the current counter-terrorism operation in Australian he/she cannot escape the feeling that the Muslim community in this country as in the U.S., UK and Europe is under siege.
From every corner the call is coming louder by the day for Muslims to do more to prevent the spread of extremism and radicalization. On top of all this a relentless anti-Islam campaign by sections of mainstream media has created a public impression that it is the Muslim community with its leaders, mosques, imams, schools and families that are at fault and hence they have been urged to become proactive in combating the ‘evil’.
The government in the meantime by conveniently shifting most of the blame to the Muslim community is refusing to face the hard question, what really causes radicalization.
What does the government and the wider community expect Muslims to do and what can they actually do? To start with, Muslim leaders like the Mufti of Australia for example who, having lived in this country for decades cannot still communicate in English, can condemn extremism in Arabicad nauseam, which language the majority of Muslim youth do not understand. Likewise, the imams in the mosques can sermonise until cow comes home against IS and its crime-ridden Caliphate. The elders in the families also can advise the children, provided the children listen to that advice, on the dangers of violent and irrational behaviour. Finally, Muslim schools during their five-hour school time can monitor and report to the authorities any student showing signs of extremism.
Assuming that all these measures are successfully undertaken do they then guarantee a reversal of radicalization? To think so is to shut ourselves completely from the fundamental issues that generate extremism in the first place. These issues are partly internal and partly external to Australia.
Internally, studies have identified the economic and social factors such as high rate of unemployment and excessive welfare dependence, drug addiction, social discrimination and gang-culture that alienate the Muslim youth and creating anomie. These issues came to the notice of the government after the Cronulla riots in 2005. The Howard Government of that time did make some effort to address these issues. Yet, there is still a longway to cover in this area both at state and federal levels.
Addressing the internal issues has to go hand in hand with finding solutions to the external causes.
It was Noam Chomsky, the eminent Jewish intellectual, who wrote immediately after S11 and with great perspicacity that mosquitoes cannot be eradicated unless the swamps are cleared. He was referring to the political, economic and social chaos that Western powers have created in the Muslim countries.
Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria are the most glaring and stinking swamps that are now breeding mosquitoes and, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIS and many more extremist groups are the direct product of Western adventurism. Neither the U.S. nor NATO and not even UN are prepared to even mention this in its deliberations. Australia being a staunch ally of the U.S. is virtually behaving like a vassal state consenting to all what that superpower does internationally.
Practically every Muslim family in this country that migrated recently from the swamps has a story to tell to their children about the horrible experience the parents endured before arriving in Australia. When grown up kids listen to these stories and watch at the same time the television pictures showing death and devastation inflicted by bombing, sanctions and torture, their minds are psychologically set to become receptive to radical thoughts. Negative reporting about Islam and Muslims by biased journalists adds fuel to the fire.
These kids are now a tinder box waiting for a spark and that spark comes through the social media where extremist groups with charismatic preachers are hunting for new recruits to become foot soldiers. The kids are now emotionally hallucinated. They are prepared to act on their own if asked to.
The story of Jabbar who shot and killed the civilian police officer in Sydney is typical of this phenomenon. This young lad apparently came from the Kurdish community that suffered under Saddam Hussein when that tyrant massacred the Kurds with chemical agents supplied by the U.S. One only has to talk to these youngsters to understand the horrid memories they carry about their pre-Australian life. Can those memories be erased by tough laws?
The endless war and atrocities carried out in the name of power and hegemony will continue to radicalize the most vulnerable. This cannot be reversed by tightened security measures and toughened anti-terror laws.
By removing the external factor completely from the equation and by exaggerating the threat and extent of Muslim radicalization the Australian government has devised a politically saleable strategy to allocate more funds to security and defence at a time when overall savings are required to balance domestic budgets.
To shift the onus of de-radicalization to the Muslim community without addressing the core issues tantamount to telling the Muslims that the government will continue to support bombing and destruction of Muslim countries but you as citizens of Australia should prevent your members becoming radicalized. This is not going to work. Clean up the swamps to get rid of the mosquitoes.
Ameer Ali is a lecturer in Murdoch University’s school of management and governance.