My apologies for the length of this missive. It is longer than usual because there is a lot that needs to be said; or should I say, a lot needs to be repeated in the hope that politicians and the media will actually listen and act.
Five years ago I was excoriated by colleagues and the media for daring to utter the following sentiments through my blog and a radio interview.
“The fanciful idea that allowing communities of people to isolate themselves from their fellow citizens somehow builds a better nation is rapidly coming to an end. Across the world there have been new waves of migrants who have decided that their greatest allegiance is to the religious and political ideology of Islam rather than their adopted land.”
“Islam itself is the problem. It’s not Muslims. Muslims are individuals that practice their faith in their own way but Islam is a totalitarian, political and religious ideology…It has not moved on since it was founded and there are these extremists that want to see fundamentalist Islamic rule implemented in this country. They are continually trying to change our laws. They’re seeking special accommodations to indulge in it and unfortunately this Government is allowing them and encouraging them, in many instances, to get away with it.”
The response was visceral.
An anonymous ‘senior Liberal MP’ told the media my comments were ‘a disgraceful and low way of reigniting the race debate’ (they obviously couldn't work out that Islam is not a race).
Amanda Vanstone and Julia Gillard said I should be sacked, whilst some of my South Australian colleagues were privately lobbying the Liberal Party to have me expelled.
Chris Bowen said my comments ‘…do a great disservice to this nation’, whilst Ed Husic said I ‘continue to cloud common sense and decency’ and called for Tony Abbott to ‘kill off the extremism within his ranks.’
It is worth noting Ed Husic didn't call for killing the extremism that threatens our way of life; only for the curtailing of honest discussion that actually dared to identify the problem.
My own team wasn't much better, anonymously feeding a press pack calling for my scalp. It was a media pile on led by Phillip Coorey, Andrew Probyn, Chris Kenny, Lenore Taylor among many others.
Five years later I stand by my comments and am prepared to call out my critics as being wrong. In fact, because of their actions I think they actually owe the Australian people an apology.
If we had been able to have a sensible discussion about the authoritarian nature of Islam and its undeniable link as an inspiration and justification for the barbaric actions of terrorist acts then things might be different today.
Unfortunately, the suppression of that important conversation under baseless accusations of Islamophobia, racism and dog whistling has done the entire Australian community a disservice. The media solicitation and sanitisation of the extremist history of people like Keysar Trad and other so-called Muslim community leaders has been an abrogation of accurate news reporting.
Despite the denials, since then, many voices within the Ummah have called for reform of Islam and many Islamic commentators have confirmed that one cannot disassociate the religious links to Islamic terror attacks.
A former radical with Hizb ut-Tahrir, Maajid Nawaz, said: “It's incorrect for we, as Muslims and generally those on the left of centre in this debate, to insist that Islamists and jihadists have nothing to do with Islam. That's actually an exercise in dishonesty. Of course they have something to do with Islam.”
Yet our political leaders still daren’t mention Islam and terrorism in the same sentence for fear of causing offence.
Some perpetuate the falsehood about the ‘religion of peace’ – either through ignorance or by wilfully ignoring the bloody history of Islam. Too many are in denial about the political and legal ideology inextricably entwined with the religious elements, so much so that there is no separation of church and state within Islamic doctrine.
And shamefully, too many of our political leaders have distanced themselves from the obvious problems in overseas Western nations and blithely stated that ‘they won’t happen here’ – even when they were already evident.
Unlike others, many years ago I chose to fully inform myself by travelling to Western Europe with open eyes to see what was going on. I saw politicians in denial there too, ignoring the concerns of their citizens and the resultant rise of nationalist movements and political parties.
I visited ‘enclaves’ where the rule of sovereign law had been effectively replaced with Sharia or Islamic law. I saw demonstrations involving thousands of people calling for the beheading of those who insult Islam. I met with experts and politicians who documented to me the impact on their nations. For my efforts I was condemned by media and colleagues alike.
Now there seems to be a growing awakening to the issues arising from the denial and intellectual cocoon that too many have sought to comfort themselves with.
Columnists like Henry Ergas and Janet Albrechtsen are joining Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, Paul Sheehan and Piers Akerman in daring to speak up. A few more politicians are finally finding their voice.
Unfortunately there are far too few.
If we are to beat the scourge of Islamic radicals seeking to impose the global caliphate and all the barbarism it entails on Western societies then we need to be able to speak frankly about the underlying problem. That problem is Islam itself.
We are very fortunate that most Muslims are law abiding and respectful people who practice their faith in a personal and private way. They have no time for the political elements of Islam and only seek to be a positive part of our communities.
However, that doesn't negate the need for reform.
The purported words of Allah and the example set by Muhammad in the 7th century need to be adapted and contemporised for the modern world, as mentioned by Maajid Nawaz: “we have to find some way to carve out a genuine respect for secularism and liberalism and tolerance and a respect for free speech above all within the Muslim world." Religious worship needs to be maintained as a private affair with a complete disconnect from the primitive penal code of 632 AD.
Such changes can only be driven from within the Muslim community.
Denying the root cause of the problem won’t cut it. Nor will throwing increasing amounts of taxpayers’ money at deradicalisation programs. In fact, stemming the flow of funds to some Islamic causes is more likely to achieve results.
The State-sponsored spread of hard-line Wahhabism needs to be curtailed in Australia and groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir need to have their financial supports removed. The halal certification rort needs to be stopped and a thorough examination of the actions of some international Islamic charities needs to begin.
Reform needs to start in the mosque and in the interpretation of Islamic doctrine. Radicalism needs to be denounced at every turn by Islamic leaders and their followers. They should be joined by every citizen concerned for the future of our country who should be free to voice their opinion without the pejorative slurs that have characterised any discussion thus far.
Former Muslim, Ayaan Hirsi Ali said as much. Today she wrote: “European leaders will have to address the infrastructure of indoctrination: mosques, Muslim schools, websites...that serve as conveyer belts to violence. European governments must do their own proselytising in Muslim communities, promoting the superiority of liberal ideas. This means directly challenging the Islamic theology used by the Islamist predators to turn the heads and hearts of Muslims...”
If we are serious about addressing the challenge that faces every one of us, it is up to all of us to start singing from the same song sheet.