Last week the prime minister showed that he was a true leader. Albeit a little humbled by the internal Liberal Party conflict, he stood up in front of a camera, put his insecurities aside, spoke to citizens eloquently and without condescension and made the country that he leads feel safe. Joined by representatives of the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Defence Force and ASIO, Tony Abbott assured Australians that the government is doing everything that it can do tackle extremism.
It gave me hope. Too often find myself reading the ABC website – in my London office, so far away from home – completely lost about what to do in the face of the hatred that is spreading in Australia.
What frightens me most is that many well-meaning Australian journalists and commentators empower these extremists by denying us the right to speak and write frankly about the so-called Islamic State / ISIS / ISIL / Daesh. Commentators are terrified of being labelled as a ‘racist’ for simply noting that there are sectors of the Islamic community that are supportive of the terrorist group.
We can no longer allow ourselves to live in a state of denial. Each day there seems to be a new story on the BBC about British born extremists actively supporting ISIS and travelling abroad to fight for the cause.
The instillation of greater security measures at 54 schools across Australia is another indication that there are credible threats to our young citizens.
The Western world is facing crisis, and we have a responsibility to ensure that as little life is lost as is possible. That will include having uncomfortable conversations about the realities of Islamic extremism. The issue is terrorism – not the words that we use to describe it.
Australia is a young nation that has fought to defend itself and its values overseas. But the enemy now exists at home. The prime minister has explained the war against extremism and what the government is doing to fight it. It is now time for us to do the same by having open discussions with our families and our communities.
I’ll start one now. ASIO are now actively monitoring 400 urgent threats to our national security. There are young men and women in Australia who are plotting to kill innocent human beings because they belong to a different religion to their own. This is fundamentally xenophobic. However, some critics who accused Andrew Bolt of being racist fail to extend the same criticism to Islamic extremism.
This isn’t just hypocritical, it’s dangerous. Equality under the law requires an equal vulnerability to public commentary. We can’t afford to be governed by an outdated notion of political correctness. The survival of what we cherish most about our society is way too important.
I am relieved that there are organisations out there that are working hard to encourage the media to have a frank dialogue about ISIS. One such social enterprise is ‘Inspire’ a charity that is dedicated to empowering women to take a stand against Islamic extremism in the UK and provide support for vulnerable women who are being encouraged to travel to Syria.
I hope to see more courageous members of the Islamic community speak out as we continue to witness more Australians being radicalised by ISIS. It is time for a truly open dialogue.
IMAGE: via Shutterstock.com