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Islamism, atheism, and the 'Voldemort' effect

By Brian Morris - posted Tuesday, 1 December 2015

An atheist view of Islamic extremism is well-founded; on two fronts. One is that most western Muslims don't follow authoritarian Islam, and the second is the 'Voldemort effect'. It's ignorance of these two conflicting positions in society that undermines any political will to deal with the brutal cowardice of Islamic extremism seen in Paris, and in scores of jihadist attacks around the world.

Of the five million Muslims in France, statistics show 60% are "non-observant"; and only 25% attend Friday prayers. Of the 40% who are "observant" Muslims only a small majority of women wear the hijab, 81% accept women should have equal rights in divorce, and 38% support the right to abortion. Australian figures will be similar, and a broad survey will confirm that.

We need to build common ground between all "moderates" in this country - all religions and the non-religious. The Muslim majority (who are "non-observant") are integral in the entire complex process of dissuading young minds from the allure of IS and martyrdom. And it will take a strong unity of purpose with the rest of moderate Australians to identify and counter the social alienation of young Muslims; their radicalisation; and curbing their desire to become IS recruits. But two tasks demand action.


The first requires public, political and media initiatives to counter inflammatory intolerance. The radical demonstrations and the hate-speech in social media, shock-jock radio, and print media. They simply aid Islamic extremism by dividing the community. It's part of the IS plan!

The flip-side is hand-wringing Left-wingers who stridently condemn any legitimate criticism of Islam. They say, "terrorism is all our fault, since the crusades", or "the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists shouldn't have lampooned Muhammad", and "we must never criticise religion".

It's this position that's known as the 'Voldemort effect'. Borrowing from Harry Potter, and the taboo to never mention the Dark Wizard's name. Today's taboo is to say that Islamic fascism is a "religion". True, it's a perverted reading of the Koran but it's a religion nonetheless. Islamic State is based wholly on theocracy -- politicised religion. ISIS and other extremists quote the Koran at length, and "Allahu Akbar" is their slogan of choice at every savage massacre.

Atheists stand between those who inhibit real solutions -- the anti-Muslims and anti-racists, those who only polarise public opinion. Two critical thinkers identify an "integrated" approach that's needed to solve this long-term radicalisation problem. One is the prominent atheist and neuroscientist, Sam Harris, and the other is Maajid Nawaz.

Nawaz is a former Islamic extremist with Hizb-ut-Tahrir who went on to found the anti-extremist think-tank The Quilliam Foundation. They combine to cut to the heart of this global issue with their new book, 'Islam and the Future of Tolerance: a Dialogue'.

It's a strategy of unifying all religious "moderates", stopping the flow of ISIS recruits, recognising that IS is a theocracy and Islam needs to modernise. ABC's Lateline recently conducted a lengthy interview with Nawaz and Harris. One can Google "Lateline: An atheist and a Muslim on the future of Islam". It's a critical insight to this quagmire of Islamic fascism. It's how a coalition of all "moderates", social and mass media, and a non-partisan parliament can defeat extremism in Australia.

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About the Author

Brian Morris is the director of Plain Reason.

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