Opinion Editorial
Terror in Australia: the Question No One Wants to Ask
By Peter Ahern

Two hostages hold up an Islamic banner in a Sydney cafe.
(AINA) -- Australia, the self-styled lucky country, is joining the rest of the world in having to face up to Islamist terrorism. On Monday an ex-Shia-turned-Sunni Muslim, Man Haron Monis, took seventeen hostages in a cafe in Sydney. A sixteen hour siege followed, during which he issued a list of demands, including that police deliver to him a flag of the Islamic State. After the gunman shot one hostage, police stormed the cafe and in the ensuing firefight, the gunman and a further hostage were killed, with several others wounded.

When the siege began, Sydney Muslim community representatives lost no time issuing statements condemning the gunman and declaring that such terrorist actions had nothing to do with the religion of Islam. With concerns of a backlash against the local Muslim minority community, many Australians have joined a social media campaign offering to travel together with Muslims on public transport.

This terror drama has been reported on ad infinitum by experts and journalists. Among the mass of commentary, it is striking that there is one area of discussion where the commentators have dared not tread. One caller in a talk-back programme on radio hinted at this unmentionable topic when he claimed that in fact there was support for terror activity in the Qur'an. The radio presenter quickly cut him off, declaring that such statements were inappropriate and, besides, the non-Muslim caller was not qualified to speak about the Qur'an.

In fact, the censored caller was making an important point, about which there has been a deafening silence in the flood of commentary taking place about this incident in Australia. That is the question as to whether the violent actions of such radical Islamists have any foundation in the religion of Islam.

Intimidation and violence are solidly grounded within Islam, especially in the life of its prophet, Muhammad. Such a claim should be discussed -- but strikingly the name of Muhammad has not been mentioned at any stage in the flood of media commentary in Australia regarding the latest incident.

Islamist radicals do not look back to Napoleon as their model, nor to Julius Caesar, nor to Genghis Khan. But they most certainly do look back to Muhammad, the primary exemplar of militant activism.

Muhammad was a warrior warlord who expanded his domains through military means. According to the primary Islamic texts themselves, he personally took part in around 27 battles, and indeed was wounded. These primary texts -- the Qur'an to some degree, but especially the Hadith traditions and the principal biography -- provide a clear window into the model Jihad warrior that Muhammad was.

Ibn Ishaq's authoritative biography of Muhammad records that apart from his military conquests, he instructed his supporters on occasions to liquidate key opponents; he sanctioned a process that led to the beheading of at least 600 Jews; and he took certain wives of his opponents as concubines, serving as booty from war.

So when we read that in Iraq warriors of the terrorist Islamic State expand their domains through military action, murdering their opponents, beheading captives, and taking the women from conquered Yazidi and Christian groups as war booty concubines, there can be little doubt who these Islamic State warriors are looking back to.

Furthermore, so-called "lone wolf" attacks by radical Islamists, such as the recently concluded terror incident in Sydney carried out by Man Haron Monis, take their inspiration from the warriors of the Islamic State, who take their inspiration from Muhammad.

In Australia, which is just beginning to experience the challenge of radical Islamism -- and it will get much worse -- it is not possible to discuss the forbidden topic of the link between today's radicals and Muhammad. In order to have any hope of addressing the problem of rising Islamic radicalism, that discussion will have to take place. And moderate Muslims will need to be willing to join in the discussion in order for there to be any progress in the campaign against radical Islam.

Peter Ahern is a British freelance writer on religion, politics and society.


Views and opinions expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AINA.
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