Saturday, August 1, 2015

UWS speech on countering radicalisation April 2015

Countering the Radicalisation of Muslim Youth

Speech prepared and delivered by Keysar Trad
For the Open Forum

University of Western Sydney

6:00 PM Wednesday 8 April 2015

Parramatta South Campus, Building EZ (Female Orphan School).

Australians, including myself, are concerned about radicalisation in society in general and radicalisation of Muslim youths in particular.  This concern is the main reason that I agreed to prepare this research and present on this topic when I was asked by Dr. Sev Osdovski, the director of Equity and Diversity at the University of Western Sydney.
It is believed that as many as 90 Australians maybe involved in militant activities in Syria and Iraq[i].  Some reports suggest that as many as 150 to 200 Australians are or maybe in Declared Zones and maybe involved in militant activities[ii].
I hope today to have an honest discussion on the topic of countering radicalisation of Muslim youth.  I do not aim to be politically correct this evening, some of what I am going to say is going to make some of you agree with the judge who declared me dangerous.  If you do, then you are a “decent Australian with an average knowledge of the world”, but according to both the High Court and NSW the Court of Appeal, you would not be a “right thinking Australian”.  Because our courts have made a clear statement that “decent Australians” are not “right thinking”[iii].
I wish to make it very clear that as far as I am concerned, the group ISIS is neither Islamic nor can it be described as a State.

Methodology in addressing radicalisation
Turning to our issue of countering radicalisation of Muslim youth, I would like to turn our attention to the simple fact that under normal circumstances, before prescribing a remedy, we need to all understand the backdrop, the real catalyst for radicalisation, only when we acknowledge the reality of these catalysts can we truly prescribe the right treatment to counter this radicalisation.  Denying the root causes is like applying a Band-Aid to an open wound before cleaning and disinfecting it.

What category of radicalisation are we addressing:
By using the term radicalisation, I am referring to the specific phenomenon of joining a militant group.

Is it fair to blame religion:
There are many pundits who blame Islam, in fact an Islamophobia industry has been built around this blame-shifting.  This simplistic finger-pointing at religion will only serve to increase radicalisation, it will not reduce it.  Finger-pointing at the religion of a quarter of humanity only reinforces feelings of victimisation and alienation.
A review of history will clearly show non-religious ideologies to have caused more deaths, more destruction and more bigotry than religion.
Here are a few examples:
The first and second world wars (approximately 70 million people)[vi]
The colonisation of the Americas – (Wikipedia)
Dobyns (1966) estimated a pre-contact population of 90-112 million. Denevan's more conservative estimate was 57.3 million.[18] Russell Thornton (1987) arrived at a figure around 70 million.[19]Depending on the estimate of the initial population, by 1900 the indigenous population can be said to have declined by more than 80%, due mostly to the effects of diseases such as smallpox, measles and cholera, but also violence and warfare by colonizers against the Indians.[vii]
The enslavement of Africans and shipping them to the United States.  Recently revised estimates report numbers of up to 12.5 million free human beings enslaved and transported to the New World with up to 20% that is 2.5 million dying on the way.[viii]
The “settling” of Australia. (to write up)[ix]
In modern times
The Human Trafficking industry (estimated up to 27 million today)[x]
And Alcohol kills 15 Australians  each day (Victoria Health Study)[xv]and 2.5 million people a year worldwide (New York based National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence)[xvi].  Just as an aside before someone tells me that this is a choice: We force people to wear seatbelts for their “Safety”, we force people to drive slowly “for their safety”, we punish people who drink and drive for “safety”, but we don’t stop people from smoking and excessive drinking of alcohol.

Grievances affecting Muslims:
Now let’s turn to grievances specifically targeting Muslims:
The years of wars: Iraq’s first and second and most recent invasions, occupations and wholesale pillaging of the country. Figures vary widely depending on the source.  Professor Francis Boyle in a statement before the Kuala Lumpar War Crimes Tribunal said: “Approximately 3.3 million Iraqis, including 750,000 children, were “exterminated” by economic sanctions and/or illegal wars conducted by the U.S. and Great Britain between 1990 and 2012”[xvii]. 
The invasions and mismanagement of Iraq have been described by author and former Office of Homeland Security staffer, Michael O’Brien as creating the ultimate breeding ground for the Islamic State[xviii].
The scandalous crimes by Blackwater security contractors against the people of Iraq.  Blackwater’s mercenary army is made up of former military personnel from a number of countries around the world.  Blackwater has been accused of unprovoked massacre of at least 17 Iraqi civilians and other crimes.[xix]
The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. It is so difficult to get actual numbers for Afghan casualties.  Much of the information out there is dedicated to coalition casualties and not Afghan casualties, but estimated deaths = 21,000.  The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama)[xx] detailed 17774 death and 29971 wounded, with 2014 being the deadliest year where 3699 were killed and 6849 wounded.  Coalition fatalities from Oct 2001 to 6 Dec 2012, according to the American Government’s Congressional Research Service[xxi] were  2156 US fatalities and 1059 Coalition partners.  This same report gives a figure of Afghan fatalities over the same period as 18068 and many more wounded.
The notorious Gunatanamo Bay torture prison where prisoners were subjected to various forms of torture[xxii], the US Centre for Constitutional Rights listed varied types of torture in a 2006 report, viz:
Psychological Abuse
Physical Abuse
Medical Abuse
Sexual Provocation, Rape, and Harassment
Religious and Cultural Abuse
Pre-Guantánamo Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment
This was institutionalised torture that was kept secret by force of law[xxiii] and when a victim of this torture included his account in a court case in Sydney, the judge refused to believe him[xxiv] and gave a judgement against him.  This was the same judge who found me to be dangerous.[xxv]

The notorious tortures of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib by US troops are well documented with US male and female soldiers taking “selfies”[xxvi] with their victims stripped naked and smeared in faeces or blood and many horrific pictures that detail unspeakable[xxvii] acts of torture. (refer Major General Antonio Taguba’s report)[xxviii]
The Incessant Israeli pogroms against Palestinians, the invasions, arbitrary arrests, home demolitions and illegal settlements and the invasion of neighbouring Lebanon.  Israel ignoring UN resolutions and still getting blind support from key Western nations.  Recently, the United Nations Office of Coordination and Humanitarian Affairs[xxix] found in 2014, the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) saw the worst escalation of hostilities since 1967.[xxx]
The pogroms against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the UN listed them as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world[xxxi], yet it would seem that nothing is done to stop this persecution.  Out of their population of nearly 1 million, 140,000 have been displaced entire villages have been destroyed and the actual death toll is unknown to this day but is estimated to be over 15000[xxxii] over the few months since the June 2012 outbreak in violence.[xxxiii]
The Oppression of Muslims in:
Chechnya, The Russian persecution of Chechen is historic and continues unabated, from Stalin’s mass deportations to Syberia in 1944 where an estimated 1 million Chechen’s were packed into cattle cars[xxxvii] with many dying on route. [xxxviii]
The massacres against Muslims in the Central African Republic, refer Human Rights Watch report “They came to Kill[xl].  Muslims were hacked to death, set on fire, raped, tortured and in some cases, eaten[xli] by Christians.[xlii]  In its call for a Special Criminal Court, HRW states: “Since 2012, extremely serious crimes have been committed in the Central African Republic, constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity. They include murders – including some that were politically and ethnically motivated, massive displacement of the population, and the looting and wide-scale burning of villages.[xliii]

The persecution of Muslims in Sri Lanka[xliv] by Sinhala Buddhists in recent years.
Somalia, where the US kept fighting unfriendly groups until they ended up creating the feared al-Shabab and where ordinary citizens continue to get persecuted.  Whilst the media is quick to report al-Shabab atrocities, we hear nothing about Somali women and girls being sexually abused by African Union soldiers[xlv] on their bases.  It would seem that Somalis aren’t even safe from the “peacekeeping” forces..  HRW also reports: “Both al-Shabaab and the forces arrayed against it—a combination of Somali government security forces, troops with the African Union Mission in Somalia, Ethiopian government forces, and allied militias—committed abuses, including indiscriminate attacks harming civilians and arbitrary arrests and detentions.”
The military coup in Egypt[xlvi] where civilian protestors were shot and killed by government forces and numerous protestors were arbitrarily arrested and incarcerated, where opposition supports are harassed, raped and killed. (and little over 2 decades earlier the military coup against the democratically elected government in Algeria[xlvii]).
Uzbekistan, where a brutal dictator by the name of “Islam” Karimov, a friend to both George Bush[xlviii] and Barak Obama[xlix], boils his opponents and is accused of massacring hundreds of peaceful protestors.[l]
The impunity enjoyed by the despots in these countries is probably what encouraged the leaders in Bangladesh[li]to suppress Muslim protestors leading to the death, arrests of many and the executions of political opponents.
Syria – the conflict that has drawn a number of Australians - has suffered the worst repression since the peaceful protests of 2011, the United Nations has described the situation in Syria as “the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world today”[lii].  This crisis has seen more than 9 million people internally displaced and several million taking refuge in neighbouring countries.  According to the United Nations, 191,000[liii] reported deaths. The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates 85,000 cases[liv] of enforced disappearances, including women and children.  The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights[lv] has found that some of the cases of enforced disappearance were of people taken out of medical facilities and others taken at checkpoints whilst they were on their way to seek medical attention.  The inability of the international community to address this humanitarian Crisis has been a major driving factor in drawing young people from all around the world to address this crisis.

By now you get the picture of the inability of the international community to set its priorities when it comes to saving human lives.  However, this is not my topic, this brief introduction is meant to outline some of the pressing problems that in one way or another contribute to the radicalisation of youths.
Having said this, I am not putting all the blame on Foreign policy, it is but one factor of many, I will address the main local factors now.

Australian Muslims do not want their children radicalised:
The families who have lost children to the modern paradigm of radicalisation are very very happy that our nation, like many other nations, has made this issue a higher priority than alcohol or passive smoking deaths, or even any of the atrocities that I had already mentioned.  These families hope that this extra attention will somehow bring their children back.

Local factors as catalysts for radicalisation:
When we look to more local factors that feed into the Anger, the frustration, the inability to get an audience for your concerns, some real, some imagined – the general gloom and despair over an uncertain future – we find:
          a growing sense of injustice, (examples provided later).
a vitriolic media[lvi], (of course not all the media is vitriolic, it is sections or segments, and not all shock jocks are vitriolic, it is some of them, but the vitriol has been used as a very effective tool in fear-mongering and thereby marginalisation).
opportunistic political commentary[lvii],
the shortage of employment opportunities leading to a higher rate of unemployment amongst Muslim youths, (refer footnote xix)
regular reports of harassment of Muslim women[lviii], and
the years of systemic discrimination – some imagined – but much of it is real.
All the above factors compound to different extents the sense of victimisation and alienation amongst youths in general and Muslim youths in particular.  All these factors compound to make people feel that they have been robbed of a sense of belonging and that their dignity has been severely threatened.
Q society[lix], catch the fire ministries[lx] or any other group that brings notorious Islamophobes[lxi] (such as Girt Wilders, Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali to name a few) to Australia to speak about Islam is a group that ends up creating further division in Australian society, further misinformation and thereby ends up alienating Australians from other Australians, especially Muslims.
These groups, along with the radical elements in our media and political establishment have created an Islamophobic industry that generates a following for them and thereby a type of income.  Their misinformation makes it clear that they are not interested in the facts about Islam.  The fact that they distort realities to project a paradigm that this trickle of Muslims who are a minor fraction of 1% of the nearly 2 billion Muslims around the world is somehow the true representative this great religion and that the rest of the Muslims are waiting for an opportunity to do likewise.  This is not true, but as untrue as this myth is, it does appeal to the lowest common denominator in society which ends up feeding into the cycle of division, mistrust, alienation and the loss of a sense of belonging.

Political sophistry is also a factor:
Further, when people in general see the extracts from the 251,287 leaked wikileaks cables[lxii] and the subsequent persecution of heroic whistle-blowers[lxiii] like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden over their crucial revelations, people start to understand that our “free world” is governed through sophistry and deception.  This is enough to make many people completely lose their trust in the systems around them. 

Zero tolerance and double standards:
Add to the aforementioned, the authorities who for years practised zero tolerance up to mid 2000[lxiv], the judiciary that sentences Muslims to extended prison time but ignores (the creator of Muslim Massacre[lxv] and the ADL (Australian Defence League) or its offshoots who published a kill list of five leading Australian Muslims, not one of these people has been charged or prosecuted over these crimes, but a Muslim producing a book of articles collected over the internet outlining that in times of war, the political leaders of the invading nation can be targeted is now languishing in gaol (Bilal Khazal)).  The system that pursues Muslims over any whisper, but ignores the likes of talkback shock jocks and tabloid commentators who are constantly polarising views and dividing society and turning Australians against fellow Australians is a system that loses the confidence of its persecuted victims.
Groups like the ADL, Reclaim Australia, the Q society, Catch the Fire Ministries and the Christian Democratic Party are all able to profit from the Islamophobia industry with complete impunity.  Former or current members of the ADL are suspected of publishing a Youtube clip targeting 5 Australian Muslim leaders for elimination, a year later, we don’t hear of one person being prosecuted over this kill list.  We kept this out of mainstream media to deny this group airtime, but the video clip is available.
Then there is the case of the medical student[lxvi] for whom a new law was introduced with retrospective effect.  He was incarcerated, kept in solitary for five weeks, eventually, the court threw out his case, but not before he endured the cruelty of an Islamophobic apparatus that operates with impunity.
Contrast his case with the former president of the Northern Territory Labor party who was released without charge on his return to Australia after he “joined Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic state”.  This is a clear breach of the Foreign States Incursions Act.  We don’t know if this person was paid for his services, if so, he is not ideological, but if he wasn’t, then the much more serious question arises:  If this conflict can incite intelligent, educated grown men to go and fight, then its effect on victimised youth will be even greater.  I have been condemned by a Kurdish Australian for calling for the law to be applied evenly in this case.  Let me clarify, I support the human rights of the Kurdish people, but the issue is about the uneven application of our laws that feeds into the sense of injustice, alienation and marginalisation.  Now the question, why is the Kurdish Australian who condemned me able to openly call for people to fight alongside the Kurds – who were a listed terrorist group only a short time ago – without being exposed to our new counterterrorism laws?
These duplicitous standards in our various law enforcement apparatus in Australia add to the sense of victimisation and alienation amongst Muslims..

In the midst of this – we have young Muslims whose parents came to Australia either as part of the brain drain[lxvii] or that other category that can be described as “flight for your life” migrant or refugee.  Many of these youths are left feeling that they had been robbed of nationality and the important sense of belonging – They look to fit in whilst searching to protect their dignity. 
Try and develop an Islamic Centre to cater to the needs of Muslim youths and you find the invasion anxiety rearing its head, neighbourhoods mobilise, a simple development application that should be routine ends up stealing the imagination of communities and adding to the feelings of victimisation.[lxviii]

The arguments and the enticements:
It is hard to argue with a young person who starts to cite all these issues – you can see the fire in their bellies – you in fact feel the same fire yourself, but you have learnt that you can only quench it the hard way, the time-consuming, stress-filled way because you know that every arena has its unique terrain and its own terms of engagement.

This is not to suggest that young people, even adults fully comprehend these grievances, but this long list – which is by no means exhaustive – does raise numerous causes of concern for members of a beleaguered community who witness regular persecutions of varying natures.

These are the very catalysts that groups like ISIS use to win recruits, ISIS does not say: Join us to save the Rohingya, they may or may not know or care about the Rohingya or many of these causes.  Their biggest appeal to youths is: Join us and you will belong, you will not be discriminated against, you can go wild, let loose your facial hair and you become the law.

Media responsibility:
The media laps it up – when they show an image of a young person whose family is praying for his safe return, standing before a large group of armed men, as if the new recruit – barely out of Australia - is now a leader of an entire platoon.  This young person who could not get any meaningful audience for his concerns is now addressing an entire nation from the Prime Minister down and making a list of demands.  If you are a young person feeling the victimisation, this clip is a very appealing sense of empowerment[lxix], and our media made sure that this clip reached as many people as possible. 
The media in lapping this up and propagating the fear are also serving the recruitment drive of ISIS, they are getting ISIS’ message to a broader audience.  Then, media commentators try to use this to justify the false cliché: Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim.  They seem to have a very short memory and they forget the IRA, the Basque separatist and the many other groups that continue to commit acts of terror to this very day.[lxx]
Islamophobic rants in the media have also led many Muslim Australians to have a complete distrust of the mainstream media.  This mistrust is best described in the below.  Please note that I have attempted to simplify the argument to its basic elements:

Media says that I am bad because I am a Muslim
I know that I am not bad, I am good.
Media tells lies to sell its product
Media tells me that ISIS are committing atrocities
This media lied about me, so it coule be lying about ISIS
Media tells lies to sell its product
ISIS tells people that it is trying to establish an Islamic State and implement Shariah.
The media tells people that ISIS wants an Islamic State and Shariah
The Media is criticising the idea of Islamic State and Shariah, therefore, the media is criticising Islam

The media might succeed in convincing those amongst their mainstream readership whose knowledge of Islam might be contaminated by years of Islamophobic reporting[lxxi].  However, this irresponsible media commentary infuriates Muslims and infuriates those who believe it, it creates serious rifts and thereby animosity and Islamophobic attacks on innocent Muslims[lxxii].  This irresponsible antagonistic approach to Muslims perpetuating the cycle of mistrust, suspicion, lack of belonging and alienation which can lead to radicalisation.
If I was to present imagery of atrocities and blame them on Muslims, many people will believe without evidence.  However, if these images were to be blamed on let’s say Blackwater, or US troops[lxxiii] and I will be required to provide very extensive evidence.

The vast majority of Muslims have resisted radicalisation:
Most Muslims have not made the move to radicalism or militancy.  The vast majority of Muslim leaders and scholars worldwide have condemned the actions of ISIS.  Muslim parents worldwide dread the appeal of ISIS and pray earnestly that their children are not deceived into ISIS’ Siren calls.
But a trickle has been impacted and this trickle estimated between 90 and 200 Muslim youths have left Australia and are feared to have aligned with militant groups overseas.  The vast majority of youths have succeeded in resisting the radicalisation catalysts and I thank Allah for that.

How do we counter the Siren’s call to radicalisation?
Former Grand Mufti of Australia, Sh. Taj Aldin Alhilali, has published books on the topic of de-radicalisation in the Arabic language told me when I put the question to him that he would start by telling young people about their varying levels of responsibility, viz:
·       Responsibility towards their own personal safety and wellbeing, and
·       Responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of those around them.  Islam teaches a principle of “No Harm”.
This is a very important starting point, we need to build on this advice by ensuring that society meets its responsibility towards the needs of its own citizens, the principle in Islam is that every person is responsible for their own actions and not the actions of others.
Although the level of self-control this advice requires is exacerbated by the various inequalities that Muslim youths face, we can see that the vast majority we need to couple this advice with essential positive action that can only be administered at the level of government.
There is no one quick fix for all these problems, but apart from Islamic education to our youths, we need our authorities to start with implementing policies and procedures that ensure:
Fairness, especially in employment opportunities, various studies have found a disproportionately higher rate of unemployment amongst Muslim youths in Australia.[lxxiv]
Egalitarianism and equal access,
Empowerment through the political process, that is, to educate youths through their schooling that they can bring about policy change through proper peaceful political representation, and
Addressing each and every concern that I raised above individually, so far, our government has responded with increased security measures including declared zones that practically reverse the onus of proof, passport cancellations, profiling at airports and harassment of Muslim passengers (75,906 people likely to be all Muslims harrassed at our airports from August last year to February this year[lxxvi]).  These government responses, rather than fixing the problem actually exacerbate it because they add to the feeling of victimisation and disempowerment.

Some of these steps were followed by the contemporary Libyan Muslim scholar Sheikh Dr. Ali Al Sallabi[lxxvii].  Dr. Al Sallabi engaged with 6 of the most senior insurgent leaders in Libya during the time of the Gadafi regime and managed to convince them of the error their ways purely by countering their arguments with religious references.  Dr. Al Sallabi was so successful in fact that the 6 wrote a book pointing out the error of their previous ways and expressing remorse and repentance.  The book is title can be translated as: Corrective studies to understanding Jihad, Hisba (accountability) and passing judgment on people.  These six leaders also took upon themselves the responsibility of reaching out to their former followers to bring them to the same understanding as reported by Carnegie Endowment[lxxviii].

Part of the success of Dr. Al Sallabi is also owed to a mindset that the radicals were “his people”, his “fellow citizens”.  This mindset projects a notion of care.  He is helping de-radicalise these individuals not just to save others from their harm (the second point made by Sh. Hilali above), but also to save them and save their souls (the first point referenced by Sh. Hilali).  Because no decent person wants the death of an innocent on his conscience.

Post Scriptum:
1 – In the delivered speech, I did summarise a precept that Muslims are not permitted to transgress or initiate hostilities, that we welcome peaceful debate.  I did add that however, if our opponents resort to non-peaceful means, we do reserve the right to defend ourselves in and retaliate in kind.

2 – As to be expected, the Islamophobic industry in Australia, instead of seeing this research as an earnest attempt to address their projected fears and concerns have attacked this speech.  The first attack I witnessed was in twitter abuse that was sent to me, then in letters to the editor (the editor chooses which letters to publish)[lxxix], and an article by one of Australia’s leading Islamophobes.  Not to be outdone, another Islamophobe[lxxx] also put out an article on his blog and a TV presenter verballed me[lxxxi] by manipulating my words and extrapolating a fallacy after hurling several derogatory remarks against me[lxxxii].  Oddly, none of these three culprits picked up the phone to ask me for clarification, they merely embarked on a character assassination rant.  Rather than addressing the problem, the Islamophobia industry has proved my assertion that they exploit everything to perpetuate Islamophobia and choose to live in denial as to the ramifications of their irresponsible actions.
The Islamophobia industry is responsible to a large extent for the rift within Australian society and until Australia is able to introduce laws to promote harmony and protect minorities from vilification, more and more Australians are going to feel alienated and victimised.  The majority will, as they have, continue to be patient and persevere, but some will say enough is enough and look for elsewhere to find a place to belong.

3 – I did not make mention in this speech of the use of “unmanned drones[lxxxiii]”, the intervention in Pakistan[lxxxiv] or Nicaragua[lxxxv] or the bombs dropped by the USA on Hiroshima or Nagasaki[lxxxvi] or the Vietnam[lxxxvii] or Korean[lxxxviii] wars though all these are very significant, as it stands, the list of injustices is very long.

Secret US endorsement of severe interrogations:

[lvi] Andrew Bolt:

Paul Sheehan

Alan Jones

Jim Ball (This is from his own website, so he could edit it without notice)

I had intentionally left Piers Akerman out of this list up until he published an article on Sunday 12 April 2015 attacking this research.  I had left him out because of the prolific nature of the Islamophobic rhetoric by those above, but it would seem that his actions would earn him a place here: HTTP://WWW.DAILYTELEGRAPH.COM.AU/NEWS/OPINION/PIERS-AKERMAN-MUSLIM-GRIEVANCE-IS-A-SELF-SERVING-EXCUSE/STORY-FNI0CWL5-1227299982447

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