BARRISTER Julian Burnside had quite a whinge in the Guardian Australia last Thursday. Burnside’s gripe was that he had been criticised by some people he respected, along with a few he does not, for a tweet he sent out on February 20 about Islamophobia.
Burnside’s tweet read as follows: “Sorry to see Andrew Bolt stirring up Islamophobia today on his blog. People like Bolt and Abbott are the real threat to our way of life.” Burnside told readers of the leftist Guardian website that his tweet “has been taken by some people” as an expression of his ‘‘support for jihadists’’.
Well, it’s easy to see how such confusion came about. After all, the Melbourne-based QC did say that Tony Abbott, rather than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of Islamic State, is “the real threat to our way of life”.
This despite the fact Abbott is a democratically elected political leader dependent on the support of the electorate in general and his parliamentary colleagues in particular. Whereas Baghdadi is a self-appointed murderous despot.
On the Guardian website, Burnside acknowledged that “perhaps” Twitter had its limitations “as a platform for non-trivial ideas”. You can say that again. Yet Burnside’s 140-characters maximum contribution trivialised an important issue. Ditto his piece in the Guardian.
Burnside’s critique is directed at “people who stir up Islamophobia and the risk they present to our way to life”. He had more words in the Guardian Australia than on Twitter. Even so, Burnside did not define precisely what he means by Islamophobia. Does it entail any criticism of Islam? Or is it present when someone criticises radical jihadist Islamists? Or what?
It seems that Burnside has set himself up as some kind of expert with the ability to explain radical Islamism. He wrote in the Guardian that “it is important to bear in mind that the Lindt Cafe siege (in Sydney last December) was not a Muslim terrorist event; it was not any sort of terrorist threat; it was the terrible act of a madman; the fact that he was Muslim is utterly irrelevant”.
The problem is that Man Haron Monis was a Muslim who had recently converted from the Shia to the Sunni brand of Islam. Moreover, he said he was a terrorist engaged in a terrorist act in support of Islamic State.
Burnside did not present any evidence in support of his theory that Monis was clinically insane before engaging in acts of murder, assault and kidnap.
Last Sunday the Prime Minister and NSW Premier Mike Baird released a document, Martin Place Siege: Joint Commonwealth-New South Wales Review. The report makes it clear that ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and the NSW Police regard Monis’s lone wolf attack as a terrorist incident.
More seriously, the review makes the following point: “Monis proclaimed himself as an Islamic leader and, in the siege, used banners and symbols of Islam. This created two risks: that Monis’s actions would encourage further Islamic terrorist activity and that it would cause a backlash against Muslim Australians.”
In his speech last Monday, the Prime Minister said Monis had received the benefit of the doubt with respect to his visa application, residency and citizenship, Centrelink benefits, legal aid and “bail where there should have been jail” on being an accessory to the murder of his former wife.
These are perfectly legitimate points by a political leader, who is ultimately responsible for the security of all Australians.
The fact is that Monis paraded himself as a Muslim victim in a racist society. He was nothing of the sort. And it’s not Islamophobia to call Monis out on this.
Burnside is concerned about Abbott’s position on bail — overlooking the fact this is primarily a matter for state and territory governments. He is also concerned about the commonwealth “enlarging ASIO’s powers to spy on the public at large by use of electronic data”.
This overlooks the fact ASIO — which is staffed by everyday female and male public servants — has better things to do than spy on Burnside and his wife. After all, it is currently focusing on 400 high-priority counter-terrorism investigations.
The problem with the progressive Left is that it is far more critical of Western society than those who would like to destroy it.
Left-wing feminists say remarkably little when Islamists enslave women. Left-wing gays rarely speak out when Islamists throw homosexuals off buildings. And left-wing Christians are seldom heard bemoaning the plight of their co-religionists at the hands of Islamists.
Burnside and the likes of Greens leader Christine Milne are of the view that Abbott is attempting to beat up on Muslim Australians. Exception has been taken to the Prime Minister’s comment last Monday that “more Muslim leaders” should say that Islam is a religion of peace.
This is a strong statement. But not an example of Islamophobia. Some Muslim Australians hold the same view and are prepared to state their position in public.
Last week it was revealed that a Perth University student, Muhammed Sheglabo, has gone to join Islamic State on the Iraq-Syria border. Needless to say, his family is devastated.
Ameer Ali, a lecturer in economics at Murdoch University and a former chairman of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, spoke out courageously last Saturday. He called on Muslim leaders to voice their opposition to Islamic State and declared: “I haven’t heard so far any single imam in this country that has named IS and condemned it. They should have done this very often in their sermons but I haven’t come across any of this.” Ali was particularly critical of the Grand Mufti of Australia for his silence on this matter.
The comments of Ali did not incite Burnside to engage in a Twitter rant about Islamophobia. It seems that such a reproach is reserved for people whom Burnside does not like. The term Islamophobia is as meaningless as this.