By Uthman Badar
October 21, 2015
In the wake of the Parramatta shooting, the old trope has been mobilised once more, interrogating Muslims and demanding their acquiescence to the government narrative on “terrorism” and “radicalisation”. The problem of violence, they must accept, is “extremism” within their own community.
This tired narrative, however, only deflects attention and responsibility from the real culprits.
Anthony Klan argues that some Muslims sought to capitalise on the Parramatta shooting, charging them with the crime of “failing to condemn” it. Using Hizb ut-Tahrir to prosecute his case, he regurgitates the caricature of the duplicitous, conniving Muslim who presents an existential threat to all that is good and worthy — the Muslim bogeyman.
The various falsities about Hizb ut-Tahrir mentioned by Klan are hardly worthy of a response. Indeed, they are beyond the point. Hizb ut-Tahrir, in this instance, represents the Muslim bogeyman. Everyone in the Muslim community gets a turn to represent the bogeyman in a broken discourse that speaks about Muslims, not to them.
When Muslims and Islam are mentioned, it is not to introduce balance or nuance. It is but to drag them into a prevailing conversation to reinforce a prevailing narrative, even if the reality is the precise opposite. This is the case with Hizb ut-Tahrir and every other Muslim community organisation.
Some play the good Muslim, others the bad, but invariably their role is to remain within the set co-ordinates and to reinforce the premises on which intervention in their communities is justified.
When the co-ordinates are transgressed and premises challenged — as Wassim Doureihi did in his ABC Lateline interview with Emma Alberici last year — it is to the chagrin of those guarding the status quo.
Let us be clear about the prevalent disingenuous politics of condemnation. The problem is not with Muslims who fail to condemn. It is with the demand for Muslims to condemn acts for which they are neither responsible directly nor culpable.
Indeed, the demand for Muslim leaders and groups to condemn is but to entrench the notion that the problem lies with Islam and Muslims as the locus of responsibility.
Rather, the primary cause of violence against Western interests is Western foreign policy. Everyone knows this. Yet foreign policy still does not feature anywhere in Australian or Western counter-terrorism, the strongest proof of its pretentious nature. Where Australia’s execution of unjust foreign policy should cease, the government narrative instead shifts blame to Islam and Muslims, justifying insidious intervention in the Muslim community.
Armed attacks on civilians or police are not uncommon in Australia. The usual response is for them to be treated as criminal cases — unless the perpetrator is a Muslim. In such a case, it becomes a matter for the highest political and security authorities. Prime minister, opposition leader, premier: all have to provide a running commentary. The state police commissioner and Australian Federal Police commissioner must be involved. Media coverage is wall-to-wall for days on end. The attack inevitably must be linked to terrorism, even when no facts or details have been established.
This is what took place after the killing of police staffer Curtis Cheng in Parramatta last month.
It must be emphasised that the political response — judging the attack as terrorism, demanding Muslim leaders and parents take responsibility, holding emergency meetings with Muslim leaders, flagging further de-radicalisation programs — was formulated without established proof of the claims made and before any official investigation, let alone its findings.
Who, then, sought to capitalise on the shooting?
The response to the shooting was exceptional, based not on the objective facts of the case but the identity of the perpetrator.
Consider that in the past 15 months there have been at least a dozen other such brazen attacks on civilians or police that received a very different response. Consider that even when the attack is ideologically or politically motivated, such as the case of Rodney Clavell, or seeks to kill multiple people unknown to the attacker, such as the case of Daniel Fing, the incident is not deemed terrorism if the perpetrator is not Muslim. This is because, in the post 9/11 world, the issue easiest for politicians to exploit is national security.
The matter simplest to invoke fear through and mould public opinion around is the war on terror, “counter violent-extremism” being the latest Orwellian title. And because this war, at its core, is a war against Islam, it is only attacks by Muslims that can be used to invoke it and bear its fruit.
More money and powers for intelligence agencies, police and the military. More draconian laws by which authorities can further intrude into the lives of people. More fodder for media to sensationalise, achieve higher ratings and profits. And more interference in and micromanagement of the problem community of the day: Muslims. These are the fruits of a war that, by any standard, has made the world less, not more, safe.
These strategies yield good dividends for politicians, security agencies and media because benefiting from the misery of masses is what their jobs have become in an increasingly narcissistic and selfish world.
If this were not the case, these institutions would use their power and influence to deal with more pressing issues such as domestic violence and drug abuse, which injure and kill more people and destroy more lives in weeks than Islamist terrorism has in decades.
It is the establishment, then, and mainstream media that shamelessly milk attacks such as the Parramatta shooting, creating political and social hysteria to justify foreign and domestic interventions that only further besiege an entire community, feed the anger of its youth and perpetuate the cycle of violence.
Uthman Badar is media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia.