Govt audit of public school prayer groups announced

Govt audit of public school prayer groups announced

The NSW Department of Education and NSW Police will issue a memo to the state’s principals today, outlining their obligations to report instances of extremism in their schools.

Premier Mike Baird said the positive values taught at school should not be allowed to be eclipsed by “extremist ideologies”. 

"Our schools should be, and are, havens of tolerance, places where students can explore the reaches of imagination and knowledge," he said.

"We will never allow them to become the setting for extremist ideologies."

NSW Police and the NSW Government are currently coordinating a training program for the education department on how to recognise and prevent radicalisation and extremism.

The decision follows allegations that an Epping Boys High School student had been preaching extremist views to fellow students at the school.

The 17-year-old student is believed to be an acquaintance of alleged Sydney Jihadist, Milad bin Ahmad-Shah al-Ahmadzai, a former pupil at Epping Boys High.

How to approach the issue of student radicalisation has received varying responses, ranging from the Federal Government’s proposed Jihadi Watch Strategy to the less controversial approach of some NGOs’, aimed at rehabilitating troubled youth.

Speaking at the Monash University in June, Professor Mohammed Dajani Daoudi, founder of the Wasatia movement, which promotes moderate Islam, said radicalisation must be combated through better religious education.

Daoudi says a Wasatia centre in Australia could help address issues surrounding student radicalisation, adding that some Islamic schools, which have been accused of being too hardline, must do more to promote interfaith harmony and understanding.

"Islam is being taught as the only religion – it is not being taught as a comparative religion," Daoudi said.

"We have to have reform, not in Islam but in the way it is being taught.”

A separate initiative by the Australian Multicultural Foundation, the Community Awareness Training Manual (CATM) is working with communities to identify and address anti-social behaviour which might lead to extremism and violence.

AMF executive director, Hass Dellal, told The Educator that his organisation is exploring ways of redesigning and adapting sections of the CATM as an educational awareness tool.

“The so-called ‘jihadi watch strategies’, as adopted in some countries, are risky and doomed for failure,” Dellal told The Educator.