Will Australia see the development of paramilitary organisations as a response to terror fears?

I have lived in Northern Ireland (NI) for nearly five years; I conducted research, and despite that I was researching the Muslim community, through some NI friends I had access to that complex society, including the complex paramilitary reality. Indeed, it was so complex that when a friend and I wanted to start a university student’s netzine and selected an acronym as a name for it, we were informed that we had to think of a better name, since those few letters represented a not very well known but still active paramilitary group. The Northern Irish conflict, despite being prominently political, has religious connotations; Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Unionists have fought each other since the UK partitioned the island. This conflict became later known as “The Troubles”.

History is never neutral and recent history even less so, but when I asked about how the NI Loyalist paramilitary groups started, my Protestant informants told me that they started emerging in the 1960s as vigilante groups to protect Protestant neighbourhoods from attacks. They then developed into terrorist organisations opposed to a united Ireland. 

So, you might ask, what has this to do with Australia and the current terrorist threat?   Continue reading

Indefinite detention for advocating jihadi violence

The Sydney Morning Herald contacted me for a comment on former judge Anthony Whealy’s suggestion to imprison terrorists and terrorist advocates indefinitely till proven de-radicalised. A short quote from my interview can be read here. Yet I wish to explain my strong objection, as a scholar whom knows well the process of radicalisation within prison, against that advice. Continue reading

Should Muslims Apologise for Muslim Terrorists?

The debate, particularly in Australia, about whether Muslims should apologise or not for the acts of terrorism of some individuals whom are identified or identify themselves as Muslims, is in full spin. Recently a Twitter hashtag was developed where Muslims started to apologise for everything you may imagine. Some, during conversations with me, expressed their strong viewpoints:

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Think Tanks, weak research and the case of Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Australia

Think Tanks, often linked to a party in the nation’s political system, are becoming increasingly popular (particularly in the US and the UK), receive funds, and produce very easily digestible research, ready-made for the rushed politician. Think Tanks do not have to adhere to the same quality standards that university research has to or, when they are supposed to meet similar standards,  there is no effective means of monitoring it. Ethical issues, ethical conduct of research and often methodology remains unexplained in reports written to impress more than explain complex issues. In an era where simplification often resembles “The Complete Idiot’s” guides, Think Tanks provide a fast, public friendly, easy to use policy support for difficult decisions.

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American Muslims, Muslimphobia, and dangerous chemerias

The debate concerning Islam and Muslims in the US is a very heated one – sometimes beyond metaphors. The fear that Sharia will rule in the land of the free is a strong one, so much so that there has been more than one attempt to legally ban ‘sharia’.  Newt Gingrich, former House speaker who led the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, exclaimed

Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools as a way to “replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Sharia

The list of American anti-Muslim politicians, commentators and pundits is long and often all linked to the Christian Republican right. The most quoted are  Ann Coulter, whom invited a Muslim student to take a camel instead of a plane, Fox News personality Sean Hannity, whom drew a parallel between Islam and Nazism, Glenn Beck,  Daniel Pipes , as well as showbiz personalities such as the well known “Jihad watcher” and the “femme fatal” of  fear mongering, author of “Stop the Islamization of America“. Continue reading

Not all children are the same – some are collateral damage

President Barack Obama, looked terribly distressed at the vigil to commemorate the victims, twenty of whom were children. Obama’s words, as well as his emotions, were sincere. He said

 The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten years old..They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.

The Newtown shooting has been a terrible tragedy, so shocking that it has reopened the debate about gun crime in a country with  300 million of them among a population of 311 million.  Could the massacre have been avoided? In the current situation, probably not. That school could have been anywhere, and the killer apparently acted out of his mind rather than out of a plan. Continue reading

Prayer bumps, Muslim haters, and the danger of scientific popularization

Recently I came across a short article titled: The Muslim ‘prayer bump’ and Traumatic Brain Injury. Since I am interested in both religion as well as neuroscience, I eagerly read the short post. To my disappointment, I had to conclude that this was another, yet more sophisticated and insidious, attempt to demonstrate that Islam has horrible consequences for practising individuals. The gist of the article is as follows. Muslims pray five times per day, and as part of the Muslim prayer (salah), the Muslim prostrates and  touches the ground with his or her forehead and nose (sujud). The article proceeds to inform the reader that in doing so, millions of Muslims develop what, in Islamic jargon, is called  zebibah (Arabic for raisin), or a prayer bump. In other words, the repeated pressure of the head on the prayer mat will produce a discolouration of the skin in the area of contact, and in some cases, apparently, provoking a ‘bump’. Continue reading