When French president Francois Hollande addressed the nation on Friday in the wake of terrorist attacks that left 20 dead, he uttered the predictable mantra: "These fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion".
His comment is understandable given that France has more than five million Muslims, a stagnant economy, 24 per cent youth unemployment and endemic social alienation among young Muslims.
His comment is also nonsense. A de facto world war is under way and it has everything to do with Islam. It is not thousands of lone wolfs. It is not un-Islamic conduct. It involves thousands of Muslims acting on what they believe is their religious duty to subjugate non-believers, as outlined in the Koran.
And the problem is growing, not contracting. There was once a tradition among young Australians to travel overland from Singapore to London. That route has become a hell-hole:
Pakistan is dangerous. Afghanistan is a no-go area. Iran is an oppressive theocracy. Iraq is disintegrating. Syria is a disaster area. Lebanon is dangerous. In Turkey, for the first time, Australians travelling to Gallipoli will be going under a security alert.
All these Muslim countries used to be safe for transit. The intimidation being practised in the name of Islam by a small minority is a by-product of something much larger – the state-mandated conservatism that is systemic in the majority of Muslim societies. Most of them are dictatorships, monarchies, theocracies or failed states.
An investigation by Kings College London and the BBC World Service found that in a single month, November 2014, 5042 people were killed by jihadists in 664 separate attacks across 14 countries. That is one death every eight minutes.
It is ongoing. On Thursday, the Islamist group Boko Haram (which translates as "Western education is forbidden") is believed to have murdered up to 2000 people in Nigeria. These crimes, far greater in scale than those in Paris, received only a fraction of the attention.
In the 35 years since the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, at least a million people have been killed in tens of thousands of jihad attacks, religious civil wars or wars between predominantly Muslim countries.
In France, a form of dissimilation (to borrow a term from phonetics) is taking place. About 40 per cent of young Muslims are unemployed and thousands have embraced radical Islam as a form of social retaliation.
Surveys have found that between 16 and 21 per cent of respondents in France hold positive views of Islamic State. Given that France has more than five million Muslims, the social catchment of sympathy for jihad is about one million people.
This explains why France has 751 special security zones, an endless sequence of violent incidents involving young Muslim men, anti-Semitic incidents have become routine and Muslims represent 60 per cent of the prison population. Two of the three jihad killers in Paris had served time in prison.
France and Australia are linked by the past week's events. Both countries have been drawn into an asymmetrical global jihad, fed by notoriety and thus self-sustaining.
In Australia, the pressures are much less severe in the Muslim diaspora but there are self-evident problems.
Here is a statistic to ponder: Australian Muslims are statistically more likely to engage in jihad than to enlist in the Australian Defence Forces.
As at June 30, 2014, there were 57,036 permanent members in the ADF, plus 24,028 in the reserves. When I asked Defence Media how many ADF personnel were Muslim, I received this response:
"As at 26 October, 2014, 100 ADF members have declared they are of Islamic faith … The reporting of religious faith is voluntary and, as such, the data provided may not be a fully accurate representation."
With about 500,000 Muslims in Australia, representing 2.1 per cent of the population, there would be about 1200 Muslims in the ADF if they served on a per capita basis. Instead, the number is miniscule, about 0.2 per cent.
In contrast, 20 Australian Muslims have been killed in fighting in the Syrian civil war, an estimated 60 are still in the combat zone, another 20 have returned from Syria, and an estimated 100 more have provided support for jihad. These figures are from the federal government.
Another 20 Muslims are serving prison terms in Australia for serious terrorism offences or are facing terrorism charges. Two more Muslims, Man Haron Monis and Abdul Numan Haider, were killed during attacks in Australia in which they both invoked Islamic State.
Obviously, if 220 Australian Muslims are known to have engaged in jihad or supported jihad, it follows that 500,000 Muslims, or 99.95 per cent, have not.
Equally obvious, the diverse Muslim diaspora cannot be treated as a dangerous monolith, given that Muslims are the primary victims of oppression by Muslims and the overwhelming majority of Muslims either prefer the peaceful precepts of the Koran or are not highly religious.
But the calculus of terrorism relies on the leveraging of small numbers. It only took three jihadists to occupy 90,000 French police and military personnel, at enormous cost to the state, with enormous global publicity. That will have been duly noted by jihadists.
Australia's security agency has thus become extremely busy. Last financial year, ASIO conducted 159,000 security assessments. This helps explain why the Lindt Café killer was taken off the watch list.
Because of the leveraging of small numbers, the deaths of 22 Australian Muslims in the cause of jihad represents serious social capital. In per-capita terms, it the equivalent of more than 1000 Australian soldiers being killed in Afghanistan. This dwarfs the death toll of 43 Australian military personnel killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars over the past decade, regarded as a heavy social cost.
In these terms, 22 is a large number and 220 is a very large number.
Paul Sheehan is a columnist and editorial writer for The Sydney Morning Herald, where he has has been Day Editor and Washington correspondent. He is the author of two number-one best-sellers, 'Girls Like You' and 'Among The Barbarians' and been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times and numerous anthologies.
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