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Why cannot the word “Muslim” be used in a context where the religion and some of its adherents are subject to criticism? Apparent answer: because leaders of Western societies say they believe all faiths should be treated equally and we should not refer to the fact that some ardent believers in the Muslim faith are outspoken in saying that acts of terror are a legitimate component of that faith.  Or as Andrew Bolt put it (see his “brave” article below), there is an “approved way of reporting - or not reporting - Muslim terrorists”. 

It is a major concern that the initial reactions of  government (and other) leaders and most media commentators to the Boston bombings  have been  to ignore or brush aside any wider policy implications for western countries. 

First, there was a widespread attempt to avoid making linkages between the Boston bombings and the fact that, as quickly became clear, the bombers were believers in or heavily influenced by the Muslim religion. Now it is reported that they lived close to a local mosque, in an area near Boston where a considerable number of Moslems live, and that one of the bombers recently spent six months at “home” in a Russian republic (Dagestan) where over 80 per cent are Muslims and where there is not infrequent Islamic insurgency, including to establish an Islamic state. Yesterday US media reported that the eldest is on the suspect list for murdering in 2011 three ‘friends’ or acquaintances by “slashing their throats right out of an al Qaeda training video”. 

Second, while we look to the United States to be the leader of the Western world, President Obama has consistently avoided using the word Muslim and, initially, did not even describe the bombings as terrorist acts. A US criminal justice professor at California State University  explained (sic) that “Obama might have hesitated to use it [terrorism] because it had become a ‘loaded word’ in the US to mean Islamic terrorism”. While it is too early to pass judgement on whether the relevant US agencies “performed” as best might be expected, the apparent  “pass” given the eldest bomber after an inquiry from Russia is worrisome. 

Third, the Australian Government, represented by Attorney General Dreyfus, made a woeful attempt to play down the web link between one of Australia’s extremist Muslims and the two American bombers. This continued the government’s attempt to play down the risk of terrorism  to Australian security (see my letter published in the AFR on 19 April below). And the Opposition seems to have said nothing  on this (or any other) aspect. Are all our political leaders scared of criticising extremists in the Muslim religion for fear of losing votes or being accused of being racists or discrimination? 

Criticism by a political (or other) leader of extremist views held by some believers in the Muslim religion might cost votes in one or two electorates. But it is surely too important to ignore such views and leave the prevention and response to intelligence agencies, as Foreign Minister Carr seems to advocate. Factual statements about terrorist activity by extremists may be controversial but should surely not result in serious political damage.  

The extent of Islamic believers has not yet reached levels comparable to those in the UK and Europe, where an electoral backlash could occur. Although heavily concentrated, the total number of Muslims in Australia is 400,000 to 500,000 or 2-3 per cent of our total population.

 Fifth, it is absurd to suggest (as some have) that “it is too late to do anything about the problem”. There is a variety of policy actions that could – and should – be taken asap. The first of those must surely be to acknowledge that a problem exists. I and others have made various suggestions that cannot be explored here but, if adopted, would considerably alleviate the problem we face (see also articles/speeches on my web site, ).

Des Moore

Dreyfus shouldn’t be giving character references to radicals
(Letter published in The Australian, 22 April 2013.)
[Square bracketed references deleted by Ed]

The catching of the two [Muslim] Boston bombers has revealed that one was influenced by a radical imam in Australia. Attorney General Dreyfus says [the said] Sheik Feiz Mohammed’s web videos are out of date and that the Sheik is now supporting the counter-terrorism program [“we have in many communities across Australia”]. We await confirmation by the sheik [himself].

Many Australian would be also interested to have learn details of these hitherto unpublicised programs and the extent to which they condemn the advocacy by Islamists of extremist activity. [Many would also be interested to learn why there have been no prosecutions under the Racial Hatred Act of the many imam who have made racist attacks and whether  any future such attacks will be the subject of prosecutions. ]

 Des Moore, South Yarra Vic

Terrorism is still a current concern
(Letter published in the Australian Financial Review, 19 April 2013.)
[Square bracketed references deleted by Ed]

In January Prime Minister Julia Gillard identified three key risks in Australia’s national security strategy but did not include terrorism.

She acknowledged in her statement that “this does not mean that terrorism is defeated or we should ignore the malign intent of non-state actors”.

The Boston bombings certainly bring home the increasing dangers all Western countries face today from terrorist activities.

Yesterday evening on ABC television, Foreign Minister Bob Carr referred to a two page list of attempted attacks in America [in addition to 9/11] and to the 23 terrorists in jail in Australia following the disruption of four serious terrorist attacks planned here.

He claimed that “counter-terrorism is working” and that “intelligence gathering is the key to safeguarding the Australian people”.

But neither he nor other commentators have referred to the large numbers of people here and elsewhere who endorse terrorist action by extremist Islamists.

The counter to this serious problem cannot rely simply on intelligence gathering but must include a political response that defends western culture and rejects such extremism.

Des Moore

[Life member] Australian Strategic Policy Institute, South Yarra, Vic

A dangerous silence on ideology of Boston terrorists
(Article by Andrew Bolt published in the Herald Sun, 22 April 2013.)

OUR media behaved politely after the Boston bombing. None jumped to the correct conclusion: these terrorists were yet again Muslim. In fact, even after brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were identified and found to be - surprise! - Muslim, some still pretended not to notice or think it relevant.

Muslim? Really? What an amazing coincidence. Probably meaningless.

So in the more than 6000 words filed by The Age on its live coverage thread by 8.30am on Saturday, the word "Muslim" was used just once: "The brothers are Muslims believed to be of Chechen origin, but there is still no clear motive for the attack."

Uh huh.

"No clear motive", even though by then we knew Tamerlan, the elder brother, named after a famous Muslim warrior, had called himself "very religious" and died with a bomb strapped to his chest. Moreover, a YouTube account in his name was stuffed with videos of calls to jihad and homages to terrorism. Now what could have helped motivate him to blow up Westerners with pressure cooker bombs of the kind featured on jihadist internet manuals?

Hmm.  Complete mystery.

Over at the ABC, there was much the same assumed bafflement. Saturday's AM started with a report from Boston that didn't mention "Muslim" once. It merely hinted the brothers were Chechens "possibly inspired by terrorist ideology".

Which ideology? Not stated.

Only in a later AM report from Moscow was a clue given, with references to "Islamist" forces in Chechnya. Same in yesterday's Sunday Age editorial. It mentioned the bombers were Chechen, but not that they were Muslim, adding: "It should be noted that information that emerged. . . didn't fit into any neat profile, aside from the fact that the suspects were young adult males."

No, nothing to fit the profile of the bombers of Bali, London, Madrid, Beslan, New York. Or of the underpants bomber, shoe bomber and "dirty bomber". No pattern at all.

Sydney's Sun-Herald likewise dodged the "M" word in yesterday's editorial: "Their mother said her elder son got involved in religion about five years ago and believed her sons were controlled by someone else."  What religion was that? The editorial didn't say, even though the bombers' mother had: "[Tamerlan] talks about Islam a lot."

This is, of course, the approved way of reporting - or not reporting - Muslim terrorists.

For instance, SBS after the September 11 attacks destroyed tape it had filmed of the then mufti of Australia praising suicide bombers in his mosque.  SBS told me it wanted to stop you jumping to an "unfair" conclusion about this hate-preacher.

The ABC was equally keen to stop you jumping to the correct conclusion when US army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan shot dead 13 soldiers at Fort Hood. Nidal was Muslim.  He shouted "God is great" as he fired.  Fellow doctors had complained about his fierce preaching of Islam and "anti-American propaganda". All this was known to journalists within hours.

Yet the ABC's first substantial radio report failed in its eight minutes to even note the killer's faith. Of course, even the ABC knows perfectly well each time there's a bang, odds are the terrorists are Muslim.

That's why on Friday, just before the Tsarnaev brothers were cornered, AM ran a pre-emptive piece on a Muslim apologist warning us not to assume the bombers were what they were. "Government agencies have cast that shadow on American Muslims, Arabs, South-Asian for over a decade now," he complained.

Actually, what casts that shadow is not mean police or nasty media.

It is Muslim extremists blowing up people. After all, hundreds of Australians are dead from Islamist terrorism.

Nearly two dozen Australian Muslims have been jailed for terrorism-related offences, and Muslims have been filmed in our streets calling for critics of Islam to be beheaded.  ASIO now warns that hundreds of young Lebanese Australians are now fighting in Syria and could return as radicals with "extremist al-Qaida-type doctrine".

And one of the videos on the Tamerlan Tsarnaev YouTube account was of a sermon by Australian sheik Feiz Mohammad, who elsewhere has urged children to be jihadists and said the punishment for a critic of Islam was to "chop off his head".

We have the right to worry, and even the right to suspect every time a bomb goes off that Muslim hands set the detonator. Islam is certainly not the whole explanation, not even for the Boston bombers, who may also have been influenced by Chechen culture, their alienation and their family upbringing.

Nor is every terrorist Muslim - think Anders Behring Breivik - but it's true too often to stupidly pretend there's no pattern.

I know there is a danger in writing articles like this. Debating Islamic radicalism risks making the peaceful majority of Muslims here feel unwelcome, even persecuted.

But not debating could be far more dangerous.

Aftab Malik, a British Muslim scholar embedded for three months in southwest Sydney's Muslim community, warned us this month to stop shutting our eyes and mouths. He'd detected a "sense of uneasiness" in Muslim Australia that reminded him of British Muslims before the July 2005 Islamist bombings in London that killed 52 people. Malik, of the United Nations' Alliance of Civilisations, said Australia needed to talk "about culture, about meaning, about belonging". "Unfortunately, for British Muslims, it took a terrorist attack for us to have that discussion," he said.

"You need to pre-empt this. Don't wait till something tragic happens."  By "something tragic", Malik means a few radical Muslims here doing what was done in, say, Boston.

And what will the ABC say then? Still "no clear motive for the attack"?

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