Tony Abbott has always been forthright in his opinions
Much has been said and written recently about Tony Abbott’s Ã‚Âalleged failures of leadership as prime minister. Yes, there were mistakes but the commentariat’s obsession with them obscures a Ã‚Ârecord of solid achievement.
In securing our borders, finalising free trade agreements with our major economic partners and Ã‚Ârepealing harmful taxes, he achieved what many thought was impossible.
He was mocked for promising to “shirt-front Vladimir Putin, but no one else had really taken on the Russian despot — and, short of going to war, a robust dressing down is the strongest response to his aggression.
No one was ever in any doubt what Abbott thought about things and, since leaving the prime ministership, he’s been even more blunt.
In his Thatcher lecture in London in October, Abbott gave Ã‚ÂEurope a timely and necessary wake-up call about the immigrant invasion continuing to gather pace. In particular, he said: “All countries that say Ã¢â‚¬Ëœanyone who gets here, can stay hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ are now in peril, given the scale of the population movements that are starting to be seen. He continued: “Yet no country or continent can open its borders to all comers without fundamentally weakening itself. This is the risk that the countries of Ã‚ÂEurope now run through misguided altruism.
Abbott was widely ridiculed for suggesting the use of special forces in the fight against the Islamic State caliphate but was vindicated within weeks by the decision of the United States to send in special Ã‚Âoperations troops.
Abbott was one of the first Western leaders to call Islamic State “Daesh — its Arabic acronym — to avoid dignifying murderous ideologues. Other world leaders are now adopting this practice, while some, including US President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron, in Ã‚Ârecent times have referred to “Daesh as “a death cult.
Abbott has rightly called for a frank discussion about Islam, and radical Islamists in particular. In a recent article in ‘The Daily Telegraph’, he wrote that “Islam needs to delegitimise the urge to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœbehead all those who insult the ProphetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ but only Muslims can do this. He explained that “everyone interested in a safer world should be reaching out to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœlive and let liveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Muslims and Ã‚Âencouraging them to reclaim their faith from the zealots.
Again, Abbott sparked PC fury. This was even though he was actually echoing sentiments of many in the Muslim world. Indeed, had his critics bothered reading the rest of his article they would have clearly seen that Abbott directly referred to the fact that a year ago, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi told the imams of the Al-Azhar University in Cairo that Islam needed “nothing less than a Ã¢â‚¬ËœreligÃ‚Âious revolutionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to correct centuries of false ideas that were making Islam a menace to the wider world. Abbott also referred to the fact that when Islamic State first swept into Iraq, Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia said it was “against God, against Islam and against our common humanity.
Abbott often also quotes the Somali-born author, activist and former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali — now an atheist — who regularly speaks out in favour of a reformation of Islam and against the militant MuslimsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ deeply misogynist attitude to women. This Ã‚Âincludes her utter opposition to Ã‚Âfemale genital mutilation and her strong support of women’s rights.
Abbott has never said the problem is Islam, only that there is a problem within Islam — represented by Islamists. As reformed Islamist Maajid Nawaz has said, about 25 per cent of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims back thÃ‚Âe estabÃ‚Âlishment of a caliÃ‚Âphate — a small minority by violence and the rest by supposedly democratic means. With Islamic terrorists Ã‚Ârepeatedly shouting “Allahu Akbar as they kill, how can Abbott’s call for the majority of Muslims to take on the militant Islamist minority be controversial?
Over centuries, the West has learnt from the Islamic world. The pity is that much of the Islamic world hasn’t learnt more from the West, especially an acceptance of pluralism and an understanding of the separation of church and state.
The modernisation of Islam is undeniably a project that Muslims must lead. But all of us have a stake in the outcome. We can’t let multicultural sensitivities or postcolonial guilt stop a community discussion about the need for all Muslims to integrate into the contemporary world.
Because many Muslim leaders are so free with their advice to us, it would hardly be an insult to be frank in response.
Abbott is right that the West and its leaders should be less apologetic and more robust in their conversation with Islam. He is also right about the tendency of Muslim communities, in Australia and elsewhere, to cry “racism whenever challenged, or to make excuses for fanatics by blaming poverty, alienation or Western imperialism. This is precisely what was claimed recently by the Egyptian-born Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed.
One of former prime minister Abbott’s chief contributions to public life has been a career-long habit of saying what he really thinks. Lately, that’s been a robust defence of Western values that have stood the test of time — and their potentially universal appeal — in a world too often bereft of effective leadership.
Emeritus Professor of History and Politics at Griffith University Ross Fitzgerald has published 38 books — most recently the co-authored political satire ‘Going Out Backwards.’
The Weekend Australian, January 23-24, 2016, online.