The Problem With Hanson-Young’s (and Brandis’) Response to the Burqa Episode

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There has been a lot of discussion in Australia about Senator Pauline Hanson’s burqa stunt. Many of those who have criticised her actions have argued that the act in itself presents a threat to national security – in part,  because of the potential to offend the sensibilities of Muslims. 

Green’s Senator Sarah Hanson Young, on a popular morning breakfast program, stated that Senator Pauline Hanson needs to reflect on the fact ‘security experts’ believe her actions could promote extremism (which experts by the way?). 

“You are doing ISIS’s work for them,” Senator Hanson-Young told the Seven Network on Monday.

“You are putting the entire country at risk.”

Senator George Brandis similarly said Australia’s half-million Muslims – the “vast majority of [whom] are good, law-abiding Australians” – are vital to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

These arguments reflect common misconceptions about terrorism and radicalisation in the West.

As Yassir Morsi, Muslim writer an academic stated (in a Facebook post),” It’s an argument often used to conceal that terrorism has more to do with wars and Western support for authoritarian Muslim leaders.”

The Brandis and Hanson-Young arguments reduce the ‘Muslim community’ to national security allies. Why is that we ask Muslims to participate in whole of community counter terrorism work, when within other crime types, the religious and ethnic backgrounds of those engaging in criminality are largely ignored, let alone discussed in such political and public forums? 

Omar Sakr’s tweet sums up the issue well:

“So glad we ordinary Muslims are valued, in the absence of default humanity, as intelligence officers, otherwise pretty sure we’d be screwed.”

https://twitter.com/OmarjSakr/status/898362057019408384

There needs to be a ‘radical’ shift in the way Western liberal democracies conceptualise Muslim communities in relation to counter terrorism and national security.

One the biggest failings of the  Australian Government’s ‘muslim engagement’ schemes is association of whole ‘Muslim communities’ with national security.

Australian Senators should know better, with their knowledge of national security issues and high level of education, than to continually associate the Muslim community with national security in public platforms.

 

Can Education and Vocational Training Play a Role in Countering Violent Extremism? 

Discussion about incorporating CVE initiatives within Australia’s education and vocation sectors has re emerged. While Education and vocational training have been shown in some particular cases to reduce engagement in VE, this has only been shown to work in countries experiencing violent conflict. In these cases, the application of CVE has been be specific and justified. 

Blanket approaches to CVE are problematic for several reasons. Primarily, they have been shown to increase distrust of authorities and alienate minority communities. These approaches are also impossible to evaluate, as practitioners are to measure whether this type of program has had any effect. When governments and international organisations are measuring the impact of the activities, if the aim is to counter violent extremism, then that should be what is measured. As Martine Zeuthen explains:

“Some policy makers and practitioners do not wish to target their interventions towards individuals and communities at risk of recruitment and radicalisation but rather wish to have inclusive programmes. In other words their end goal is to contribute to building an inclusive society rather than managing the present problem of radicalisation and recruitment to violent groups. I respect and see a value in this approach as a type of long term development intervention. But the more inclusive the programme, the more difficult it is to show that the intervention prevented violent extremism.  The further we move from the problem the more tangential the intervention is and the harder it becomes to measure any effect.”

For more on this issue, see Countering Violent Extremism – can Education and Vocational Training Play a Role? – http://wp.me/p2mGCr-wH

Episode 12: A conversation on terrorism in Australia, with Levi West – part 2

Episode 12 of our podcast

Sub Rosa

levi-west-conversation-headshotIn this episode, Andrew continues his conversation with Levi West about terrorism in Australia.

Levi West is the Director of Terrorism Studies at Charles Sturt University.

This is the second episode in a two-part series. The first half  covered terrorism in Australia from the 1960s up until 2013. This second half covers the impact of the Syrian civil war, the rise of “Islamic State”, and controversies over counter-terrorism powers.

We discuss measures such as passport-confiscation, control orders and citizenship-revocation, drawing out some of practical, legal, and moral issues involved. We also discuss how jihadist terror plots in Australia have evolved, and some of the factors behind this. We end by briefly covering the terrorist threat in Indonesia, and counter-terrorism cooperation between Indonesia and Australia.

The episode was recorded in November 2016, so it does not cover some more recent developments, such as an alleged Christmas Day bombing plot in Melbourne, or the…

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Episode 11: A conversation on terrorism in Australia, with Levi West – part 1

Episode 11 of our podcast

Sub Rosa

levi-west-conversation-headshotIn this episode, Andrew talks with Levi West about terrorism in Australia.

Levi West is the Director of Terrorism Studies at Charles Sturt University.

This is the first episode for 2017, and has a different format to earlier episodes. Instead of a straight Q & A interview, we’ve gone for a more conversational format, with the host and guest both contributing. This episode presents the first half of the conversation, discussing terrorism in Australia from the 1960s up until 2013.

We discuss the international development of terrorism and its Australian manifestations, demonstrated by some Yugoslav, Ananada Marga, Palestinian, Armenian, far-left and far-right groups that sometimes engaged in small-scale political violence in Australia.

We then discuss transitions that occurred in the 1990s, with high-profile terror attacks such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (by jihadists), the 1995 Tokya subway sarin gas attack (by the Aum Shinrikyo sect), the 1995 Oklahoma bombing (by…

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Episode 10: Countering violent extremism, with Ross Frenett and Vidhya Ramalingam

Recent podcast episode!

Sub Rosa

vidhyaramalingamheadshotFor this episode, Andrew spoke to Vidhya Ramalingam and Ross Frenett about countering violent extremism (CVE), which refers to non-coercive efforts to help prevent involvement in terrorism.

Ross and Vidhya previously worked for organisations such as the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and Google Ideas. They recently founded their their own organisation, Moonshot CVE, building on their work with former violent extremists and experiences in the tech sector.rossfrenettheadshot

In the interview, we discuss the concept of countering violent extremism, the value of work and research in this area, but also some of the dilemmas and risks involved.

The interview covers similarities and differences between various types of violent extremist groups, the ways that governments across Europe understand the issue, the rise of far-right violent extremism and the role of women in the Islamic State. We also discussed past projects that Vidhya and Ross have been involved in, their work with former…

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Episode 5: Signals intelligence and counter-terrorism, with David Wells

Sub Rosa Episode 5

Sub Rosa

david_wellsFor this episode, Andrew interviewed former GCHQ employee David Wells about counter-terrorism.

GCHQ is the UK government’s signals intelligence agency, similar to the United States National Security Agency (NSA) or the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). The interview discusses the nature of signals intelligence and its current role in counter-terrorism. We discuss the threats posed by the “Islamic State” and al-Qaeda as well as the difficulties of preventing terrorist attacks like those seen in Brussels and Paris. We also discuss the current terrorist threat to Australia and dilemmas raised by counter-terrorism efforts so far.

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Sub Rosa Podcast

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Announcing our podcast:

Andrew Zammit have been working on a fun side project over the past few months. As some of you have guessed, it’s a podcast. It’s called Sub Rosa, and it covers a range of security and human rights issues, focusing mostly on Australia and Southeast Asia.

We’ve recorded a bunch of interviews with great guests, on topics like LGBTI refugees, terrorism in Indonesia, media portrayals of Muslim women, gender politics in Indonesia, signals intelligence and counter-terrorism, conflict resolution in Papua, asylum seeker flows through Southeast Asia, and more.

We also have many more planned, on topics such as the South China Sea dispute, social media in the military, rehabilitation efforts for neo-Nazis and jihadists in Europe, human rights in Indonesia, Islamophobia, and the politics of counter-terrorism. We may experiment with the format and such too. Let us know what you think!

It’s currently on SoundCloud and should be on iTunes soon. You can find out all about it and listen to our first episode here: https://subrosapodcast.wordpress.com/