Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia was invited to attend a panel discussion on the 20th of October 2014 hosted by the student publication, Woroni, at the Australian National University entitled “The Rationality of Terror”. However, after the ANU’s office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs (SCAPA) ‘interfered’ with proceedings, leading academics withdrew their participation and the event was forced to be cancelled.
Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia notes:
1. Once again, the Muslim voice is condemned before it is even expressed and assumptions were being made about our positions before they were even articulated. It seems Muslims are only invited into discussions when the parameters are not questioned and where they are expected to only affirm existing narratives, but not challenge them.
2. The circumstances surrounding this event are indicative of the poor state of academia in this country. We were prepared to be interrogated by no less than five leading academics at a leading university before a critical audience. Yet under all these conditions, a lone voice was unable to be confronted.
3. This incident is indicative of the West’s inability to confront what it terms ‘the extremist narrative’. ‘Extremism’ only ever refers to Muslims who challenge the government’s murderous foreign policies or insidious local ‘counter-extremism’ policies. All the talk about confronting ‘extremists’ and undermining their narrative has proven to be nothing more than hollow rhetoric.
4. There is no longer any serious attempt to capture the hearts and minds of dissenting voices. The government is now primarily concerned with hard power measures designed to punish dissent. Anti-terror laws, anti-terror raids and policies of exclusion are now the centrepieces of the government’s ‘counter-extremism’ policies.
5. What message is the government, including those who are mirroring government, sending to oppositional voices in the community? What options remain to those who find they are left with little or no avenues of expression? The government should not underestimate the intelligence of the discerning public who, despite all attempts by government, are more than willing to engage in genuine and rigorous discussion.
6. We note that Woroni, the student publication that organised and was to facilitate the panel discussion, was keen to have the event proceed. Sincere attempts to have frank and open conversations on serious issues should be acknowledged. It is an affront to students and an insult to their intelligence to have them prevented from even participating in a conversation. Worse still is the fact that an establishment that claims to be a bastion of intellectualism is preventing exploration of ideas.
7. Despite overt attempts to silence critical voices, Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia will continue to champion real debate by organising an alternative forum where the critical issues that were to be addressed in the panel discussion can be given their due time. The event will be open to all and sundry and the details will be announced shortly.
Media Office of Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia