Young Australian Muslims are joining Islamic terror groups because their “blood is boiling” at domestic persecution (Islamophobia) and international ‘atrocities’ (publishing Mohammed cartoons) committed by the West, warns local Muslim leader.
THE AGE (h/t Cathari5) Keysar Trad, founder of the Islamic Friendship Association, told a university forum that his comments may be “dangerous” and “politically incorrect” but they were crucial to understanding why more than 200 Australians have taken up arms in Syria and Iraq.
In a scathing assessment of Australia’s efforts to create a harmonious society, he said constant persecution, hypocritical Australian laws, vitriolic media and repeated invasions in the Middle East were pushing young Muslims “to the margins of society” and driving them to radicalization.
“Denying the root causes is like applying a Band-Aid to an open wound before cleaning and disinfecting it,” he told an anti-radicalisation forum at the University of Western Sydney on Wednesday night.
Mr Trad, a controversial figure who described himself as a “roving imam”, said he could understand why young Australians were driven to join Islamic State but he tried to convince them it was not the solution. His comments were reflected in a recent study that found one in five Australian Muslims think terrorists have legitimate grievances.
The nation-wide survey of 800 Muslims, conducted last year by the University of Queensland, found that counter-terrorism policy in Australia was breeding anger, backlash, distrust and a siege mentality.
Mr Trad listed the Iraq invasions, the war in Afghanistan and the torture of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as grievances for young Muslims.
He cited the case of Northern Territory unionist Matthew Gardiner, who recently returned to the Northern Territory after reportedly fighting with the Kurdish forces against IS , as an example of hypocrisy in Australia.
“If he just went through the belief that he wants to fight against this group that he believes to be a very evil group, if he did it for that reason, why do we wonder when a Muslim person is exposed to any of these atrocities that have been committed against his relatives?” he said.
“Why do we wonder why the blood inside that young Muslim doesn’t boil to the extent that he feels that he has to do something?”
Mr Trad said Australian Muslims were confronted with “systemic discrimination”, opportunistic political commentary, unemployment and “duplicitous standards” in law enforcement.
“It is hard to argue with a young person who starts to cite all these issues, you can see the fire in their bellies, you in fact feel the same fire yourself,” he said.
“All the above factors compound to different extents the sense of victimisation and alienation amongst youths in general and Muslim youths in particular.”
In contrast, IS propaganda tells young people: “Join us and you will belong, you will not be discriminated against, you can go wild, let loose your facial hair and you become the law.” he said.
Lydia Shelly, a lawyer and Muslim community member, said there was a poor understanding of radicalisation in Australia.
Her comments were echoed by Dr Jan Ali, a lecturer in Islam and Modernity at UWS, who told the forum that deradicalisation programs were pointless without a proper understanding of the phenomenon itself.
He said the federal government’s efforts to fund community-led programs wouldn’t solve the problem.
“There are some Muslims who are on the path of radicalisation who are from a middle class, well-to-do family,” he said. “They don’t need hand-outs.”
The federal government has allocated $14 million for community-led deradicalisation initiatives and $545 million for the inclusion programs by the Department of Social Services.