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A moderate majority

Published: Jul 29, 2007


The Hon Justice Marcus Einfeld AO QC PhD

It is clear that we have entered a new and dangerous phase of horror in human relations. This phase has necessarily drawn Indonesia, Australia and the whole of our region into the nucleus of the struggle.

Indonesia was aware that she needed to get tougher on terrorists - all of us knew that we should take more determined action to deal with the terrorist curse.

But this is not the time to lay blame in the crude sense of the word. It is time to work in unison to protect our world from the malevolence of terrorists and their brutal exploits. Our strategy must be twofold. We must pull out all stops to root out the criminals committed to and involved in the wholesale murder of civilians, put them on trial, and punish the guilty. And we must also look to the issues which allow fanatics to arouse and inflame the passions of those who would commit dastardly crimes.

Hopefully the Indonesian authorities will find the political and public support to clamp down heavily on extremists linked to terrorism. President Megawati's task is arduous and unenviable, but she really has only one choice.

The greatest defence against militancy in Indonesia is the deep local tradition of moderation and tolerance.

The vilification of Muslims since these attacks is a disgrace. What pedigree of humanity are we, to typecast a substantial portion of the world's population because a few of its number have committed atrocities? All religions have something to answer for in terms of violence and atrocities. Islamic nations have not decided to attack all Christians or commit general acts of pestilence akin to that which occurred in Bali. Has the lesson of Hitler's genocide of Jews not yet been learnt?

But as Bali grieves, and we all grieve for what it now stands for, not even the venerated intelligence agencies the world over can supply convincing proof that al Qaeda was involved in it, or even who and what that organisation is. In the face of such an elusive foe, logic is the first casualty. Better co-ordination between the Indonesian police and military is essential in reducing contradiction. If the army takes the lead role and undermines all the work that has been done in the last three years to build up the police as a civilian agency responsible for internal security, the stronger will develop the idea that the army was somehow involved in the bombings in the first place and the more the scepticism of an al Qaeda role.

We must also review the tenacity of our relationship with the US. Must the American dream manifest itself in the form of civilian bloodshed? The deaths we have witnessed in Indonesia were ugly, divisive and pointless. Are we about to be again forced to watch nightclubs, shopping centres or schools being bombed in Baghdad? Will the disarming of Saddam Hussein be achieved over the bodies of taxi drivers, shopkeepers and shoppers, mothers taking their children to school? Will it be achieved at all?

It is time for us all to look for a durable, feasible and sustainable international solution to Muslim extremism. Any solution will necessarily be found outside of war. Despite the extraordinary statement of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that compared to Iraq, the Israel/Palestinian dispute is a 'sideshow', a settlement of that conflict is not the only solution but it is a necessary pre-requisite to a solution to Muslim extremism and militancy. The consequence of failure is more bloodshed and suffering. The dividend of success is too obvious to need stating.

We must commit ourselves to move forward towards a future free from terror, where tolerance for disparate cultures spans the globe and the safety of people free from hate becomes the religion of us all.

The Hon Justice Marcus Einfeld AO QC can be reached at einfeldm@ozemail.com.au

Inside Indonesia 74: Apr - Jul 2003

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