Make no mistake, the much vaunted and extremely expensive ‘deradicalization’ of suspected jihadist converts and sympathisers will fail miserably. This can be guaranteed unless it is complemented by a systematic challenge to the anti-Western ideology that dominates the universities, the education system, much of the media (especially the ABC), and the Internet. It is this radical narrative of Western treachery and wickedness that engulfs the minds of young would-be jihadists and provides the ideological rationale for their self-destructive embrace of terrorism.
Consciously of not, jihadists and their supporters and sympathizers all parrot a modified version of the Marxist-Leninist narrative of Western imperialism, exploitation, oppression, racism, war crimes, murder, rape, and atrocity that was the centrepiece of communist bloc agit-prop campaigns throughout the Cold War and had a particular impact on the Middle-East. As Barry Rubin,editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs observes:
Many of [the KGB’s] fabricated claims and arguments about the United States and Israel did become widely accepted, not only in the Arab world but even in many Western media and intellectual circles. The power of radical ideologies, the widespread suspicion of the West, and the general hatred of America and Israel in the Middle East today is the Soviet Union’s posthumous revenge.
The principal modification to the conventional radical narrative made by Islamists and their sympathizers is the specific portrayal of Muslims as innocent victims of Western aggression, and the addition of ‘Islamophobia’ as a new thought crime and odd form of non-racially-based racism. In Australia, this new version builds on the earlier version of the narrative that still predominates in the universities and is highly influential in our schools, especially through the national history curriculum, whose design was overseen by the communist historian Professor Stuart Macintyre.
No better local example of how this jihadist view of history impacts on young people has been provided by 18-year-old Jake Bilardi on his lengthy blog describing his personal and ideological path to Islam, Syria, and Islamic State, where he served as a suicide bomber. As Bilardi himself said on his blog, he wanted to
explain how I developed a wider world-view and how I transitioned from being a reluctant supporter of Islamic militant groups in different lands to become certain that violent global revolution was the answer to the world’s ills.
Bilardi consequently presented himself as a young person who has deeply researched the history of the modern world and had been compelled by his discoveries to embrace Islam, global revolution, and terrorism directed against the West. Predictably, this very revealing document was quickly deleted after news of Bilardi’s death became public (but was copied and preserved by Quadrant Online), precisely because it provided vital insights into the mentality of an intelligent but psychologically vulnerable young man who fell under the spell of Islamist and other forms of the anti-Western propaganda promulgated throughout the universities, schools, media, and on the Internet.
Bilardi’s blog is a prime example of the ideological world-view of international jihadism that is seducing vulnerable young people. Certainly its view of the West as the source of all evil in the world echoes the standard Islamist narrative. For example, according to Bilardi, in World War II,
US, British, French and Australian forces imprisoned captured Axis soldiers in internment camps, torturing them and executing them as a source of entertainment. When US forces entered Japan they proceeded on a systematic campaign of massacring civilians and raping the local women before delivering the infamous nuclear bombs to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
(Note the deranged claim that US forces massacred and raped civilians after they invaded Japan and then dropped the atomic bombs.)
This can be compared to the utterances of Uthman Badar, the leading spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir, the local Muslim supremacist organization, who recently questioned the legitimacy of Western states. These, he alleges, are
built on mass murder and genocide, who erected a “First World” on the ruins of a “Third World”; who gave the world a variety of mass destruction: fire bombing, carpet bombing, barrel bombs and atomic bombs; who gave the world Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki are routinely invoked in this type of narrative, while the innumerable Japanese atrocities in China, Korea, and during the Pacific War are ignored. For example, in 1937’s Rape of Nanjing, Japanese troops engaged in murder and rape on a massive scale over a six-week period, leaving some 300,000 dead. Neither is there any recognition of the innumerable Japanese and American lives preserved when the atomic bombs removed the need for a full-scale Allied invasion of Japan, with a projected death-toll of 800,000-1,000,000. Also missing from such unhistorical anti-Western diatribes is the identity of the Nazis and the Japanese as the aggressors, recognition of the abominable regimes they intended to impose on the world, and the desperate efforts of the Western democracies to resist them, at an enormous cost in precious lives, resources, and wealth. Nazism and its plans for global domination, and Japanese fascism and its goal of enslaving East Asia and much of the Pacific, are simply not mentioned.
Nazism is omitted because it muddies the simplistic Islamist narrative. It is also absent because Islamists want to obscure the fact that Nazism and Islamism are totalitarian systems, and that Islamists aspire to achieve the same total submission of the people to the state under their global caliphate the Nazis wanted to impose upon the world. And of course, both the Islamists and the Nazis are religious and racial supremacists respectively, desperate to ‘purify’ the world and rid it of Jews, infidels, sub-humans, and inferior races.
Nazism is also omitted because of the historically close links between Islam and Germany under both Kaiser Wilhelm II and Hitler, who both sought to mobilize the Muslim world against the liberal democracies in the two world wars. Moreover, like the Nazis, the Islamists see the Jews as a diabolical force that must be expunged, while also denying both the Holocaust and Israel’s right to exist. They are also very aware of the extreme enthusiasm of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, for the Nazis and the Final Solution, and of his pro-Nazi propaganda broadcasts and vital assistance in recruiting Bosnian Muslims for the Waffen-SS. Instead of acknowledging such inconvenient truths at the present time, they are suppressed and the Islamist narrative follows the simplistic and predictable path of anti-Western and anti-democratic diatribe that has been the stock-in-trade of the left for nearly a century. Ultimately, the Nazis are not condemned because the Islamists feel an affinity for them.
Under the influence of his newly acquired Islamist world-view Bilardi’s blog routinely inverts history and engages in projection, accusing the West of crimes and actions carried out by Muslims, and especially Islamic State. For example, he claims to have “learnt about how the Crusaders rampaged across Europe and the Middle East, seeking to eliminate Islam from the region and restore the rule of the Catholic Church”. Here he ignores that it was Islam, especially the Ottoman Empire, which invaded these regions in the first place and imposed a draconian form of Muslim domination upon the Christian communities that had lived there for centuries. And of course it is Islamic State that is presently “rampaging” across Syria and Iraq, leaving a catastrophic trail of death and destruction.
Bilardi also invokes genocide, ethnic cleansing, and sexual atrocity — standard agit-prop charges made by the left against the West — while also ignoring the most obvious contemporary culprits. Describing his alleged historical researches, he explains how he
learnt for the first time in great detail, the scale of the atrocities committed against the native population of the Americas by both the British and Spanish colonialist forces. About how both nations attempted to completely wipe out the natives … slaughtering millions of innocent people, intentionally spreading disease amongst them and raping the native women in an effort to breed-out the present race. I also learned more about the similar systematic genocide in my own country, Australia.
Obviously missing here is any mention of the systematic sexual enslavement and genocide presently being carried out by Islamic State. Instead, Bilardi accuses his own country of such crimes.
The same process of projection and inversion is applied to the question of the Jews, as Bilardi recounts how he came to see “their treacherous leaders justifying their crimes by claiming that Jews are superior to all other races, stating that Arabs are less than dogs.” In fact, it is a common view amongst Muslims in the Middle-East that the Jews are contemptible and “less than dogs”.
Bilardi also details how his new world-view enabled him to invert reality to see the Taliban not as murderous and barbarous terrorists, but as
simply a group of proud men seeking to protect their land and their people from an invading force … I saw the foreign troops burning villages, raping local women and girls, rounding up innocent young men as suspected terrorists and sending them overseas for torture, gunning down women, children and the elderly in the streets and indiscriminately firing missiles from their jets. Who was I to believe was the terrorist?
Here he is echoing the routine argument of the international left that goes back to the 9/11 attacks, and especially of Australian academics who routinely claim that the anti-terrorist campaigns carried out by American and allied forces make them no different to the terrorists they are seeking to suppress.
Turning to the Cold War, Bilardi’s radical world-view encourages him to ridicule the American fear of communism and condemn US actions in Cuba, El Salvador, Chile, Brazil, Nicaragua and Argentina. These, he insists, are “examples of countries torn apart by extreme violence and whose people suffered under animalistic rulers due to American intervention”, ignoring the campaigns of subversion unleashed by Soviet and Cuban agents across Latin America.
In fact, as Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin reveal in The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World (2005), in 1961 the Communist Party of the Soviet Union identified “the liberation struggles of oppressed peoples” as one of “the mainstream tendencies of social progress”, and promoted “the use of national liberation movements and the forces of anti-imperialism in an aggressive new grand strategy against America in the Third World”. From then on the belief dominated that “the Cold War could be won in the Third World”, and “the idea that the destiny of world confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union … would be resolved in the Third World”. For the next thirty years, this conflict would be decided “within the framework of the whole world system, in a global struggle between two world systems” in which systematic terrorism would play a central role.
Subsequently, as Claire Sterling discusses in The Terror Network: The Secret War of International Terrorism (1981), in 1964 the USSR
decided to increase spending in the field of terrorism abroad by one thousand percent. The secret services of all the communist bloc countries were involved in recruiting spies and infiltrating the world’s left-wing terrorist movements; special guerrilla training schools [were] set up in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and Cuba for selected terrorists from all over the world.
Ignorant of such facts and fortified by his blinkered Marxist-Leninist-Islamist world-view, Bilardi insists there is a direct continuity between the West’s malevolent Cold War policies and those followed today in the Middle-East (if only!).
And here Bilardi’s account arrives at its ideological destination: the standard Islamist denunciation of liberal democracy that has been current since the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood and the pivotal ideological work of Sayyid Qutb, whose extreme hatred of the West became deeply embedded in Islamist ideology. According to Bilardi:
It was also through these two successive American-led campaigns to impose the Democratic system upon the world that I woke up to the reality of what this ideology was, nothing but a system of lies and deception. The democratic system focuses heavily on providing the people with so-called freedom, allowing the citizens to select their leaders, alter laws if they feel the need and ultimately have the people decide the way their country is run, but this is far from the reality …
The reality of democracy became clear to me, place in people’s mind the idea of freedom and convince them that they are a free people while oppressing them behind the scenes.
According to Bilardi, this revelatory awareness of Western wickedness and the fraudulent nature of liberal democracy was the pivotal moment in his short life:
This was the turning point in my ideological development as it signalled the beginning of my complete hatred and opposition to the entire system Australia and the majority of the world was based upon. It was also the moment I realised that violent global revolution was necessary to eliminate this system of governance and that it I would likely be killed in this struggle.
And so he was killed, blowing himself to bits in a futile car-bomb attack, after which the slightly-built, long-haired boy was “mocked by fellow extremists for his ‘weak body’”, while Islamic State online propaganda declared he “sold his soul to Allah cheaply”.
It is an obvious but sad truth that Jake Bilardi might have avoided his miserable fate if he had been the beneficiary of a basic, but objective, course in modern history at school, which might have equipped him to see through the misinformation and exaggerations of the Marxist-Leninist-Islamist narrative that portrayed the world in Manichean terms as a battle between Western wickedness and Muslim virtue.
Unfortunately, the tragedy of this pathetic tale of a wasted life is that it will happen again and again unless the federal and state governments are prepared to confront the anti-Western narrative that presently prevails in the universities and the schools. It’s all very well having ‘flying squads’ of counsellors and support staff deployed across the country, rushing back and forth amongst the nation’s schools, and engaging students at risk of radicalization, but it’s not enough.
Indeed, it’s not nearly enough, because behind the radicalization is the carefully fabricated ideological narrative of Western wickedness that entrances vulnerable young people, convinces them that they are involved in a righteous struggle of good against evil, and serves to rationalize murderous extremism. It also must be tackled if the scourge of terrorism is ever to be eradicated.