(Image via @FrBower)

Deposed prime minister Tony Abbott has yet again exposed his deep ignorance of important matters to the watching world. This time in the field of religious affairs, in which he was believed to have had some actual training. Apparently not, writes Alan Austin from France.

THOSE WHO thought Tony Abbott losing the top job would end his six-year campaign of embarrassing Australia abroad have been profoundly disappointed.

His cringe-worthy attack on Islam this week has generated headlines in Britain, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the USA, Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, China and elsewhere.

These attacks – in an opinion piece titled ‘Islam Must Reform’ in the tawdry mass circulation Murdoch tabloid The Daily Telegraph – have caused widespread dismay.

In some quarters because they are false. In others because even were they true they will exacerbate rather than ease global tensions.

First, to the falsehoods.

Number one is that Islam is a religion, which distinctively teaches violence against people of other faiths or none.

Abbott warned that some Muslims were

‘...all too ready to justify death to the infidel.'

He said,

‘We can't remain in denial about the massive problem within Islam.'

Perhaps he was referring to passages in the ancient texts such as these:

‘Now go and smite Am′alek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’

Or this one:

‘When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it ... If it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when your God gives it into your hand you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourselves.’

The problem for Tony, however, is that those passages are not in the Quran. They are from the Jewish scriptures which Christians call the Old Testament (1 Samuel 15:3 and Deuteronomy 20:10-15).

Perhaps he was referring to these texts:

‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.’

Or this:

‘If you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.’

Wrong again. They are from the Christian New Testament (Matthew 10:34 and Romans 13:4).

The point Abbott has missed – despite his years at Sunday school, catechism classes, masses and in the seminary – is that calls to violence are not just Islamic. They are common to all ancient texts of the Abrahamic and other faiths.

Falsehood number two is this:

‘Islam has never had its own version of the Reformation and The Enlightenment or a consequent acceptance of pluralism and the separation of church and state.’

As Bernard Keane observed neatly at Crikey:

‘Perhaps Muslims in the Mediaeval era were too busy developing algebra, inventing effective surgical techniques, revolutionising optical theory, understanding that the Earth revolved around the sun, trading with China, discovering coffee and keeping key classical texts that the West had lost, so they could be rediscovered in later centuries, to fit in a Reformation.’

The glaring hypocrisy of Abbott denigrating other faiths when his own Roman Catholic church is yet to have a reformation has been noted by Keane, former NSW premier Kristina Keneally and others.

The third falsehood is embedded here:

‘We should be ready to proclaim the clear superiority of our culture to one that justifies killing people in the name of God.’

The questions this elicits include these:

  1. How many majority Christian countries have been invaded by majority Muslim countries since 1945?
  2. How many majority Muslim countries have been invaded by majority Christian countries?

In fact, since 1945, nominally Christian countries of the West have perpetrated by far the most killing in the name of God. Histories of invasions of Muslim countries by the USA and its allies are easily googled. Most lists have more than 27 invasions with aerial bombing, ground troops or both of at least 14 countries.

These are: Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Turkey. Invasions of Christian countries by Muslims are far fewer in number and casualties.

Christians routinely claim these were not religiously driven. And indeed the real motivation in many attacks has been to steal oil or other resources. One of Abbott’s predecessors as Liberal leader, Brendan Nelson, once admitted this in an unguarded moment.

But most well-informed Muslims are familiar with these claims published in The Guardian and elsewhere: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/oct/07/iraq.usa

Mr Bush revealed the extent of his religious fervour when he met a Palestinian delegation during the Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, four months after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said:

"President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."

Just the first night of “shock and awe” George W Bush unleashed on Baghdad – with the support of Britain and Australia – caused thousands of Iraqi deaths.

Abbott’s calls this week are eerily similar in content and timing to those of wealthy US buffoon Donald Trump, who is currently promoting himself with a parody of a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Both are causing derision and dismay around the world.

The difference between the two is that one actually was voted as leader by his people. And will forever be referred to as Australia’s former prime minister – however destructive his public utterances may be.

You can can follow Alan Austin on Twitter @AlanTheAmazing

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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