In condemning terrorist actions across the globe, don’t leave out the I-word

By CHRIS KENNY  From: The AustralianMay 10, 2014

JUST this month we see more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria, possibly to be raped, murdered or sold into slavery, while in Sydney a mother of four is arrested on allegations of supporting a foreign incursion; in southern Thailand a car bomb rips through a crowd, and in Syria combatants continue to butcher each other.

Unspeakable horrors meet ongoing security threats, yet the common motivating thread in these and other episodes is something many of us try to ignore.

Despite more than a decade of sickening violence and massacres in Nigeria claiming more than 4000 lives, only now are many starting to mention the I-word.

Islamic extremism has become the hate whose name we dare not speak. Futile Twitter campaigns of selfies from the likes of US first lady Michelle Obama fill a void created by the reluctance to address the horrific reality of Islamist terrorism.

From the US President to media commentators and university academics, verbal gymnastics are performed to discuss the horrors of terrorism without identifying the motivation.

The ABC’s Waleed Aly, introduced as a terrorism expert on Network Ten, managed to avoid the fanatical motivation of the Boko Haram terrorists who kidnapped the Nigerian girls.

“What we do know, though, is that the broader movement is a terrorist movement,” he said, “and they’ve been wanting to overthrow the Nigerian government and establish a government of their own.”

To say this much he must have known they are an Islamist terror group committed to imposing sharia law on the nation. Yet Aly leaves out the I-word. Why the censorship?

He is not alone. Barack Obama this week promised to help Nigeria free the kidnapped girls. “Obviously it’s a heartbreaking situation — outrageous situation — you’ve got one of the worst regional or local terrorist organisations in Boko Haram in Nigeria,” he said.

“This may be the event that helps to mobilise the entire international community finally to do something against this horrendous organisation that has perpetrated such a terrible crime.”

Again, there is no mention of the religious extremism behind these despicable crimes.

This is important because the horrifying motivation behind these crimes — anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-democratic and anti-modernity — is the link between the crisis in Nigeria and other terrible episodes such as the humanitarian and strategic nightmare in Syria, the war in Afghanistan, the security threats in our airports and the bloodshed Australia endured in Bali.

Islamic extremist terrorism, in all its localised manifestations, remains one of the most ferocious threats to national and global security. Pretending it isn’t there won’t make it go away. For politicians, journalists and academics to deliberately censor the motivation and transnational link behind terrorist horrors is weak, dangerous and dishonest.

Weak because our fear of being branded Islamophobic curtails a factual debate; dishonest because it hides a crucial element of the story; and dangerous because the very aim of the extremists is to intimidate us into inaction and submission — our silence is their victory.

None of this is easy. There are myriad regional domestic grievances, strains of ideological influence and complex international links between various Islamic extremist groups.

Yet we have seen from Afghanistan to New York, from Iraq to Bali, from Madrid to Jakarta and from London to Nairobi that the methods, personnel, motivations and carnage are interlinked.

We ought to confront this real­ity, but around the world liberal media has tried to downplay or avoid the Islamist element of terror attacks.

We saw this last year in much reporting of the slaughter of British soldier Lee Rigby in London and the bombing that killed three people at the Boston marathon. The media often was more intent on warning of a backlash against Muslims than sharing the facts about what was perpetrated.

Politicians urged us to respond to these obscenities with “compassion” or by befriending more Muslims. Fine, we may think, but this ignores the fact moderate Muslims — the overwhelming majority in our midst — are not the issue. They are just as likely to be victims of jihadist plots as the rest of us. It is the extremists who need to be countered, and there can be no negotiating or reasoning with them.

They won’t be won over by a Twitter exchange.

After the trauma of Iraq and Afghanistan and with the ongoing frustration of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, there has been an increasing temptation to blame ourselves.

This was epitomised by Obama’s famous speech in Cairo in 2009, which was widely lauded.

The President said many good things about the Islamic faith and the aspirations of its adherents, but his apologetic stand tended to legitimise the grievances of extremists. “9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country,” he said. “The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals.”

Well, no — America was attacked because of its traditions (such as democracy) and ideals (such as plurality). Islamic extremism stands against these virtues of the West, not against its actions.

The terrorists prefer a caliphate, sharia law, the subjugation of women, an end to democracy and the elimination of other faiths.

In countries such as the US, Australia, Britain and even Nigeria, moderate Muslims are rightly embraced and empowered to stand against the extremists. But there is no negotiation to be had with those who would blow themselves up among crowds in a market, fly a hijacked passenger jet into a building or firebomb worshippers in Nigerian churches.

We must face the dismal real­ity, and terrible challenge, that people who would kidnap hundreds of schoolgirls to be raped or sold off as child brides won’t be talked around.