What I’m Really Afraid Of: Terrorism and Volatile Men
This month, the western world is on edge. Alongside two horrific terror attacks in the UK and a deadly hostage situation in Melbourne, the ABC exposed the finer details of last year’s Lindt Café siege in Sydney. Terrorism is on the front pages of our papers and at the forefront of our minds.
News of terrorist groups in the Middle East and Africa killing thousands of innocent people becomes background noise to these incidents, as those of us living in western countries are forced to consider whether we are still safe going about our comfortable lives.
Scrolling through my Facebook feed this week, I stumbled across a post shared by a young, white, middle class male. The post was a call to action, and an angry one.
LONDON BRIDGE is the latest target of yet another TERRORIST ATTACK! Close the borders, shut the mosques, incorporate a travel ban and either deport or detain ANYONE on our TERROR WATCH LIST. If you’re a peaceful, loving moderate that wants to help cure this cancer, then you should fully support this video!
After imploring the British government and his listeners to “burn down the mosques” where Islamic terrorists are being radicalised, the cockney blogger yells into his handheld camera, “If you know anyone with extreme views… you’ve got to fucking report ‘em!”
And he isn’t alone in his calls to stamp out terrorism by stamping out connections in the Islamic community. Donald Trump came to power on a pledge to ban Muslim immigration into the US, and Pauline Hanson has risen from the ashes shouting about the plague of Halal Certification in Australia.
I’ll be moving to France at the end of this year, and I’ve been asked multiple times whether I’m too afraid to go now. While I always answer no, I’ll admit I have thought about what risk terrorism might pose to me. But it certainly isn’t Muslims or travelling the world that I’m afraid of.
There is another common denominator in these attacks – one that seems glaringly obvious to me every time I turn on the news and hear new details about perpetrators of large-scale violence. Behind each of these incidents, as well as other mass killings we choose not to classify as “terrorism”, are disenfranchised men with a history of violence (often domestic violence), misogyny and unstable mental health.
Be they white, black, Muslim, Christian, middle-class, poor or wealthy, once the media begins to reveal information about a mass-killer’s past and speculate about their motives, their stories unravel in a similar pattern.
Man Haron Monis, the perpetrator behind the Sydney siege, lacked a grasp on basic elements of Islamic theology, but he was out on bail, charged as being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and had 43 sexual assault charges against him.
Yacqub Khayre, the 29-year-old gunman who took two people hostage in Melbourne last week, killing one of them, had a lengthy criminal history, a history of violence, and was isolated from his Somali community.
It was also revealed this week that Rachid Redouane, one of the London Bridge attackers, had abused his wife physically and emotionally.
Yes, these men in particular have also been linked to Islamic extremism. But looking at incidences of mass violence that haven’t been tied to Islam, the pattern is similar.
Volatile masculinity is the elephant in the room when it comes to terrorism. American author Michael Kimmel says that where violence is concerned, “gender is the single most obvious and intractable variable”. In other words, violence is most committed by men – but I think that’s something we probably all knew.
So why don’t we talk about it? Could it be that we are so accustomed to violence being perpetrated by men that we take it as a given?
This is not to say we should dismiss other factors in the discussion about terrorism. It’s an extremely complex problem that manifests itself differently around the world. But by placing the emphasis only on Islam, we skew things. We end up with loud, white men, who identify as “peaceful moderates” calling for politicians to “burn down mosques”.
In the age of global terrorism, we have no reason to be afraid of Muslims – the majority of whom are peace-loving people, just trying to get on with their lives like the rest of us. We should not be afraid to travel, because statistically, we’re just as likely to die being crushed under a television.
But sadly, if there’s one thing I have learned to fear, given the character profiles of the killers discussed above, given the fact that in Australia, one woman dies every week at the hands of her partner, it is an angry, volatile and entitled male.
Cover via Telegraph