The appalling terrorist attacks in Belgium have again provided an opportunity for many in society to directly link terrorism and Islam. This is a link of fear not rational intellect. Before we start, I would like to say my heart goes out to the friends and families of those who have been robbed of their future by recent terrorist attacks; 80 killed in Maiduguri, Nigeria; 29 killed in Baghdad, Iraq; 70 killed in Lahore, Pakistan; 83 killed in Damascus, Syria; and 35 killed in Brussels, Belgium.
Islam is the world’s second largest religion with over 1.5 billion adherents worldwide and 62% live in Asia. Muslims in Australia are a racially, ethnically, linguistically and culturally diverse group and make up 2.2% of the overall population, less than the Buddhist population! The word ‘Islam’ means submission to God, and an adherent of Islam is a Muslim. Just as Christianity and Judaism are separated into a number of different denominations so too is Islam, the three major schools are Sunni, Shiite & Sufism.
There are also many terrorist groups which are not religious and of the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) all three have fundamentalist groups within them, which have and do commit terrorist acts. Princeton University’s Loon Watch compiled FBI data and found Islamic extremists were responsible for 6% of the terrorist attacks in America from 1980 to 2005.
Here in Australia approximately 27% of people in Sydney hold negative attitudes towards Muslims (The Monash University ‘Mapping Social Cohesion’ Report 2015), yet we have a long history of sharing the same land. The Ghan rail service was named after the Afghan Muslim cameleers, some of our early explorers, who lived in the interior around the 1840-60s and carried vital supplies across the outback. The Macassans (from Sulawesi) traded with many Indigenous clans in Northern Australia for hundreds of years. The first Muslim convict was on the third fleet in 1791 and the first mosque was built in Australia in 1882.
Terrorism will not be defeated by marginalising any group within our society; it will only be defeated by working as a community.