The brutal nihilism of Islamist terrorism is a difficult concept for most of us to understand, but comprehend it we must.
This is an evil that can shoot a teenage girl because she dares to go to school. When Malala Yousafzai survived and was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize her Islamist extremist enemies were not chastened; rather, they have marched into a Pakistani school and slaughtered more than 100 children.
This ideology will strap bombs to teenagers and have them walk into shops or on to buses to explode carnage among innocents.
As we know, they have flown planes into buildings and driven cars into bus shelters.
In Nigeria, extremists kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls to be traded as slaves. And in case you were wondering, that celebrity-laden Twitter hashtag campaign has not saved the girls.
Because the hatred and blatant disregard for human life in this horrific movement is so beyond our normal experience, we would like to wish it away.
So well-meaning naifs such as the ABC’s Jonathan Green write about overwhelming it with love — or something.
“Our best defence is of course our cultured reason,” he wrote in August. “Our tolerance. Our audacious confidence in the fundamental goodness of others. Maybe even our sense of humour.”
This idealistic approach denies reality and can lead to dangerous complacency. As an ABC opinion leader, Green should know better.
We would all like to live where “cultured reason” and the “fundamental goodness” always prevail.
But Islamist ideology perverts the faith to destroy the rational approach we desire and the plurality that our goodness demands.
No group in our community understands this better than the overwhelming majority of politically moderate Muslims.
We all share the abhorrence for extremists who can seize an overseas volunteer providing medical support for children and publicly behead him to promote terror.
Islamist terrorists will slaughter babies and literally drain the blood from women — the people attracted to their cause will not be well adjusted.
After seeing the deliberate trauma of Bali, surely no Australian needs reminding of what we confront. It cannot be reasoned with. There is no negotiation.
Unless we call it out, confront and defeat it, it will harm us.
In places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan and Yemen, brute force has been used in the hope of creating space for reason and plurality.
Here in the West we need to be vigilant against the physical threat while countering the ideology wherever its raises its head.
The reaction to my piece on this page yesterday about the risks of Islamist denialism was overwhelming. Many readers were glad to see those observations published. Others still didn’t get it.
To them the Lindt cafe terrorist attack was the work of a madman divorced from extremism. And a hashtag about tolerance provided comfort and, perhaps, an adequate response.
Nothing underlined the denial and delusion of the political class more than the statement by the Australian Press Council chairman Julian Disney chastising media coverage of what he called the “Sydney hostage incident”.
He was reacting to complaints about News Corp Australia’s Daily Telegraph and its special Monday afternoon edition linking the attack to Islamic State under the headline “Death cult CBD attack”.
The perpetrator of this atrocity defined himself by Islamism; a self-styled Shia cleric, he objected to military action against the Taliban and was prosecuted for sending sickening letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. He faced charges relating to sex offences and his former partner’s murder.
He was clearly unstable and recently declared himself Sunni, supportive of “Team Islam” and a loyalist of Islamic State.
Holding 17 people at gunpoint in Martin Place (a location recommended by Islamic State) and claiming to have bombs, he unfurled a jihadist banner, demanded an Islamic State flag, declared his attack was one by Islamic State against Australia and demanded to speak to the Prime Minister. He shut down a city, terrorised a nation and ensured two innocent people were killed.
Yet via Twitter the ABC’s Green said the “connection” to the death cult was all “made up”.
Disney claims there were some “deeply regrettable errors and exaggerations, spreading dangerous misinformation” in the media coverage. Perhaps he was referring to ABC profiles of the gunman that failed to mention Islam, Muslim or Islamic State and denied links to terrorism. But we fear not. Green, Disney and their ilk suggest the real threat comes from bigots in an anti-Muslim backlash.
Despite one arrest over a threatening call to a mosque, the people of our suburbs fail to fall to these ugly expectations. While the Twitterati offers to ride with Muslims, we can be grateful that Muslim men and women feel able to travel to Martin Place and lay down flowers in a show of shared grief with their fellow Australians.
And it is worth noting that Jewish children whose schools are guarded by armed security, and who suffered violent abuse on a bus earlier this year, never triggered a hashtag.