SYDNEY, Oct 4, (Agencies): The Australian government’s focus on national security and the war on terror to tackle Islamic extremism, rather than social cohesion and inclusion, has helped create an environment for radicalised Muslim youth to emerge in disproportionate numbers, experts say.
Authorities in Australia are grappling with a rise in violence perpetrated by teenagers at home as well as battling to halt the flow of those who are attempting to travel to Syria to fight with Islamic extremists.
The murder of a police accountant in Sydney on Friday by a boy of Iraqi- Kurdish descent is the latest in a spate of attacks linked to Islamic extremism. Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar, 15, was shot and killed by police at the scene. “We’re punching above our weight,” Greg Barton, Chair in Global Islamic Politics at the Alfred Deakin Institute said of Australia’s Islamic extremist activity.
Belying a population of 24 million, with just 2 percent Muslim, and the vast geographical distance between Australia and the Middle East, the disturbing trend of disaffected and violent Muslim teens in a nation known for social stability is perplexing.
The government’s emphasis on dealing with national security issues and policing is a critical issue, however, says Anne Aly, associate professor at Curtin University. “A lot of countries look at it more primarily as a social issue, with national security implications and so the primary efforts have been in building community resilience and working with communities, rather than dealing with law enforcement.” Eight years ago, Aly warned authorities that Muslim children as young as six were showing signs of being disaffected and cut off from the broader community.
Those Muslim children were growing up in homes and neighbourhoods where the overwhelming narrative was about the war on terror and whose parents felt the weight of community and media pressure, she said. Australia’s political rhetoric and “the most punitive and comprehensive” anti-terror legislation of all Western countries also contributed, Aly added. Under former prime minister Tony Abbott, Australia ramped up security spending by more than A$1 billion ($700 million) in the past two years and introduced tough laws including banning citizens travelling to conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq, while making monitoring of domestic communications easier.
The government says the new laws have helped thwart attacks, including one allegedly planned for World War One commemorations in April. Around a dozen teenagers have been arrested for that and other planned extremists acts, with Farhad the second teenager killed after carrying through with an attack on police. A staunch ally of the United States and its battle against Islamic militants, Australia has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown radicals since last year. Deakin’s Barton says many of the reasons that push youths in Australia to extremism are a mystery. “We don’t know, for example, why at the moment in America there is less of a problem with young Muslims being radicalised and recruited into Islamic State than there is in Australia.”
While Islamic community leaders, the government and police say progress has been made in countering emerging radicalisation, all say there must be better coordination. Samier Dandan, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, one of the country’s most influential Muslim organisations, says there has been “no true consultation” with the government and community leaders are frustrated and jaded by the process.
He’s hopeful new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who replaced Abbott last month, will engage more effectively. “What we’re hearing, we like, but what we want to see is practical engagement, practical programs, a change in policy, a change in engagement,” Dandan said. Deakin’s Barton agrees. An Australian mosque reportedly visited by a 15-year-old boy before he shot dead a civilian police employee in an “act of terrorism” has been raided, police said Sunday.
New South Wales state police said the mosque in the western Sydney suburb of Parramatta — close to the scene of the double shooting on Friday afternoon — was raided with the consent of religious leaders. “NSW Police yesterday executed a warrant at a mosque in Parramatta,” police said in a statement Sunday. “The warrant was undertaken by arrangement with leadership at the mosque who provided full assistance to police at all times.” Police did not provide further details about the mosque raid. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that investigators were searching for the boy’s belongings but had left empty-handed.
Authorities in Australia are grappling with a rise in violence perpetrated by teenagers at home as well as working to halt the flow of those who are attempting to travel to Syria to fight with Islamic extremists. Below is a timeline of recent events in Australia linked to militant extremism. October 2015: Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar, 15, shoots dead a civilian employee outside a police station in Sydney and is killed by officers at the scene.
May 2015: Police raid a Melbourne home following a tip-off to the national security phone line and arrest a 17- year-old boy after finding three improvised explosive devices. April 2015: Five teenagers are arrested in Melbourne in connection with an alleged plot to carry out a terror attack at an Anzac Day memorial event. A 14-year-old boy in northern England is later convicted of inciting the Islamic-state inspired attack. February 2015: Police arrest and charge Omar Al-Kutobi and Mohammad Kiad with planning to carry out an imminent terrorist attack. n Prime Minister Tony Abbott announces plans to toughen citizenship laws and clamp down on citizens inciting hatred.
January 2015: The national terror threat for all police is raised from medium to high. December 2014: Self-styled Muslim cleric Man Haron Monis takes 18 people hostage at the Lindt cafÈ in Sydney. Two hostages are killed and Monis is shot by police after a 16-hour stand-off. October 2014: Security legislation is introduced that creates a new offence of “advocating terrorism” and allows for travel to certain areas of conflict to be banned. September 2014: Australia’s terror threat is raised from medium to high, the second-highest threat level behind extreme.
■ Authorities carry out counter-terrorism raids in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. More than 800 police are involved in the raids. Several arrests follow.
■ Numan Haider, 18, is shot dead by police after pulling a knife from his jacket and attacking officers outside a Melbourne police station. August 2014: New counter-terrorism units are installed at airports to stop those seeking to travel to fight with IS