The outbreak of protests by Muslim communities in Australia and many other countries is widely attributed to a US-made film that not only portrayed Mohammed but did so in terms far from flattering. But was that little more than an excuse for radical Islamic groups to celebrate (sic) the eleventh anniversary of 9/11?
Indeed, contrary to initial attempts by Washington to suggest the killing of the US Ambassador to Libya came from spontaneous protests against the film, it is evident it was planned by a radical al Qa’ida group apparently beyond the control of the Libyan government (“protesters” do not normally carry rocket propelled grenades!). In these days of modern communications it is probable that radical groups agreed across a range of countries that the eleventh anniversary of bin Laden’s massacres was an opportunity to engage in anti-American protests, which were the dominant message (the French seem largely to have escaped, despite a Paris paper portraying a nudist Mohammed). Such groups might also have seen an opportunity to use protests to send a message to the participants in the US Presidential elections: Get out of the Middle East and stop supporting Israel.
The protests have served one useful purpose in revealing the extent of the differences between Western cultural values and those held in sections of Muslim countries. Some commentators suggested those sections are in a minority, even a “tiny” one, and that their attitudes can be “handled” in various ways. I have written before, however, suggesting there is much more than a minority involved, particularly once account is taken of the potential for destruction. Articles published in the Weekend Australian by David Pryce Jones, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Greg Sheridan confirm the problem is more extensive and serious than is commonly portrayed by our governments and much of the media (not to mention Christian and Jewish leaders reluctant to make comparisons between their beliefs and those held by many Muslims).
The problem is vast. Western governments and leaders seemed very nearly obsessed with “confirming” we are tolerant of other religions. But we surely cannot continue to “tolerate” a situation in which many leaders of the Muslim religion have openly supported the use of violence against Western societies and the second-rate treatment of women? Yet the reaction by western leaders to the Muslim protesters dodges this important issue.
True, the use of violence has been widely condemned. But President Obama’s use of Pakistani TV to advertise that the film has been “condemned” sent up a white flag on culture. Indeed, while protests did subside (after an effigy of Obama had been burned), their very strength confirmed that since his election the American president has failed to deal with the cultural issues raised by Islam. As Wall Street Journal commentator Brett Stephens put it, “Obama came to office promising he would start a new conversation with the Muslim world, one that lectured less and listened more. After four years of listening, we can now hear more clearly where the US stands in the estimation of the world: equally despised but considerably less feared. Just imagine what four more years of instinctive deference will do”.
Of course, now is not the time to draw attention to major religious differences, their implications and what might be done. But Australia (at least) needs to go beyond the statement by Prime Minister Gillard that (emphasis added), “multiculturalism is not just the ability to maintain our diverse backgrounds and cultures. It is the meeting-place of rights and responsibilities. Where the right to maintain one’s customs, language and religion is balanced by an equal responsibility to learn English, find work, respect our culture and heritage, and accept women as full equals”. As Shadow Opposition Foreign Minister Bishop told The Bolt Report, we need a government statement on the protests.
Australia must give serious consideration to possible action to minimise the threat from extremist Muslims. This must surely include the establishment of a requirement that all citizens accept our cultural values ahead of, not equal to, their own, and a much greater security checking of Muslim immigrants.
Des Moore, a former Deputy Secretary of Treasury, is Director of the Institute for Private Enterprise