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03 September 2014
by David Martin Jones

Security sleeps as death cult awakes

In the wake of the escalating violence in the new Islamic State under its self proclaimed Caliph Ibrahim, aka al Baghdadi, and estimates that 60 Australian Muslims have joined the jihadist army in the new state, the government announced a $640 million budget increase for the Australian security agencies and the Australian Federal Police and a series of yet to be defined measures that will somehow both "reassure the Muslim community", yet target those "at risk of radicalisation".

However, given that the Howard government introduced comprehensive anti-terror laws in the wake of both the 9/11 and 7/7 bombings and, had by 2007, increased the budget of all the security agencies by more than 50 per cent in less than a decade, it might seem reasonable to ask: what do the current laws lack, and given that the security agencies are already well financed, where precisely is the extra bang for the buck? In other words, why has this outpouring of violence come as such a surprise?

Disturbingly, successive Australian and Western governments and their security agencies have since 2005 reacted to the homegrown jihadist phenomenon rather than seeking to identify the sources of its appeal and how it might be constrained. In this context, both the Labor and current governments officially bought into the idea that recruitment to jihad reflects the alienation of young Muslim males disaffected from mainstream culture.

The answer, it seemed was greater multicultural sensitivity and counselling. Significantly, Tony Abbott and the director of ASIO, David Irvine, have both recently said the problem Australia faces is the misguided "extremism" of a minority, rather than a radical, well-funded and highly attractive Islamist ideology.

Somewhat bizarrely, Irvine made a rare media appearance on a Muslim radio station to declare his "outrage" as an Australian at the idea that "we might be fighting Islam". Maybe instead, Australians should be outraged that, despite its generous public funding, neither ASIO nor the AFP have much of a grip on a phenomenon that has been mutating in the West since at least the late 1980s.

Indeed, given their history of misunderstanding of homegrown jihadism, graphically illustrated by ASIO and ASIS's complete ignorance of the Willie Brigitte cell operating in western Sydney in 2003, or the AFPs Keystone cop- style response to the Haneef case in 2007, it is logical to infer that the security agencies have little idea of what is driving Australian jihadism, who has travelled to the Islamic State or, for that matter, returned.

In other words, the security services in Australia are part of the problem, rather than the solution. In Britain, MI5 has come to take seriously the power of the ideological appeal of a version of Islam that sacralises violence and legitimates terror against the Kuffar. By contrast, the Australian government, its security agencies, its media and academic analysts of terrorism have promoted the view that to take Islamic rhetoric seriously is to play into "the politics of fear" and overreact to a problem associated with an irrelevant, fringe minority.

Indeed, most government- funded academic research into jihadism largely accepts the view of the nominally peaceful Islamist think tank Hizb ut Tahrir that "ISIS is but the new al Qa'ida used as a bogeyman by Western states to justify intervention", and as their media spokesman Uthman Badar explained, "those travelling abroad to help the oppressed" undertake "a noble deed".

In other words, before pouring money into the problem, the government might usefully ask why have publicly funded institutions failed to address the transnational power of what is essentially a death cult.

This is, after all, not very difficult to identify. As early as 2004, in the wake of the Madrid bombings, Islamists defined the divide between a pluralist secular world view and their brand of apocalyptic millenarianism with the formula: "You love life, we love death". This slogan has gone through several mutations since 2004, notably in phrases like "The Americans love Pepsi Cola, we love death".

In essence, this aesthetising of death defines itself against a secular liberal belief in life. As the Italian philosopher Umberto Eco observed, in a different ideological context, Fascism embraces political necrophilia: a taste for killing and martyrs is its purest form.

Jihadism is similarly obsessed. It means, as numerous slickly produced videos on the internet demonstrate, adoring and serving death, be it as the slayer or the slain. In fact, its beatification of terrorist violence, or the management of savagery, as the Islamic State's official journal Dabiq proclaims, is more telling than the professed ideological dimension.

Indeed, to love death as jihadism does is to say that it is beautiful to receive it and to risk it and that the most beautiful and saintly love is to distribute it. This putrid need of death is evident today across the Middle East.

If that's what jihadism at its fundamentalist core wanted, it got it. It is a form of political nihilism made possible by the sacralisation of violence.

This aspect of jihadism and the capacity of a version of Islam to play into the cult of death is not to desensitise youth to death (as some Western security analysts assert) but to sacralise it.

Before throwing more money at "extremism" and creating more sweeping government powers, the elected representatives of a secular democracy ought to do far more to defend a political way of life and target the promulgation and appeal of this potent and ultimately fascist death cult.