Do read Waleed Aly on terrorism today

Hard to fault what he says: Saying ‘enough is enough’ is to misunderstand terrorism completely.

What exactly is our end point here – our non-negotiable point of no return? Because there will always be a case to make. Take Iran: an awesomely brutal security state that has shown no compunction in imprisoning and torturing dissenters, and which defines its security threats extremely broadly. However tough we might want to be on terrorism, we will surely never match that. And yet Iran has just now witnessed a major IS terrorist attack of its own, despite being an overwhelmingly Shiite nation scarcely known for housing masses of IS supporters. The truth is that while hard police power is undoubtedly important, the track record of governments trying to eliminate terrorism predominantly by force isn’t an encouraging one.

That’s because at terrorism’s heart is the narrative that sustains it. That narrative is itself a complex of things: social circumstances, an array of grievances and crucially, an ideology that makes these things coherent and directs that anger towards an enemy. Islamism is currently potent because it does this so efficiently. You can’t imprison that potency out of existence. You can only try to make it ring less true, so fewer and fewer people are attracted to it. And given one of Islamism’s most common conspiratorial motifs is that Western societies are out to destroy Islam and will never accept Muslims, the road to internment seems a fraught one to walk. We’re fortunate for now such ideas are marginal in our politics. But we’re heading that way unless we can at some point look at our instinctive, visceral responses and say enough is enough.

A Muslim man named Sadiq Patel comforts a Jewish woman named Renee Rachel Black next to floral tributes in Albert Square in Manchester

A Muslim man named Sadiq Patel comforts a Jewish woman named Renee Rachel Black next to floral tributes in Albert Square in Manchester, Britain May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples

On terror — just for the record

A couple of days ago I posted on Facebook: So many really stupid things are being said now in the wake of the dreadful events in London, not least tweeted by Donald Trump, the unwise leader of the USA. When will we ever learn?

What follows is a few items for consideration. But first a couple of points of my own. It is clear that the hideous ideology ISIS embodies is Islamic, as Graeme Wood most convincingly demonstrates. See  his What ISIS Really Wants. However, that does not mean at all that Islam IS Isis. See for confirmation stories like London attack: Muslims raise more then £17,000 in 24 hours for victims of Westminster terror and families. Unfortunately reactions such as Pauline Hanson’s don’t seem to  comprehend that  elementary distinction. (The KKK and Kony’s infamous Lord’s Resistance Army are ostensibly Christian, but none of us is likely to identify all of Christianity with either.) Next, it is highly problematic that Donald Trump has taken sides in that well-known internal division in Islam between Sunni and Shia. The latest thing about Qatar is related in part to that. It is so ironic that both Al-Qaeda and Isis derive from the Sunni strain of Islam, not from the Shia, of which Iran is the main representative. Isis’s ideology is an extreme version of Saudi Arabia’s WahhabismSo from that country that Mr Trump seems to love so much nowadays where public beheadings are not uncommon: see Donald Trump fails to raise Saudi Arabia’s human rights record on Middle East tour.

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Saudi street scene

Next comes an interesting article in the last Saturday PaperTerror spokesman Abu Sulayman al-Muhajir on a new Islamic state. But first you do need to check out who this guy is: Abu Sulayman: The rise of Australia’s most senior man in Al Qaeda. He certainly has come a long way since Bankstown. Here is a quote:

Abu Sulayman met with Baghdadi half-a-dozen times, spending 24 hours with him on one of those occasions. He provided the following startling assessment of the Daesh caliph:

“Baghdadi has the brain the size of a peanut. A serious airhead, an idiot. I seriously had my bubble burst when I met him for the first time. I expected someone much deeper. He is not a sophisticated thinker. He’s a blustering buffoon. I’d describe him as having [US president] Bush’s intellect and Trump’s temperament. He was always ranting about the most childish issues. ‘Bring Julani to me now,’ he’d say. ‘How dare he not come and see me face to face?’ Very childish. And a horrible liar.”

Abu Sulayman also asserted: “Baghdadi is not ISIS,” claiming his title of caliph is “just a name” and that “other people are running the show”. When I asked whether these “other people” were Saddam-era Baathists, he replied: “Not Baathists. Others in the organisation.”

Next, in these days we would do well to study Wikipedia’s Terrorism in Australia just to get a due sense of proportion.

Finally, there is no doubt that what happened in Brighton Victoria the other day is dreadful. But it is also obvious that, as the Victorian Police Commissioner said in the press conference I watched on News 24 Isis claiming responsibility is something they always do, whether or not they really had any direct hand in the matter. Makes them look “good” to their deluded and demented fan base. And what about parole? Everyone from the Prime Minister down is wondering how on earth the perp was on parole, given that a few years ago he was acquitted on a charge related to a foiled terror plan concerning Holsworthy barracks in Sydney. But there you go — acquitted. The parole he was on had nothing to do with that.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Khayre had served time for a 2012 home invasion and could not get parole when his minimum sentence of three years was served because of “terrible behaviour” in prison.

He was granted parole in December last year. “(Since then) he’s been compliant, including drug tests, attending appointments and observing a curfew,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.

“As with all these matters though, we’ll look at each and every element of the act and if there are learnings and improvements that can be made, we stand ready to do that.”

In our system. which we are meant to be defending, you can’t go around locking up everyone who might do something. And when it comes to parole — sure, due caution: but it could be argued that in fact was observed in this case. Parole boards do not have psychic powers. So what is the alternative? Do away with parole altogether? There would be a host of undesirable consequences from that. See also Parole supervision and reoffending.

The current study sought to address two questions of importance to correctional policy:

  1. Does unconditional release increase the risk, speed or seriousness of further offending compared with conditional release?
  2. Does less frequent supervision increase the risk, speed or seriousness of further offending compared with more frequent supervision?

The results of this part of the study revealed that offenders who received parole supervision upon release from custody took longer to commit a new offence, were less likely to commit a new indictable offence and committed fewer offences than offenders who were released unconditionally into the community. The answer to question (2) is that more active supervision can reduce parolee recidivism but only if it is rehabilitation focused.

Update

See What the Islamic State Wants in Attacking Iran.

After years of waiting and wanting to strike Iran, the Islamic State claims to have finally done so. According to recent news reports, four militants went on a shooting spree in Iran’s parliament, while other operatives detonated a bomb inside the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, killing 12 people. If the Islamic State indeed ordered the attacks, it has struck at the temporal and spiritual heart of the Iranian revolutionary government.

The Islamic State has aimed to strike Iran since at least 2007, when it openly threatened to attack the country for supporting the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq. It regards Persian Shiites as apostate traitors who have sold out the Sunni Arabs to Israel and the United States. This determination to strike Iran marked a key difference with al Qaeda, which long held off attacking the Islamic Republic in order to use it as a rear base and financial hub…

The attacks follow several weeks of heightened rhetorical animosity between Riyadh and Tehran.

Again London!

Just over an hour ago another outbreak of madness and death! I draw attention to my post of  March 28, 2017 and the reading there.

My reading last night continued with the excellent Graeme Wood, The Way of Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State. I have found his What ISIS Really Wants on The Atlantic. I commend it to you as a condensed version of the book. I find him learned, convincing and enlightening.

Virtually every  major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal…

Denying the holiness of the Koran or the prophecies of Muhammad is straightforward apostasy. But Zarqawi and the state he spawned take the position that many other acts can remove a Muslim from Islam. These include, in certain cases, selling alcohol or drugs, wearing Western clothes or shaving one’s beard, voting in an election—even for a Muslim candidate—and being lax about calling other people apostates. Being a Shiite, as most Iraqi Arabs are, meets the standard as well, because the Islamic State regards Shiism as innovation, and to innovate on the Koran is to deny its initial perfection. (The Islamic State claims that common Shiite practices, such as worship at the graves of imams and public self-flagellation, have no basis in the Koran or in the example of the Prophet.) That means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God.

Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims….

A few “lone wolf” supporters of the Islamic State have attacked Western targets, and more attacks will come. But most of the attackers have been frustrated amateurs, unable to immigrate to the caliphate because of confiscated passports or other problems. Even if the Islamic State cheers these attacks—and it does in its propaganda—it hasn’t yet planned and financed one….

I commend again Graeme Wood’s What ISIS Really Wants.

To take one example: In September, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the Islamic State’s chief spokesman, called on Muslims in Western countries such as France and Canada to find an infidel and “smash his head with a rock,” poison him, run him over with a car, or “destroy his crops.” To Western ears, the biblical-sounding punishments—the stoning and crop destruction—juxtaposed strangely with his more modern-sounding call to vehicular homicide. (As if to show that he could terrorize by imagery alone, Adnani also referred to Secretary of State John Kerry as an “uncircumcised geezer.”)

But Adnani was not merely talking trash. His speech was laced with theological and legal discussion, and his exhortation to attack crops directly echoed orders from Muhammad to leave well water and crops alone—unless the armies of Islam were in a defensive position, in which case Muslims in the lands of kuffar, or infidels, should be unmerciful, and poison away.

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

At the same time we do well to remember that while this particularly vicious, indeed evil, variant of Sunni Islam is at war with us, and with much of the rest of Islam as well, most Muslims are not. All this assuming of course that what is happening in London right now is what it seems to be.

So I also commend my posts on Islam generally, and this one also from March 28:

Here is a heartening story, definitely not fake. Women formed a human chain along Westminster Bridge tonight to remember the victims of the attack on March 22. We need to “inoculate” ourselves against the likes of The Revenant with what these women have!

Participants in the Women's March, gather on Westminster Bridge to hold hands in silence, to remember victims of the attack in Westminster earlier in the week, in London

Hope

I wanted a positive image to share with you on this day when we are just hearing of the violent fanatic attack in Paris. And here are two. They don’t answer everything, but do say a lot. They remind us that beauty and decency and  mere humanity just may be universal values.

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ameen-miqdad-a-violinist-from-mosul-who-lived-under-isis-s-rule

The story, if you missed it, is here, here and here.

MOSUL, Iraq: Amid the bombed-out ruins of an ancient site revered by both Muslims and Christians in Mosul, Iraqi violinist Ameen Mukdad on Wednesday held a small concert in the city he was forced to flee by Islamic State militants.

As Mukdad played scores he had composed in secret while living under the militants’ austere rule, explosions and gunfire could be heard from Mosul’s western districts where U.S.-backed forces are still battling Islamic State for control…

Wednesday’s hour-long concert marked his first return to the city that was overrun by Islamic State in 2014.

Mukdad said he chose the Tomb of Jonas, or Mosque of the Prophet Younis, as the site is known by Muslims, to symbolise unity.

“I want to take the opportunity to send a message to the world and send a strike against terrorism and all ideologies which restrict freedom that music is a beautiful thing,” he said.

“Everyone who opposes music is ugly.”…

On the Revenant of Oz inoculating us against common sense…

The Revenant is back in form.

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The latest:

Senator Hanson had made the comments earlier today while defending her social media post urging Australians to pray for a Muslim ban after yesterday’s London attack.

“Let me put it this way, we have a disease, we vaccinate ourself against it,” she said.

“Islam is a disease we need to vaccinate ourself against that.”

The response from government and others has been swift, as it should be:

The Deputy Prime Minister slammed Senator Hanson’s comments as “bat-poo crazy stuff” and “plain dumb”.

“You can’t say stuff like that, you just can’t. It’s mad,” Mr Joyce said.

I didn’t watch #QandA last night, opting to read and listen to music instead. But apparently some relevant things were said there.

It was not the only time Chikarovski was on clean-up duty. She also deftly dispatched a questioner wondering what could be done about the effort by Muslims “to establish a worldwide caliphate”.

Chikarovski, in summary: “It’s not going to happen.”

In all, it was a night that required panellists to have their wits about them. This much was clear from the git-go, when the opening question began: “In the wake of the London terror attacks in Westminster, the Mayor of London, Mr Sadiq Khan, stated terror attacks are now part and parcel of living in a big city…”

Mr Khan said no such thing last week. He made a similar remark last September – only to find it resurrected out of context by Donald Trump Jr in recent days, and bafflingly resurrected again last night on Q&A.

“He didn’t say that, right?” A hat-tip to panellist Peter Holmes a Court for heading this particular bit of fake news off at the pass, albeit several minutes beyond the point at which it should ever have been let loose.

Here is a heartening story, definitely not fake. Women formed a human chain along Westminster Bridge tonight to remember the victims of the attack on March 22. We need to “inoculate” ourselves against the likes of The Revenant with what these women have!

Participants in the Women's March, gather on Westminster Bridge to hold hands in silence, to remember victims of the attack in Westminster earlier in the week, in London

Former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone has a good piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

We hope for and, I think, are entitled to expect a higher standard from our elected representatives. Why on earth did Pauline Hanson rush out with her “pray4muslim immigration ban#”?…

The radical Islamists are engaging in a war for the hearts and minds of the next generation. We, the West, will not win that war with guns and bombs alone.They will have their place. If you fail to stand up to your enemy you will be crushed. The battle for hearts and minds will certainly not be won by taunting and insulting those the radicals want to win over.

Throwing gravel in the face of normal decent Muslims just makes some of them, and particularly their children much more vulnerable to the messages from the radicals.

Hanson’s constant knocking of all Muslims just plays right into the hands of the very people we should be afraid of. They don’t have to convince Muslim children that they’re not liked by the West when there are Members of Parliament happy to go out there and do it for them. Hanson doesn’t mean to help the radical islamists. Nobody could suggest that. But that doesn’t change the fact that what she does or says does in fact help them.

My reading last night continued with the excellent Graeme Wood, The Way of Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State. I have found his What ISIS Really Wants on The Atlantic. I commend it to you as a condensed version of the book. I find him learned, convincing and enlightening.

Virtually every  major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal…

Denying the holiness of the Koran or the prophecies of Muhammad is straightforward apostasy. But Zarqawi and the state he spawned take the position that many other acts can remove a Muslim from Islam. These include, in certain cases, selling alcohol or drugs, wearing Western clothes or shaving one’s beard, voting in an election—even for a Muslim candidate—and being lax about calling other people apostates. Being a Shiite, as most Iraqi Arabs are, meets the standard as well, because the Islamic State regards Shiism as innovation, and to innovate on the Koran is to deny its initial perfection. (The Islamic State claims that common Shiite practices, such as worship at the graves of imams and public self-flagellation, have no basis in the Koran or in the example of the Prophet.) That means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God.

Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims….

A few “lone wolf” supporters of the Islamic State have attacked Western targets, and more attacks will come. But most of the attackers have been frustrated amateurs, unable to immigrate to the caliphate because of confiscated passports or other problems. Even if the Islamic State cheers these attacks—and it does in its propaganda—it hasn’t yet planned and financed one….

Western officials would probably do best to refrain from weighing in on matters of Islamic theological debate altogether. Barack Obama himself drifted into takfiri waters when he claimed that the Islamic State was “not Islamic”—the irony being that he, as the non-Muslim son of a Muslim, may himself be classified as an apostate, and yet is now practicing takfir against Muslims. Non-Muslims’ practicing takfir elicits chuckles from jihadists (“Like a pig covered in feces giving hygiene advice to others,” one tweeted).

I suspect that most Muslims appreciated Obama’s sentiment: the president was standing with them against both Baghdadi and non-Muslim chauvinists trying to implicate them in crimes. But most Muslims aren’t susceptible to joining jihad. The ones who are susceptible will only have had their suspicions confirmed: the United States lies about religion to serve its purposes….

In the light of all that The Revenant’s nostrums make no sense at all!