Mohamed Karroum, the father of a young woman, Amira Karroum, killed in Syria in January has been widely reported as blaming the Australian government and Tony Abbot for allowing her to travel there. I don’t want to comment directly on the way Mr Karroum is expressing his grief. We can all feel for him. But where does the blame really lie?
How does a young woman educated in an Anglican girl’s school in Queensland end up radicalised and a member of an al-Qaeda offshoot. No-one can know what was in her head. As it happens, we don’t need to in order to find an explanation.
Many young people at impressionable stages in their lives have joined destructive cults. By all accounts, many seem to have had the benefit of good homes and good schools. Maybe some people are psychologically predisposed to this kind of wayward behaviour? Even if this is true, it can never be discovered in time. The best that society can do is to remove the temptation by exposing cults as they arise and, if feasible, by dismantling them legally.
Let me move from cosy concord to potential discord by hypothesising that Islam is the longest-lasting (from the 7th century is a long time) and most destructive cult the world has ever known. Sam Harris, featuring in the heated debate between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck, describes Islam as ‘the motherlode of bad ideas’. Geert Wilders describes it as ‘a violent totalitarian ideology’ (See Gatestone, 9 December). If they are right it is not surprising that it leads impressionable young people astray.
At question is whether Islam is a violent totalitarian ideology at its heart or a religion of peace or, as some would have it, both — depending on the version. A history of conquest and the current carnage and mayhem stretching from Sub-Saharan Africa across the Middle East; the terrorist bombings and killings which have occurred across Asia, Europe and America; the capricious beheadings and threatened beheadings; and the social dissention wherever Muslim migrants settle – is not, to be frank, a good advertisement for Islam.
Neither is the finding by Pew Research in 2010 that 84 percent of Egyptians, 86 per cent of Jordanians and 76 per cent of Pakistanis favoured death for apostasy. Then there are the various group incarnations of Islam like the Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, Jabhat al-Nusra; and, too numerous to count, radical preachers like Imam Adjem Choudary.
Call me a sucker for evidence, if you like, but none of this smacks of peace. Then there is the scripture. I’m using the Marmaduke Pickthall version of the Koran (which has regard within Islam because he was a convert). Here are just five extracts. There are many on a par which could be cited. Robert Spencer’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam is a good source.
3:28 Let not believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) to guard yourselves against them…
9:5 Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, take them (captive), and besiege them…But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due then leave their way free. Lo Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
9:29 Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah…
47:4 Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is the smiting of the necks until, when you have routed them…
48:29 Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves…
Of course, the counter often made by the (extremely irritating) moral-equivalence brigade is that the Old Testament too has violent passages. So it has, but they are specific; they have historical context; they are not directed generically at unbelievers; they are far fewer in number. And let’s get this straight: they are not preached widely, if at all. Big difference!
Quite honestly, the ‘religion of peace’ appellation, basically invented by George Bush (ironically after 9/11), does not stand up to any kind of scrutiny. However, might Islam be a hybrid of sorts, capable of both a peaceful and violent manifestation?
Dr Qanta Ahmed is a British-born Muslim woman of Pakistani descent. According to a publication of AIJAC (Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council) ‘she is on a mission to reclaim Islam and distinguish it from Islamism’. Some time ago I attended a talk given by Raheel Raza. She is a Pakistani-born Canadian and a leading light among moderate Muslims in North America. She has basically the same message. There are many prominent like-minded Muslims. From what I can tell the Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh — who was a speaker on the Shurat HaDin mission on which I recently participated and who often writes for Gatestone — shares similar views.
I have no reason to doubt their sincerity. But do they know what they are talking about? Are they able to move beyond platitudes and debate the tenets of their faith with fundamentalist preachers and win the day or at least hold their own? I have not seen it happen. Until it happens I remain sceptical.
No doubt they are just decent people applying decent values. The problem with this is that common decency won’t prevail against religious fervour. They will have no say when the Imams take over. Unknowingly, and with the best of intentions, they are akin to a clandestine fifth column in our midst; lulling us into a false sense of security. In general, ‘moderate Muslims’ are problematic in helping us confront the challenge to Western values. (See my “Moderate Muslims are the Problem, Not the Solution,” May 2013.)
I happen to think that there is no intrinsic difference at all between people of different faiths and people of no faith. Most of us are surely born with the same caring nature waiting to be nurtured. I refuse to be bigoted. I refuse to treat people who are Muslims any differently from anyone else. We are all equal before God.
It might seem inconsistent, therefore, that I view Islam in an extremely dim light. It isn’t. There is only one substantive reason that young Australian woman with her life before her, Amira Karroum, joined a radical group and left to fight in Syria. There is only one reason why many Muslims are causing so much mayhem and social dissension around the world.
That reason is religious ideology. Whatever spin is put on it, Islam is contaminating their minds just as Jim Jones (‘Peoples Temple’) contaminated the minds of his followers and, though it might be thought extreme to say so, as National Socialism contaminated the minds of Germans in the 1930s. If there is another explanation for what is going on, for apparently normal people signing up for ISIS for example, I would like to hear about it.
In influencing people to do bad things on a wide scale, Islam is akin to a destructive cult. Enlightened societies have to put away misplaced political correctness and expose it and challenge it at every turn and at every opportunity; while, at the same time, treating people who are Muslims with the same consideration and kindness as everyone else.