Senior Government Ministers were quick to hound the Mufti last week regarding his statement about the Paris attacks.
His alleged crime?
The omission of an explicit condemnation and the mention of the bleeding obvious: that attacks like those in Paris have causative factors that need to be dealt with.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton went first:
“There is no excuse and there is no qualification and the opportunity is there for the grand mufti to … make it very clear that he condemns these acts of terrorism, these murderous acts, without reservation.”
Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison backed these comments, saying he was “very disappointed for Australian Muslims yesterday … I thought Australian Muslims were let down yesterday” – thereby transforming himself, in an instant, into Muslim community friend, advisor and spokesperson.
The demand for Muslim leaders to proffer condemnations every time such attacks occur serves to entrench the false notion that the responsibility for terrorism lies with Islam and Muslims. It is a demand that operates on the prejudiced, de-humanising assumption that perhaps Muslims support the senseless killing of innocent people.
It is a “pejorative demand,” as Christopher Pyne noted the ABC’s Q&A program last Monday. Ironically, his frontbench colleagues are the finest connoisseurs of exploiting this pejorative demand to expedient political effect.
If this is not reason enough for Muslims to refuse demands for condemnation, there is another. Condemnations after an attack also serve, along with the manufactured hyperbolic reaction (when Westerners are the victims), to create a frenzied political and social environment in which any and every response can be justified.
Thus, condemnations are milked as support for the response, however excessive or oppressive it may be. Just as condemnations after 9/11 were used to justify the invasion of Afghanistan, today they are being used to justify French aggression in Syria and Iraq. Then, the Taliban was the pretext; now it’s ISIS.
The demand that condemnations be “without reservation or qualification” goes one step further, seeking to trap Muslims within the flawed mainstream narrative on terrorism. It works through a convenient conflation between explanation and justification. What are clearly explanations are characterised as justification in order to silence debate about real underlying causes.
How can any problem be addressed seriously without its causes being discussed?
Unsurprisingly, those wanting to silence such debate are the very ones who would be implicated if the debate were had. It would show that the government policies of Western states, with foreign policy at the fore, is a key causative factor in attacks on Western soil.
But there’s another dimension to government demands for the condemnation of violence worthy of note – namely, that when it comes to the violence of Western states against civilians, no such condemnations are forthcoming. Nay, it is ignored, underplayed or even explicitly justified.
Consider the war in Iraq. A war based on a blatant lie that led to a million people losing their lives and an entire nation laid to waste. No condemnations of the perpetrators have ever been forthcoming from Australian government officials or officials of others Western governments more broadly. Not even equivocal ones. Yet they demand unequivocal condemnations from others. We’re supposed to happy with ambivalent, impenitent apologies.
Indeed, the juxtaposition is noteworthy. Crimes by unrepresentative Muslim individuals become a matter of necessary condemnation, hyperbolic castigation and persistent demonisation of Islam itself. Crimes, on a much larger scale, by elected Western governments, remain merely matters of apologies or “mistakes,” reflecting nothing about Western leaders or the secular liberal ideology they adopt.
The double-standard is as glaring as it is critical to the perpetuation of the problem. While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks of “mutual respect,” his government’s approach to interacting with the Muslim community becomes clearer by the day. He will do the sweet-talking, while his ministers will continue the Abbottesque hounding of Muslims: the classic good cop, bad cop approach.
Causative factors should not only be part of the public debate, they must be at its core. Anyone sincerely seeking an end to ever-increasing global violence and insecurity would have no problem with that.
Then there are the Peter Duttons and Scott Morrisons of the world – two men who are also the architects of the world’s most inhumane asylum seeker policy – who seek to perpetuate the status quo because, quite frankly, they and their colleagues among the political and economic elite benefit from it.
Uthman Badar is the media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia.
[This piece was published on ABC Religion & Ethics on 23 Nov 2015 under the title, Good Cop, Bad Cop: Double-Standards in the Demand for Condemnation from Muslims.]