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    Government crackdown on Muslims heading to Syria hypocritical

    03 December 2013

    Two Sydney Muslims have been arrested by the AFP this morning for allegedly intending to travel to Syria to fight against the Assad regime. This comes in the context of a broader crackdown by government authorities on Muslims seeking to travel to Syria to assist those oppressed by Assad’s bloody repression.

    1. The Attorney General, George Brandis, linking these arrests to Australia’s national security is ridiculous and irresponsible fear mongering. The Government seeks thereby to justify what is plainly an unjustified and hypocritical policy of effectively criminalising support for the oppressed. This crackdown is being sold on the line that joining the fight against Assad is a criminal offence. Why it was made a criminal offence was never debated nor justified and this question is religiously avoided by authorities as it reveals uncomfortable truths.
     2. The Government has some explaining to do. Since when did making personal sacrifice to assist the oppressed become an immoral act? Why has it been made a criminal offence? Why is it okay for Australian troops to partake in conflicts overseas under the pretext of supporting the oppressed, but not so for Muslims? Why are the acts of Australian troops in conflicts abroad characterised as an ultimate sacrifice to be celebrated but the sacrifice of Muslims in wanting to assist the oppressed characterised as criminal, problematic conduct to be condemned?
     3. AFP Deputy Commissioner Peter Drennan this morning justified the arrests by jumping on the moral high horse and lecturing Muslims about how there was, “no justification for violence” and that, “violent killing of people should not be glorified or justified for any reason.” Where was Mr. Drennan in the last decade when Australian troops were deployed to the Muslim world for this very purpose?
     4. On the one hand the Government has criminalised support for forces opposing Assad, yet on the other is itself, through its foreign ministry, undertaking various political manoeuvres in support of the secular elements of the opposition. The truth is that government policy on this issue is not about violence or national security. It is about seeking to legitimise and push the political alternative for Syria the Government deems acceptable and de-legitimising and criminalising that which it deems problematic. It is about promoting and working for a secular lackey as the alternative to Assad and working against the potential of an Islamic government in Syria.
     5. The notion that Muslims who go to Syria will become ‘radicalised’ and be a security threat when they return is nonsense. It is based in the all-too-familiar Islamophobic Orientalist narrative that sees Muslims as sub-human, somehow less civilised, unable to control themselves and hence needing the intervention of the civilised white man. Why are the same concerns about radicalisation and national security not raised in relation to other Australian citizens training and fighting in the armies of foreign allies or indeed Australian troops going to partake in invasions abroad?
     6. We advise the Muslim community not to be intimidated by the cheap tactics of government authorities. The intent of these policies is to intimidate and silence. Our response should be to raise our critical voice in questioning why support of the oppressed in Syria has been criminalised. Syria is under siege by the regime of the tyrant Assad as well the ‘international community’ which seeks to suffocate the Islamic resistance in favour of secular forces. Our silence in this context would be a betrayal of the Muslims in Syria.

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