Last week on PMLive (a political show on Sky), in an attempt to bring some perspective into an increasingly heated debate about the terrorist attacks in Brussels, I mentioned a study by the America Foundation on the number of Americans killed by Muslim terrorists compared to right wing terrorists.
Since then I’ve had a slew of right wing commentators using their media platforms to attack me for using it. “It’s debunked,” they scream.
Well, no. One Professor Holt thought the parameters were too narrow and that it didn’t include attacks which may have happened if not for new laws brought in. This is a little odd as it’s pretty impossible to include attacks that didn’t happen (I notice that Holt didn’t include right wing attacks that didn’t eventuate either).
But what’s extraordinary is that whilst there’s such debate over the parameters of one study, another statement on the show got presented as a “fact” – that anti radicalisation programs don’t work.
This is of course based on no evidence whatsoever, yet gets trotted out over and over again. One of the dumber reasons I’ve heard recently is: “Well they used them in Belgium and look what happened.” That’s like saying drink driving campaigns don’t work because some people still do it.
No program or campaign on earth will change the behaviour of some people. In advertising terms, we call them the high hanging fruit (yeah I know, a trite but useful expression). The only way to deal with these people is through highly-resourced counter-terrorism.
But what we do know is that there are people whose behaviours can be swayed by the right campaign — the low hanging fruit. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable for a whole lot of reasons — some biological, some societal.
And ISIS is an excellent campaigner.
Without early intervention and anti-radicalisation programs, we will continue to see teenagers recruited from the suburban bedrooms.
Why anyone would think these programs shouldn’t happen is utterly beyond me. It’s not like they suggest an alternative. Do you know what will absolutely achieve nothing? Doing nothing. Guaranteed.
Many of those commentators don’t like Islam as a religion — they are saying it on record. And when this group disparages Islam over and over again, they help create an alienated group of young Muslims who are more easily swayed by an ISIS campaign than they might otherwise be.
I am not downplaying the threat from groups like ISIS. The threat is very, very real. (The group most at risk from being killed by Isis is, of course, Muslims).
My concern is that the undercurrent of Islamophobia being allowed to go unchecked will add to the threat.
I’m not a fan of any religion. I have yet to see one that I believe treats women equally. Nonetheless, this attempt by the right to conflate Islam with Isis makes as much sense as conflating the Klu Klux Klan with Christianity.
We shouldn’t demonise a whole religion for the acts of a few people. Not just because we are decent.
But also because we are smart.
The Government has devised a National Terrorism Threat Advisory System. Watch the overview below: