IN THE MEDIA

Moderates must not become apologists for radical Islam

Feb 26, 2007 | Colin Rubenstein

Colin Rubenstein

The Age – February 26, 2007  

A proper multiculturalism upholds the core values of Australian society.

 

THE Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) cancelled our planned participation in the program of Israeli professor Raphael Israeli after his controversial remarks about Muslim immigration and communities.  

Characterising Muslim communities as a threat or danger per se is a sentiment we reject and with which we do not wish to be associated.  

Professor Israeli has now repudiated earlier reports that he was calling for quotas or limits on Muslim immigration to Australia, but this is not enough. AIJAC vehemently opposes all discrimination based on ethnicity or religion in immigration, and singling out the Muslim community in the way he did was unacceptable.  

It is true, however, that there is a serious problem in Australia and globally posed by an extremist totalitarian ideology generally known as Islamism. It asserts that all problems can be solved by the creation of a divinely sanctioned “caliphate”, and that all means are justified in achieving this end. It also sets out to convince Muslims that Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims are inevitably and eternally hostile to all Muslims, and there is no alternative for Muslims except to join the Islamists in a ruthless struggle to the death against them.  

Ideological affiliates of Islamism excel at spreading distorted claims about their critics, attempting to portray all criticisms of their ideology as racist attacks on all Muslims because this serves their political ends.  

Sadly, even Australian moderates like Waleed Aly buy into elements of this radical program. Many of his claims (Opinion, 17/2) are examples of such distortions.  

The furphy he raises about supposed advocacy of “interning Muslims” by American scholar Dr Daniel Pipes, whom we have hosted, is a case in point. Pipes has been the subject of a scare campaign for years, instigated primarily by the terrorist-linked American group the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). It seized on an article he wrote in 2004, arguing that the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II was unjustifiably making it unthinkable to put the proper focus on Islamist terrorists during the war on terror.  

When critics tried to claim that this was a call for internment of Muslims, Pipes replied unequivocally, “I am not calling for the internment of Muslims. … I see anti-Islamist Muslims as critical to the war on radical Islam and far from wanting them interned, see their active participation as critical to winning the conflict.”  

Coincidentally, yet another distortion of Pipes’ work appeared on the same page as Aly’s. Contrary to Amin Saikal’s claim that Pipes advocates an Iraqi civil war as part of a strategy of “divide and rule”, Pipes’ stance is that only Iraqis can prevent a civil war in Iraq, but such an outcome would be a humanitarian rather than a strategic disaster.  

We understand that Waleed Aly sought to defend his community’s interests. But we would like to see him try harder to overcome “defensiveness” per se, and avoid the traps that radicals have set for the moderates by attempting to brand all critics of Islamist totalitarianism as anti-Muslim racists.  

Aly also misrepresents other critics of Islamism. He criticises the distinguished British historian Sir Martin Gilbert, whose sin appears to have been calling for Europeans to be aware in their immigration program of the need to preserve “Europe’s true values: vibrant democracy, humanitarian free thinking, and social fair dealing” from those Muslim immigrants who seek to subvert them.  

This is a legitimate issue, just as Australian multiculturalism has long sought to ensure all immigrants adhere to our society’s “core values”, such as rule of law, democracy and gender equality.  

AIJAC believes that sentiments like Professor Israeli’s play into the hands of the Islamists by helping them convince other Muslims that co-existence with non-Muslims is impossible. AIJAC also believes that a properly implemented policy of multiculturalism, which incorporates both rights and the responsibility to uphold the core values of Australian society, remains an important part of the strategy to counter all forms of political extremism.  

Dr Colin Rubenstein is executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

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