18 September 2006

A question of values

I can understand why people would want to reinforce Australian values among migrants. I can understand why people would expect that we respect Iraqi values when occupying Iraq.

What I don't understand is this odd doh-si-doh that Australians do when considering these matters. People who think it's shocking and outrageous that people should come here not knowing about Bradman, Phar Lap or Weary Dunlop are quite sanguine about rubbishing the culture of a country in which Australian troops have gone to reconstruct and rehabilitate. People who think Middle Eastern culture should be handled with kid gloves decry any notion that Australian culture (I am not talking about arts funding here) is worth asserting or defending.

What do Australians value? Is helping your mates when they're in trouble exclusively Australian? Are people who come here in rickety boats, or die trying, our mates? What is cultural sensitivity?

13 September 2006

What is fake militant Islam?

I don't believe westerners are at war with Islam. I believe that Islam has co-existed with other faiths in a range of cultures for centuries, and there is no reason why this ought not continue. It is not a millenarian movement where followers are in engaged in frantic activity, building temples or killing themselves or whatever, in anticipation of a Second Coming or some other apocalyptic event.

Fake militant Islam (FMI) involves the de-socialisation of young men. It involves cutting them off from their families, the moderate do-as-you-would-be-done-by version of their faith, the allure of a sex-and-commercialism popular culture, and other aspects of life other than those which organisers of FMI would put them to. The military-style boot camps are indicative of this state. Military recruitment breaks down the personalities of inductees and rebuilds them to undertake the counter-intuitive task of putting themselves in mortal danger when commanded to do so. The difference is that military recruits who are abused have a political redress not open to those claiming divine motivation.

Their recruits are people who are easily alienated, through family dissatisfaction and/or lack of success in the job market. It is they who are sent to die, and who go willingly. They yearn for the bonding that comes from military-style training, where one fires deadly weapons with others at the same targets they are firing at. They go to collect their eternal reward and they don't care who are what gets in their way. They will lie, cheat, steal, kill or maim in order to secure that which was promised when they have been disappointed so much. They have so little connection to this world that they will take their chances in the next. Any community, be it tightly interrelated and Muslim or one so sprawling and atomised as New York City, is vulnerable to violent men who care nothing for anyone else. Hezbollah's launch of missiles from settled areas, in order to provoke an Israeli response to those communities and stir outrage they did not themselves feel, is one example of this. The failure of the Hamas government of Palestine, in eschewing the grown-up business of government and providing social welfare for the adolescent business of gang violence, is another.

The only thing you can do against these anti-social monsters is to reinforce the notion that other people matter, and that one can stray from a set of beliefs without being an outcast and an enemy for all time. It takes good people and good leaders to carry this off. It's no good snarling at rich people ripping off the poor or Bush bombing Palestinians for the sake of oil or whatever if you're going to give a free pass to those luckless souls who can't pull a root but would destroy anyone and anything to get their bevy of houris. Yet, this is what FMI is built upon, not the Koran.

Osama bin Laden has six sons; none of them participated in September 11, none of them have splattered themselves across the walls of a Tel Aviv cafe, a Bali pub or a London rail station. This is no coincidence, and it is not because the children of the FMI elite haven't quite gotten around to self-obliteration as yet. It is because they are socialised to talk the talk but not to walk the walk, as are those nostalgic Trotskyites like Chomsky or Pilger who never met an anti-western putsch they didn't like.

Muslims claim that suicide bombers aren't part of their faith, and quote chapter and verse of the Koran showing it is built on love rather than hatred. I accept that the Islamic faith is generally not militant, despite the early history of Mohammed and his commune. However, the link between Islam and violence is much the same as that between that of a rock band and the deranged fan who finds grounds for suicide in its lyrics: the link might not be strong but it is real, and those responsible for the message should take a long hard look at themselves and question their role in perpetrating such negative outcomes. Muslim community leaders may make carefully-worded denunciations of FMI; but only when it becomes outright blasphemy, only when it inspires the kind of curse-your-mother outrage among Muslims will it stop. You or I can decide that this is unacceptable or hateful or abhorrent but only Muslim leaders can actually declare it blasphemy: bring on the inspiration that would make it so.