Underachievement favourite, Aussie PM John Howard is at it again, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, calling on Australian Muslims to be more critical of terrrorism. Just exactly, I wonder, how critical one has to be, in Mr Howard's eyes. For the last five years, Muslims the whole world round have been in turn exhorted to be more condemnatory of the violence committed by a small number of their coreligionists, and censured for not being loud enough in their condemnation. What is it with Western Christians and their obsession with this public display of collective guilt, this wearing of sackcloth and ashes in order to reassure the people in the free world that they do not hate 'us and all we stand for'? There is a distasteful evangelical, almost proselytising, air to such coerced condemnations.
Perhaps the main reason Muslims are not more condemnatory is because they are acquainted with enough bloodshed not to be too moved by the deaths in terror attacks, which, however bad they might be, are dwarfed in number by the amount of deaths in wars such as Iraq and Chechnya whose news value has long become banalised. The British right-wing media used the same bullying attitude towards the Irish in the 1980s, by claiming that those of us that did not condemn IRA violence sufficiently loudly were tacitly supporting it. The strong have at their disposal an arsenal of accusations to aim at the Other, conveniently casting innocent people as a Fifth Column, in order to justify, even elide, its own depredations. The most recent example was the Israeli Defence Force's claim that any people still left in Southern Lebanon after being warned to get out, were obviously terrorists, thus giving instant anointment for their bombing to continue. I do not have any truck with terrorists, a word that is used to apply to almost anyone these days, and I would sooner live in secular Israel than in Hizbullah-controlled parts of Lebanon, but I can understand why Muslims do not get too hot and bothered about a few insane fundamentalists planting bombs in Western cities. It does not mean that they support these people however.