Friday, November 25, 2005


Professor James Piscatori of Oxford University's Centre for Islamic Studies is interviewed by The World Today's Nick McKenzie (my bold):
NICK MCKENZIE: How is it that these Australian-born Muslims, very small, marginal group, are drawing so heavily on the inspiration, or so heavily from what's going on in Israel and Iraq and other places?

JAMES PISCATORI: In part it's because of the media, which make it easily able to… for people to follow what is going on around the world.

So in a sense, they're given the opportunity to know what is going on.

The knowledge base is quite… much higher than it of course was some time ago.

But you have to add something, the much more intangible part of this is why do Muslims care about the plight of other Muslims around the world? What is it about the solidarity of the faith?

And here, there isn't anything that one can say that is predictable or concrete, except that the sense of belonging to a larger community is ingrained, and this would occur in the minority situation, perhaps even more so because of a feeling that the larger society isn't welcoming in some ways.
Knowledge empowers but not when it's inaccurate or preaches victimhood.
NICK MCKENZIE: If we look then at the Australian experience, how does that sense of solidarity, a very genuine sense and understandable sense in a very small number of cases, seem to then turn into this religious fervour/ extremism and even terrorism?

JAMES PISCATORI: You're right to say that it's a very small number of cases, and that the vast majority of Australian Muslims who would feel the sense of affinity and a sense that fellow Muslims were being dealt with unjustly would want to, in a sense, to express their views in the normal… through the normal channels in the normal sort of way. That is, criticism of Israel or whatever, the United States, would just be a normal political sort of expression.

But you're right also to say that a small minority would in fact feel strongly about this. And here we just don't have enough information on various groups, whether here or in other European societies that would account for this. It's probably got something to do with the sense of alienation that they would feel, even if they were born here, and that they… the larger society would not be, in a sense, as conducive to their own wishes as they would like.
In other words, some Australian Muslims simply don't buy into the democratic process.
NICK MCKENZIE: There's intense debate here about how to deal with this problem of the small, marginal group of growing radicals.

The Federal Government is going down a path similar to that of the United Kingdom, with measures like preventative detention. Is that the way to deal with this problem?

JAMES PISCATORI: There's a great dilemma for Government, because it clearly has to isolate the groups and the individuals that are going to be prone to violence and who will not be susceptible to any other kinds of inducement to participate in the political system.

And in that sense, I think there have to be, in a sense, laws which protect the larger community.

How one does that, however, I think needs to be carefully calibrated against the larger demands for civil liberties in a society.

So the government is right in proposing strict anti-terrorism laws. It's just a matter or striking a reasonable balance. Perhaps more important, what should be the fate of those who advocate political change through violence?


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