Thursday, January 25, 2007

Combating Islamic Terrorism

From an interview with Graeme Leonard, President of the Executive Council of Austalian Jewry (ECAJ) for ICJS Research by Ruth Gilmour, posted Wednesday January 24, 2007 ...

The language of hate by radical Islamists in Australia has increased in recent times or at least has become more obvious. This is exemplified in particular by the widespread publicity given to DVDs containing the ugly views of a young Australian-born youth leader and cleric, Sheik Feiz Muhammad. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s (ECAJ) concern is that such rhetoric will inspire equally hateful actions, threatening Australia’s democratic way of life and of course the Australian Jewish community. The inevitable question is how a civilised society should respond.

...Some argue that this is a freedom of speech issue and hence these views should be openly debated rather than suppressed. In this particular instance, the ECAJ responded with public statements, which were widely circulated, expressing its concern. Our line was that extremism is a problem for all Australians, something we firmly believe.

In such a case, however, I believe that countering such emotive, dangerous language with reasoned argument doesn’t go far enough. In the increasingly charged atmosphere of the last decade when violence and terror are increasingly commonplace, there is a great danger that a call to arms will prompt violent action, particularly by the young and the unstable.

As all Australians are under threat, the ECAJ thinks it is up the Australian government to take action. It has the tools at its disposal in the form of the sedition offences contained in the Anti-Terrorism Act (No 2) 2005 (Cth). Sedition is a political crime that punishes certain communications critical of the established order. ...

...In our opinion, however, ultimately the best answer to extremist Islam is moderate Islam. Thus for example the ECAJ supports in principle the Australian Government’s establishment of a National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies which will aim to counter extremism by training moderate local imams. This aim is achievable, as long as the Centre’s courses and outcomes are stringently monitored to ensure that radical teachings supporting terrorism and violence are not taught or endorsed.

At the end of the day moderate Islam can only predominate if desired and led by Muslims themselves. The great challenge for Muslim Australians, their leaders in particular, is to demonstrate in word and deed that the advocates of terror increasingly hitting the headlines are as unacceptable to their community as they are to the rest of us. This is a longer term solution and the question remains whether the Islamic community has the will and courage to act. It is up to the rest of us to support them in every possible way in what will be a long and difficult battle.

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