Front page of Islamic State magazine Rumiyah

The first issue of the new Islamic State (or Daesh) publication Rumiyah has achieved widespread media coverage for its eulogy to a dead Australian jihadist, which included the attention-grabbing call for Muslims to “Kill them on the streets of Brunswick, Broadmeadows, Bankstown and Bondi. Kill them at the MCG, the SCG, the Opera House and even in their backyards.”

Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton noted that most of the magazine’s content was recycled and that the call to attack Australian locations was “essentially a poem”, with the suburbs selected for the sake of alliteration. Premier Daniel Andrews noted that the state’s threat level remained unchanged and urged Victorians to go about their daily business.

Malcolm Turnbull was more gung-ho, continuing his predecessor’s line in sporting metaphors by promising a “full-court press” to combat Islamic State attacks, which he warned were likely to become more frequent in the West as the organisation lost control of its territory in Syria and Iraq.

In fact, the prime target of Rumiyah’s call to arms was highly specific, but it was not the selected Australian suburbs and landmarks (which, as Ashton noted, were interchanged with local locations in the French, German, and Indonesian editions of the magazine). Rather, it was the area mapped in an article entitled “The Extinction of the Grayzone” published by the IS magazine Dabiq shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

According to IS, the “grayzone” is populated by those Muslims who believe that they can manage to live between the battle lines of the war between the “crusaders” (the West) and the jihadists without declaring allegiance to either side. Some citizens of the grayzone might be lured into such close fraternisation with the enemy as to forfeit their right to be called Muslims. And one of the major goals of recent terrorist attacks in Europe has been to notify Muslims living in the West that it is no longer possible to remain bystanders to the conflict.

Muslims receive this message from both sides of the battlefront. The “Extinction of the Grayzone” quotes Osama bin Laden’s proclamation that “Bush spoke the truth when he said you are either with us or you are with the terrorists. Meaning, either you are with the Crusade or you are with Islam.” The media backlash and heightened level of harassment and surveillance in the wake of each mass killing undertaken in the name of IS increases the pressure for Muslims living in the West to take an active role on behalf of one side or the other.

The Rumiyah article takes aim at those Australian Muslims it deems to be guilty of excessive fraternisation with the enemy, claiming that they were a factor in motivating the slain jihadi to take the path leading to his death as a martyr for IS. In the wake of the “blessed attacks” of September 11, “the so-called “Islamic” organisations in Australia were pressured to do things in to appease the kuffar (non-Muslims), change their da’wah (message), and practise “Islam in a manner that was acceptable to the Australian government”. Those who refused to be domesticated by such measures were then targeted by retrospective anti-terrorism legislation and subjected to false imprisonment. The article then takes the opportunity to settle old scores, singling out a couple of specific Australian-based Muslim community leaders as apostates. The punishment for being an apostate is death.

The latest IS rhetoric about Australia emphasises points that both Muslim community leaders and security agencies have stated repeatedly but that politicians and media commentators have been reluctant to accept: that co-operation from Muslim communities is essential to prevent terrorist attacks and that racism against Muslims undermines the working relationship that is necessary to enable this flow of information from Muslims to the authorities. And it also highlights the fact that Muslims living in the West are regarded as legitimate targets by IS and its fellow travellers. This is the penalty for consorting with the enemy as IS continues its campaign to render the “grayzone” uninhabitable.

Peter Fray

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