“How can I know I’ll be safe when I’m walking down the street?” asked a young woman on last night’s Q and A program. She was referring to radicalised Islamic young men who had had their passports cancelled in order to prevent them going to fight with ISIS. Her question reflects the anxiety in our community at present about the threat posed by our own citizens becoming radicalised, fighting in the Middle East, and then returning to commit an act of terror at home.
I can’t help but wonder if we’re losing a little bit of perspective on this. Hasn’t our society always had a small number of people who joined subgroups that defined themselves over against the rest of society and justified the use of violence to defend their group or promote their cause? Isn’t this what the Ku Klux Klan was/is? Isn’t this what outlaw biker groups are? Isn’t this is what Asian triads, European mafia, and New York gangs were/are?
To keep radicalisation of Islamic youth in perspective I think I need to remind myself that this is not a new issue, but a new spin on an old issue of some members of our community taking up an identity that is linked with a violent subgroup. By all means we need to be vigilant in fighting and prosecuting crime, And helping disadvantaged communities provide alternative pathways for those who are in danger of radicalisation. But remembering that violent radicalised Islamic youth are to Islam what outlaw biker groups are to mainstream Anglo Australia, or triads are to Asian communities, or as it was first suggested in the West Wing, the Ku Klux Klan is to Christianity, helps me avoid the rush to a hysterical response.