There are almost 500,000 Muslims in Australia, with 400 mosques serving them. According to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) 2012-103 Annual Report to the Australian Parliament, there are over 200 terror investigations going on. This infers that massive government resources are being ploughed into monitoring and surveillance of the Muslim community in Australia, as four Australian Prime Ministers have admitted.
There appears to be an insecurity on the part of lawmakers and successive governments about Muslim citizens in the Australian community. At first it was about immigration, and violence, which grew into terrorism after 9/11. The evidence used to support policy has not been accurate according to prominent Australian Tim Costello.
Official government comment and stories from within the Muslim community itself, indicate that the security services are spying on their own people in a similar manner they did with communist groups within the Australian community back in the 1950s and 60s.
According to both documented evidence and interviews of Muslims living in Australia, a disturbing picture of how groups of Australian’s are monitored and attempted to be influenced evolves.
According to this evidence, the Australian Government through various agencies uses both hard and soft approaches in their engagement of the many Islamic communities within Australia.
This first of these approaches has been through the use of intimidating legislation. The Australian Government has used world events to introduce anti-terror laws that allow for detention, lesson the burden of proof in courts of law, allow for easier surveillance, and drastically decrease the rights of Australian citizens in regards to the legal process, etc. This has given the government much more power over its citizens with little criticism by the Australian community. The mainstream media in Australia through sensationalism has generally supported such measures with only pockets of concern and criticism coming from minor alternative and foreign media.
The media sensationalism of Australia’s harsh anti-terror laws and ‘public ritualism’ through airport security for example, serves to remind and intimidate the Australian public about the threat of terrorism.
The media has used narratives which have contributed to ‘Islamphobia’ within Australia. This has suited government legislative objectives. Headlines like “Halal food dishing out radical change to society”, in The Daily Telegraph on 22nd May 2013, “Sharia unwelcome”, in The Australian on 9th March 2012, “Repressing women is sharia’s raison d’etre’”, in The Sydney Morning Herald on 5th May 2011, and “Muslim leader blames women for sex attacks”, in The Australian on 26th October 2006, are examples of this.
Media control of these narratives has certainly been a massive influence dividing the general population against Muslims in Australia according to a Victorian Police and Victoria University Research report.
This has coincided with a number of acts of violence towards both Muslims and mosques within Australia.
Groups like ‘Reclaim Australia’ thrive on these narratives to develop resentment in their propaganda against Muslims in Australia.
The Australian government has invested large sums of money and resources to electronically monitor the population as has been reported before. Some of this is undertaken ‘offshore’ by contractors to circumvent Australian law.
There is not just Australian Government surveillance on Muslims going on in Australia. There have been reports of Israeli spying on the Australian Muslim community going on. In addition, both the Saudi and Malaysian Governments are also according to many reports spying on their own students in Australia. This is something the Australian Government has known about for many years, but done little if anything to curtail.
In addition, the author heard numerous stories from members of Mosque congregations about ‘agents’ infiltrating Muslim groups in Australia, thus increasing suspicion of others within the Muslim community. Many Muslims feel they are being victimized and their freedom and practice of religion compromised. Such action, or mere rumors of surveillance and infiltration is not helping to resolve feelings of alienation and marginalization that many young Australian Muslims fell today, according to reports.
ASIO, like it did during the Cold War era, has caste the net too wide. Stories of bullying and harassing people for ‘friendly chats’, entrapment, bribing, and blackmail, in efforts to infiltrate the Australian Muslim community are rife.
The result of the above is that many Muslim’s feel that they are being held responsible by the Australian public for terrorism and extremism. This is particularly the case where the Australian Government has been promoting, or even insisting on the Australian Islamic community adopting a form of “moderate Australian Islam”. Any other form of Islam appears to be demonized and implicitly suggested as being a form of extremism. Many Muslims in Australia feel that very ideas have been criminalized, being deemed as extreme, blurring the lines between Islamic political activism and terrorism. This demonization has created fear and justified particular actions, such as Australian foreign policy in support of the United States, and the curtailing of civil liberties.
A dramatization of this was seen in the case of Dr. Muhamed Haneef back in 2007, where he was deemed guilty publicly, later to be totally exonerated by the Australian court process.
Islamphobia has been allowed to develop because it serves political ends. However it is destroying Australian multiculturalism and building opposition to immigration. This assisted Howard regain election back in 2001 with the ‘MV Tampa’ incident, and baseless allegations during the 2001 election campaign that boat people threw their children overboard to avoid being turned back at sea.
Australia is more unsafe than before. Some Muslims now feel unsafe to leave home. Many Muslims have been abused in public and arson of mosques in Australia is becoming more common. The turban and scarf have become symbols of terrorism. Raids have gone on around Australia where very few people have actually been charged with any offence.
Australian foreign policy has led to many disappointments within the Australian Muslim community. The invasion of Iraq, the invasion of Afghanistan, tacit support for the use of drones, Guantanamo, and the Australian behavior towards the David Hicks case, who has now been exonerated, have alienated many. This is particularly so, where many believe that objective discussion within the community about what they see as the real issues is suppressed. Muslims interviewed at a Friday prayer congregation, felt the Australian community wanted apologies from the local Muslim community over world events like 9/11, the Bali bombings, and 7/7.
According to a recent survey taken, 60% of Muslim Australians believe the ‘war on terror’ is a war on Islam.
Many Muslims have sympathy for the people who are now suffering because of ‘coalition’ foreign policy in the Middle East. The author heard of some who felt a duty or ‘jihad’ to help those who are suffering, and travel across to war torn areas. Many feel that the peoples of Syria and Iraq have been abandoned and left to suffer. However many have not gone to fight, as the Australian Government have espoused. They have gone to give humanitarian assistance to these war torn communities, and in some cases get caught up in the fighting. Consequently been painted are jihadist terrorists.
The question is, whether successive Australian Governments have sort to integrate or assimilate the Australian Muslim community? Much of the narrative has a neo-Christian undertone in its policy framework. ‘Reclaim Australia’ see Muslims as a threat to an Anglo-Australian culture and lifestyle, where Islamphobia has united a small core of Australians who are against multiculturalism.
The new citizenship test even appears to pose a ‘skewed concept of Australian values’. The attempts to legalize the stripping of citizenship, where a leading constitutional expert believes that people under the proposed laws can be stripped of citizenship by mere suspicion, appears to be a new attempt to intimidate migrants to Australia.
The political climate in Australia today does not allow for discussion about alternative approaches to fighting terrorism, or objective discussion about the refugee problem, not just facing Australia, but many parts of the world as well. The Australian Government paints a gloomy picture about the ‘war on terror’, by its own rhetoric, deeming it unwinnable. They insinuate that the Australian community is helpless and an easy prey for the ‘forces of evil’ through terrorism. This is creating some apprehension in middle Australia.
In a more eloquent characterization, the London Arab language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat compared Islamic State to a remote controlled “cluster bomb”. “Every explosion means as many fragments – jihadists spreading in an unpredictable way on large areas so that no command and counterterrorist operation center be able to prevent the deflagration clusters and its devastating effects.”
With the way Islamic State is reaching out to communities through cyberspace and espouse their narratives, more than just the ‘classical approach’ to fighting terrorism is required. The physiological sources that are producing fanatical and eschatological thinking that produces jihadistic terrorism needs to be engaged, rather than suppressed through counter force, as the natural reaction has been.
This requires a ‘new international doctrine’ that would include prevention, intervention, and reconstructing mentalities to prevent any re-establishment of terrorism under different names and new generations of groupings in the future. Australia is today playing no role in this necessary discussion.
The Australian Government approach to the ‘war on terror’ at home may lead to a much more conservative Australia, and weaken the Australian value of multiculturalism. It may divide rather than unite Australia. However, a divisive electorate may assist the Abbott Government win a second term in office.
As my dear friend, prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic diagnoses: “terror is a tactics, not an ideology. How can one conduct and win war on tactics? – it is an oxymoron.” (Denazification Urgently Needed in Europe, policy paper)
Maybe part of the problem is the ‘war on terrorism’ itself.
Does Kenya Really Want To End Terrorism?
New dangerous dynamics are emerging at the Horn of Africa. Political tension emanating from maritime territory that Somalia and Kenya, both claim it as part of their legitimate border is getting more volatile. As the International Court of Justice gets ready to hold public hearings on “Maritime Delimitation in the Indian Ocean (Somalia v. Kenya)” September 9-13, Kenya continues to intensify its efforts to lobby the U.N, and key allies to help add al-Shabab to UNSC Resolution 1267.
If you are wondering what does al-Shabab have to do with this matter, you apparently are not part of the Kenyan political pundits, law-makers, and credulous Somalis who have been cheerleading for this unjustifiable initiative.
It Is What It Is
Let us imagine that it is late September, the time when leaders representing 195 member states would be attending the 74th UN General Assembly. Let us imagine during one of the debate sessions, this multiple choice question was raised:
What is al-Shabab?
- A law-abiding neighborhood watch group
- A self-less patriots fighting for self-determination
- A ruthless terrorist group
How many do you think will stutter with the answer, or not know that al-Shabab is a terrorist organization? By all legal and moral standards, al-Shabab is a terrorist organization.
If al-Shabab was not already considered a terrorist organization by the UN, why would the Security Council mandate AMISOM to fight them along the Somali National Army and periodically capture territories from them? So, since al-Shabab is already considered a terrorist organization, why spend such energy and political capital on redundancy? Or rather bluntly: who is Kenya’s real target?
Widening The Net
While fingers were frantically pointing at o all directions as to who was behind the Kismayo terrorist attack that killed 26 people including a beloved Somali-Canadian journalist, HodanNalayeh, Kenya’s top diplomat—Monica Juma—went on politicking on twitter. Before offering any condolences, she wrote: “This attack is another reminder to the international community of the imperative to list the al-Shabaab, like all other terrorist groups, under the UNSC resolution 1267.”
On the surface this may seem ordinary attempt to tighten the screws on al-Shabab, but it is far from that.
Said resolution, also known as the ISIS/al-Qaida resolution, mandates the harshest international sanctions on assets freeze and travel ban measures on individuals, entities and groups who are suspected of being remotely associated with those terrorist groups. And that blanket condemnation increases the chance of innocents in the periphery getting caught in the net or communities suffering as a result.
Though this could get some Kenya Defense Force officials who operate an illicit business with al-Shabab that the Kenyatta government has been turning a blind eye in serious trouble, Kenya is eager to advance the initiative in order to use it as an insurance against any unfavorable decision from ICJ.
If Kenya’s endeavor succeeds, it will give Kenya the freehand to pressure and coerce top politicians and influential business leaders who have various investments and retain residential statuses in Kenya to assist her in achieving its objective of annexing the maritime territory- blocks that it already marketed for oil exploration. It is also an insurance policy against some of her Somali allies such as Ahmed Islam (Madobe)—president of Jubbaland federal state—who is currently much closer to Kenya than to the Federal Government of Somalia. Kenya is not oblivious to the fluidity of clan politics and the unpredictability of how Madobe, with his shady past, may act once it becomes clear to him that he was exploited as the game-changing pawn.
Feeling The Weight
A few months back as Kenya’s hostile diplomacy grew more aggressive, Somalia’s diplomacy grew more diffident and passive. As Kenya suspended diplomatic ties with Somalia, invited a delegation from Somaliland, humiliated Somali Ministers by denying them to transit through Kenya, FGS opted to respond passively.
This was consistent with FGS’ ill-advised decision to turn a blind eye to Kenya’s unilateral decision to build a border wall that would divide Somali families, undermine businesses, and deprive them essential services such as health care, and allow Kenya to establish new facts of the ground that will in due course make a case for annexation of territories that belong to Somalia.
Lately, Kenya has been under intense U.S. diplomatic pressure to drop its bid and not make the Horn of Africa more volatile than it already is. This pressure is likely to increase now that 16 senior national security and humanitarian officials have written an open letter urging the U.S. to stop Kenya from creating a grave humanitarian disaster as the resolution at hand does not allow any type of exemption for humanitarian delivery. Against that backdrop, Kenya resorted to strengthen its Plan B- legislative support to annex the maritime territory by any means necessary.
In attempt to lend Kenyatta’s government the legislative support to declare war against Somalia should ICJ rules its favor, the Kenya National Assembly, led by Hon. Aden Duale, is set to pass a perfectly tailored bill that makes the disputed maritime territory as part and parcel of Kenya’s territorial integrity. The impetus motion cites Article 241 (3) of the country’s constitution that the Kenya Defense Forces are responsible for protecting Kenya’s ‘territorial integrity’. “Unless the People of Kenya resolve by way of referendum to alter the territory of Kenya,” said Duale.
Make no mistake, terrorism poses a threat to international peace and security and Kenya did suffer its share of terrorist attacks, therefore it is in our best interest to collectively address that threat. However, that would be extremely difficult now that we know that Kenya’s real objective is not “to annihilate the extremist group (al-Shabab).”
Political rhetoric aside, Kenya, like a number of other foreign actors in Somalia, would’ve been eager to invent al-Shabab had it not already existed. To some, al-Shabab as a manageable threat is strategically convenient. After all, it was Kenya’s pretext for 2011 invasion of today’s Jubbaland, also for the 2012 integration of KDF into AMISOM, also for the 2017 unilaterally initiated border-altering wall.
Five years after Somalia filed the boundary delimitation dispute with the ICJ and millions of dollars were spent by both sides, no one is sure how the end result might be. The only sure thing is that any attempt to solve this matter militarily will only make the current crisis a catastrophe.
If Kenya decides to go with the military option as some intellectuals have openly been advocating, it is likely to prove both positive and negative:
Positive as it is likely to unite the now divided Somalis to rally against a single common threat. Negative as it would ignite domestic disharmony and, in due course, make Nairobi the epicenter of terrorism and compel foreign investors such as China flee with their fat wallets.
Women Jihadists: Dupes of Emotional Trap
As the prime focus while understanding global extremism is usually on the perpetrators and leaders of these extremist groups, women’s facilitative and supportive contributions are often poorly assessed and understood, owing to their underrepresentation in strategic positions within such radicalized movements.
Research suggests that hundreds of women and teenaged girls from all over the world travelled or attempted to travel to Syria and Iraq to join the self-styled Islamic State (IS) since the proclamation of the so-called ‘Caliphate’ by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in June 2014. These women were not only from Muslim countries but from westernized world and even non-Muslims also. It is estimated that more than80 women have travelled to IS-controlled territory from the Netherlands since 2012. From the United Kingdom and France, these numbers are even higher, respectively around 1452 and 2003 women and teenaged girls.
This phenomenon has prompted a renewed interest in women’s role in jihad. Studies focusing on predominantly Western women in IS so far show that these women mostly played supportive or facilitative roles as mothers, wives, propagandists or recruiters. Some women have been involved in educative, administrative, logistical, social, and medical positions also. Where only on a smaller scale, women in IS have been involved in operational positions. Otherwise, women have been mostly learnt to maintain and propagate jihadist ideology, or support their jihadist husbands, raising their children according to jihadist ideology, or aiding in recruiting for the cause, or helping create alliances through strategic marriages, raising funds or transporting messages, weapons and goods at the average.
Though all women in terror groups are sometimes not actual terrorists as many of them are kidnapped and used as suicide bomber against their will usually under the influence of drugs. But some young women do join these groups voluntarily, raising questions about the role of personal relationships and social networks. For most individuals travelling to the ISIS/Daesh territory, the internet and particularly social media played some part in their radicalization and they appear especially relevant in female terrorist recruitment. The extending role of cyber domain helps terror groups to project their ideologies garnering the attention and sympathies through romanticizing the idea of violence and jihad.
There seem a high level support within Al-Qaeda for a more active role for women over the years. Apart from the supportive roles, it is easier for women to transport weapons than men as they are less likely to be searched or suspected. They are often seen as less of a security threat. And even if they are caught, it provides jihadist movements with the advantage of increased media attention underscoring the seriousness of the cause when ‘even women’ are prepared to engage in violence.
There could be many reasons why women join radical groups like not fitting in a social thread, a lack of integration or inclusion, foreign policy grievances or may be a history of violence where either one or all of these reasons can amplify making an individual want to go and join a violent group. Surprisingly, the research suggests that the root cause for majority of such cases was the same, where the entrapped women blames the secular way of life not providing justice and support in their social or legal suits. Where, apparently, to go and work for a visionary state (IS) meant to most of them a way to get justice believing they would make the world a better place by implementing this superior way of life system. These terror groups have produced a highly-gendered narrative in which women are offered alternative concepts of freedom and empowerment thus tapping into the emotions that these young women and then enticing them saying you will have agency here that will turn you in a leader, a successful and inspirational figure. The approach for luring in females generally focuses on emotional trap, telling fake stories of Muslims sufferings and oppression by infidels in a generations old conflict. It is done through an intense Jihad literature starred with the stories of radicalization and indoctrination.
The large number of women lured in to join these radicalized groups actually show the important role women play in transmitting terrorist ideology. Women are deemed crucial in maintaining the morale of the fighters besides being used as a pull to enhance terror groups’ recruitment. Use of specific terms such as brides and wives actually entice men belonging to a specific mindset of gender stereotype at the same time creating the feeling of subordination among those subjugated women.
A former a recruiter for notorious radical Islamist group, who later turned her back on extremism Yasmin Mulbocus threw light on the deep psychology of young girls and women while describing what compels them to join these radicalized groups. She feels frustrated the way global media represents women that sign up to violent extremist group and she has a reason. The media seems to cherry pick the details of such women. These women are not merely the pictures you see on television nor the words upon a newspaper page, they are mindful, alive human beings. By using such provoking rather rousing titles like ‘Jihadis’ the media is actually empowering these young girls and Yasmin suggests that this is what they want, to feel empowered. By empowering these girls through relating them to such metaphoric titles, the media as a matter of fact pushing them more towards the extremist cause and of course they would want to fit this title because they want to foster fear in their erroneous melodramatic minds. One way to cater this problem is to take these rousing titles away and of course the governments’ will to empower these young minds socially and financially both.
Not only revoking such empowering titles but the world also needs to come up with some reworked referral names for these extremist groups which should not be relating to any religion. For instance, “Islamic State”, by itself, is such an empowering title that it must have radicalized many regular Muslims by convincing them that they were fighting for Islam. To curb the growth of terrorism in today’s world we must make an effort to take away the religious identity of these terrorist groups as it the gives the erroneous feeling of being a part of something bigger and divine. No religion teaches to annihilate the rest of the world and let alone Islam which is the religion of peace. While these terrorists don’t represent peace, they represent evil and war.
Women’s increasingly diverse roles within radical groups call for a more sophisticated approach to the problem with a better understanding of the factors driving the radicalization of these young women from around the globe. The women from a traditional, patriarchal society where their voices are not even heard get allured by the idea of having a lot of decision-making power and authority. They believe it to be a much better life than the other women of their community. Given the restrictions that they face in some highly conservative societies, this jihadi appeal may be very strong, not just for ideology reasons but to gain a sense of empowerment and virtual emancipation. While it is essential not to overplay the threat, still women across the world needs to be aware of the changing nature of threat. At the same time, some steps to empower them must be taken at global level to minimize the gender misconceptions and gender stereotypes that more so often affect their growth and space to contribute positively in their surroundings.
Threat from petty criminals who turn to terrorism, a growing concern
The less predictable threats represented by small-time criminals who have opportunistically embraced terrorism, are a source of growing concern, the UN Security Council heard on Tuesday. That warning came from Tamara Makarenko, an International Consultant, who works with the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), speaking at an open debate on threats to international peace and security.
The long-time expert on the nexus between organized crime and terrorism, noted that at its most fundamental level, the link is based primarily on transactions and tactics, at the point where terrorists and criminals occupy “the same space at the same time”.
Noting various ways in which terrorist groups use illicit crimes to fund their operations, she said that the ISIL or Dae’sh terrorist group, saw from early on that it could draw funds from smuggling and the sale of illegal goods.
She added that smaller terrorist cells were focused on recruiting criminals in prisons, which have become true “incubators of the link”, and a place for the exchange of knowledge, she continued.
She said that due to the scale and unpredictability of the petty criminal-turned terrorist, even local level criminality poses a serious and global threat. The international community must act, she said, cautioning that this heightened connection may hinder the ability to fight terrorism and increase vulnerability to criminal groups.
Invest more in fighting crime and terrorism together: Fedetov
Yuri Fedetov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that criminals and terrorists shared a need to operate in the shadows, exploiting gaps in criminal justice responses in and between countries and regions. Human trafficking for sexual exploitation, child soldiers and forced labour can be used not only to generate revenue but to strike fear and recruit new fighters, he told Council members.
Dae’sh for example, had profited immensely from the illegal trade in oil, trafficking in cultural property they ransacked from places such as Palmyra in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq, and kidnapping for ransom. “We have also seen piracy and organized crime flourish on the high seas, including outside the justification of any single State and beyond the capacities of many countries to control,” he emphasized. He noted that the Al-Shabaab extremists in Somalia, supported piracy and finance some of their operations from trade in Somali charcoal through the Gulf of Oman, while the veteran Al-Qaida group, resupplies its forces around the Arabian Peninsula by sea.
He called for more resources to be channelled towards technical assistance to strengthen specialized expertise and capacities. This includes training for law enforcement, coast guards, border and airport officials, prosecutors, judges, prison officers and other relevant officials. “We need to reinforce investment in mechanisms for inter-agency, regional and international cooperation, including information and intelligence sharing,” he said.
Disconnect over taking on terror and organized crime, together: Coninsx
Michèle Coninsx, Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, outlined the Council’s various activities to combat the financing of terrorism, noting that the territorial losses sustained by Da’esh, which just a few years ago controlled large swathes of Syria and Iraq, had made it imperative for them to access funds through a wide range of criminal activities including drug trafficking, weapons sales, kidnapping and extortion.
Within the framework of country assessment visits, she said, the Executive Directorate engages with national authorities on how they view the links between terrorism and organized crime, as well as on cases in where clear links have been identified.
She said several best practices had been identified, such as creating joint investigative units and prosecution teams to handle both organized crime and terrorism.
She noted, however, that a significant disconnect continues to exist between the level of concern expressed by policymakers, the creation of legal frameworks addressing both terrorism and transnational organized crime, and the actual level of investigation and prosecution of cases as part of the same scourge.
The role of financial intelligence units should be strengthened, she said, noting that relevant agencies tasked with confronting the crime-terror nexus, too often operate in silos. “Institutional barriers to information-sharing, including between and among local and national authorities, should be overcome,” she told the Council.
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