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Combating Islamic Extremism

The language of hate by radical Islamists in Australia has increased in recent times or at least has become more obvious. This is exemplified in particular by the widespread publicity given to DVDs containing the ugly views of a young Australian-born youth leader and cleric, Sheik Feiz Muhammad. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s (ECAJ) concern is that such rhetoric will inspire equally hateful actions, threatening Australia’s democratic way of life and of course the Australian Jewish community. The inevitable question is how a civilised society should respond.

Let’s examine the case of Sheik Muhammed, a young man who moulded the thoughts of even younger people as the coordinator of the Global Islamic Youth Centre in Sydney. During this time he filmed a series of DVDs for commercial distribution that amongst other things sought to foster “a love of martyrdom” in children, advocated jihad and described non-Muslims as “filth” and Jews as “pigs”. When asked by the press what Muhammed was like, a member of the Global Islamic Youth Centre described him as a "great bloke", which says a great deal about that organisation and radical Islamists in this country.So, what should be done? Some argue that this is a freedom of speech issue and hence these views should be openly debated rather than suppressed. In this particular instance, the ECAJ responded with public statements, which were widely circulated, expressing its concern. Our line was that extremism is a problem for all Australians, something we firmly believe.In such a case, however, I believe that countering such emotive, dangerous language with reasoned argument doesn’t go far enough. In the increasingly charged atmosphere of the last decade when violence and terror are increasingly commonplace, there is a great danger that a call to arms will prompt violent action, particularly by the young and the unstable.

As all Australians are under threat, the ECAJ thinks it is up the Australian government to take action. It has the tools at its disposal in the form of the sedition offences contained in the Anti-Terrorism Act (No 2) 2005 (Cth). Sedition is a political crime that punishes certain communications critical of the established order. Under the 2005 changes, five new offences replaced the old sedition laws.

These are:
  • Urging Interference in Parliamentary Elections
  • Urging Violence within the Community
  • Urging the overthrow of the Constitution or Government
  • Urging a person to assist the enemy
  • Urging a person to assist those engaged in armed hostilities

Statements and acts found to fall in such categories could lead to seven years imprisonment. The ECAJ considers the sedition provisions an appropriate remedy in relation to behaviour such as Mohammed’s.

In our opinion, however, ultimately the best answer to extremist Islam is moderate Islam. Thus for example the ECAJ supports in principle the Australian Government’s establishment of a National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies which will aim to counter extremism by training moderate local imams. This aim is achievable, as long as the Centre’s courses and outcomes are stringently monitored to ensure that radical teachings supporting terrorism and violence are not taught or endorsed.

At the end of the day moderate Islam can only predominate if desired and led by Muslims themselves. The great challenge for Muslim Australians, their leaders in particular, is to demonstrate in word and deed that the advocates of terror increasingly hitting the headlines are as unacceptable to their community as they are to the rest of us. This is a longer term solution and the question remains whether the Islamic community has the will and courage to act. It is up to the rest of us to support them in every possible way in what will be a long and difficult battle.

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Here is a very interesting excerpt from the site: watch the video and read the transcript below: Print this Transcript Email a friend Close this window 12/29/2006 Clip No. 1363 Bahraini Liberal Author Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: We Hang Our Thinkers on the Gallows of Ideology. I Listen to Music and Placed Pictures of Jesus and Martin Luther King in My Home. Following are excerpts from an interview with Bahraini intellectual Dhiyaa Al-Musawi, which aired on Abu Dhabi TV on December 29, 2006. Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: I do not believe in gallows of ideology. Our problem in the Arab world is that we have many gallows of ideology and of accusations of social betrayal, on which we try to hang an intellectual, a thinker, or a poet every day, just like in the case of Naguib Mahfouz and others. We, I'm sad to say, are against creativity and civilization, and against any language that seeks common ground in society. [...] We must have the courage to get rid of the “backward” cholesterol of ideology, accumulating in the arteries of Arab awareness and the Arab mind. We suffer from backwardness. This is not masochism - the kind psychologists talk about - acts of self-flagellation. This is the truth. We have not developed even to the point of admitting defeat. We [have to] admit our cultural defeat. In the past, we had a civilization in Andalusia and in many other places, but today we are regressing – we export violence, we terrorize whole countries, we threaten national security, and many other things. [...] We need to reform and to reshape religious thinking, because, in all honesty, the pulpits of our mosques have begun to "booby trap" the people. Interviewer: In what way? Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: They booby trap them by generating hatred towards "the other." We have claimed a monopoly over Paradise, and each of us has recorded it in the land registry in his name. Interviewer: But the pulpits are under government supervision. Some of them are under government supervision, but in some Arab countries, although they are under government supervision, the government itself encourages the booby trapping. This problem has political reasons, but who pays the price? The country, society, civil society, and the young man, who is being told that the black-eyed virgins await him at the gates of Paradise, and that all he has to do is kill himself, to slaughter himself. He might blow up his family and children to get the virgins of Paradise. This is the language and culture of death. We were not born into this world in order to die this way. The beauty of Man lies in his living for the sake of his homeland, not in dying while booby trapping others. [...] In the Arab world, we have religious clerics who are beacons [of knowledge], but I think the problem is that we are constantly intimidating the public. We talk only about Hell, and not about Paradise at all. The Koran is balanced. It talks about the fire of Hell and the fruits of Paradise, but we constantly preach about the horrors of Judgment Day, saying that a bald Satan, or a bald serpent, would visit them in the grave. It is constant terror. It is always a dark picture. Why? That is the problem. Unfortunately, some young men – out of a wrong interpretation of religion... The moment he becomes religious, he ceases to smile and to greet others. He accuses some people of heresy and others of sin. He begins all that discourse. He hates music, and refuses to dress neatly. His mind is abducted into the dungeons of ideology, I'm sad to say. Interviewer: Let me ask you a question. If a Shiite, or even a Sunni, becomes a religious cleric, yet he listens to music, can the Arab public possibly accept him? Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: In my view, the Arab disposition suffers from many problems. We have destroyed many things, including the beauty of the general disposition. Music is a beautiful thing... Interviewer: Do you listen to music? Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: Yes, I listen to music. I listen to classical music, and I think Beethoven's symphonies are very beautiful. They are among the masterpieces of human art. I believe that music develops the spirit of Man and humbles him. What is wrong with that? [...] As for the policy of non-violence, I'd like to give you the example of Gandhi, whom I consider a hero. If only we could obtain some of Gandhi's genes, and plant them in the brains of our youth in the Arab world... Interviewer: In your home, you have pictures of Martin Luther King and Jesus on the wall. Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: In my home, I put up a picture of Jesus, because whenever I look at his picture, worlds of peace and love open up before me. It was Jesus who said: "Love thy enemies, bless them who curse thee." We need this beautiful language in our society. I also have a picture of Gandhi, whom I consider to be a very fine person, and whose [image] we should plant in the minds of our youth. [...] Some of us say: "May Allah curse the Jews and the Christians, the offspring of apes and pigs." Is this the language of progress? Is this the language of enlightenment and tolerance? If you had been born in Rome, you would have been Christian, if you had been born in Tehran, you would have been Shiite, and if you had been born in Saudi Arabia, you would have been Sunni, and so on. How wonderful it would be if all these people could gather in love around the table of humanity. [...] Nations that read more are the nations that are most respected, like the Western nations, where people read... When you travel to Switzerland, everywhere you go - on the bus or wherever - you see people reading books. Do you see such sights in the Arab world? [...] The problem of the Arab youth is that they do not read. As Gustave le Bon wrote in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, the Arab youth sometimes smile while they are taken to the slaughterhouse. Why? Because they lack awareness. We suffer from illiteracy. Today, the Arab world has, according to a U.N. report, close to 70 million illiterate adults – in other words, 70 million people whom you can booby trap, against their country and society, because they do not read.

Posted by S. Sontag on 2007-01-28 14:48:47 GMT