Following the Paris attacks, Australia’s Mufti Dr. Ibrahim Abu Muhammad, issued a statement in which he expressed both sympathy for the victims and their families as well as a need to explore causative factors behind such attacks.
Amongst other things, he mentioned Islamophobia and racism.
The response he got was, quite instructively, Islamophobic and racist.
The statement said that counter-terrorism measures are not working and that issues such as Western foreign policy, military intervention and increased securitisation must be considered.
These comments sparked outrage, but are they really that outrageous?
Consider that earlier this year, the Australian Government’s own “Review of Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Machinery” stated:
“All of the terrorism-related metrics are worsening: known numbers of foreign fighters, sympathisers and supporters, serious investigations. We are not ‘winning’ on any front.”
“Not winning on any front” is an indirect admission of failure on every front.
The very fact that more funds are being allocated to counter-terrorism, more anti-terror laws are being passed and more policies are being introduced betrays that the approach of the government is decidedly unsuccessful.
Former British PM and co-lead perpetrator of the Iraq invasion Tony Blair now admits that there are “elements of truth” in the argument that the invasion was the “principal cause” of the rise of ISIS, adding that, “you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”
Shirking this responsibility is precisely what silencing discussion of causes is all about.
CIA Director John Brennan said earlier this year that, “we have to recognize that sometimes our engagement and direct involvement will stimulate and spur additional threats to our national security interests.”
Former Director General of British internal Security Service MI5, Baroness Manningham-Buller said in 2010 that the conflict in Iraq “substantially” exacerbated the overall threat of terrorism.
On all counts, the Mufti said what others, including Western leaders and intelligence officials, have said before him.
Yet, he faced an unrelenting barrage from government and media. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton called for immediate “clarification” and arrogantly even explained his expected manner of clarification – a senior government minster effectively dictating to a senior Muslim representative what must be said. Other government ministers made similar comments.
The usual shock jocks and right wing commentators came out in force, demanding the resignation of the Mufti. The front page of the Daily Telegraph was particularly crude, depicting the Mufti in a take on the three wise monkeys.
In short, the Mufti was chastised for venturing beyond the tired and superficial politics of condemnation. The ensuing hysteria is indicative of the fact that Muslims are not to be participants in the conversation – they are the mere subjects of it and must speak from the issued script when spoken to and spoken of.
But to solve problems associated with violence, they must be understood and this is precisely what is not happening. This is deliberate and exposes the true face of “counter-terrorism”.
The message to the Mufti is a memo to the Muslim community at large: don’t talk about foreign policy, don’t talk about causative factors, don’t talk about anything that challenges our narrative on “terrorism”. Play our game by our rules.
The Mufti is in the firing line today. Other Muslim groups and individuals have been in the past. But the message is always the same: stay in line.
Doing so is not an option for the Muslim community. We have the responsibility to speak honestly and openly against oppression and injustice. To enjoin the good and forbid evil. We must speak of causative factors, political and historical context. Indeed, we must move beyond that to constantly and consistently shine light on the greatest violence and terror the world faces in our time: the state sponsored terror of western states.
Hamzah Qureshi is a graduate in politics, an activist and member of Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia.
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