Victims of jihad in Australia a century apart: Alma Cowie, aged 17, and Katrina Dawson, aged 38
In the spirit of sermons and soda water, Mark Durie provides a clarifying essay that opens the historical horizons on last month's deadly Martin Place jihad siege in Australia by comparing it to a strikingly similar jihad attack against picnickers in Australia on New Year's Day, 1915 (via Ruthfully). In discussing these and other cases of "individual jihad" (including reference to the Dutch colonial experience in Aceh) where Muslim killers answer the Islamic call to jihad, Durie demonstrates that the go-to, feel-good explanations about "lone wolves" and "crazies" have no more relevance than fairy tales to explaining the chronic threat of Islam in the West.
Some excerpts below.
"From Broken Hill to Martin Place: Individual Jihad Comes to Australia, 1915 to 2015"
by Mark Durie
One hundred years ago today, a lethal jihad attack was staged against New Year’s Day picnickers in Broken Hill, Australia. This attack and the recent Martin Place siege, events separated by almost exactly a century, show striking similarities. ...
The jihad attack was staged against a picnic train which was taking 1200 picnickers out on a New Year’s Day in open ore trucks. Bashda Mahommed Gool and Mullah Abdullah first made inquiries at the station beforehand to make sure they would be in the right place at the right time to attack this particular train. They then positioned themselves on the side of hill around 30 meters from the tracks, and opened fire as the trucks passed. Among the victims was Alma Cowie, aged 17, shot dead. By the end of the incident the jihadi cameleers had themselves been killed by police.
The two were found to have left notes to explain that they were responding to a call to jihad issued by the Ottoman Caliphate (on 11 November 1914).
The phenomenon of individuals launching a personal jihad against non-Muslim infidels is nothing new. The precedents in the life of Muhammad are well-known and some of these were cited in the Ottoman ‘Universal Proclamation’. As the Ottoman fatwa indicated, the phenomenon was already a thorn in the side of colonial authorities a century ago.
In the Dutch occupation of Aceh, the phenomenon of individual Muslims killing Dutch people was frequent enough to be given a name, Atjeh-moorden ‘Acehnese murders’. The Dutch authorities conducted investigations into the mental state of perpetrators of such attacks. This was not always easy: because the attacks were mounted with the intention of ‘killing and being killed’ to attain martrydom, only a minority of attackers survived in a fit state to be investigated.
The Dutch wrestled for decades to understand the phenomenon. The psychiatrist R.A. Kern conducted a study of Atjeh-moorden and concluded that while Islamic theology accounted for the common pattern of the murders, this was not enough to determine which particular individuals might be triggered to mount such attacks: for that one needed to look to the personal circumstances of the individuals.
Nevertheless, repeated psychiatric studies of perpetrators showed that they were not mad. David Kloos summarized their findings: “Over the years, a consensus had formed among the Dutch that the Ajteh-moorden were committed deliberately, in ‘cold blood’ and thus ‘rationally’. Going for individual jihad was not normally a symptom of mental instability.
There are striking parallels between the Broken Hill massacre a century ago, and the recent Martin Place siege.
In both cases the media puzzled over the motivation of the attackers. The Barrier Miner wrote in 1915 “The question has been asked over and over again, and by many people since yesterday morning’s tragic occurrence, as to the motive of the men in attacking the picnic train with its load of women and children...”
The attackers in both cases had resided for many years in Australia and were well-known in their communities.
Both attacks were individual acts; although the 1915 attack by two individuals working together, they were not part of a larger network of jihadis, but were merely combining their individual efforts.
In both cases the attackers subscribed to the dogmas of jihad in the path of Allah, and martyrdom in Holy War.
In both cases, attackers were mobilized in response to a global call to jihad: in 1915 issued by the Ottoman Caliphate; in 2014 issued by the Islamic State. [DW: See Andrew Bostom's discussion of the Islamic State September 2014 pronouncement here.]
Both global calls to jihad had specifically invited Muslims around the world to commit individual acts of jihad by killing infidels (see here on the Islamic State’s call to Muslims to run over infidels with their cars).
In both cases the perpetrators had been experiencing difficulties with the law: in the 1915 massacre, Mullah Abdullah had been convicted days before for slaughtering sheep on an unlicensed premises. In the Martin Place siege, Hojat al-Islam Muhammad Hassan Manteqi (AKA ‘Sheikh’ Man Haron Monis) was facing criminal charges as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and had a history of convictions for serious offenses.
There were also similarities in the way the wider community and the media responded:
In both cases the media took pains to point out that the majority of people in the Muslim community abhorred the killings, and reported that no-one from the Muslim community wished to claim the bodies (see here and here).
In both cases there were no reprisals against Muslims. However the Broken Hill German Club was burned down in 1915; the killings were considered to be linked to the World War I conflict as a whole, rather than as manifestations of individual jihadism.
Is individual jihad really a new phenomenon? Nothing could be further from the truth. It is, on the contrary, an old, old form of warfare, as old as the origins of Islam itself. The Ottoman fatwa writers knew their Koran and were qualified to draw conclusions from it, which did not differ from the long-established mainstream of Islamic teachings about jihad.
To discuss such things the term terrorism is inadequate and even misleading. It confuses experts like Professor Wesley, who attempt to lump the Martin Place siege into a conceptual grid which includes the IRA, in apparent ignorance of the well-documented history of jihadism.
Also misleading is the widely used term lone wolf, which implies social disengagement and dysfunction, including disconnection with the broader jihadi movement. This very Western secular construct overlooks the considerable attention in Islamic jurisprudence to the idea of warfare as an ‘individual obligation’ (fardh al-’ayn), which is incumbent upon Muslims as individuals, even if they are not enlisted in a jihad army.
The West puzzles and puzzles over jihad. The Martin Place hostage taker ‘Sheikh’ Monis certainly seems to have been a very unpleasant individual, and many have been tempted to write him off as ‘crazy’. However what fascinates and terrifies most is the utter ordinariness of so many jihadis. Here in Australia article after article has been published in the media pointing out how normal the young men are who have joined Islamic State. We have read how they enjoy social media, made YouTube videos, do well at school, are liked by their friends, go partying, have girlfriends, support local football teams etc. And all this is related to us as if it was the most amazing news.
Given the terrifying ordinariness of the jihadis, it is tempting to apply pejorative labels to them, to write them off as deranged misfits. This is an attempt to marginalize the problem. Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop called it ‘idiotic’ to refer to those who die in jihad as ‘martyrs’.
However such attempts to push the jihad phenomenon to the edges of our rational world are doomed to fail. Instead the same question keeps arising, like a persistent itch, that the Barrier Miner put on January 2, 1915: ‘The question has been asked over and over again, and by many people since yesterday morning’s tragic occurrence, as to the motive of the men in attacking the picnic train with its load of women and children…’
This question will simply not go away. In reality, the will to ‘go forth’ for jihad is not a manifestation of craziness – many of its actors are entirely sane. It is not a manifestation of stupidity – many of its actors are quite intelligent. It is not a manifestation of social dysfunction or poverty – many of its actors come from stable and wealthy homes. It is not a manifestation of weirdness – many of its actors are quite ordinary. Nor is it a manifestation of ‘morphing’ trends in international relations – jihadism is as old as the hills.
Jihadi terror is a manifestation of Islamic theology. Despite the fact that so many Muslims reject jihadism, and millions of Muslims can be counted among its victims, this remains as true today as ever it has been. Yet this is something the West remains disturbingly ill-prepared to accept, engage with, or address appropriately. We stubbornly continue to seek worldview solace in misplaced explanations.
Read it all here.