In this three-part article, Ramesh Thakur argues that the scale of the terrorist threat to Western societies must be kept in perspective, that Western actions in the Middle East may have fomented more terrorism than they have defeated, and that an attitude of denial regarding the potential for problems of large-scale Muslim immigration feeds mutual paranoia and hostility and is not conducive to social cohesion.
Part 3 – Denialism of Islamic terrorism
The trouble with an eye for an eye philosophy, Mahatma Gandhi noted wryly, is that soon the whole world will become blind. Maybe if we stopped butchering their families, stealing their wealth and toppling their leaders to install our stooges there, they just might stop coming here? But meanwhile they are also here in large numbers as immigrants, and Western politicians and intellectuals seem terrified of conducting an honest debate on migrants’ links to Islamism.
The final line of defence against international terrorism is preventive national measures in countries that are the targets of attack. This includes robust counter-terrorism intelligence and surveillance efforts by the law enforcement, national security and border control, financial regulatory and surveillance agencies and – too often overlooked in stigmatising whole groups – community engagement. Anti-terrorism measures against jihadists, for example, will be much more effective with the cooperation than with the alienation of mainstream Muslims against radicals living in Western societies. Broken trust between local authorities and segmented communities can be as potent a source of terrorist violence than religion or ideology.
Islamic terrorists are no more representative of Islam than any fundamentalist terrorists are of their broader community: the Irish terrorists of Christianity, or those who destroyed the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 of Hinduism. That said, four propositions:
- Not all Muslims are terrorists. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are law abiding peaceful citizens in whichever country they reside and Islam as a religion has many powerful taboos against the killing of innocents, women, and children;
- The overwhelming majority of terrorist acts today are committed by Muslims and in the name of Islam;
- The overwhelming majority of victims of Islamist terrorism are Muslims (from Africa through the Middle East to Afghanistan and Pakistan);
- The reason for the last, finally, is that, contrary to its coverage by the White Man’s Media, the vast majority of terrorist attacks take place in non-Western countries. Not one Western country is in the list of top ten victims of terrorist deaths in the world, just as the bulk of refugees are housed in developing countries while the frenetic angst about the out-of-control magnitude of the problem is a preoccupation of the Western media.
Those sceptical of US-led foreign military adventures question if democracy can be exported to inhospitable social, cultural and political environments. If this is true, on what basis can large numbers of immigrants from these backgrounds, deeply steeped in their own political values and social practices, be expected to absorb the norms of liberal democracy? Global polling by Pew Research Center shows overwhelming support for sharia law in many countries from which large numbers of immigrants have come to the West. Similarly, ‘British opinion surveys consistently find gaps between the attitudes of Muslims and the liberal ethos of the wider culture, on everything from homosexuality to women’s rights to anti-Semitism’. When up to four per cent of British Muslims consider terrorism an acceptable form of protest, that is a large pool of potential jihadist recruits.
In several Western cities, when their numbers add up to a sizable proportion, they begin to make demands for the hosts to accommodate to their cultural practices instead of adapting to Western ways of life, for example with respect to mixed-sex swimming in schools and public pools. If a face covering full veil is considered an act of hostility by the majority host community but held integral to the social practice of an immigrant community, should the former adapt to alien practices at home, or should the immigrants return or move on to societies that share their values and customs? Are majority communities the only ones to be denied the right to be offended, no matter how deeply? Should I have brought up my children with the core values of Hindu society back in India instead of the mainstream values of their Australasian peers?
In this area Peter Dutton has been more willing than most of his parliamentary colleagues to speak some obvious truths. When responsible leaders abandon the debate, the field is left empty for extreme and fringe opinions to dominate.
Another problem that liberal minded Western politicians have refused to confront is the role of hate spewing Imams who preach radicalism in the mosques. It’s interesting how mosques have been the centres of radicalisation in Western countries yet some of the most unsavoury Imams seem to be able to get entry visas to spread their messages that are deeply offensive to Western values.
To allow terrorist attacks to drive a wedge between different groups in our own country is to empower them to break us as a society. Immigrant residents of Australia must not claim rights not available to other Australians but must be granted all rights available to every Australian, including freedom from discrimination base on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Those who rush to render immediate assistance at the scene of the carnage, those who queue up to donate blood, those who take to social media to demonstrate solidarity are all expressing our common humanity.
But those who give vent to rage are also expressing all too human feelings and it is no less a human reaction to reach boiling point of frustration when political leaders and public intellectuals refuse to speak the most obvious truth about Islamic terrorism, seemingly more terrified of being called a bigot than concerned to protect children from being slaughtered by jihadists. These are legitimate and important questions of public policy to be openly debated and resolved as a community.