Aug 26, 2014

‘No credible threat’ from the virus of radicalisation

Radicalisation of young Muslims can be stopped easily -- by not attacking Muslim countries. But Western governments persist in treating it as a kind of virus.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

"The best defence against radicalisation is through well-informed and well-equipped families, communities and institutions," the Prime Minister claimed this morning, announcing a package of over $60 million in measures targeting "young Australians being radicalised". Wrong, PM. The best defence against radicalisation is to avoid gratuitous military attacks on Muslim countries. Who says? Baroness Manningham-Buller:
"By 2003/2004 we were receiving an increasing number of leads to terrorist activity from within the UK and the -- our involvement in Iraq radicalised, for want of a better word, a whole generation of young people, some British citizens -- not a whole generation, a few among a generation -- who were -- saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam... Of course, also we were dealing at that time with a number of young British citizens who went to Iraq to fight not with Her Majesty's forces but against them ..."
Manningham-Buller is better known as the former head of MI5, and that was her evidence to the Chilcott inquiry in 2010, in which she explained at length how the UK's participation in the attack on Iraq substantially increased the threat of terrorism to Britons. This "young jihadis" line from the government, in co-operation with News Corp tabloids, is another stage in its hyping of the terrorist threat of the Islamic State, which has proved a useful distraction from the government's domestic problems. Not that the Abbott government is the only government doing this: the Obama administration has been guilty of the same wild hype, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week declaring IS a greater threat than al-Qaeda and "beyond just a terrorist group". Bear in mind, for the purposes of that comparison, that al-Qaeda was claimed during the 2000s to have access to weapons of mass destruction, while IS so far has concentrated on the terrorist theatre of individual beheadings and other gruesome forms of execution. That dissonance was reflected in the fact that, at the same time that Hagel was claiming IS a bigger threat than al-Qaeda, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security were saying it posed "no specific or credible threat" to the United States. But for the purposes of the War on Terror, there must always be a bigger threat looming.
"Radicalisation is not some random event ... but a coherent response by (mostly) young Muslim men to the perception that Western governments are at war with Islamic countries."
Abbott's version of "radicalisation" is the same as that memorably articulated by ASIO head David Irvine, in which radicalisation is seen as a kind of virus that might infect one if one's security hygiene is poor, rather than a specific and, from the point of view of the individual radicalised, entirely rational response to external events. In 2011, Irvine argued that the internet was the vector for radicalisation-as-virus, saying: "The rampant use of the internet, the democratisation of communication, has resulted in new and effective means for individuals to propagate and absorb unfettered ideas and information and to be radicalised -- literally, in their lounge rooms." Irvine's conception of radicalisation was that of a disease that could strike anywhere, anytime, even in that safe domestic space of the lounge room, unless one took steps to prevent it -- with the implication that Muslims were particularly susceptible to being infected. The funding provided by Abbott today is similarly based on this approach, with funding primarily directed to law enforcement agencies to "monitor" and "disrupt" vectors of radicalisation like returned foreign fighters and extremist groups. As Manningham-Butler explained, however, radicalisation is not some random event like contracting meningitis, but a coherent response by (mostly) young Muslim men to the perception that Western governments are at war with Islamic countries. The hyping of the threat of IS -- which serves to maximise the transgressive appeal of the militants, and transgressive appeal is one of the most powerful marketing tools when it comes to young people -- and increased Western military intervention directed at IS is likely to simply renew the cycle of radicalisation. That cycle resulted in Britons carrying out terrorist bombings in the UK and British men fighting against their own country in Iraq. The question continues to be: are Western governments making the same mistakes as a decade ago in ignorance, or are they doing it deliberately, knowing full well they perpetuate the War on Terror in doing so?

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26 thoughts on “‘No credible threat’ from the virus of radicalisation

  1. rhwombat

    ‘But the old m[e]n would not so, but slew his son,
    And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

  2. David Hand

    It’s oh so fashionable to blame the west for radicalised Jihadists. It’s all our fault by invading Iraq. I note that there is no effort to explore whether or not this is a correlation rather than a causal relationship. In fact the headline directly links the cause – invading Muslim countries – with the effect – radicalised jihadists.

    Manningham-Butler seems to have got her chronology mixed up. The west was blissfully coasting into the 21st century thinking all was generally sweet in the post cold war world when 9/11 happened. Then the west invaded muslim countries. In that order, stupid.

  3. samquigley

    Way to history, David Hand. Isn’t it weird how Al-Qaeda imagined those Iraqi sanctions and the US’s extended military presence in Saudi Arabia and its unquestioning support of Israel, though.

  4. Ian Brown

    “Then the west invaded muslim countries. In that order, stupid.”

    Putting aside the fact that Iraq was clearly the wrong country to invade (no hindsight required) you seem to be unaware that the major motivation of Al Quaeda in the run up to 9/11 was the stationing of US forces in Saudi Arabia during and subsequent to the first Gulf War (infidels in the home of the Prophet). Or the scholarship generally linking terrorism to military occupation – see

    It is not Manning-Butler who is stupid …

  5. Dennis Bauer

    Mr Hand the Muslims where very good people as President Reagan said, Google it, there is plenty on the net to read about it, they were good people when we were fighting the Communists, and really it is caused to a great extent by the first world war. It is just a continuation of the 1914/1918 Great War, but if your like my tory mate Rossco you wont believe any of this, you more than likely pass it off as nonsense.

  6. klewso

    We have little to fear more than fear-mongers.

  7. Deborah Richards

    “… radicalisation is not some random event like contracting meningitis, but a coherent response by (mostly) young Muslim men to the perception that Western governments are at war with Islamic countries.”..
    This is true but also reading the Facebook and twitter entries of young Australian Muslims,there is also a strong perception that western countries do not accept their Muslim minority citizens, and in a sense are at war with them

  8. Kevin Herbert

    ‘Radicalisation of young Muslims can be stopped easily — by not attacking Muslim countries”.

    How straightforward it is…and yet not said in public by any western government toady of the US.

    PS: there’s no such organisation as Al Quaeda, which is a confection of the CIA.

  9. Bill Hilliger

    Of course, …security is a growth industry requiring ever more $$$, no questions asked. Easy to justify just identify an enemy, nowadays its misguided jihadists. Security garners votes when votes are difficult to come by, etc.

    Communism is old hat, no longer an immediate enemy, we now trade with them. No, not Russia, they have a trade embargo on Australia worth about $1 billion mostly primary produce that went pffftt. Barnaby Joyce was sent to China to try and divert / save the loss. No success there, otherwise Tony of Team Murdoch would have been crowing about it.

    Then again, maybe the enemy is within, the attitude of our politicians past and present, to wit: solicited involvement by deputy sheriff you know who …Iraq and Afghanistan may have had something to do with the current state in the middle east and furthermore radicalisation of Muslim youth.

  10. Marilyn Shepherd

    The dimwits in the Murdoch rags even claim that shiíte hazara are joining radical sunni gangs. Seriously stupid people.

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