The arrest of alleged terrorists in Melbourne, the burning alive of two Turkish Muslim soldiers by ISIS, the assassination of the Russian Ambassador in Turkey, the criminal truck slaughter in Berlin, suicide bombings in several Muslim cities, the killing of innocent civilians in war zones, atrocity after atrocity, are all terrible events in which the name of Islam is dragged in the dirt.  

There are sound scholars defending justice and Islam, but they compete on the internet and on the airwaves with palace scholars and ignorant but media savvy muharibs who repeat what their masters convey to them.

At the same time as we see this spread of poisonous fringe cults in places of conflict and their wannabees in prosperous secure nations like Australia, we are witnessing the mainstreaming in the EU and the USA of a style of racism and political extremism which we though had died in the bunker with Hitler. Marine Le Pen has high hopes of shaking the French Presidency, Theresa May is taking the UK to economic recession and rising racism, with the enthusiastic support of UKIP, and the victory of Trump has energised every lunatic right wing group in that country. Angela Merkel of Germany is one of the few sane, stable voices defending universal values.

A few years ago it would have been unthinkable that a national security adviser [chosen by President elect Trump], Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, would meet with the leader of Austria’s Freedom Party, which was founded by former Nazis after WWII. “This is not just any opposition party: It is one with Nazi sympathies,” said Daniel Serwer, a former state department official who’s now a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. “…………. His long-term strategy colleague, Steve Bannon, is an ethnic nationalist and anti-Semite.”[21 December 2016 Huffington Post]

These extreme right movements, thrive  on  ISIS style terror, and use it to try to defame all Muslims and Islam. According to Owen Jones  “Islamist terrorist fanatics and the west’s ascendant populist right are now working in tandem. They are feeding off each other. They are interdependent. Their fortunes rise with each other. This morning Nigel Farage tweeted: “Terrible news from Berlin but no surprise. Events like these will be the Merkel legacy.” What kind of contemptible individual mixes horror with vindication?” [Guardian 20 December 2016 ]

While Australia also suffers from the rise of racist groups, the picture is not as bleak as that in Europe and the USA. Mapping Social Cohesion, The Scanlon Foundation Surveys 2015, which may be accessed online, reported  that their surveys had found a consistently high level of agreement with the proposition that ‘multiculturalism  has been good for Australia:’ 84% in 2013, 85% in 2014 and 86% in 2015.   It is seen as facilitating integration in Australia whereas in Europe multiculturalism is seen as a failure.

Consistent with other countries there was a decline in trust in the federal parliament. In 2009 48% trusted Canberra ‘almost always’ or ‘most of the time’. In 2015 this was down to 30%.

The ranking of what are ‘the most important problems facing Australia today’ had a message for the Muslim community. “In 2015, the most significant change in ranking was in the proportion of respondents who specified national security and terrorism, which increased from less than one per cent in 2014 to 10% in 2015.”  The lesson here is that we have to be able to draw a very clear line between Islam and these terror cults, the muharibs.

Despite the negative coverage of our community by much of the media, attitudes to Muslims were not as negative as might be expected.   “Almost the same proportion are strongly negative (11%) as strongly positive (10%); the highest proportion (47%) indicate that they are ‘neither positive nor negative”.

We have much work to do to avoid going down the road to Trumpism, UKIP or Marine Le Pen.