Saturday, 25 May 2013

The problem of Islamic denialism

The world has been shocked, over the last few days, at the murder of a British soldier, hacked to death in the streets of London by terrorists anxious to explain to all and sundy their actions in the name of Islam.

But even more shocking is the denialism that has been rampant on the part of UK politicians, who rushed to explain that the attack was 'a betrayal of Islam' and inconsistent with its principles.

A similar episode of denialism happened in the US over the Boston Marathon attacks, where there was an initial reluctance to admit that a terrorist attack had actually occurred, and that it might be motivated by Islam.

Denialism isn't quite as advanced in Australia as yet, but the large number of young Australian Muslims choosing to fight in conflicts like Syria and elsewhere suggests that we do have a real problem that needs to be tackled far more aggressively than we are doing at present.


There is a nice article highlighted by pewsitter today describing the affliction as 'Jihadophilia':

"Jihadophilia (/dʒɪˈhɑːdoˈfɪljə/) is a mental disorder affecting members of the Western (West European, North American and Anglo-Antipodean) elite class, mostly politicians, journalists, academics and civil servants. J. is characterized by a breakdown of the ability to name Muslims as perpetrators of the acts of Islamic terrorism, by the tendency to systematically ignore Islam as a factor in terrorist attacks or to deny its relevance in such attacks, and by an acute deficit of the capacity or will to provide appropriate institutional or emotional responses to such attacks.

Common symptoms of J. include hallucinations, usually in the form of an imaginary “peaceful and tolerant Islam,” paranoid or bizarre delusions, usually in the form of “right-wing terrorists, white supremacists and Christian extremists,” and disorganized speech and thinking, usually in the form of inappropriate and bizarre attempts to characterize acts of Islamic terrorism as  generic terrorist acts unmotivated by Jihad, or else not “terrorist” at all."

Do go and read the rest of it.

It is true of course that not every Muslim sect subscribes to the view that every Muslim is bound to conduct violent Jihad.

But it is equally clear that an ever growing portion of the world's Muslim do subscribe to this view, and many of them are living in Western countries.

The reality is that the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world, regardless of what country they live in, support the introduction of sharia law, and a strong minority (including 39% in Afghanistan and 40% in the Palestinian territories) say acts of violence against civilians are justified.

And around the world, extremist versions of Islam are growing in strength and numbers, not decreasing.

In countries such as Indonesia that previously tolerated relatively lax practice, more and more women are being forced into wearing, or are choosing to wear the hijab, while Christians and other non-conformists are being actively persecuted.


Fortunately, the denialism disease is not quite as advanced in Australia as elsewhere I think.  The media has been happy, for example, to report on incidents such as the refusal of one of the accused from last year's riots to stand as a mark of respect for a magistrate last week.

In part I think that's because overall, the proportion of the population that is Muslim in Australia is still relatively low: 2.25% of the population compared to 4.8% in the UK.  Outside of Sydney (where around half of Australia's Muslims live) they don't yet have much political clout.

But Islam is growing rapidly in this country - it has already grown 438% since 1981 - as a result of immigration, high birth rates and high conversion rates.  And as a number of terrorist plots have illustrated, it is not the 'moderate' version of that faith that is gaining converts.

So far Australia has not had any incidents, at least on its shores, as extreme as those in the US and UK.  But the risk of something similar happening here has to be very high indeed.

As Greg Sheridan pointed out in the Australian  yesterday:

"Security agencies believe about 200 Australians have gone to Syria to participate in the civil war, mostly against the Assad government.

Some are definitely involved with the al-Qa'ida-affiliated al-Nusra movement, which now leads the insurgency. But there are many other jihadist groups active in Syria.

Some of these people will return to Australia with extremely enhanced terrorist-related skills, and some are likely to be much more radical than when they left.

Our ability to combat terrorism is also in decline.

Nearly two dozen people are in Australian jails for terrorist offences.

Many terrorist plots have been thwarted but people not convicted, and many people overseas have plotted terror against Australia."

With the two Bali bombings, Australia ranks relatively highly among OECD nations for citizens killed by terrorists since 9/11.

The limits to platitudes

The Australian 'mainstream' Islamic community has been unsurprisingly slow to respond to the challenge posed by extremism.

A letter writer to The Australian today called on local Islamic leaders to go beyond mouthing platitudes such as they did at the time of the Sydney riots last year, condemning the violence involved.  What was needed, the writer argues, is for extremists to be expelled from the mosques.

Don't hold your breath.

One of the interesting results of the Pew Survey of the world's Muslims (see the link above) is that relatively few Muslims say that tensions between more religiously observant and less observant Muslims are a very big problem in their country.

Unfortunately, many Christians, including our own Church leaders, remain reluctant to admit this, and still seemed immured in the warm inner glow approach to inter-religious dialogue promoted by Vatican II and Pope John Paul II, rather than the more robust recognition of reality reflected in Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg Speech.

Indeed, the pendulum seems to be swinging back the other way at the moment, with Pope Francis managing to get through the ceremony for the canonisation of the martyrs of Otranto a week or so back without once actually mentioning that they were martyred because they refused to convert to Islam, and that it was Muslims who did the martyring!

What needs to happen now!

I'm not suggesting we should abandon inter-religious dialogue altogether, far from it: we have an obligation to seek peace, and to try and find ways to reign extremists in.

But we need to approach this task without naivety.

In the UK and US the recent focus has been on whether the security forces could have done more to identify and pre-empt the danger.  Maybe there are lessons to be learnt, but early intervention and prevention is generally far more effective and far less costly an approach.

We need to look at how to better promote that dreaded word, 'assimilation' into Australian culture and values without forcing people to abandon their religion but not being shy about insisting that they will have to abandon some practices (such as female genital mutilation and so-called 'honour killings').

We need to resist the Islamization of certain regions of our cities.

We need to challenge the Muslim apologists who regularly try and soft soap the religion in the media every time some attack occurs.

We need to have a robust debate on Islamic immigration to Australia that goes beyond the cliques of the  'illegal arrivals' focus.  Maybe, for example, all migrants, of whatever origin, should have to complete an intensive orientation to Australian culture, values, history and laws as a condition of their visas.

Instead of praising Islam for those things we find attractive about it, such as its Ramadan feasts, we need to demand that the Islamic community in this country take responsibility for its members.

And above all, our churches need to launch a serious missionary effort aimed at converting Muslims to Catholicism.

1 comment:

Jim Turley said...

An excellent article. The problem of denialism however, is not reserved to Western authorities. I was initially encouraged to note that a member of the East London mosque deplored the barbarism demonstrated at Woolwich. However, the difficulty to real dialogue with Muslims, posed by Taqiyya, or dissimulation, is present whenever Islam is unbder attack. When can we be sure that Muslims are being honest in deploring terrorism, or simply guarding the Qu'ran and Sharia with a dishonest response of concern?