Australian Muslim Leaders’ Perspectives on Countering Violent Extremism: Towards Developing a Best Practice Model for Engaging the Muslim Community

Nada Roude

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

The events of September 11, 2001, Madrid, 2004, London and Bali in 2005 generated new government responses and approaches to the threat of terrorism by the US and its close allies—the Five-Eyes Partners, including the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Since 2001, the Australian Government has identified the community as a collaborator to defeat terrorism. This is supported by literature in Australia and the UK, which has reiterated the importance of community engagement to governments’ success in countering extremism (Briggs, 2010; Gunaratna, 2011; Klausen, 2009; Pickering, McCulloch, & Wright-Neville, 2008; Spalek & Imtoual, 2007; Spalek & Lambert, 2008). This research explores the Australian Government’s counter-terrorism policies and the countering violent extremism (CVE) strategy that was implemented at state and federal levels. The CVE strategy commenced under the Rudd government in 2009 with the creation of a CVE national framework, which was the first of its kind in Australia. The research employed a mixed method of gathering data. A purposive sample was selected focusing on leaders of peak, state and local organisations and its leaders (or representatives) from Australia’s diverse Muslim community. 32 participants completed an online questionnaire focused on the leaders’ responses to September 11 and their interaction with the government’s CVE strategy and issues such as trust building, media coverage, political rhetoric and foreign policy. In phase two of the research, forty-three leaders were interviewed on the impact of terrorism as measured within their respective Muslim communities; and the efficacy of the government’s community engagement strategies and the CVE programme within their respective communities, and the impact of political and media rhetoric on community trust and contribution to extremism. The strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) method was used to analyse the data. The study reveals that the CVE programmes were criticised by participants for being short-sighted in failing to interact with youth or build on community strengths. Participants further identified the programmes as having poor evaluation processes and accountability. The number of Muslim organisations receiving government funding for CVE is very small, and the percentage of funding allocated to youth projects is limited, which is of vital importance in countering extremist ideologies. Participants highlighted that extremism is being addressed through a range of community-based channels that are not CVE funded. Trust building was considered a critical activity essential for promoting government/ community partnership. Participants stressed that government agencies need to work more closely with the Muslim community to build trust aimed at enhancing partnership. Inaccurate, insensitive and negative media portrayal of Islam and Muslims has had a significant detrimental impact on the Australian Muslim community. The participants felt overwhelmed by this social challenge, particularly in relation to inadequacy of resources and skills, and the contribution to extremism. There has been an increase in mistrust of the government since September 11. Participants viewed government rhetoric as strongly associating Islam with terrorism. Participants felt that public discourse of politicians’ views had directly contributed to youth marginalisation. Participants felt improved communication and understanding of Islam is needed in the public arena, where Muslim community initiatives should be promoted to generate greater social acceptance and ultimately shift public discourse to focus on the politics of countering extremism within all Australian communities and separate this from the Muslim community. Participants felt that addressing foreign policy with greater sensitivity and having more consistent, long-term co-ordination with the entire community, popular youth groups, service providers and families could result in more resilient and effective partnerships towards countering violent extremism.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Emilsen, William, Principal Supervisor
  • O'Brien, Nicholas, Co-Supervisor
  • Prunckun, Henry, Co-Supervisor
  • Haire, James, Co-Supervisor
Award date22 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2018

Grant Number

  • terrorism, CVE, community engagement, muslim leaders, counter terrorism, muslim communities, media impact, political rhetoric, foreign policy, community organisations, religious leaders

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