John Menadue–We stopped the boats; we will now stop the jihadists

You may be interested in this repost. John Menadue

 

By linking boat arrivals and jihadists in the one sentence, a couple of weeks ago, Tony Abbott sounded very much like a dog-whistler that we can expect to hear more from in the future.

He knows there is widespread, although a mistaken perception, that most boat arrivals were Muslims and that Muslim jihadist are a threat to Australia. A lot of dog-whistlers are going to feed on that perception.

Scott Morrison has shown us what is likely to be in store. He told Jane Cadzow in the SMH that he had urged the coalition partners ‘to ramp up the questioning … to capitalise on anti-Muslim sentiment’.

In my blog of December 31 last year ‘Are most asylum seekers and refugees Muslims?’ I wrote about the refugee settlement figures for two years that were then available – Calendar year 2010 and April 2011 to March 2012. With some qualifications, the figures showed that in the first period 51% of refugees were Christian, 26% Muslim and 23% ‘other’. In the second period, 42% were Muslim, 34% Christian and 24% ‘other’.

In assessing refugees of course, no religious test is or should be made. Further the figures will vary from year to year on religious background depending on the asylum flows and countries of violence and persecution, e.g. from the Middle East, Myanmar, Africa or Sri Lanka. The Christian outflow from the Middle East is likely to continue as Christian minorities face continuing persecution and death.

The figures that I mention above do not show that most asylum seekers are Muslim.

It is also a mistake to suggest in any way that most Muslims are Jihadists. Some will be, but every group has its extremists and hot-heads that must be managed.

I have not yet seen any figures to suggest that the Jihadists from Australia now fighting in the Middle East were former asylum seekers or refugees. Many of them look to be Australian born converts with very non-Middle Eastern names. Converts often have a habit of being more extreme. Every community has social misfits ,seeking notoriety and looking for excitement.

It is the responsibility of the Australian government not to act with political opportunism over this problem, but to very forcefully and deliberately deal with extremists who leave this country to fight battles overseas that have got nothing to do with Australia. Where appropriate citizenship should be denied, passports withdrawn and breaches of our laws resolutely pursued. We can’t build a diverse and strong multi-cultural Australia if some of our number is allowed to abuse our hospitality and fight old battles overseas.

In gathering intelligence on jihadists we will depend on ASIO and ASIS. Although my experience with these two organisations is dated they don’t give me much confidence.  They do attract a lot of odd bods, with little effective review of their performance. My experience was that ministers and senior officials are easily seduced into the unreal world of information and misinformation, facts and untested gossip.

The Muslim leadership in Australia also has to bear a heavy responsibility in helping to manage the hot-heads in their communities. It may be apocryphal but I heard that during the Balkan War of 1991-99, Paul Keating summoned the Serb and Croat leaders in Australia, and warned them if violence continued between their communities, he would ‘knock your f… head’s off’. It sounds very Keatingesque – blunt and to the point. But to me it highlights the responsibility of leaders of our new communities to their new country.

I have seen warnings but no evidence that Australians have involved themselves in the Israeli/ Gaza conflict

I hope we can keep the dog-whistlers at bay, who will want to make the link between boat arrivals, Muslims and Jihadists. It is a sensitive issue and must be handled in a sensitive and resolute way without political opportunism intervening.

Firmness is required by both the Australian government and its agencies, and the Muslim leadership in Australia.

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