I think we may be seeing the phrase "forest jihad" for a while. The idea that Australia's bushfires in Victoria were the work of Muslim terrorists has been discussed in a few online news services, and the catchy phrase "forest jihad" has been used.
Australian Police still haven't mentioned evidence that Islamic terrorists torched Victoria. Yes, South Australian Premier Mike Rann said that whoever set the fire were "terrorists" - but he's a politico, and politicians have been known to make over-the-top statements in stressful times.
Forest Jihad and Al-Ikhlas Islamic NetworkA European news resource, mina, discussed "forest jihad." Looks like there's more than just wild speculation behind the idea that Islamic terrorists torched Victoria.
American intelligence spotted a website that urged Muslims in Australia, America, Europe, and Russia to torch forests - and that scholars said it was okay.
"The website, posted by a group called the Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network, argues in Arabic that lighting fires is an effective form of terrorism justified in Islamic law under the 'eye for an eye' doctrine...." (mina)
I see that, according to Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network's view of things, if the fires in Australia's Victoria state prove to be the work of lions of Islam, it will be America's fault - as well as Australia's, Europe's, and Russia's. My guess is that, at least among the more 'intelligent, open-minded' Americans, it'll be mostly America's fault.
Torching brush and letting people fry doesn't seem to be quite Al Qaeda's style: or that of any other Islamic terror outfit. Approved by scholars or not, it's just not all that macho.
Or, as an Australian professor put it, "glorious." "...Adam Dolnik, director of research at the University of Wollongong's Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention, said that bushfires (unlike suicide bombing) were generally not considered a glorious type of attack by jihadis...." (mina)
Islamic Terrorists in Victoria? Maybe - and Maybe NotThe handful of "forest jihad" articles, including mina's more detailed one, referring to a website which advocated fire as a terror weapon, make the idea of Muslim terrorists being responsible more plausible.
But I am still not convinced that it's the most likely explanation. I tend to agree with Dolnik on this point: a suicide bomber makes a much bigger splash than an arsonist.
Islamic terrorists do seem to prefer more hands-on death and destruction: whether flying airliners into skyscrapers, beheading someone with a sword, or blowing yourself up in a market. That sort of mayhem is 'glorious' in a way. Setting a fire and running: not so much.
Not Discussing the "Forest Jihad" Scenario: Conventional Wisdom vs Good SenseI'm not surprised that the idea of Muslim terrorists being responsible for Australia's disastrous fires is being ignored in traditional news media: so far.
Old school American news media, like The New York Times and the old ABC-NBC-CBS triumvirate, have certain standards. One of these appears to be that the sensibilities of non-western cultures and beliefs should be taken into account.
So far, so good.
But, like most good ideas, it can get out of hand. It looks like open discussion of a possible connection between an Islamic website advocating 'forest jihad,' and massive bushfires in Australia, is being ignored.
Maybe 'forest jihad' isn't being ignored - but it's hard for me to believe that one man, here in a small central Minnesota town, can out-research and out-write The New York Times, and other traditional information gatekeepers.
If traditional news media knows about the possible Islamic terror connection with the Victoria fires, and isn't writing about it - they're either ignoring it, or maybe waiting until they know more.
My guess is, they're ignoring it.
There are 'good reasons' for doing so. Coming right out and saying that some Islamic group said to burn the forests, and then Victoria bushfires got set, might prejudice people against all Muslims. Never mind that it's one (relatively unknown) group, on one website: and that real terrorists who think they're defending Islam have a history of getting up close and personal with their victims (Palestinian rockets notwithstanding).
So: is it a good idea to ignore the idea of "forest jihad" because some people would go way beyond the facts?
Maybe. But those "some people" may have done so already (judging from search terms I've been seeing), I'd say that old fashioned news services ignoring an issue won't keep people from knowing about it.
Beware Unintended ConsequencesKeeping carefully quiet about "forest jihad" could, however, make it look like there's a cover-up going on.
No, I don't think so.
This diffidence about discussing "forest jihad" is (I think) more likely the traditional gatekeepers' reluctance to seem critical of non-western values and cultures.
Unhappily, it creates an information vacuum (or low-pressure system, at any rate) that allows genuinely biased ideas to fly around - without resistance.
More-or-less related posts:
- "Australia's Victoria Fires: Mass-Murdering Muslims, a Media Hoax, or Something Else?"
(February 9, 2009)
- "Australia's Victoria Bushfire: Arson, Probably; Muslim Plot? Unlikely!"
(February 8, 2009)
- "Murderous Muslims, Catholic Extermination Camps, and Common Sense"
(February 8, 2009)
- "Castro, Cuba, Guevara, Traditional Gatekeepers, and the Information Age"
(January 30, 2009)
- "Another War-on-Terror Blog and Simplistic Views"
(January 11, 2009)
- "Hamas, Palestine, Israel, and How to Seem Sophisticated"
(January 3, 2009)
- "Australia's enemy within: The 'mass murderers' and 'terrorists' behind the wall of fire that killed up to 200 people"
MailOnline (February 9, 2009)
- "Australia targeted for 'Forest Fire' jihad?"
mina (Macedonian International News Agency) (February 9, 2009)