Recently revealed research (see below) highlights a point that many within the Muslim community have made for some time: that de-radicalisation is not only useless as a policy, but that its handouts to various initiatives to dress them up as benign while attempting to “counter radicalisation” miss the point at hand entirely.
Australia’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program has cost $40 million over the last 4 years. Research reveals that “out of 87 CVE programs published in November in the Behavioural Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression Journal, only one involved direct work with radicalised people – a program run by the Islamic Council of Victoria in the state’s prisons”.
The following important points need to be made in regards to this research:
1) Such programs are destined to fail fundamentally because – despite government denial – the root cause for the phenomenon dubbed “radicalisation” (a euphemism for young Muslims’ anger and subsequent hatred of western politics, policy and ideals) is the ongoing Western intervention in the Muslim world.
2) The Australian government continues to exaggerate the threat of “radicalisation” and “home grown terrorism” for expedient political ends at home. While ignoring the root cause of grievances, it continues to churn out legal developments that only entrench a sense of the Muslim community being targeted more squarely by the day.
The multi-million dollar deradicalisation business
Deradicalisation in Australia has become a “multi-million dollar business” and inexperienced academics and community groups have emerged to grab vast amounts of government money, long-standing experts say.
Last year, government funding for programs to counter homegrown extremism was tripled to more than $40 million over four years, as part of a $1.3 billion national security package.
Multi-million dollar business: The rise of the Islamic State has coincided with a deradicalisation industry in Australia.
However, an audit of federally-funded “countering violent extremism” (CVE) programs between 2010 and 2014 found only one targeted radicalised individuals and efforts had “failed to reach those most in need of assistance”.
Academics have described to Fairfax Media a CVE “industry” that emerged almost overnight, proliferated by previously unknown groups and individuals with little research track record or access to radicalised youths.
“It has become an enterprise. Every day, someone comes out of the woodwork. It’s unbelievable and it’s cut throat,” said Anne Azza Aly, a counter-terrorism expert at Edith Cowan University who has been announced as the Labor candidate for Cowan.
In a profile in the Fairfax Media on Saturday, the Egyptian-born professor, who started working in the field more than a decade ago, said her fear that her two sons would be radicalised became the motivation for her work.
“The reasons why I do this are personal as well as professional,” she said. “I’m hoping to work myself out of a job. And then you meet people who have just got dollar signs in their eyes.”
Dr Yassir Morsi, a lecturer in political theory at RMIT University, said a shift in focus from overseas to homegrown terrorism in recent years and a focus on “prevention” has precipitated the “multi-million dollar business of deradicalisation”.
He has witnessed pressure from institutions to pursue money while those who have worked in the area for years without seeking widespread exposure “now find themselves in competition from the sidelines”.
“Everybody is like seagulls to a chip,” he said. “What we have to assess as a society is whether that’s actually coming at the expense of more solid research and better answers.”
Muslim leaders said more of their own community members should become equipped and empowered to be experts in the field.
“The Muslim community has diverse, intelligent, critical voices,” Dr Morsi said. “But they get silenced by the older voices … There is a fear of Muslim youth for some reason.”
The audit of 87 CVE programs, published in November in the Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression journal, found only one involved direct work with radicalised people – a program run by the Islamic Council of Victoria in the state’s prisons.
Most programs were only self-evaluated and were broadly targeted at social cohesion which, while worthwhile, stigmatised entire communities because of the associated CVE tag, the study by the Australian National University and Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre concluded.
A spokesman for the Attorney-General’s Department said the study was outdated, only looking at Labor government programs up to July 2014. Since then, programs have expanded to combat emerging challenges like online propaganda, early detection and one-to-one case management for extremists, he said.
Fairfax Media has previously reported on some organisations implementing boycotts and others getting into “punch-ups” over the grants program.
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