Govt rhetoric on student radicalisation throws fuel on the fire, says expert

Govt rhetoric on student radicalisation throws fuel on the fire, says expert

Dr Clarke Jones, a specialist in criminology, radicalisation and counter-terrorism at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, says that the language being used by the Abbott Government regarding student radicalisation is only throwing fuel onto an already raging fire.

“I think we’ve gone overboard, Jones told The Educator.

“Whether it be the Prime Minister visiting ASIO and having the maps of at-risk communities up on the board or his language about Islamic State being a multi-headed hydra in our bedrooms, there’s a lot of things the Prime Minister has done that has over-securitised terrorism and made the threat sound a lot worse than it actually really is.”

Jones said that for the problem to be properly understood it must first be brought into context.

“There’s nothing wrong with having a strong national security posture. We need people to see that we have strong borders, robust legislation and solid capabilities in relation to our response mechanisms to terrorism,” Jones explained.

Jones said the Federal Government had gone too far in relation to our national security posture and our counter-terrorism arrangements, adding Muslim communities already feel alienated and that the counter-terrorism postural arrangements are purely focused on them.

“When you increase the feelings of injustice and marginalisation, they feel further from the Government than they have in the past,” Jones said.

“When you have heavy-handed police responses, whether they’re justified or unjustified, all of this can contribute towards kids who feel alienated backing a side that’s finally trying to address some of those injustices. It compounds the reasons for them wanting them to join groups like Islamic State.”

To counter that threat, the Federal Government recently unveiled the Jihadi Watch Strategy, a broad initiative aimed at educating schools and communities about how to recognise the early-warning signs of extremism.

“The Government is working with community organisations and other governments around Australia to develop education materials and deliver training to identify and steer individuals away from ideologies of hate,” Attorney-General, George Brandis, told the Sunday Herald Sun in May.

“Just as parents and families have gained greater understanding of the dangers posed by online sexual predators, there also needs to be increased awareness of the threat from online terrorist propaganda.”

However, Jones said it is less about looking for Jihadists in schools and more about engaging with troubled students who feel disillusioned and alienated. By ignoring this and having a heavy-handed approach, the Government may end up intensifying radicalisation instead of preventing it.

“There are other social issues going on, such as inequity in education, a lot of the policies around how we treat boat people as well as paying people-smugglers, and so on. We don’t think much about it but it all contributes to the melting pot of radicalisation,” Jones said.