Let extremists self-deport to Syria – and stop demonising all Muslims
I'VE never really understood the point of religion.
Mostly, it seems like an odd hobby some people have that bothers no one. Like pigeon racing. Or extreme ironing (yes, that's a thing).
If people want to gather in a large room, sing songs and shout the praises of a ghostly presence, well, I won't be joining in any time soon, but go ahead, knock yourselves out.
Neither can I see the attraction in kneeling on mats playing bobble-head, but what people wish to do with their spare time is entirely their own business.
And mostly that's how religion goes. It's all harmless enough, so long as nobody takes it too seriously.
But when people actually do take religion seriously, take it literally, that's when we hit real trouble.
That was painfully clear for all to see with the cruel attack on Melburnians by yet another radical Islamist last week.
Forget the nonsense that the terrorist responsible was merely mentally ill. Mental illness affects the adherents of all religions and none. But lunatics of other faiths appear far less prone to murderous rampages in the name of their favoured deity.
But equally, much of the commentary following the horror in Melbourne last week goes dangerously close to demonising the Muslim community as a whole.
What is the sense of calling on Muslims to do more to weed out terrorists in their midst if they are already law-abiding people who would dob in someone suspicious as quickly as the rest of us?
Implying that they are not doing enough - as Prime Minister Scott Morrison has done - suggests that moderate Muslims somehow share in the guilt of the Bourke Street killer.
"If you're an imam or a leader in one of those communities, you need to know who those people are in your community that might be doing that," the Prime Minister said. "They are the infiltrators."
Mr Morrison added: "What I'm saying is you can't look the other way".
Frankly, if Mr Morrison believes there is evidence of Muslim leaders "looking the other way" there should be laws brought in to strongly punish them.
We should also review whether it's really all that smart to deny extremists the option of self-deporting to Syria. And whether we need tougher laws to deal with the 400 people on the ASIO watch-list, of whom last Friday's attacker was one.
It is maddening, to put it very mildly, that someone of such interest to the authorities was free to behave as he did.
But Mr Morrison has no such practical suggestions. What he instead appears to be engaged in is a ham-fisted attempt to sound tough, which is proving about as convincing as his recent Mick Dundee impressions.
It doesn't mean there isn't a problem with political Islam. There very clearly is. But that's not the same as implying some responsibility lies with the Muslim community as a whole - a very dangerous road to go down.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott's analysis was far closer to the mark.
Speaking on 2GB radio, Mr Abbott made no bones about the fact that radical Islam is a problem in Australia.
But he added: "The sad truth is there are a small number of people living in our midst who wish to do us harm. This is the tragedy, a handful of evil terrorists bring discredit on a whole population and that's wrong because the overwhelming majority of Muslim people everywhere but particularly in Australia are decent people that just want to get on with their lives."
Mr Abbott is on the money.
Yes, Islam has a problem with murderers claiming it as a cause. But Irish people used to have a similar problem and trust me, most had a deep and burning loathing for the IRA scum that besmirched their name.
The overwhelming majority of Muslim people in Australia are hardworking, peaceable people who know nothing about terrorists and are as appalled as anyone by their actions.
I know plenty on the Gold Coast, and more decent people you couldn't meet.
It doesn't mean we need to like Islam. I'll be honest, if one of my daughters came home in a hijab, said she was marrying a chap called Mustafa and was converting, I'd be horrified. But then I'd be equally horrified is she came home wearing an Amish-style outfit, said she was shacking up with a chap called Hank and was retreating to a commune in Arizona to await the rapture. Or was giving Scientology a whirl.
Religious fanatics of all stripes are a throwback to more primitive times and have little place in modern Australia. But thankfully, most worshippers are not fanatics.
And thanks to their suicide missions, extremists are a dying breed.
As Ricky Gervais once said, "Everyone has the right to believe anything they want. And everyone else has the right to find it ridiculous."
I find Islam ridiculous - like all religions. I find the Melbourne terrorist evil beyond belief.
But I find most Muslims on the Gold Coast to be decent, hardworking people who wish no one any harm.
People who couldn't be more different to that murderous lunatic in Melbourne.