Much attention has been focused on Muslims as the perpetrators of terrorism. This assumes that Muslims are a homogeneous group, dominated by violent fundamental beliefs. This is incorrect, and a lazy stereotype. It is only on the fringes of Islam that there is a conflict with modernism, but this is not unique to Islam, witness the
Christian reaction to stem cell research in the United States
. Democratic nations such as Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malaysia have overwhelmingly adopted secular governments when given the power to vote.
Indonesia contains the world's largest Muslim population in a nation-state. Nearly eighty percent of its 220 million population identify themselves as Muslim. In the 2004
the Islamic party, Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP), was only able to gain 8% of the vote in Parliament and 3.1% in the Presidential race. In both cases losing out in majorities to secular candidates and parties. The Islamic Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa (PKB) managed 10% of the parliamentary vote.
Bangladesh has a population of 144 million. Approximately eighty three percent of the population view themselves as Muslim, with Hindu being the next largest religion. In the
, the Islamic political parties were not able to gain a majority, with the conservative Bangladesh Jatiyabadi Dal and social-democratic Bangladesh Awami League earning 87% of the vote combined.
Malaysia has a population of 23 million with approximately sixty three percent
In the Dewan Rekyat (House of Representatives) election of 2004 the main secular party, Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Bersatu, collected 64% of the vote. The Islamic Party, Parti Islam se Malaysia, managed 15% and the democratic party, Parti Tindakan Demokratik, got 9%.
As the election results in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malaysia show, the people are wise and choose secular government over religious government. The will of the people is translating to the form of government in these democracies. The major problem is many nations that mix religion and state, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran is that they are either monarchies, autocracies or non-functioning democracies where voters are given no choice other than the existing ruling party.
Salafism and Saudi Arabia
Salafism or Wahabism is an Islamic movement traces its origins with the theologian, Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab in the 16thC.
seeks to purify Islam by returning Muslims to the original principles of Islam. Salafism seeks to remove innovations in religious practice and idolatry (polytheism). Muhammad bin Saud established the House of Saud, which today rules over Saudi Arabia. Saud married bin Abdul's daughter, and combined his rule with Salafism to establish wider legitimacy for the Sauds. Salafism was not a widely popular religious movement in Islam until it was propagated by the House of Saud, especially in the latter half of the 20thC with Saudi Arabia's immense oil wealth.
The 1970s saw a different dynamic enter the Middle East, many of the secular regimes, such as Egypt, Syria and Iraq failed in their promise, and became single party states designed to maintain the power of the present leaders. The autocratic governments also stifled all dissent. Opposition was either forced out of the country, driven underground into silence, or into violent extremism. Iran took the third path and a Shia theocracy came to power through revolution. Iran used the wealth and power of the state to expand the influence of their religious doctrine through the Middle East.
Salafism is based on Sunni beliefs. The Shia and Sunni denomination's of Islam are the two largest and represent a sectarian split based on who the successor was to the Prophet Muhammad. In the 1980, Saudi Arabia used the wealth of the state to expand Salafist teachings. From
the 911 Commission
In the 1980s, awash in sudden oil wealth, Saudi Arabia competed with Shia Iran to promote its Sunni
of Islam, Wahhabism. The Saudi government, always conscious of its duties as the custodian of Islam's holiest places, joined with wealthy Arabs from the Kingdom and other states bordering the Persian Gulf in donating money to build mosques and religious schools that could preach and teach their interpretation of Islamic doctrine.
The 1980s saw the expansion of
. These are Islamic schools, most of which teach a non-violent purist Islamic tradition. A significant number, however, act as recruiting agents for violent extremism. Many of the worst madrassa were in Pakistan where mujahideen where trained for the Afghan war against the Soviets.
It is obvious that the rise of violent extremism arises from several sources. These are;
Governments which derive their legitimacy and authority from religion
Non-democratic regimes that do not tolerate dissent
It should be noted that the first issue, state sponsorship of violent extremism is not limited to Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan. During the Afghan war the United States funded and trained many mujahideen's in Pakistan. This is a classic example of
Violent Extremism and Saudi Arabia
Osama Bin Laden was a Saudi national until Saudi Arabia revoked his citizenship. He came from the wealthy and large bin Laden family which has also disowned him due to his involvement in Al Qaeda and terrorism. Al Qaeda came from the mujahideen operations in Soviet invaded Afghanistan. Bin Laden established the ideologically driven group to create conflict between Islam and the West. Al Qaeda used terrorism for this purpose.
Bin Laden set up terrorist training camps in Afghanistan where it was believed that in the mid-1990s, seventy percent of recruits in the camps were from Saudi Arabia. This may have been related to Bin Laden's offer of mujahideen to protect Saudi Arabia being rejected in 1991 and Bin Laden soon after issuing a self-styled fatwa condemning the House of Saud and demanding Muslims drive American forces out of Saudi Arabia. The high number of Saudi nationals being involved in Al Queda translated into the September 11th attacks with fifteen of the nineteen hijackers being Said Arabian.
The recent Brookings Institute
publication has another interesting statistic. Of foreign insurgents killed in Iraq, Saudi Arabians account for sixty eight percent with ninety-four having been killed.
It is estimated that the Iraqi insurgents number approximately 20,000. Of these around 1,000 of them are foreign fighters. In comparison to other nations, Saudi Arabia is over-represented when it comes to violent extremism.
The Saudi Arabian example shows the secular liberalism is not the problem, it is state supported religion and autocratic secularism that is the cause of disruption and disturbance in the world. Saudi Arabia is one of the more extreme samples. Disaffected Saudi's are unable to change the state through voting, their monarchy being totally opposed to any form of popular merit. The Saudi schools teach a non-tolerant form of Salafism, and that is exported by Saudi money to madrassa internationally.
Since the state and Salafism are entwined, those that reject the state must also reject the Saudi form of Sunnism, and often do so by embracing a more radical, extreme and violent interpretation of Salafism. This added to the problem of sixty percent of the Middle East being under the age of twenty-four leads to a massive problem that is having global repercussions.
Once again Indonesia is the great modern hope, through the people voting their will, Indonesia has established a secular democracy that is embracing secular liberal and liberal democratic traditions. It is important to note, that it was the wisdom of the people that led Indonesia to the position. In 1999 the Indonesia people overthrew the Suharto dictatorship through a popular uprising, and then voted in secular, rather than religious parties.
Indonesia wanted good government, and gave themselves the environment to avoid the problems that Saudi Arabia, Iran and other parts of the Middle East face. When Indonesia was wracked by terrorism, it was quickly squashed through civil trials that were conducted openly and publicly. Terrorism was quickly deemed criminal and not tolerated by the justice system. But rather than military trials which are done privately and in secret, the civil judicial system has popular legitimacy and the involvement of jurors. It is far more legitimate than any military tribunal.
Labor and Liberalism won in the 20thC. The major parties in Australia are social-democratic. Both left and right continue to expand the state and social services. Under the supposedly conservative Liberal government in Australia the percent of GDP collected by the government in tax has increased from twenty-six percent to nearly thirty-five. Liberalism also won. Multi-culturalism, which is a logical outcome of maximum liberty was accepted, as was economic liberty through economic rationalism.
After September 11th, the United States decided to pursue terrorism as a military problem. The United Kingdom and Australia were quick to follow. All three nations realigned their domestic focus to what appears to a permanent "National Security State". No longer are cities, or nations defined by their society, their culture, their economy or their liberty; they are now defined by how secure they are. Advocates of the National Security State go as far to claim that a city or nation that is insecure is a failed one.
Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom have expanded the private space of government by giving new powers to the "shadow state". A Republic comes from the Latin term
. This means that government occupies the public space, not the private space of the despot, the tyrant or the autocrat. Western nations have used terrorism and the "National Security State" to collapse the public actions of government and hide them from public view.
In the United States, the Transport Security Agency has laws that the public must follow, but cannot read.
Laws are now becoming secret
. This makes them impossible to follow. The
allows the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to act without civil oversight, or the knowledge of the suspect. The Act also enables the mixing of domestic and foreign intelligence; a result of the United States deciding on a military solution to terrorism.
Attacking Speech and Liberty
The United States has not acted to outlaw free speech, but the United Kingdom which has recently faced home-grown terrorism, now is. Foreigners that engage in hateful speech can be deported. From a
New grounds for deporting and excluding people from the UK - including fostering hatred or, advocating and justifying violence to further beliefs. The powers will cover statements already on record. Consultation on the plans will finish this month.
Implied in many of the measures is that multi-culturalism has failed, and that the "National Security State" must be a unitary nation-state with one culture, one central government; and one purpose - security. Australian commentators have lead the attack on multi-culturalism, seeing secular liberalism as the feeding and breeding ground for terrorism. This rabid rhetoric is used as an excuse to establish the unitary "National Security State",
Kowtowing to the unreasonable demands of intolerant minorities trying to impose their will on the majority is not going to safeguard Australia from "fanatical religious hate, exclusion, death and terror", as Parker seems to think. Quite the opposite.
Concepts of tolerance, freedom and loving one's neighbour as oneself don't exist in a vacuum, any more than "ethics" exist without a moral framework.
Trying to erase the long-established culture of Australia, permanently rooted as it is in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and replacing it with vapid, secularist nothingness is not going to help. It simply creates a vacuum for radical Islam to rush in and fill.
This is the authoritarian anti-liberal nonsense at its absolute worst. Devine's advocacy for one culture and one nation fail, simply because her vision of what constitutes a viable society, culture and nation cannot be achieved without government intervention. Lack of liberty is an unnatural state for a society and requires high energy and cost by the government to enforce. This is why autocracies are always doomed to failure, the more liberties that are taken, the higher the cost to the society and the more energy that is dissipated in maintain authoritarianism.
In the United States, the devoutly Christian Senator, Rick Santorum, was on radio recently
discussing his book
. Santorum rails against the Libertarian wing of the American Republican party. Like Devine he claims the Judeo-Christian tradition is the only way the United States can remain a viable society and culture. This requires government policy to follow religious doctrine. Like Devine, Santorum fails it, their vision of society is not possible without government's monopoly on violence and coercion to prop it up and sustain it.
Terrorism has been a foreign policy issue for Australia, with Indonesia taking the hits for us. We are fortunate we have such a wise and effective nation as Indonesia as our neighbour. Given the current environment of hysteria from the government and media, I would not be surprised if we bungled the prosecution of a terrorist attack. Creating political outcomes where only the justice inherent in our civil system was necessary.
The more civil liberties that are removed, the harder the state attempts to enforce monoculturalism, the greater the expansion of government into the private space of the "shadow state"; all place us closer to components that make failed states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran such hotbeds for extremist ideology.
The answer to terrorism in Australia is the secular liberalism of Australian Republicanism. Maximum liberty, tempered by individual rights and bound by inclusive and responsive minimal government is the best means to defeat terrorism and the environment that breeds and amplifies it.