Leading article Australia

Straight to the heart

15 October 2015

2:00 PM

15 October 2015

2:00 PM

Muhammad Salah, or Abu Rajab as his mates call him, is what you might call a ‘firebrand cleric’. Even, possibly, a ‘religious zealot’. Some may go so far as to label him a ‘terrorist’, a term he himself seems to have no trouble with. Rajab’s schtick is to liven up his sermons – delivered from the pulpit of the popular Al Abrar mosque in the Gaza/Egypt bordertown of Rafah – with the occasional prop. Last Friday, mid-way through his sermon he whipped out a large, shiny dagger from his robes and proceeded to brandish it with theatrical glee, punctuating his religious incantations with frenzied chopping actions and violent stabbing motions. Here is what he had to say:

‘This is Jerusalem. This is where the soldiers of the Prophet Muhammad are. This is the grace of Allah. Brothers, this is why we recall today what Allah did to the Jews. Yes! Today we realise why the Jews build walls, not to stop missiles, but to prevent the slitting of their throats. My Brothers in the West Bank: stab! My Brother in the West Bank, stab the myths of the Talmud in their minds. Stab the myths of the Temple in their hearts. Oh Prophet of Allah incite the believers to fight. You Jews have come of your own volition to be slaughtered on our land. When the promise of the hereafter comes we shall gather you from various nations. Allah has brought the Jews… the enemies of humanity. Oh people of Al-Abrar mosque and the people of Rafah, from this mosque of yours you have the honour of delivering the messages. Form stabbing squads, we don’t want just a single stabber. Oh young men of the West Bank, attack in threes and fours. Some should restrain the victim, while others attack him with axes and butcher knives. Do not fear what will be said of you. Oh men of the West Bank, next time attack in groups of three, four or five. Attack them in groups, cut them into body parts.’ And so on.

This week, we look at the vexed issue of how western governments can tackle radical Islam. Let’s face it, it’s a struggle we appear ill-equipped for and, worse, self-delusional about. In the last few weeks our country and our leaders have tied themselves in knots trying to figure out the best way to prevent any further radicalisation of young Muslims, or others. Laws are being changed, summits being hastily arranged, even our language is being dangerously tinkered with.

Yet we continually refuse to recognise what we are really up against. As Tanveer Ahmed points out, many in the Muslim community who deplore violence and abhor terrorism nonetheless believe in much of the same religious ideology – a future global Caliphate, the inferiority of Jews, the superiority of Muslims, sharia law, the ‘submission’ of women – that is the bedrock of radical Islam. Distinguishing the political, cultural and religious components of Islam is as pointless as trying to untie the Gordian knot. Indeed, the truly revealing aspect of Abu Rajab’s repulsive sermon – self-consciously staged and filmed, incidentally, for mass appeal on youtube – is how seamlessly he blends the religious and the political in order to incite cold-blooded murder. In that, his sermon is instructive: as is the case in Israel, Europe and now here, all sorts of political, sociological and psychological justifications are proffered for what is really a deadly strain of a religiously-infused virus.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has arrived on the scene at a critical juncture. Will the murder of Curtis Cheng be remembered as a hideous aberration in our successful multiracial society, or does it point to the steady rise of a deadly ideology that promises many more such attacks? Let us trust that our leaders are prepared and determined to ensure the former, and have the tools to prevent the latter.

Blind eye

How much longer can Bill Shorten cling on? The latest revelations from the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption yet again point to his alleged role in union practices more akin to mafiosi extortion techniques than legitimate negotiations with Big Business designed to improve the working conditions of union members; with businesses supposedly coughing up for guaranteed industrial peace at the expense of workers’ rights. In such deals, it is alleged that Big Business do very well thank you (saving hundreds of millions of dollars); the unions do very well thank you (trousering hundreds of thousands of dollars); whilst the workers get repeatedly dudded.

The indifference of the ABC and mainstream media to these tawdry allegations is a disgrace. But if Mr Shorten truly believes the public have equally turned a blind eye, he is in for a shock.

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