Incitement to Holy War in Australia
By Naomi Peled
In the aftermath of the July 7 London bombings, the globe’s democracies mourned those killed at the hands of Islamist extremists and revisited the problem of global terror and how to combat it. There were determined statements by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to “take on the extremists,” as well as calls for intelligence and legislative reforms in Britain. But as investigations proceed, the root of all this terror now appears to lie in a far more mundane setting than remote Afghani desert terrorist training camps. A major source of this hatred turned out to be your unfriendly neighbourhood Islamic bookstore.
Opened shortly after September 11 2001, the Iqra Learning Centre, a corner bookshop in the provincial English city of Leeds — hometown to three of the men suspected in the attacks — was also home to malicious Islamic hate literature. Two of the suspected terrorists, Shahzad Tanweer and Hasib Hussain, were known to be frequent patrons of the store, and Mohammed Sadique Khan, according to a town resident, had used the locale for diatribes against British and US foreign policy. British police are currently sifting through the store’s bookshelves rife with radical hate texts in a search for clues about the bombers, their motives, and most importantly, to prevent future attacks.
To many Australians who maintain a sense of comfortable insularity, the events in London may seem only a remote threat. Following the recent discovery of Islamic bookstores disseminating similar radical Islamic propaganda in suburban Sydney and Melbourne, however, Australians must now grapple with the possibility of an attack on Australian soil by an Australian citizen radicalised by this material.
In both New South Wales and Victoria, seemingly innocent bookstores which purport to purvey knowledge and spiritual guidance to their patrons have been shown to be distributors of hate literature which has a clearly violent intent. In both capital cities, calls for Jihad and endorsements of martyrdom appear in everything from books to audio compact discs and elaborate DVD presentations.
Indeed, the residents of Melbourne’s inner-northern suburb of Brunswick might be concerned if they learned that their neighbourhood had become ‘ground zero’ for Islamic radicalism in Victoria, if material obtained by The Review is any indication.
The Review found the bookstore of the ‘Islamic Information and Support Centre of Australia’ (IISCA) teeming with material that preaches a religious obligation to fight against the kuffar (infidels). Inflammatory titles like The Ideological Attack adorn books, and images of bullets grace the cover of a DVD by Sheikh Khalid Yasin in a “specially designed lecture for today’s youth” targeted to assist them in becoming the “soldiers of Islam.”
IISCA’s prayer room and bookstore are both affiliated with Ahl as-Sunnah wal Jama’ah, an Islamic organisation founded in Australia over fifteen years ago that is presently headed by Sheikh Abu Ayman. This organisation is associated with Salafist Islam, a radical branch that embraces a purist view of Islam and an active campaign against shirk, any belief system that deviates from true Islam.
Sheikh Omran: All terror is a US “inside job”
What is more, the centre keeps controversial company, with Sheikh Mohammed Omran serving as one of its spiritual leaders. This radical Muslim cleric recently gained much notoriety when, in an ABC “Lateline” interview following the London attacks, he disputed the incontrovertible conclusion that the terrorists responsible were Muslim. “Until today, even the Prime Minister of Britain didn’t accuse anyone yet,” declared Omran. “But yet the media of Britain or Australia or New Zealand or any other countries, they put it immediately to the Muslim insurgents.” Omran further disputed links between the world’s most infamous terrorist, Osama bin Laden himself, and the 9/11 attacks, arguing, “I don’t believe that even 11 September… I don’t believe that it was done by any Muslim at all… I dispute any evil action linked to bin Laden.” Instead, Omran has stated his belief that the 9/11 attacks were instead orchestrated by the US — an “inside job,” in his words.
What is perhaps even more worrisome, however, is Omran’s influence over his followers. According to a Herald Sun investigation (July 27), Omran has a devoted group of followers aged 17 to 24 among his inner circle, who, according to a former member, are all “willing to strap themselves up” to become suicide bombers. “They’re getting brainwashed by him,” said the source who went unnamed in the article for fear of retribution. According to the Melbourne man, Omran praised suicide bombers and adamantly criticised Australia as “rubbish because women walk down the street not wearing veils and the men drink.” In turn, Omran’s disciples supported past terrorist attacks in New York, Bali, Madrid and London. Most frighteningly, the men, according to the source, “say openly it is the duty of Muslims to help their Muslim brothers and sisters and if that means being a martyr then do it. If it means they’ve got to strap up and go overseas, then they’ll do it.” Omran’s vitriolic preachings thus have a captive and receptive audience in his Brunswick mosque that is only further inspired and inflamed by its bookshop teachings.
The Melbourne bookstore affiliated with Omran has a wide selection of English language publications that are disturbing in their contents. It is almost entirely Saudi material, written in Arabic, translated in London, although some audiovisual material was produced in Australia. The bookstore also had considerable material in Arabic which the Review did not examine.
Several texts preach a mantra of “disassociation and enmity with the people of falsehood and disbelief in Islaam,” [Al-Walaa’ wal-Bara’ by Sheikh Saalih bin Fouzan al-Fouzan, cover] among which are included the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) and the “hypocrites.” [Al-Wala’ Wa’l-Bara’: According to the ‘Aqeedah of the Salaf, Part 2, by Muhammad Saeed al-Qahtani, p. 195.] These disbelievers, according to these radical theologians, pose an imminent threat, and Muslims must take up the Islamic call to action (da’wah) and even jihad, or holy war, to combat them.
The Muslims today face a barbaric onslaught from their enemies — the jews, christians [sic], atheists, secularists and others. The Islamic lands are being invaded by various forms of unbelief and deviations … Supported by a demonic global plan as well as unlimited financial backing, this attack aims at domination and hegemony over the Islamic world; dividing it, attacking it culturally and morally and perverting the true image of the Religion. Therefore it is amongst the priorities of the Islamic call (da’wah) to break this attack and to counter it with every legitimate means of da’wah possible. [Quoted in The Ideological Attack by Sheikh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez bin Baaz, p. 6.]
The primary aggressors in this ideological war, according to this radical theology, are Christian crusaders, the Zionists, and communists and atheists. The Christian attack is judged to be at its “most intense” today. Christians are accused of adopting ideology instead of warfare to oppose Muslims because “conquering the hearts and thoughts of a people is far more permanent than conquering their lands.” [The Ideological Attack by Sheikh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez bin Baaz, p. 41-42.]
The Jews, however, are described in more rancorous terms. They “strive their utmost to corrupt the beliefs, morals and manners of the Muslims. The jews [sic] scheme and crave after possessing the Muslim lands, as well as the lands of others. They have fulfilled some of their plans and continue striving hard to implement the rest of them.”[Ibid, pp. 42-43.]
Israel is mentioned in similarly inflammatory terms, and peace between the Muslim leaders of “Palestine” and the Jews is described as only temporary, intended to last only “until either the truce expires, or until the Muslims become strong enough to force them out of the Muslim lands.” [Ibid, p. 44.] This casts serious doubt on the Salafist definition of peace in the Middle East.
Quotes from the Koran are frequently utilised to incite readers against the infidel. Passages are used to inflame distrust of the ‘unbelievers,’ insisting that: “Never will the jews and the christians [sic] be pleased with you until you follow their way of life … And they will not stop fighting you, until they turn you back from your Religion, if they are able.” [Ibid, p. 57.] To resist such attacks on their faith, followers are warned to avoid taking kuffar [non-muslims] as friends lest their friendship lead them to confusion and adopting the beliefs of their enemies or even sin. As such, they are prohibited from:
* adopting their dress or language
* living in or travelling to their lands
* helping them
* seeking their aid or trusting them
* using their calendar or observing their holidays
* speaking well of them
* using their names
* supplicating for them and being compassionate to them.
[Al-Walaa’ wal-Baraa: Allegiance and Association with the People of Islaam and Eeman and Disassociation and Enmity with the People of Falsehood and Disbelief in Islaam by Sheikh Saalih bin Fouzan al-Fouzan, pp. 10-17]
Most explicitly, however, Muslims are discouraged from befriending the People of the Book or their sympathisers with direct quotes from the Koran: Allah the Exalted said, “O you who believe! Do not take the Jews (Yahood) and Christians (Nasara) for friends (Awliyaa). They are Awliyaa to each other. And the one among you that turns to them is one of them.” [Ibid, p. 7.] The warnings quickly turn more insistent, maintaining that, “Never will the Jews nor the Christians be pleased with you until you follow their religion.” [Al-Wala’ Wa’l-Bara’: According to the ‘Aqeedah of the Salaf, Part 3, by Muhammad Saeed al-Qahtani, p. 91.]
A video of Sheikh Khalid Yasin’s lesson on how to be “soldiers of Islam”
Beyond the vicious terms used to describe the “non-believers,” the call to fight non-Muslim ways is most alarming of all. Insisting that the Muslims of today are “subjugated, humiliated, and oppressed by their very submission to apostates in the East and disbelieves [sic] in the West,” an overwhelming number of these interpretations call for Muslims to take up arms to fight their non-Muslim oppressors. [Ibid, p. 111.] “Fight against those who believe not in Allah … until they pay the Jizyah [tax paid by non-believers living in a Muslim state] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” [Ibid, p. 113] Religious texts are also used as evidence to condone violence in the name of Islam. One example, taken from Muhammad Saeed al-Qahtani’s Al-Wala’ Wa’l-Bara’: According to the ‘Aqeedah of the Salaf, Part 3, [p. 115] advocates the killing of any non-Muslim found insulting the Prophet: “A Jewish woman used to abuse the Prophet and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah declared that no recompense was payable for her blood.” The presentation of such extremist religious texts has the potential to incite violence in its readers who receive a proverbial ‘green light’ for the commission of violence.
The militancy that suffuses this literature precludes any notions of peace or tolerance among the faiths. Denying the possibility of peace and inter-faith cooperation, these texts insist on the inherent evil of the People of the Book, accusing promoters of peace of having forgotten “the clear statement of the Qur’an that the People of the Book are allies to one another in their struggle against the Muslim community.” Moderate Muslims are accused of confusing the “tolerance shown to the disbelievers, which is the hallmark of Islam, with alliance with them, which the Qur’an takes pains to warn us about.” [Al-Wala’ Wa’l-Bara’: According to the ‘Aqeedah of the Salaf, Part 3, by Muhammad Saeed al-Qahtani, p. 128.] Rejecting any peaceful interpretation of the Koran, these religious extremists instead cite hate speech to prove their point. Quoting the notorious antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, author Muhammad Saeed al-Qahtani insists that the Jewish “enemies of Islam” are intent on making Muslims “the ass of the chosen people”. [Al-Wala’ Wa’l-Bara’: According to the ‘Aqeedah of the Salaf, Part 1, by Muhammad Saeed al-Qahtani, p. 43.] To combat this onslaught by the West, several titles explicitly endorse jihad, or holy war. In Pursuit of Allah’s Pleasure, for example, makes a blatant call for followers to take up arms:
We must prepare for Jihad until such a day when we will be able to undertake it, then we shall fight. This is the only way out for us from this dreadful impasse in which we find ourselves as a result of the weakness of many generations before us … [Quoting the Koran]: ‘And make ready against them all you can of power including steeds of war (tanks, planes. missiles, artillery, etc.) to terrorise the enemy of Allah and your enemy.”
This call to arms echoes those emanating from Islamic bookstores in Sydney that are currently being investigated due to their radical contents.
The Lakemba district of Sydney, like Melbourne’s Brunswick neighbourhood, is home to a significant Muslim population — as well as bookstores full of hate literature. The suburb’s Islamic Bookstore has a wide range of titles, some undoubtedly harmless — such as the children’s book, It’s Fun to Wear a Hijab — mixed in with such titles of significantly more dubious distinction, including, Defence of the Muslim Lands. This text, by Sheikh Abdullah Azzam — and endorsed by none other than Osama bin Laden himself — includes a detailed discussion of suicide bombings and their effectiveness as a means of combat: “The form this usually takes nowadays is to wire up one’s body, or a vehicle or a suitcase with explosives, and then to enter a conglomeration of the enemy and to detonate it … There is no other technique which strikes as much terror into their hearts, and which shatters their spirits so much.”
Another title condones suicide terrorist attacks with quotes from the Koran. Muhummad Abdus Salam Faraj’s The Absent Obligation insists, “Indeed there is a vast difference between one who ends his life due to his inability to bear the difficulties of life and its various tribulations and the one who offers his life for the cause of Allah.” Similarly, Professor Ahmad Zidan’s World Arrogance maintains that it is an obligation of all Muslims to wage war on non-Muslims. As such, they are instructed not to integrate with their surrounding Western societies for the reason that, “It is a most vital precaution to establish the psychological barrier between Muslims and their enemies, to preserve the Islamic identity and protect it from assimilation into others.” The book later goes on to demonise Jews, every one of whom is an “earth-bound criminal,” and accusing them of “corrupting humanity since the birth of human history.” It is almost certain that similar materials and their purveyors played at the very least a complicit role in the London attacks, and as a result, the British government is moving quickly to combat this latest front in the war on terror.
In the days following the bombing, Prime Minister Tony Blair and other leading government figures cracked down on ‘preachers of hate’ in an effort to silence their incendiary teachings. Charles Falconer, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, announced plans for revamping legislation intended to prevent terror attacks. The proposed legislation would be aimed at “getting to the root of that evil ideology that is driving this terrorism,” and would consist of three aims: to outlaw “indirect incitement” of terror attacks, “acts preparatory” to terrorism, and the “providing or receiving [of terrorism] training.” To achieve these goals, the anticipated laws would allow for the deportation or imprisonment of those “attacking the values of the West” or “glorifying the acts of suicide bombers.”
These quick moves stand in stark contrast to Britain’s policies over the past 20 years that were exceedingly tolerant towards radical clerics and their teachings. After all, it wasn’t for nothing that the capital city earned the nickname of ‘Londonistan’ among Islamists and intelligence officials alike. Known for its lax asylum policies, many fundamentalist preachers were drawn to Britain because of the simple ease with which they could enter the country to spread their teachings. Once there, through sermons and the dissemination of incendiary literature, they proved to be a wellspring of hatred and violence, inspiring such figures as shoe-bomber Richard Reid, the killer of journalist Daniel Pearl, and most recently, the London bombers themselves. All the while, a so-called ‘Covenant of Security’ protected these radical clerics, allowing them, under the guise/protection of free speech, to call openly for jihad against the “enemies of Islam” as well as to give military and weapons training to aspiring terrorists, provided their targets were not British. But this permissive bubble suddenly burst on the morning of 7 July. Britain’s experience of the disastrous consequences of unchecked hate provides Australia with a cautionary tale of how to handle the sources of such hatred now surfacing within its own borders. What is more, an Australian intelligence/security official’s recent admission to The Australian, that “a similar thing to this Covenant of Security in the UK exists here… but it has always been far more fraught here than there,” is a troubling reminder of the immediacy and pervasiveness of the problem here in Australia.
Following the discovery and ensuing media frenzy over the Islamic bookstores in question, passionate debates have occurred about the limitations of the law to investigate and prosecute such examples of modern-day extremism in light of a desire to protect free speech and civil liberties. Anti-terror laws and prevention methods designed to halt the spread of these materials currently exist, and ASIO has been conducting surveillance of the most controversial preachers in recent years. The uncertainty lies, however, in what to do with these materials — or with their purveyors, for that matter — once they are discovered. Although legislation currently exists to block materials that promote violent incitement, the London experience suggests it may be time for some revisions. For instance, a series of amendments passed in 2002 outlawed the recruitment or incitement of individuals to carry out terrorist attacks in Australia or abroad; additionally, the law makes it an offence to collect or make any document that is connected with assisting a terrorist act. National classification laws also exist that are intended to ban the importation of materials that would promote, incite or instruct in violence. At the state level, anti-vilification laws hold some promise in helping to prosecute the offenders responsible for hateful materials — these may be specifically applicable for some of the material maligning Christians, Jews, and other religious and racial groups. The investigation of the bookstores has now fallen under the jurisdiction of the federal authorities and holds promise of bringing about appropriate legislative reforms to punish such malicious content. Attorney General Philip Ruddock confirmed the government’s commitment to bringing the responsible parties to justice. In an interview with Macquarie Radio, Ruddock maintained, “The Australian Federal Police are investigating the particular documents to see whether or not they do constitute a breach of law and if they do they’ll act in relation to that. If they don’t, and I form a view that they are sufficiently of concern that the law ought to be amended, we’ll look at that.”
As the global community continues to try and comprehend the impact of the latest terrorist attack, it has become obvious the world over that terror has taken on a new face. It is the face of ‘home-grown’ bombers, removed by generations and physical distance from the traditional epicentres of terror and instead converted to radical Islam by provocative firebrand preachers and incendiary texts. From citing classic racist literature to making radical interpretations of religious texts, the extremism arising in the hearts of Brunswick and Lakemba and poisoning inter-faith relations is a prime example of provocative hate speech, and we need only look to London to see where such speech, gone unchecked, can lead. The threat of radical Islam has indeed arrived on the shores of Australia, and it is the public’s responsibility, ironically enough, to espouse one of the theologian’s very own teachings, “we should all take heed, for ourselves and for those who are with us” for hate is within our midst.