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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 comments

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

  1. klewso

    As handy a weapon of mass demonization as it is, I’m not too sure anyone is asserting this (or anything else) is all the West’s fault?
    I think it’s more the fault of all-round malfeasance and mishandling of situations by myopic miscreants on all sides – often looking after their own self-interest before the greater?
    [I reckon intransigence and zealotry (of any sort be it religious – including the interpretation of “Christianity” – political or any other) anywhere can be a sure recipe for conflict and disaster if not handled thoughtfully and with eminent foresight?]
    There’s always been human conflict in the Middle East – since before “The Good Samaritan’s” time?
    [As there has in any region – “Terra Nullius”, the Native Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa. Antarctica’s been pretty peaceful…. is there a pattern there…?]
    Personally, I don’t think the West’s (with their superior military accoutrements) meddling in the Middle East – playing favourites – for the good of their oil industry – has helped? In fact I think it’s probably exacerbated and even inflamed the situation?
    ….. I can’t help thinking that – even when I’m crutching hoggets – and even though I realise I’m obviously not Right?

  2. rhwombat

    Poor One-Hand – forced to flounce outside the Rupertverse. I bet he doesn’t stick it.

  3. Dennis Bauer

    Thank you klewso comments like yours keep me sane.

  4. Neutral

    If an Australian goes to Jihadistan to commit jihad by all means cancel passports/revoke citizenship. Don’t let them back into the country/lock ’em up. Make appropriate laws and deal with them accordingly.

    However perverting the law from the presumption of innocence to the presumption of guilt would closely align us with Communists, Fascists, The Taliban, ISIS, Columbian Drug Lords and every other extremist. It wouldn’t be the thin edge of the wedge – it would be broad, blunt and very unsubtle. It would undermine the basis of the legal freedom we currently enjoy in The West. It would be treasonus to The West to open the door for future extremists to have their way with us down the track.

    Further, assuming that every Australian is guilty and required to prove their innocence which forms the ideology behind the data retention proposals is not some fictional Orwellian plot. It will become Orwellian fact if it gets up. Talk about an identity crisis. Do we want to be communists? More likely fascists but who can tell?

    However, by implementing the very simple policy of not invading a country on the other side of the planet that does not pose a threat to Australia would take away any excuse a jihadist would have to harm us. The ADF is what it’s name says – the Australian DEFENCE Force. Any criminal acts that do occur can be dealt with as crimes have always been dealt with.

    I didn’t have a problem with going after Al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts after 9/11 (my wife lost a friend and work colleague on Flight 93). They declared war on The West and The West fought back. Fair enough. However, protagonists for the Project for a New American Century took over and neocon hubris led to Iraq while leaving Afghanistan unfinished. In the end both were a failure – look at them now. Mission Accomplished Indeed!

    The blame lies squarely with Bush, Blair and Howard. A muppet for the extreme right, a leftie poodle and a bloke who reckoned regime change was not a good enough reason to go to war but went anyway and then thanked our troops for ‘properly liberating an oppressed people’.

    That they happen to be from The West is only relevant to the hornets that came out of the nest when The West poked it. They have unnecessarily increased the risk to our lives in The West, our shared conservative values in The West and our lifestyles in The West. They are traitors to The West.

    Yet there are still old grognards out there going at it, defending it and trying to propagate it. Having not learnt the first time around they want to prove again that the old stupidity/insanity cliché still holds true.

    I appreciate and value what The West has given me through no thing other than fortuitously being born here. I do not appreciate extremists of any kind undermining that for selfish ideological reasons.

    The only wankers in this debate are the Mission Accomplishers who seek to destroy The West from within under the ruse of protecting it from without.

  5. CML

    Dan B – Thank you for your reply. I now understand where you are coming from, but don’t fully agree with your take on it all. IMHO other Muslim countries in the Middle East and elsewhere do not get involved in sorting out the extremists because they are usually on one or other side of the argument. And in the final analysis, they are ALL Muslims, who are far more likely to support an Islamic Caliphate than not.
    I am not suggesting that all Muslims agree with the methods used by the Islamists, but the mere fact that they do nothing to stop this abomination leaves the whole of Islam with some serious questions to answer.
    I think the old adage applies – we (Australians) can’t save the whole world, so we need a bit of reality therapy here. To that extent, I think Bernard is correct to suggest we should not get involved in a ‘war’ which has nothing to do with us, and history would suggest, is unlikely to have a satisfactory outcome.
    In other words, it is a religious war of sorts, and that, in and of itself, makes the whole business irrational!

  6. AR

    Surely our Jesuitically tutored Beloathed Leaderpuppet must know that it is impossible to prove a negative, it was their fall back position when antitheists dissed the god delusion – “prove god doesn’t exist”. Prove you weren’t a jihadist over yonder. More likely he & the Greatest Legal Mind in the known Multiverse, His Honour Utegate know this, they just don’t give a pinch of the proverbial.
    Does anyone remember how the Drug Menance led to similar civil rights encroachments, massive legislative growth and enforcement empires in the 60s.
    Plus ca bloody change.
    Islamists are, by definition,a ‘self excluding group’ as the vast majority of muslim citizens throughout the West demonstrate.
    Long overdue as Islam is for a Reformation -it is unlikel to happen whilst under threat. Check out how Henry VIIIs little lust peccadilloes left the Continent priest ridden for centuries after the Enlightenment.

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