Opinion: Terror-cells may re-radicalise inmates

June 27, 2017

Dr Ameer Ali

Dr Ameer Ali says there are a number of factors that lead to the radicalisation of young Muslims

By Dr Ameer Ali, School of Business and Governance, Murdoch University

The government decision to upgrade Australian jails with special cells for isolating terror convicts and to prevent them from radicalising other prison inmates, once again demonstrates that the authorities are viewing deradicalisation as entirely a security issue.

On the contrary, it is a much wider problem and requires a multifaceted strategy. Instead of deradicalising the inmates, these cells may even re-radicalise them.

Young Muslims are radicalised on multiple grounds. Firstly, the events that have destroyed the political stability, economic wellbeing and human dignity in the Middle East and Afghanistan have left indelible scars in the memory of migrant families who have come to Australia from those parts of the world.

It is natural for the elders in those families to recollect and relay to their young ones the sufferings they underwent in the hands of foreign soldiers and local fighters. The psychological impact of that memory certainly plays a major role in youth radicalisation.

Secondly, the biased reporting by the mainstream media and journalists of events in the Middle East has forced the Muslim youth to turn to alternative sources of information, including social media, to know the other side of the story.

The focus of the media has almost totally been on recent horrific incidents in Manchester and London. But similar and even more horrific bombings and destruction occurred at the same time in Kabul and Baghdad, and the subsequent sufferings of people there received hardly any mention. How does one expect the Muslim youth to reconcile this imbalance?

Thirdly, there is insufficient effort by Muslim community leaders and their organisations towards integration. It appears there is a growing trend among Muslims to create a parallel society within mainstream Australia.

Recently there was a report in the media that in Western Sydney, some Muslim entrepreneurs are planning to create an all-inclusive Muslim enclave that will have its own housing complex, mosque, shopping centre, nursing home, school, hospital and child care facilities.

If that project sets a precedent for similar enclaves in other states, won’t it lead to a self-inflicted apartheid system in this country? Where in the world will a Muslim kid living in this enclave will get an opportunity to mix with non-Muslim Australian kids?

A few years ago a Muslim personality arrived from Trinidad and advocated that Muslims must purchase a big plot of land away from the main centres of population, build up their own society and live according to the sharia. Is his advice now becoming a reality? This is a worrying concern.

Finally, I have always maintained in my columns that there is a fundamentalist ideology that provides oxygen for extremist Islamism.

The Wahhabi-Salafism that sprang out of Saudi Arabia after the 1980s has given birth to a number of extremist Muslim movements, of which the so called Islamic State is the latest avatar.  Has there been any effort so far on the part of Western leaders to confront this ideology?

Meanwhile, there are a few anti-Muslim bigots in Australia who want to close the gate to Muslim migrants thinking that it will eliminate extremism.

This short-sighted blanket solution, especially in the context of Australia being situated close to the largest Muslim country in the world where radicalisation is in the ascendant, would aggravate rather than diminish the problem.

Neither all Muslims are extremists nor all extremists Muslims.

Radicalisation does not start but enters the jail through multiple avenues.

If American jets and Arab jails are said to have produced Muslim extremists in the Middle East, we should not let Australian jails and Australian jets overseas produce extremists in this country.

Let the authorities broaden their strategy to combat radicalisation rather than focus narrowly on tightening security measures.

A version of this article was published in the West Australian on Tuesday 27 June 2017.

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