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Our organisation is committed to human rights and community relations issues affecting the Arabic culture and profile. You will note that we undertake a combination of proactive and reactive projects, whereby we are vigilant to changes in our environment, while endeavouring to make it a better place to live for all of us. We trust that your journey into our web site will be enlightening and inviting, as we welcome your participation and contribution to any of our initiatives.

Current Issues

AAC Members Attend AACCI Victoria AGM – 4/9/2014

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Roland Jabbour Interview (Arabic) – CNBC Arabia – April 2014

 
   

Media Releases

Islamic State is a creation like Frankenstein’s monster

Joseph Wakim – Published: SMH September 23, 2014

“We’ve seen this before. Extremists, foreign fighters returning home, responsible for terrorist attacks in our region.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop issued this warning to the United Nations Security Council last Friday regarding the threat posed by Islamic State beyond its caliphate.

But if earlier warnings were heeded, the crisis of the Islamic State monster could have been averted. Three years ago, Arab voices warned “we’ve seen this before”.

From Syria, Mother Agnes-Mariam warned that the Arab Spring had been “hijacked by foreign Islamist mercenaries, with strong support from Western countries”. In newspaper columns at the time I warned these Salafists were exploiting the sectarian fault lines to impose a theocracy, not a democracy.

Such warnings were ignored and these militants morphed into the monster we now know as Islamic State, or sometimes as ISIL.

Although the US-Saudi-Qatar alliance intended their pipelines of weapons and funds to reach the Free Syrian Army, their “intelligence” must have shown what local Arabs already knew: the pipelines were leaking. These dangerous toys would land in the hands of Al Nusra Front, the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda, and ultimately Islamic State, which now reigns supreme.

For veteran Arab advocates, this pattern is a deja vu: the West aids and abets mercenaries to emasculate a monster, until the mercenaries become the next monster that the West needs to “degrade and ultimately destroy”. But we are rarely asked to diagnose the causes of wars in our ancestral birthplace because the bloodstains may lead to the US and its regional allies. Instead, we are asked about who is bleeding on the streets.

We need to feed the shock horror stories as if it was a scoreboard of “team Australia” versus “unwelcome visitors”. But it should be no shock at all. As in the 1991 war on Iraq and the 2001 war on terrorism, Muslims and Arabs are conflated into one malevolent monolith. They are wedged between two media imperatives: the toxic talkback that poisons our airwaves with stories on Muslim villains, which in turn fill pages with photos of Muslim victims.

We roll our eyes as we roll out the same ugly examples. Last Thursday, a senior Imam leading a group of Hajj pilgrims was detained by Customs at Sydney Airport for a “routine baggage check”, which caused him to miss his flight. The Grand Mufti Dr Ibrahim has received a written death threat depicting bleeding swords. Again, graffiti on mosques, egging of homes, threats by mail, and drive-by bigotry have confirmed that some see this as open season to terrorise Muslims and give them a “taste of their own medicine”. Again, an Islamophobia register has been opened.

While one motorist flaunting a black flag threatened to slaughter Christians at my children’s Catholic school last Tuesday, another peace-loving Muslim offered a bouquet to express his disgust.

As Prime Minister, Tony Abbott needs to send a blunt message to the perpetrators: “Have a good, long, hard look at yourselves,” because team Australia is about kicking goals, not kicking Muslims who are your fellow team members. Unlike Bob Hawke in 1991 and John Howard in 2001, he needs to condemn bigotry immediately (previous prime ministers did condemn bigotry, but weeks after they were repeatedly requested to do so).

Within Arab conversations, cynicism prevails about the predictable pretext to war: “We will save you from the monster (that we created).” It is borne out of cyclical and sickening patterns.

Here’s a reminder: On December 20, 1983, US special envoy Donald Rumsfeld did a handshake deal with Saddam Hussein when Iraq fought against Iran after the Islamic revolution.

On August 2, 1990, Hussein flexed his muscles into Kuwait and had to be, ultimately, destroyed.

Between 1986 and 1989, the CIA funnelled $500 million in weapons into Afghanistan when Osama bin Laden fought with his mujahideen militants to successfully expel the Communist Russian invasion during the Cold War. On September 11, 2001, bin Laden’s militants, having morphed into al-Qaeda, flexed their muscles into the United States with terrorist attacks. They then became public enemy No. 1. number one

Since 2011, the US-Saudi-Qatar donors have aided and abetted the anti-Assad mercenaries. In 2014, the Islamic State monster flaunted US equipment that it had seized and now needs to be degraded.

Unless we stop history repeating itself, we are doomed to witness yet another Arab leader crowned then crushed in 10 years. The familiar narrative evokes Mary Shelley’s haunting tragedy about Dr Frankenstein, who creates the monster for his own benefit. When the monster turns on him, Frankenstein hunts him down to exact revenge.

Although the story is nearly 200 years old, the current war testifies that the moral remains unheeded. The modern name for Frankenstein’s monster in US foreign policy is blowback. It is an ironic name because the Arab landscape is treated as a barbecue with many burners. As the flame knobs are continually upgraded and degraded, blowback is inevitable and thousands of innocent civilians will continue to be scorched in the process. While fictitious Frankenstein made one mistake with a tragic ending, the factual Frankenstein keeps cooking up monsters then counter-monsters, and needs to be told: khalas (enough).

Plenty of smoke but little fire in Tony Abbott’s concerns over Muslim radicals

Joseph Wakim – September 1, 2014 – 10:00PM

The Prime Minister should be a beacon leading us out of the terrorism smoke, not fanning the flames.

Mr Abbott’s announcement that $13.4 million will be earmarked to “support community efforts to prevent young Australians being radicalised” is fraught with contradictions.

How can one allocate money to a “community” solution before we have any evidence-based research on the cause? There is no singular definable career path or pathology for the radicalised terrorist. Some are educated professionals who are drawn to ideology of a pure Islamic caliphate. Others are disenfranchised and unemployed, angry at their lack of belonging. Whether it is the pull or push factor, the allure of power and making history is a magnet for some.

The compounding factors may be idiosyncratic to the individual, compounded by their selected peers or by their selected social media. There is no evidence that the family or the “community” sanctions or supports this pathway to violent extremism. When discovered, these individuals appear to be leading a double life.

If “community” refers to Islamic organisations and mosques, they are rarely on the radar or habitat of these recluses. When was a radicalised jihadist recognised as a regular at a youth centre? These marginalised individuals appear to shy away from these “mainstream” professional agencies that encourage education and employment. Throwing the solution at the feet of Muslim community leaders implies that they are part of the problem.

While Mr Abbott is at pains to point out that his measures “are not directed against any particular community or religion”, this is refuted by his recent round of Muslim meetings. The leaders that the Prime Minister “consulted” last week while trying to sell his anti-terror reforms are the respectable officials and unlikely to be “consulted” by the radicalised jihadists.

The Attorney-General’s Living Safe Together website affirms that “there is not just one path to violent extremism”, and that “extremists exploit social and economic conditions, and individual vulnerabilities to recruit and motivate others”. However, it also affirms that “many projects are already under way across Australia under the Building Community Resilience Grants and Youth Mentoring Grants Programs”. This begs the question: has Mr Abbott announced a continuation of an existing funding?

Mr Abbott claims that “the best defence against radicalisation is through well-informed . . . local engagement”. But his concerns about returning radicalised extremists becoming “involved in terrorist activity here” may be ill-informed. ISIS is not al-Qaeda. The Islamic State is emerging as a political movement that is founded on reclaiming and expanding its own territory, commencing with Iraq and Syria.

Their enemies are infidels in their caliphate who refuse to swear allegiance to caliph Abu-Bakr al Baghdadi. Their ethnic cleansing is driven by a sense of victimisation and vengeance. As confirmed by many “rear-view mirror” empirical studies on the radicalisation process, angry political views are the prerequisite, not religious intolerance.

Unlike al-Qaeda, which launched attacks on foreign soil, this offshoot recruits fighters for its own soil. There has been no official escalation of Australia’s “medium” risk of terrorist threat since 2003. Despite this unchanged risk assessment, Mr Abbott heightens the media hype by referring to what “we have seen on our TV screens and on the front pages of our newspapers”.

If one listens to the propaganda of the travelling circus that recruits youth into the Islamic State, they are replete with references to western racism and hypocrisy.

If Mr Abbott is serious about “activities to better understand and address radicalisation”, the onus cannot be left at the feet of the “community”. Ironically, the double speak in his announcement has already fed conspiracy theories that Muslims are being targeted, yet again. The differential treatment of Australians in the Israeli Defence Forces, which have killed over 2000 Palestinians in Gaza, remain a bone of contention for many who see all killing of civilians as immoral, regardless of uniform or citizenship. The maps of Sydney CBD seized inside a “bomb-making” house in Brisbane failed to attract the usual terrorist headlines, perhaps because the suspect was not from the Middle East.

Even “moderate” Muslims have been angered by Mr Abbott’s recent ultimatum that “you don’t migrate to this country unless you want to join our team”, especially given that near half of the Muslim population was Australian-born.

Repeated references to “Team Australia” reduce these issues to a sport where the non-players are rendered non-Australian. Mr Abbott may be wise to play down the politics of fear by stating “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”.

The hype around home-grown radicals planting bombs is real, and has been spurred by the free publicity given to Islamic State scaremongering. But planting the solution at the feet of the community is not realistic.

They need to be coupled with government efforts to stop the divisive language and foreign policies that cause the very radicalisation that the Prime Minister is ostensibly diffusing.

*Joseph Wakim OAM is the author of ‘Sorry We Have No Space’ (2013). He is an independent writer who has had over 500 opinion columns published in all major newspapers for over 20 years. He is the Founder of Australian Arabic Council and a Former Multicultural Affairs Commissioner. He blogs at www.josephwakim.com.au and is on twitter @WakimJ Click here to read more issues >>

Featured + Past Features
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