Years ago, John Howard was ridiculed by chatterers when he extolled the value of immigrants embracing Australian values. They sneered and they postured. What Australian values? Shrimps on the barbie? Well, giving people ‘a fair go’ is an Australian value. And that is not to be sneered at.
Values matter. Modern Western civilisation — the best that mankind has known – is built upon a set of shared societal values. In general, these mould the minds of individuals in their formative years; for the better or, depending on those values, for the worse.
Described as a radicalised youth of Middle Eastern background, fifteen-year old Farhad Jabar Khalil Mohammad, shot to death, in cold blood, NSW police civilian employee Curtis Cheng. It was a shocking business, in the sense of being tragic for him and his family and deeply upsetting and saddening for all of us. But it should not have come as a shock, in the sense of being surprising.
Yet our political leaders were evidently taken unaware. They expressed shock and incomprehension that such a thing could happen.
NSW Premier Mike Baird said, “…there is no doubt that this tragedy will echo around the world, as people try and understand how someone so young could commit such a hideous crime.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said, “It was doubly shocking because it was perpetrated by a 15-year-old boy and it underlines the importance of families, communities, leaders being very aware of whether young people are becoming radicalised.”
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, describing the shooting as a “shocking incident”, continued: “Our thoughts are also with the family of the alleged young perpetrator. Like all Australians, they will be struggling to comprehend how someone so young could be part of such a terrible crime.”
I don’t think people who have been paying attention will have any difficulty at all in comprehending what happened. People who’ve been paying attention expect more of it to happen. I don’t think our political leaders are dullards. Therefore, I can only assume that their expression of incomprehension is a way to block out the problem — the worldwide propensity of Islamic (religious and cultural) values to throw up murderous young (and ever-younger) terrorists. Apparently, ISIS is targeting potential Western jihadists from age 13.
As with the rest of us, Muslims come in all shapes and sizes. But that shouldn’t blind us to the systemic (‘values’) problem within Islam. It doesn’t blind people like ex-Muslim Hirsi Ali. She has experienced the problem firsthand. She, nonetheless, harbours some hope (in Heretic) that Muslim thinking is potentially salvageable, if it has been mainly shaped by the values of Mohammed in Mecca, when he and Allah were fairly tolerant. But even that might be fanciful.
The Koran isn’t neatly divided. It isn’t chronological. It goes from longer to shorter chapters (surahs). It would take a very learned Islamic scholar to sort it out. For example, suppose you came across Surah 4.89 (Pickthall version) in your formative years.
They long that ye should disbelieve even as they disbelieve that ye may be on a level with them. So choose not friends from them till they forsake their homes in the way of Allah; if they turn back to enmity then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend or helper from them.
What would you think? Well you might guess it was written in Medina and ignore it, rather than support killing apostates. How about this tricky one (9.5)?
Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them captive, and besiege them and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
There’s killing en masse for sure but then we are told about Allah’s mercy. Hmm! Somehow, I would still guess Medina. Anyway, I suppose one could proceed by ignoring Allah’s words whenever something unpleasant was uttered and produce a potted version of the Koran; ditto for the Hadith.
Is it peaceful one could ask? Peaceful is in; everything else is out. Fanciful indeed!
But, something along these lines must have been in the mind of President al Sisi of Egypt when he called for a religious revolution within Islam. Muslims must stop following a violent creed, he plainly said.
That thinking – I am not say ‘religion’ but ‘thinking’ – that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world! Is it possible that 1.6 billion people should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants –that is 7 billion – so that they themselves may live? Impossible!
What is likely to happen if minds are poisoned by imbibing a violent creed from a very young age? Is it surprising that a percentage of those so indoctrinated turn violent? After all, a percentage of any population is unstable; combine this with a hallowed textual imprimatur to kill, and rabble-rousing radicals, and you have a heinous brew. Apparently, this all goes over the heads of our political elite who, unlike President Sisi, hear nothing, see nothing, know nothing.
Communities who need constant attention and support lest their young people turn violent are a problem. Or am I talking out of turn? Am I being obtuse? I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be equally troubling if Hindus, Sikhs, Presbyterians, Jews, Chinese, Greeks, Vietnamese, Hare Krishnas, or any other group, was similarly afflicted?
The problem will only be solved by Muslim communities embracing, and inculcating in their children, Australian (Western) values. As examples, to uphold people’s right to change religion and to be critical, even insulting, of other religions without fear of physical harm; to give primacy to parliamentary law over religious law in all non-ecclesiastical matters; to support the equality of women with men without qualification; to reject discrimination on the basis of race, religion or sexual preference; to give everyone an equal fair go, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.
Perforce, some of Allah’s very words will have to be set aside or reinterpreted or put in context. I doubt that this is possible. I hope I’m wrong and President Sisi’s call is answered, otherwise the carnage will continue (unsurprisingly) here and elsewhere.