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Sep 25, 2014

Targeting of Muslims risks the exact terror threat we claim to oppose

The constant focus on the Muslim community risks prompting exactly the kind of terrorist threat we are supposedly working to prevent.


The eighth generation Australian Muslim abused on the street and told to “go back where she came from”.

The Muslim men at a footy match marched out by police and questioned for using their phones “suspiciously”.

The senior Muslim cleric detained by Customs for no clear reason.

The bomb threat signed “Australian Defence League” sent to an Islamic centre.

Muslims raided and detained by NSW Police and then released without charge, henceforth stigmatised as “terror suspects”.

Muslims told to leave the country if they want to follow sharia law by an opportunistic politician who doesn’t actually know what sharia law is.

Muslim women told they don’t have the right to dress as they please by government backbenchers.

Muslims vilified as practising a religion of hatred and murder by a far-right News Corp columnist. Muslims vilified as practising “hatred, thuggery and racism” by a far-right Fairfax columnist.

“Some in the media have even argued that an individual victim’s beheading would somehow be more psychologically damaging to Australia than mass-casualty attacks — a homeopathic approach to terrorism in which ever-smaller numbers of actual victims produces ever-greater damage and fear.”

The harassment and vilification of Muslims isn’t merely the actions of a few neo-Nazi nutjobs or shrill talkback callers. It’s coming from all over. The footy fan who thinks Lebanese men using phones is automatically suspicious. The police who act on this “tip”. The politicians who seize on terror raids to vent their weird obsessions with Muslim women. The media figures who hope to harvest clicks by demonising Muslims.

Demonising Muslims not for anything they have done, but for who they are.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Attorney-General George Brandis have rightly sought to take an inclusive approach toward the Muslim community’s role in being able to stop extremism, and government ministers repeatedly emphasised terrorism was unrelated to religion and called for calm. But at other times  Brandis has inflamed, not calmed things, with his over-the-top rhetoric. To insist, as the Attorney-General did yesterday, that the current terror threat was greater than the risks of the Cold War is a new height in War on Terror hysteria, from the man who gave us the “existential threat” of some thugs whose idea of a terrorist strike is a random murder of an individual. Even libertarian Senator David Leyonhjelm, who has adopted an appropriately sceptical view of Brandis’ proposed extensions of anti-terrorism laws, has bought into the inflated rhetoric by accusing the government of “appeasing” Muslims — presumably an odd form of appeasement that consists of police raids.

Nor have the media helped. Even without extreme commentators attacking Muslims, the breathless reporting of every detail, whether fabricated, mistaken or correct, relating to possible terrorist incidents only makes the atmosphere more febrile, especially with the peculiar media obsession with beheading. Even if there’s no evidence for such a clumsy form of terrorism, inside each Muslim terrorist there is now, apparently, a beheader. Some in the media have even argued that an individual victim’s beheading would somehow be more psychologically damaging to Australia than mass-casualty attacks — a homeopathic approach to terrorism in which ever-smaller numbers of actual victims produces ever-greater damage and fear. And the media appears to have only a binary understanding of terrorism: you’re either a sword-wielding Muslim fundamentalist or you’re not, with no understanding of the demonstrated recurring role of mental illness in Western terrorists, or how expressing unpopular political views does not immediately mean one is a “terror suspect”.

Put aside fairness and decency toward our Muslim citizens, if nothing else, there’s a growing risk that the constant attention, harassment and demonisation of a single community will alienate, isolate and enrage people who may already be at risk of being turned to extremism, the people already convinced Australia is targeting Muslims, whether here or overseas. This is the very problem, supposedly, we’re trying to address. The government appears at best torn on this — anxious to call for calm and discourage the vilification of Muslims, but eager to whip up fear in order to expedite the passage of its terror laws and provide a justification for its involvement in Iraq. So many of us, including in the media, seem hell-bent on creating the very conditions that encourage extremism and alienation, right here in Australia.


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44 thoughts on “Targeting of Muslims risks the exact terror threat we claim to oppose

  1. Graeski

    There’s a deep well of xenophobia, hatred and bigotry lying just beneath the surface of Australian society, which the shock jocks and right-wing media commentators infest like some water-borne disease waiting for a healthy body to invade, and which our conservative politicians dip their toes into whenever they need a boost in the polls. And every time they do, it works.

  2. Terry D

    >The government appears at best torn on this
    “torn” is not the right word. “hypocritical” would be a better one. Otherwise a spot-on article, Bernard. We are creating the pre-conditions for the occurrence of what we are trying to avoid.

  3. klewso

    Abbott and Brandis can get out in front and do all these noble things for the cameras – the trouble is in what their “mates” are doing behind them.

    Again, the capacity for self-parody of this Limited News Party government would be almost funny
    [if, when it came to “Operation Sovereign Borders”, it was verboten to even speak of “intelligence” when it came to “operational matters” – “for fear of keeping the enemy informed of our activities”?
    But when it comes to “Operation Sovereign Terror” we can’t wait to share what “limited intelligence” we have?
    Especially when it comes to our selectively leaky media – doing the “terrorists” job for them?
    First by spreading the fear and trepidation – “terror”;
    and secondly in reporting back, how successful they’ve been?
    That’s “real intelligent”?]

    almost funny, if this wasn’t all supposed to be “soooo Sirius”?

  4. zut alors

    Today I received a forwarded email cartoon which was callous & strongly anti-Muslim. The source thought it hilarious: a man I’ve known for years, a man I’ve always described as a decent human being.

    I was appalled on two fronts ie: that he (or anyone) would rate the cartoon as humorous and that he judges me to be a cretin appreciative of such dreck.

    Our community is sharply dividing, there will be no chance of a united Australia now the embers of deep-seated racism are being fanned by the government and a frothing-at-the-mouth media. In another six months will we even recognise our country?

  5. mikeb

    It would really help the Muslim community if it could root out the terrorists amongst them. Any reasonable thinking person knows that the goals of ISIS (or whatever they call themselves) are not supported by the vast majority of Muslims in Australia. Until the community become conspicious by their renouncement of radicals and their support of the efforts to expose them then suspicions will remain.

  6. Yclept

    It would really help the Catholic community if it could root out the paedophiles amongst them. Any reasonable thinking person knows that the goals of the paedophiles (or whatever they call themselves) are not supported by the vast majority of Catholics in Australia. Until the community become conspicious by their renouncement of paedophiles and their support of the efforts to expose them then suspicions will remain.

  7. Marilyn Shepherd

    Even the usually sort of rational AGE and SMH sound like frigging Andrew Bolt

  8. zut alors

    Yclept, you read my mind. Neat work.

  9. rhwombat

    mikeb. It would really help the Male community if it could root out the domestic abuse terrorists amongst them. Any reasonable thinking person knows that the goals of Geoff Hunt were not supported by the vast majority of Males in Australia. Until the community become conspicious by their renouncement of domestic violence and their support of the efforts to expose them then suspicions will remain.

  10. mikeb

    I think you’ll find Yclept and wombat that this is happening on an ongoing basis unless you’ve lived under a rock until just recently. Presumably you are similarly outraged at the targeting of paedophiles and domestic abusers when clearly the majority of catholics and men are neither?

  11. wbddrss

    Muslims produce large families.
    Muslims work hard in trades to support large families without getting university degrees.
    Bondi Beach looks like the Levant.


  12. John Taylor

    mikeb – here is one example.


    And you can and will find condemnation by the Muslim community of the atrocities being committed – although you wont find it reported in Limited News any of the time neither Fairfax when overly excited – maybe you are not looking due to some ingrained confirmation bias? And perhaps you might pause to consider that in making the stupid conflation that simply because you cannot see them condemning the violence they approve of it you are being part of the problem and not the solution. I didn’t march for reconciliation – but I am in favour of it. I didnt publicly protest against the Iraq War in 2003, but I opposed it. Have you been out protesting against the backlash against the Muslim community – the vandalism, the insults being thrown at Muslim women? The bomb threats by the mouth breathers of the Australian Defence League? if you havent does that mean we can assume you approve? At the end of the day your comments really arent even clever enough to be stupid.

  13. Yclept

    mikeb, you’ve avoided the point nicely. The fact that you can’t see the issue with your statement (or were we too subtle?) says you have been guzzling the kool-aid.

  14. 1735O99

    The old currency is being re-minted.
    We watch grabs of earnest looking old white men with ties using words such as “evil”, “counter measures” and “national security”.
    We see images of rows of neatly uniformed diggers and grey liveried fighter aircraft being prepared for overseas deployments.
    And something new and sinister –federal police appearing at carefully orchestrated press conferences explaining how, in concert with their state counterparts, they have successfully prevented us from being murdered in our beds.
    It all serves to take those of us into our sixth decade into a strange land of déjà vu.
    Remember when the evil de jour was Communism? Remember when Bob Menzies, election after election, successfully kept Australians in thrall with the Great Fear?
    Menzies had a lot of help from the likes of Bob Santamaria. No doubt the use of fear was one of the many lessons the current PM absorbed from his erstwhile mentor.
    Remember how skilfully Howard wedged the opposition using 9/11 and Tampa as catalysts to initiate an almost chemical reaction with fear and loathing as its residue?
    We see this residue bubbling to the surface in the desecration of mosques, the abuse of women in traditional clothing, and the daily ranting and raving on scrofulous blogs.
    Abbott absorbed many useful lessons from his predecessors, and the manipulation of the basest instincts in his fellow Australians is one of them.
    The cost of fear in blood and treasure is rarely counted. Consider Vietnam – around 500 dead, thousands wounded – tens of thousands sickened with foul chemicals, and countless lives and families damaged by both trauma experienced and rejection upon return.
    And then there was Iraq, a war fought on a lie.
    At least in Iraq and Afghanistan the returning diggers were generally greeted and thanked – not forced to return home at 3am wearing civvies. They were volunteers. Many Vietnam Vets weren’t, and they were abused for participating in a conflict without the luxury of choice.
    Xenophobia and bigotry always dissolves logic when mixed with a tincture of fear.
    The price of fear and loathing has always been high. Unfortunately, it seems to be a price that our political masters continue to be prepared to pay. It’s currency is our soldiers, sailors and airmen.

    And they, are, apparently, entirely expendable………..

  15. rhwombat

    What Yclept said. Your xenophobia is evident.

  16. Electric Lardyland

    Just to go off on a slight tangent, I tend to think that probably the big winners in Australia from September 11 and the ensuing “war on terror”, was the Vietnamese community. That is, before the focus rapidly changed, it was largely the Vietnamese who were the target of the xenophobia and bile, that’s the staple of the tabloid and talkback section of the media. I mean, I remember when Cabramatta was supposed to be the crime capital of Australia, the triads were claimed to be out of control, our Aussie institutions were somehow being relentlessly corrupted and we were all “in danger of being overrun by Asians”.
    And now? Well usually the main insight that your average garden bigot comes up with, is that “their smart children are keeping our kids out of university”. Well, pal, if your kids are anything like you.

  17. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    @mikeb, I think you’ll find that if you are the child or partner of Geoff Hunt the reaction of the community has been sympathy and sadness for the man who shot you dead.

  18. Kfix

    Ok mikeb, lets reductio to the absurd…

    It would really help the human community if it could root out the bad people amongst them. Any reasonable thinking person knows that the goals of the bad people (or whatever they call themselves) are not supported by the vast majority of humans in the world. Until the humans become conspicious by their renouncement of bad people and their support of the efforts to expose them then suspicions will remain.

    So mikeb: where is your denunciation of all the liars, cheats, scoundrels, murderers, rapists and thieves in the world? If you are individually responsible for each of these deviants, then you must reply. Take your time.

  19. Tom Jones

    @mikeb It appears you are being deliberately blind. The Muslim community has been speaking out against terrorism many times but its voice is muted by the shock, fear and horror being propogated by the MSM. The base motives of old media which is desperate for eye balls and knows that fear sells its papers or its news services is disgusting. That you fail to see the parallels with the real terrorism that is occurring in this country shows your ignorance and racism for what it is.

    Everyday there are real women and children in this nation being terrorised by violence perpetrated by men. Some of those same men will take exception to the modest clothing of moslem women and who will be as outraged as you are about the so called terrorists and be prepared to attack the women pushing their children around.

    It is those (mostly) men who are creating the terrorists, not the other way around. It is time that people such as yourself took responsibility for creating home grown terrorists who will respond to violence perpetrated against their group by thinking that violence must be the answer.

  20. colin skene

    Well,mikeb, you’ve really got what you deserve. But, thanks Bernard, for the brilliant article you’ve provided us. Keep up thr good fight, man.

  21. mikehilliard

    Well said Bernard.

  22. Andioh

    Thanks Bernard Keane, integrity and soul.

    You Are So Beautiful To Me Chords

    You Are So Beautiful To Me
    “Senator David Leyonhjelm, who has adopted an appropriately sceptical view of Brandis’ proposed extensions of anti-terrorism laws, has bought into the inflated rhetoric by accusing the government of “appeasing” Muslims — presumably an odd form of appeasement that consists of police raids.”

    These guys are known as sleepers. Their immediate role is to appear pro a certain issue. But when it gets to vinegar street, they suddenly about-face and lead the opposite way. It’s called sealing the deal with controlled opposition. Owning all sides of the argument works a treat.

    Well done, Bernard Keane.

  23. Rortydog

    Thank you Bernard. Sense at last.

  24. Kevin Herbert

    Tonight’s TV news, the 7.30 Report & all the dailies are clearly now just State sponsored media.

    I wonder why.

  25. Herrin Larkan

    I would not for a second condone yobbo behaviour towards innocent people as listed above – but I hardly think it’s doing Australia or the libertarian cause any good to argue that there is no threat at all.

    Any well informed citizen should know that exactly the same lack of skepticism allowed Britain (and much of Western Europe) to engage in decades of unchecked immigration which has led directly to the conflict in the streets and a breakdown in social cohesion that the left wing supposedly value so much.

    In Britain it’s gotten so bad they have parallel sharia courts mediating disputes and even domestic violence. A true betrayal of the one law for all ideal – a core part of democracy.

    Why? Because enough people think it’s perfectly harmless to grant this mission creep style appeasement to one religion only. A significant concession for a secularist society, and not in a good way.

    You would think this would cause outrage from the left being a major step back from pluralism and fairness in how we treat religion in the public sphere.

    But no – total silence as far as I can tell. Worse there’s even a kind of clambering to invite it in even though most clearly know nothing about how it works.

    If more journalists knew what sharia law was we wouldn’t be talking about about how outraged we are about Cory Bernadi or Jaqui Lamby exercising their often inarticulate freedom of speech, but rather, dealing with the realisation that we could not possibly allow it in this country.

    If you don’t already know how incompatible with democracy sharia is, given the instant access to the information available from your web browser right now, you probably won’t go looking to educate yourself.

    This comes to the root of the problem and the myth that western involvement in the Middle East is somehow responsible for the Jihadi movement against Australia, or even capable of making it worse. The underlying emotion here is fear – it’s the only thing I can find to explain this gross dismissal of the facts.

    The truth is much more nuanced than we want to admit.

    For example many of the countries like Lebanon that are nearby ISIL controlled territory are angry that it has taken the US so long to intervene – afterall their lives are on the line.

    In this climate of left-leaning fundamentalism and oversimplification, anyone coming out and stating the facts gets called a bigot, inflammatory and even more ridiculously a racist, thereby obfuscating both the real bigots and racists, and quashing the open debate that we keep being promised.

  26. luno merc

    Its a really unique situation of mass hysteria – Its really hard to just cut through to the facts , or to get people to stop being irrational . In the right wing media you keep seeing the old “of middle eastern appearance” footnote in all the articles , I cant imagine what that would do to a persons sense of identity as though that is some how a marker for terror. The government have completely blown it. Its just a random rabble of panic and derision.Its exhausting , anxiety is bad for peoples health.History will judge Brandis and Abbott harshly for this and rightly so ,I think they have bitten off more than they can chew .

  27. everard tossel

    mikeb is spot on. The fact that his rational and restrained comment adapts well to paedophiles and wife beaters proves its merit and does not diminish the validity of his essential point. Where are the Muslim community leaders and why do we not hear them denouncing and dobbing in the murderous members of their faith? I do not believe that the media is deliberately suppressing moderate Muslim voices. I do believe that these moderates are understandably frightened of speaking up. That is why we need Mr Abbott to have the nuts to do so on their behalf, and why Mr Abbott deserves our support. Even Mr Shorten is smart enough to realise this.

  28. Nocturnal

    Sure, there is some merit in this argument. But at the centre of it ‘god’ – the god of exactly what religion is irrelevant.

    As a secular Australian, I tolerate religious beliefs, but I can’t really imagine that tolerating the cause of the problem is the solution in this case.

    All religious leaders peddle fairytales for a living. These fairytales are the reason why people are easily rallied to violence to protect their tribe. So, as our bishops, muftis, popes, priests and poo bars line up (all with their crazy hats on) to proclaim themselves and their community moderate and talk of peace, the splendid irony and hypocritical gaul on show to those with an iota of historical appreciation should be enough to make them wonder – WTF?

    It is increasingly apparent, that as we rush to pander to the religiously deluded men who wear dresses, we allow them to abrogate responsibility for corrupting young minds with their bronze age mumbo jumbo. In the process, we are casting secular Australia adrift.

    Claims from various religious leaders that their religion is one of ‘peace’ or ‘love’ are facetious. It tests our collective credulity to think that people who believe the unbelievable using the illogical, irrational and unprovable are people you can reason with.

    The more uncomfortable truth is that we are being asked to tolerate religious ideology (jewish, christian and muslim) that is at the heart of this madness. We are urged to allow those who on a daily basis marinate our youth with the intolerance and bigotry not to feel discriminated against.

    So, shall we tolerate those who molest the minds of children, so long as they leave their bodies alone? And at a Royal Commission a few decades hence, will people suggest that the mental illness inflicted upon our children was unforeseeable?

    Stand up secular Australians. Banish religion from our secular life. Don’t discriminate against Muslims – discriminate against all religious madness equally.

  29. CML

    Bernard, VERY VERY well said! A rational and truthful journalist telling it like it is. At last!!

    This government is out of control on many fronts, but none more so than this ‘terrorism’ junket they are on.
    The rAbbott would do well to listen to President Obama when he said recently that the most dangerous issue of our time was NOT terrorism, but global warming.
    There are also many more who say that the Ebola outbreak, which continues to infect more and more people every day, is potentially far more deadly than any terrorism we have seen so far.
    Strange that we hear NOTHING useful from rAbbott and his motley crew about global warming or Ebola. And they wonder why people are cynical about their terrorism hype?

  30. AR

    BK – small point, “Muslim women told they don’t have the right to dress as they please by government backbenchers.“… not to mention their ‘menfolk’.


    Can i add another viewpoint from here in Europe on what seems as ‘hysteria’ happening there in Austrlia..

    Currently travelling through Greece.. a country just coming out of 4 year recession and with 25% ..
    Greece just joined the ‘coalition of the almost willing’
    ..it will give some old weaponry to the Pashmuga Kurds.
    ( Much to the extreme annoyance of perennial enemy and main threat Turkey..but thats a another very story )

    This announcement..wait for it .. made page 22 !! of one of the main papers here! actually there are about 15 dailies here and none put it on front page. It was not even lead story on TV and interestengly announcement was made by the defence minister and not even the prime-minister . This in a country that is itself border between Christian West ( Europe ) and Muslim East (Turkey) A role it has played for over a millenia . Greece is 2 hours from the Syria/Iraq warzone..australia 22.
    As for the averge person on the street…well..its a mess there but if we can help the Kurds a little thats ok but we dont need anymore headaches and anyway bring me another coffee ”

    My point..same Isis..same war..same ‘radical muslim threats…yet domestically the political and public reactions are totally poles apart in the two countries.

    They cant balance their budgets but maybe with 2500 years of conflict the Greek people could never be ‘whipped’ up into a state of ‘war’ hysteria and fear over a distant ‘enemy’…as they know very well what a real war by a real enemy on their own soil feels like..
    Just a thought..

  32. Informed, or, at least, trying to be

    Yclept and rhwombat, yes, mikeb does appear to have missed your point, however your comments reveal a little of your own prejudices. Yes Catholic clergy have been guilty of child sex abuse, but sadly they have approximately the same incidence of abusers as occurs in Anglican churches, Salvation Army and the general community. In fact ito name a ‘group’ with the highest incidence of child sex abusers we’d have to say ‘families’ unfortunately. Lets just call the community the ‘group’ and we all have the responsibility to weed out transgressors of whatever type.

  33. Primus Nemo

    I often wonder whether reading the mainstream news is of any use at all.

    Here is Marty Armstrong’s take:

    “The radical ISIS group was funded by Saudi Arabia and the United States all in an effort to create a smoke screen for a pipeline Saudi Arabia wanted through Syria to compete with Russia in Europe. However, it is gathering followers even from Georgia in Russia and the goal is to create a new Crusade.”

  34. mikeb

    @John Taylor. I am aware of examples of condemnation like you linked. Also the marches by Muslims against ISIS which got only limited coverage. It’s a pity they are not headline material by the usual suspects. What concerns me though is that known recuiting points for extremists can be tolerated on the basis that all will be well if we leave them alone. The hope that “peace in our time” is achievable if we look the other way.

  35. John Taylor

    @mikeb – good comment. May I venture that the response to this idiocy ought be top down and bottom up – and it behoves us as a community to stand together against ignorance and anger and hatred and so forth. I don’t think we are leaving them alone either. These places will be under surveillance and will be monitored. What we also need is more focus on the moderate voices across the communities – which the MSM will maybe give a passing mention to because, let’s face it, harmony never sold a newspaper. If we allow the Australian community to be divided by the voices of irrational hatred on either side, then those voices of irrational hatred will have won. I refuse to allow them to make me angry or scared.

  36. westral

    You have to smile when politicians of any persuasion go on about how Australia is a welcoming country for immigrants, a study of our history shows we are insular and suspicious of all new-comers.

    With the population of Muslim citizens we can intern them as we did with the Italians and Germans during WWII or we could use special powers to deport the whole lot to say Christmas Island and ban Muslims from the Australian mainland.

    Apart from that we simply have to accept them as citizens with exactly the same rights as everyone else in this country.

  37. A.Blot

    Team Australia stands more for Team Terrorism, all caused by Team Idiot.

  38. Sharkie

    Thanks Bernard.
    The real downside to the current state of fear is the absurd legislation and policies being rammed through while the nation suffers from a terror-induced frontal lobotomy.
    Perhaps the worst is the terror laws surrounding ISP collection of metadata. Given this policy will only speed up the use of encrypted (and impossible to trace) communication by radicals, it’s worse than useless. Australian ISP will be saddled with additional costs, not to mention privacy issues. And for what gain exactly? The Liberal Party are either technological dinosaurs or shameless opportunists. The Labor Party are too gutless to mount a decent argument to this profoundly stupid policy and just play “me too”. They are desperate to avoid the “soft on terror” tag so we get moronic policies.
    $40 million goes to the most corrupt SE Asian government that accept our refugees, and the Australian government is undermining the current climate change negotiations. All without question. Abbott and Hunt don’t have an energy policy, they have a fossil fuel protection racket, one that will have severe economic consequences for decades to come.
    All of this garbage goes pretty much unreported because the media are hell bent on chasing every alleged “terrorist” down a rabbit hole. The Sydney soldier “assaulted” by men “of middle eastern appearance” being a classic example of a media that has completely lost the plot.
    Special mention goes to AM and Chris Ulhmann in particular. The shallow unquestioning guff that he has dished up all week is a new low for the ABC.

  39. rhwombat

    Well said, Sharkie.

  40. Yclept

    Herrin, you have masterly taken the sins of the right and accused the left of committing them. Do you work for Rupert?

  41. Yclept

    everhard, mikeb is only spot in showing his rascist and bigoted attitude by making such a divisive statement. Hardly Team Australia talk. You’re hero Mr Abbott would not be impressed that you guys aren’t Team players. We never hear the likes of mikeb or yourself making those “rational and restrained” comments in the other millions contexts (such as suggested by rhwombat or myself) so one feels it is just a convenient argument to stir up trouble.

  42. everard tossel

    @Yclept A guy who wears Speedos and brings back Imperial Honours is no hero of mine. But because Mr Abbott may be silly or wrong about some things doesn’t mean he cannot be right about other things. Why can’t anti-Abbott trolls recognise this? Maybe due to their own irrational and overweening prejudices?

  43. Yclept

    everard, Abbotts behaviour both before the election, when all we heard was childish negativity and lies, and since, where all we’ve seen is mean spirited nastiness towards the most vulnerable in the community, while dispensing largesse to the mates who look after the Libs, and more lies, make it hard to see what he has done right. I wish he would do something right for the people he is supposed to represent but he doesn’t appear to be capable of that. No prejudices there, just calling it as it is.

  44. Greg Tuck

    Excellent article Bernard.

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