The day after federal and state police arrested four Muslim men in Melbourne for preparing a terrorist attack on the Holsworthy army base in Sydney, Andrew Bolt, associate editor of the Herald Sun newspaper, wrote the following article.
So I turn on the radio to hear babble about police raids in our suburbs on suspected terrorists.
I immediately suspect … what?
That the four men arrested were Presbyterians? Baptists? Greens?
Well, if I’d hopped onto the ABC website, I’d be little the wiser.
In the 750 words on this alleged plot to launch suicide attacks, not one was “Islam”, “Muslim” or even “jihad”.
Not one word was used to describe what allegedly motivated these men—Lebanese and Somali Australians with reported ties to Somalia’s al-Shabaab Mujahideen terrorists—to want to kill Australian soldiers on an army base.
That’s how reluctant we are still to honestly debate Islam, terrorism … and immigration, suddenly the biggest elephant in a tension-filled room.
But we knew. We all did—even those eager to advertise their non-racism.
In fact, Victoria Police was forced to ditch the sensitivity manual it produced only last month to get us to not mention this war—you know, the war that only days afterwards took out three more Australians in Jakarta.
That manual is its Lexicon on Terror that Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana said would be sent to officials and politicians to instruct them not to use feelings-hurty words such as “war on terror”, “Islamic terrorism”, “Islamo-fascists” and “moderate Muslims”.
Such insensitive speech just made Muslims think we were at war with Islam, Fontana said, overlooking the fact that too many Muslims think Islam is at war with us.
Well, his manual didn’t survive reality for long. There was Chief Commissioner Simon Overland at yesterday’s media conference, freely linking Islam to terrorism and once more urging us not to forget all those moderate Muslims.
“I also want to assure the broader Islamic community here in Victoria we understand that the overwhelming and vast majority of the Islamic faith are not terrorists,” he preached.
Good on him for saying so, of course, but I suspect it’s now time not for non-Muslims to reassure Muslims that they mean no harm, but rather the reverse.
After all, this is not the first alleged terrorist plot by local Muslims to have been busted. Only six months ago Algerian-born preacher Abdul Nacer Benbrika was jailed in Melbourne, along with six followers, for planning terrorist attacks on Australians at the football.
We’ve also had Muslims jailed for plotting bombings in Canberra, while others have raised money for jihadists in Africa and Afghanistan, sold pro-jihad manuals at mosques, or joined Islamist terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Somalia.
There are many such reasons we’ve been given to link Islam to terrorism.
We saw the Islamic Youth Movement meet regularly in Australia’s biggest mosque, in Lakemba, to preach jihad and support terrorist chief Osama bin Laden. We heard the then Mufti of Australia, Sheik Taj el-Din al-Hilaly, praise the September 11 attacks and back terrorists in Lebanon.
We watched on television the Jordanian-born Melbourne cleric Mohammed Omran declare: “I dispute any evil action linked to bin Laden.”
And only last week we had a NSW judge describe the Islamic Friendship Association’s Keysar Trad, Hilaly’s spokesman, as a “racist” Jew-hater who stirred up hostility between Muslims and non-Muslims and said things that “appear to condone violence”.
Note: I’ve kept this list to just Islamist activity in Australia. I have not included those countless explosions of Islamist hatred overseas—such as the attacks on New York, Washington, Madrid, London, Israel, Mumbai, Kenya and Bali.
So as I said, when we heard the news yesterday, we knew. Reality trumped our manners.
But though we knew, what do we now do, other than rely on our police and courts? Let me suggest five things.
1. Make enemies only of enemies
Overland is in fact right to make clear our quarrel is not with Muslims who believe their faith forbids terrorism.
While you may sometimes doubt just how many such Muslims there are, if most really did think the Koran obliged them to declare war on unbelievers, we would have many more terrorists to deal with than the handful so far.
Encourage the best to disown the worst. And that’s done by knowing the difference, and honouring it.
2. Defend free speech
The real threat to peace here is not Anglo racism but Islamist radicalism.
Yet attempts to warn of hate preachers in our midst such as Hilaly, or of jihadists in the mosques who need rooting out, have too often been damned as racist or mean, especially by the ABC and Fairfax journalists.
Worse, Victoria’s Labor Government shamefully passed laws against saying hurtful things about religion—laws promptly used to punish two Christian pastors who warned their flock about the Koran’s praise of jihad.
But no frank debate means no one gets shamed who needs shaming, and without shame, who’d change?
3. Don’t think anywhere is too far to be dangerous
The September 11 attacks showed us that no place was too far away to leave to terrorists. Even men in caves in Afghanistan could bring down skyscrapers in New York.
We know that leaving Somalia to anarchy has allowed Islamists to set up new terrorist training camps, used by [Muslim] Americans, Europeans and even Australians.
If we don’t fight these Islamists there, they will fight us here. So support the fight for Afghanistan, and wonder what we can do with Somalia—now a haven for pirates, terrorists, and the kidnappers who have for a year held Queenslander Nigel Brennan hostage.
4. Scrap multiculturalism
We are all safer, and I suspect happier, if we see ourselves as one community, and not a nation of tribes.
Yet see the taxpayer money now spent on building ethnic ghettos.
The Victorian Multicultural Commission alone boasts of spending $34,700 in a year on 12 separate Somali organisations, each of which depends on staying separate from us to get yet more cash, perks and clout.
But what are we propping up? Those many groups offer a clue. The 10,000 estimated Somali refugees in Victoria are deeply divided by clans—at least four, including the Hawiye, aligned with Somalia’s radical Islamic Courts Union.
And Aden Ibrahim of the Somali-Australian Council of Victoria put the problem frankly in March: “A Somali is loyal to his clan before any court, before marriage, before any other loyalty.
“It’s like the military—the general gives the order and that’s it.”
Given that alone—leaving aside even such cultural practices as the genital mutilation of girls—do you want your money spent on keeping Somalis apart, or on giving them the talents to make their way among the rest of us?
5. Rethink immigration intakes
There’s a million people desperate to get here, so doesn’t it make sense to choose those most likely to fit in?
Yet we keep making the same mistake, particularly in taking in people from war-torn, tribal and backward countries who, as a whole, struggle to make the best of our help.
Take the Muslim Lebanese we took in during the Lebanese civil war. Many did fit in well, but too many others ended up on welfare … or worse. In fact, the Lebanese-born are twice as likely as the rest of us to be in jail, and Lebanese dominate several Sydney crime gangs.
It’s not just a Muslim thing, of course. The Vietnamese are three times more likely to be imprisoned—and the rate for Tongans and Samoans is still worse.
Crime figures for Somali immigrants are harder to prise out of police, but figures from then chief commissioner Christine Nixon suggest that refugees from neighbouring Sudan are four times more likely than others to be charged.
Yes, these figures could lie, since some of these groups have a higher proportion of youths—always riper for strife.
But such figures, properly calculated, may indeed show we are importing problems we don’t need—problems that may even turn Australians against helping anyone.
Certainly, the Howard government decided in its last year to slow the intake of refugees from Africa for precisely such reasons.
Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews was monstered for this “racism”, but what would you rather? That we import more people of a group that’s struggling to fit in? More of a group that’s more prey to ideologies of hatred and jihad?
Yes, it’s hard to talk about such things without making many decent immigrants feel hurt. But ask what does more to set us at each other’s throats: frank talk, or terrorist plots on our soil?
First published in the Herald Sun (5 August 2009) and republished in Life News by kind permission of the author.