Saving democracy from the extremists
We are a nation built on immigration, a nation of second chances. Our history is decorated by contributions of the brave who left their homelands to make Australia home. We are a people of community, of equal rights and believers in a fair go. We honour the rule of law, and honour any security statement promising to protect our democracy.
The Prime Ministers’s security statement promised to clamp down on those “who incite religious or racial hatred” and those who participate in “blatantly spreading discord and division”. Such hate speech disrupts the community, spreads Xenophobia, and is no doubt a threat to our democracy. No true Australian should feel targeted by this, after all we believe in a fair go and trust the rule of law will be applied with equity, but will it?
Hours before the security statement The Australian published an article titled “Its absurd to deny Jihadist act in the name of Islam” concluding extremism is inherent to Islam. The publication had a very un-Australian affect on the readers – comments flooded the paper’s social media site vilifying Muslims, promoting hate and creating divisions amongst Australians.
A few days earlier another major news outlet published an article titled “Face reality the west is at war with Islam”. Vilification, hate and polarisation followed – an en vogue trend which seems to associate everything Islamic with everything anti-western and thereby everything un-Australian. This is a recurring theme in which the popular narrative is starting to promote hate, disenfranchising people and sowing the seeds of discord in society.
Some now pose proudly as bigots, is the day far off when we will pose proudly as hypocrites? What does this mean for our values our democracy? Is hate speech free-speech when the targets are a particular group?
Inconvenient facts have very little appetite in this ‘West vs Islam’ narrative. Respected sources such as Spielberg International cite, self proclaimed Islamists kill 8 times more Muslims than non muslims, making muslims the greatest ‘victims’ of terror.
Nonetheless Muslims remain convicted of ‘playing the victim’. Perhaps raw figures from Europol and the FBI database,concluding well over 90% of terror attacks on western soil have nothing to do with Islam, also seem irrelevant. Nonetheless there is an extremist reality and even one Australian death from terrorism is one too many and we cannot pretend there isn’t a problem. Non-violent extremism, leads to violent extremism and there is no place for that in Australia.
Associating ISIS with Islam and making Islam the anti-thesis of the West and Australia, is also non-violent extremism.
Terrorism expert Max Abrahams from Northeastern University will tell you those who join groups like ISIS “would fail the most basic test on Islam”. By associating ISIS with Islam, we play into the hands of the terrorists, doing their marketing for them and pushing the uninformed to their cause. Perhaps ISIS adherents cry ‘God is great’ before they murder, but didn’t Nazis engrave ‘God is with us’ on their belts before they murdered? Did this make the Nazis Christians? Then why would invoking God make ISIS Muslims?
Its well known that homegrown terrorists are the most disenfranchised of society. John Horgan, a psychologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Centrefor Terrorism, said fighters are driven to ISIS by the “need to belong to something special.. they want to find something meaningful in their life”.
Doesn’t associating ISIS with Islam and labelling Islam as the antithesis of the West devoid young Muslims of meaning in Australia and push the disenfranchised to the terrorist cause? Can preachers of hate only be Muslim? As believers in a fair go, we must apply the law with equity.
The war on terror has raged for well over a decade, with no end in sight. Millions of lives have been destroyed, and our way of life has changed. The freedoms we fought so bravely to protect are freedoms we are handing over to fear. Xenophobia is uncharacteristic of a nation forged by brave immigrants, it is uncharacteristic of the true Australian.
Demagogues for centuries have known that appealing to the passions and prejudices of the masses secures a following, but history tells us it doesn’t secure a nation. The first democracy was destroyed by those who exploited the fears of the masses, locking the Athenians into an un winnable conflict.
As citizens sworn to protect our democracy, its time to realise our democracy is too precious too follow that path of destruction.
— Junaid Cheema is an IT Executive, writer and community worker. He has written a number of articles for political journals introducing new paradigms provoking thought and passion. Junaid also volunteers his time on the board of a Victorian based not for profit, promoting foster care for disadvantaged children.