I was not expecting the Parish blog to have something of the nature of the "call and response" tradition of the African American gospel tradition, and I certainly was not planning ever to respond to a comment on any blog that I have posted here, mainly because I have such a busy schedule. However, Greg Bunbury's recent blog entry, in response to a blog that I posted a few weeks ago, raised such an important issue that I felt compelled to write again on this topic of so-called Muslim terror.
Mr Bunbury claims in his blog entry that “what seems to be absent, with some heroic exceptions, is the emphatic condemnation by Muslim communities of the fatal excesses of radicals, extremists, fundamentalists, murderers. Among the exceptions were the two Muslim fathers, Dr Rifi and Mr Eloued…I believe round condemnation by Muslim communities of the barbarity of IS and their like, and of the exhortations to hatred here in Australia, would very positively fight the deplorable bigotry and racism which this article showcases.”
Mr Bunbury’s call for Muslims to condemn terrorism is a common one, often encountered whenever there is an outrage perpetrated by Boko Haram, the self-designated Islamic State, or al-Qaeda. Variations on Mr Bunbury’s call include, “Why do Muslim moderates not condemn violence done in the name of Islam?”, or “Where are the Muslim voices against terror?” and so on. We know the drill.
If there is anyone reading this who seriously believes that Muslims as a rule do not condemn terror and violence, do please take up this suggestion: locate a device called a “computer”, and discover an internet search engine called “Google.” Into the “search” box that is provided, type the words “Muslims”, “condemn”, and “terror”. To quote one recent Twitter feed by Hend@LibyaLiberty – yes, do find out what “Twitter” is as well - “If you think Muslims aren't condemning ISIS, it's not because Muslims aren't condemning ISIS. It's because you're not listening to Muslims.”
This was the headline in The Australian on 22nd October: “Muslim groups condemn threats made by teen jihadi in Syria.” When pictures of a young Australian child holding up a severed head appeared in the media, many of Australia’s Muslim and Arabic community organisations were quoted in the press sharing in the outrage. The NSW Islamic Council’s Khaled Sukkarieh described the images as “beyond belief”. “[W]e condemn it all in the name of Islam,” he told The Australian. Board of Imams Victoria President Sheikh Gul Saeed Shah, Lebanese Muslim Association President Samier Dandan, and a host of other Muslim community leaders joined in the condemnation. Ekrem Fuldagli, leader of the Cyprus Turkish Islamic Community of Victoria, said on a radio program, "The general public at large... are led to believe that these extremists are actually part and parcel of our religion. They're not with us.I condemn [violent acts] completely. I want listeners to understand that we have been on Team Australia before the Prime Minister graduated from high school."
Still not satisfied? Go this website and sate your need to hear Muslims condemn violence:
There is a more serious issue, however, lurking behind many demands for Muslims to condemn acts of terror committed by Muslims or done allegedly in the name of the Islamic faith: it is a fundamental distrust of the Islamic religion, and of all Muslims.
The recent conflict in the Gaza strip gave rise to demands in Turkey for Turkish Jews to condemn Israel’s actions. In response, some Turkish Jewish intellectuals wrote an open letter to the respected Istanbul newspaper, Hurriyyet:
“Israel’s latest attack on Gaza led, once again, to cries of ‘Why does the Jewish community remain silent?’ A campaign was even launched that claimed that the Jews of Turkey bear responsibility for what Israel does in Gaza.
“No citizen of this country is under any obligation to account for, interpret, or comment on any event that takes place elsewhere in the world, and in which he/she has no involvement. There is no onus on the Jewish community of Turkey, therefore, to declare an opinion on any matter at all.
“It is anyway not possible for a community of 20,000 to declare a unified opinion. No human community can be monolithic, and the Jewish community is not. Its members include people of all kinds, with a great variety of views."
Why are Australian Muslims expected to condemn Muslim extremists in the Middle East? They have nothing to do with them, and bear no responsibility for them. There are Muslim communities in Australia who were here before many more recent immigrant communities. The first mosque in Australia was built in 1861. Some Muslims are converts, such as Sebastian Cilento, nephew of the famous Australian actress Diane Cilento. Others are Cape Malays born in South Africa, Javanese from Indonesia, Turkmens from Central Asia, and Albanians. They belong to different sects, such as the Shia and the Sunni; or to subgroups within larger sects, such as the Alawi, the Ismaili, the Ahmadi. Why are any, or all, of these people expected to condemn the actions of nihilist groups or individuals in the Middle East who claim to act in the name of Islam?
We do not go around demanding that Australian Jews condemn the acts of the state of Israel when it indiscriminately kills children and civilians in Gaza. We know that if we were to do so, we would (justifiably) be accused of anti-Semitism. Where are the calls for Buddhists in Australia to condemn the appalling acts of violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, violence overwhelmingly instigated by Buddhist monks, and carried out by Buddhists? Is it the case that Australian Hindus are not being sufficiently upbraided for keeping silent about the current Prime Minister of India’s complicity in the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 when he was Chief Minister of that state?
The question we need to ponder is this: why is it that we hold Muslims to standards that we do not apply to other minorities, or even to ourselves? Was every Australian Catholic who kept silent about the atrocities committed by the IRA in the Irish Troubles complicit in Catholic terrorism? Most of us would find that a ridiculous proposition.
Every time we ask Muslims to condemn the violence committed by other Muslims, we implicitly declare that violence committed anywhere in the world by people claiming to act in the name of Islam is a problem of the Australian Muslim community. Our demand also implies that silence denotes approval, and that unless a Muslim clearly and repeatedly denies it, he or she must be a supporter of violence and terror. Every demand for Muslims to condemn violence by other Muslims reinforces the notion that Muslims somehow, more than anyone else, have to demonstrate their loyalty to Australia, their abhorrence of violence, their adherence to civilised codes of behaviour. When we ask Muslims in Australia to speak out against the terror in Syria and Iraq, we are saying that violence resides in Islam itself and in being Muslim, and not in the diverse and complex forces that have come to shape the history of the modern Middle East. We should not demand that Australian Muslims be any different from the rest of us, but over and over again we do.