An Arab proverb says, a fool may be known by six things: anger without cause, speech without profit, change without progress, inquiry without object, putting trust in a stranger, and mistaking foes for friends. Except, it has missed the seventh, allowing dual nationals who joined a jihadi terrorist, head-cutting death cult, to have their Australian citizenship restored. The creators of the proverb, probably didn’t anticipate anyone being that foolish. Ten days ago, the High Court ruled that stripping suspected Islamic State member Delil Alexander of Australian citizenship was unlawful under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007. As a result, twenty other Australian dual national Isis members are eligible to seek the same. The message, and the law, should be unequivocal. If you join an enemy of Australia as a dual national then you have forfeited the right to be an Australian citizen. Maybe US President George W. Bush, was wrong, we can get fooled again.
Many of these evil men (and women) symbolically burned their passports. In my grandfather’s World War II days, crossing to the other side was treasonous. Fighting for or supporting Islamic State is treasonous. It’s not like these jihadis didn’t have time to reconsider. It’s a long plane flight. Instead, today Western democracies offer a haven from which groups that hate us can promote their objective of destroying our way of life while that same system protects their right to do so. Wait, what? In his 1989 paper, The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation, US military strategist Willian Lind called it fourth-generational warfare. Even if some take issue with this strategic analysis, it just doesn’t make sense that those who hate us so much want to return. Surely, they would prefer Pakistan, Syria, or Afghanistan – the most liveable, trendy Islamist extremist city in the world right now must be Kabul.
In The Management of Savagery, al-Qaeda strategist, Abu Bakr Naji emphasised the significance of public, graphic acts of violence aimed at compelling infidels to comply. And those who joined this movement sought to serve the objectives of this savagery. Of course, detained Isis brides and fighters claim they didn’t really mean it. They were just mechanics or did administration or worked in the kitchen. In 2019, British-born and raised Shabazz Suleman told Sky News from his Syrian detention centre, even though he joined Isis, he was only on the PlayStation and rode his bike around. In 1942, George Orwell wrote: ‘If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, “he that is not with me is against me”. The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security.’ Washing dishes, doing the accounts or being a mechanic makes you a complicit member of evil-doers.
No doubt the intensity of Islamist extremist attacks in the West has dropped dramatically. And some will say the numbers of potential Isis members who could have their Australian citizenship restored is small. That’s not the point. It’s hard to believe those who love death more than we love life have left the caravan, now ready to take-up boxing and carpentry. They didn’t really mean it. Since the 13th-century Sunni Muslim theologian Ibn Taymiyyah began preaching his interpretation of Islam it has ebbed and flowed as a tormented reformation movement. According to US author and terrorism expert Seth Jones, the Islamic extremist global insurgency has been through three waves. It would be naive to disregard there being more to come. It has unfinished business. It is a fight beyond time and geography.
Australia is not alone in this Western trend to appease jihadists. The killing of British Conservative MP Sir David Amess in October 2021, at the hand of suspect Ali Harbi Ali, should have been called out for what it was; a tactic of the Islamist extremist global insurgency. These terrorists are not Buddhists, Hindus, evangelical Christians, nor neo-pagans from the Church of All Worlds. Only one movement’s death-brand is ‘Allahu Akbar’. Instead, the limp-wristed British politicians called for ‘a kinder, gentler dialogue’. As if being nice to scorpions changes their nature. Just ask the frog. People who seek the intimacy of death, fed on a mind-diet of graphic violence with a licence to kill from God, are not looking for a hug. As terrorist expert Jessica Stern explains in Terror in the Name of God, we feed the cause by continuing to repeat their claims wrapped in our own principles. Of all places, the UK should be concerned given it is home to the highest, known number of Islamist extremists in Europe – between 20,000 and 25,000 people – with 3,000 considered a direct threat by MI5 and 500 under constant surveillance. The fact is identifying and cultivating a sympathetic voice among Western institutions, media, academia and civil society is a key part of the global Islamist’s strategy. That’s what good insurgents do. Remember last year while Israel was protecting civilians with rockets and Hamas was protecting rockets with civilians, mainstream media in Australia defended the terrorists. Against all common sense, the terrorists became victims and the victims became terrorists.
The tools of the global Islamist terrorist insurgency are not only the knife and the suicide vest, but also include non-violent measures to exploit our own societal weaknesses. At its core terrorism is more moral and mental than physical. Just last week in the UK, movie theatres caved into street protests against The Lady of Heaven, a film about the daughter of the Prophet Mohammad. While everyone has a right to protest it is hard to understand why our democracy has become so embarrassing to so many who gave nothing in its defence.
One of the remedies to this phenomenon has been ‘countering violent extremism programs’. Another useless term coined so as not to offend. Remember that craze? In 2018, the NSW Counter Terrorism and Corrections Minister David Elliot said that juvenile detainees would undergo de-radicalisation programs similar to those in adult jails, in a $6 million scheme. In the UK it’s called PREVENT. Yet Minister Elliot admitted ‘there is no evidence anywhere in the world that de-radicalisation programs have been working’. It is impossible to tell when a person will switch from ranting online to an attack. One common factor is that terrorists are most often unexceptional losers.
Like most complex problems there are few simple solutions – when it comes to Jihadists, being nice is not one of them.
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