While Tony Abbott was yesterday penning his “Islam needs to reform” piece for today’s edition of that noted journal of interfaith relations The Daily Telegraph, and adorning one of the far-right backwaters of Sky News to voice the same view, the child sex abuse royal commission was presented with evidence that in 1991 the then-bishop of Ballarat wrote to a paedophile priest to alert him he had been named in police statements and that there could be “potential for some scandal”. The paedophile wrote back to the bishop suggesting another paedophile priest might know a way to “quash” any action against him. The bishop then unsuccessfully tried to contact the other paedophile. The commission also heard evidence of what the Victorian Police have now acknowledged was a conspiracy within that police force by Catholic officers to cover up child rape by Catholic priests.

The collusion and conspiracy within the Catholic Church to cover up the actions of paedophile priests didn’t end in the early 1990s, of course. The royal commission found that the Church’s infamous “Melbourne response”, introduced by George Pell in 1996, discouraged abuse victims from presenting their cases to police. And it’s less than a decade since Pell authorised a legal defence to thwart compensation claims brought by abuse victim John Ellis — including refusing to accept that Ellis had ever been abused by paedophile priest Aidan Duggan.

Tony Abbott is not merely an ardent Catholic, he’s a good friend of George Pell. And Abbott gave a court reference for a paedophile priest, John Nestor, in 1997.

Given the industrial-scale nature of child rape perpetrated by priests of his own faith and representatives of other Christian faiths, the assistance rapists received from the Catholic Church and other Christian institutions to cover up their crimes and the ongoing efforts by the churches to evade scrutiny and accountability for this (not to mention such minor matters as institutional homophobia and misogyny), you might think Abbott would think twice before calling for other religions to fix themselves. But no. “Islam never had its own version of the Reformation and the Enlightenment,” Abbott wrote in the Telegraph.

It’s commendably broad-minded of Abbott to suggest that the two signal anti-Catholic events of the last 500 years were such good things that Islam should ape them. But perhaps Muslims in the Mediaeval era were too busy developing algebra, inventing effective surgical techniques, revolutionising optical theory, understanding that the Earth revolved around the sun, trading with China, discovering coffee and keeping key classical texts that the West had lost so they could be rediscovered in later centuries, to fit in a Reformation.

Oh, and the Reformation had a death toll in the millions as Europe tore itself apart over nuances in superstition, including perhaps 11 million casualties in the Thirty Years’ War, during which the population of many German states was reduced by up to 40%. Is that what Abbott has in mind for Muslims?

Abbott’s call for Muslims to reform themselves is only one leg of his counter-terrorism strategy — the other, of course, being more Western military intervention in the Middle East. The current strategy, he complains, is merely “containing” IS, when it must be destroyed, which means more ground forces — he lauds Barack Obama for belatedly committing more special forces on the ground “in the Middle East” (the Americans are sending around 100 special forces troops to Iraq, if the Iraqis agree to let them in, which isn’t guaranteed) and cutely suggests our own troops could “broaden their mission”.

As even the Obama administration understands, sending Western troops to “destroy” IS as Abbott wants plays right into their hands, and leaves the same problem that the Western invasion to destroy Saddam Hussein created — you have either a dangerous vacuum or a permanent occupation. It plays right into IS hands because the narrative of Western attacks on Muslim countries is at the core of their appeal, as it is at the core of the appeal of al-Qaeda and every other Islamist terror group. The key role of Western foreign policy in encouraging terrorism is well-established, as Crikey has explained any number of times. To the list of security organisation and experts that have pointed this out, we can add the Royal United Services Institute (patron: Prince Edward), Britain’s oldest military think tank, which in a 2014 study by the UK’s best military experts concluded that the invasion of Iraq had “promoted” terrorism, and that “there is no longer any serious disagreement” about the role of the Iraq invasion in radicalising British Muslims.

In attacking Muslims as adherents of a mediaeval religion that is, by logical implication, inferior to his own, and calling for yet more Western soldiers to invade Muslim countries, Abbott is enthusiastically implementing IS’ agenda of encouraging the demonisation of Western Muslims and more Western military intervention. It’s a formula that IS, al-Qaeda and other Islamist militants know will perpetuate the War on Terror by creating ever more jihadis to replace the ones we slaughter with bombs and drone strikes.

Think of it as an alliance of interests between interventionists and Islamic State. They both want the same thing — an endless War on Terror composed of invasion, terror attacks, re-invasions and more terror attacks, fueled by a clash between the most extreme elements of both sides who have much to lose from any end to violence and conflict.

Peter Fray

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