Although free for so long from the scourge of political and religious terrorism, in the long term, Australia can hardly avoid a deadly Islamist attack such as occurred in London or Manchester.
But these were not acts of ordinary, politically motivated terrorism. Jihadists have no political or social objectives they seek to achieve. Forget negotiating politics with them.
Many of our politicians thinks it’s simply a matter of decisively stamping out extremist Islamist ideology. But what does getting tough on extremism really amount to?
For one thing, it means changing the way we think about religion — something many still refuse to take seriously, insisting it is a private matter for the individual.
We often assume that if a religious person has to choose between pursuing religious ideals and political ideals, they will choose the political — and always endorse secular norms.
But this betrays a failure to understand religion. Believers often place the highest stakes on obeying their God’s law — an event when the religious and the political come into conflict.
When that happens, given the eternal nature of the believer’s relationship with God, it should not be a surprise to find that religious demands almost always take precedence over political ones.
Secular liberals refuse to take such beliefs seriously because they have long since lost the ability to distinguish between the sacred and the secular. Their response is to denounce all religion.
But simply denouncing religion — especially extremist Islam — will not work, even though religion may at times make unreasonable or even outrageous claims.
When believers are committed to the precepts of a religion, it is not enough to say they are all hopelessly misguided. What committed believer will agree with that?
Instead, unreasonable religious claims must be challenged on religious — not secular — grounds. The freedom openly to discuss religion, engaging support of community leaders is also essential.
Confronting religious violence requires an unfailing commitment to defending the principles of an open, liberal society. But we must learn to take religion seriously — just as believers do already.
Peter Kurti is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies and author of the research paper Terror in the Name of God: Confronting acts of religious violence in a liberal society released this week.
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