I like Julie Bishop. She is smart, personable, competent and politically savvy. She’s proven to be an excellent Foreign Minister and one day I hope she gets the opportunity to hold the top job.
Most recently, it was her address to the Sydney Institute earlier this week that marked her as someone who truly ‘gets it’.
In a forum attended by an estimated 900 people, she covered a range of areas relating to foreign policy including the two Australians executed last night in Indonesia, the tragic earthquake in Nepal, ANZAC Day and the greatest threat the world faces today – Islamic terrorism.
Indeed, it was her uncompromising remarks about the ideology challenging the world that captured my attention and that of the media.
Bishop stated that the extreme ideology driving Islamic State has not been seen since the Second World War – a clear association with the Communist and fascist regimes of that era.
She said of Islamic State: “…anyone who does not embrace their narrow and extremist view of Islam is an enemy to be destroyed.”
Further, she identified the main motivations behind foreign fighters joining these barbarians.
They are: a desire to take part in the final battle of the Islamic apocalypse, a desire to help Muslims under attack, a desire to take part in jihad and a desire to be part of the caliphate and the great Islamic experiment.
Her comments met with widespread applause and were considered measured, respectful and absolutely correct.
What struck me about them though, and the associated media coverage, is how it contrasted with the coverage given to my own similar comments made in 2011.
During a radio interview I said:
“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.”
Of course, this simple truth met with widespread condemnation from some of my Liberal colleagues - including many of those who now hold senior positions in the Cabinet. Tony Abbott himself said my views didn't represent the views of the Coalition.
Naturally, the media went into full feral mode. Lefty Liberal Amanda Vanstone called for my sacking (a repetitive theme from the vocal anti-conservative); many others labelled me an ‘extremist’, a ‘racist’ and a ‘disgrace’. Yet not one of my critics dealt with the substance of my argument – presumably because they didn't care about the message; they just knew they didn't like the messenger.
To put it simply, I think they had little if any understanding of the matter and just weren't prepared to even engage. It was far simpler to denigrate the canary in the coal mine and hope that the noxious gas went away.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t gone away, it has simply gotten worse. Since then we have seen terror attacks at home and abroad being done in name of Islamic State. Notable Muslims, including Britain’s culture secretary, have said it is ‘lazy’ to claim these attacks have nothing to do with Islam.
Even the President of Egypt has called for a “religious revolution” in Islam to reform the faith that he believes is too entrenched and has made the Muslim world a source of “destruction” that stands against the rest of the world.
None of these (or many other calls) from notable figures have met with anything other than agreement from sensible people across the globe.
It tells me a lot has happened in four years, yet there are still too many public figures who refuse to confront the reality of what we are dealing with. It is, as Julie Bishop reflected, an extreme ideology akin to that of the Communist and fascist movements of the 1940s.
Back then, far too many were prepared to excuse these regimes as ‘just another political system’ to be tolerated and appeased in the interests of peace. Unfortunately, there are too many today making the same mistakes in confronting the ideology seeking to enslave the world.
At least Julie Bishop appears to have woken up to what we are confronting. Let’s hope others will do the same.