Australian schools categorised as being at risk of racially- or religiously-motivated attacks could have security guards and closed-circuit TVs as part of an $18 million investment in the Schools Security Program announced by Justice Minister Michael Keenan this week. For some Jewish schools, rising anti-Semitism has made those measures necessary. In other Australian developments, the Iraqi city of Mosul in Iraq has been added to the list of banned travel locations under last year’s Foreign Fighters laws—you can travel there but only for a ‘legitimate’ purpose. And finally, the inquiry into the metadata retention bill culminated in a bipartisan report released last Friday, recommending that the bill requiring telecommunications companies to keep certain data for two years be passed with increased oversight mechanisms.
Meanwhile in the UK, British extremism has come under the microscope. The identification of ‘Jihadi John’ as Mohammed Emwazi and revelations that he was known to MI5 since 2009 have fuelled fierce debate about MI5’s CT strategies (see discussion here and here). Most controversially, advocacy group CAGE’s research director Asim Qureshi described Emwazi as a ‘beautiful young man’ and claimed MI5 harassment had contributed to his radicalisation. Such statements attracted fierce condemnation, including from Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson. CAGE subsequently released an email trail and an audio interview between it and Emwazi detailing his descent into radicalisation, including the statement that ‘9/11 was wrong’. Emwazi’s identification also prompted an inquiry into schools previously attended by British foreign fighters and a debate about the adequacy of British CT policies, including the use of biometrics. See Defense One’s story for more on biometrics and CT.
In the Asia-Pacific, China is in the midst of drafting wide-ranging CT laws that step up intelligence gathering and sharing. Reforms include requirements that all tech firms install ‘backdoors’ and provide both communications records and encryption keys to law-enforcement agencies. Xinhua indicated that the law sought to balance CT and human rights, as ‘global terrorism should not be a warrant for retreat on citizens’ rights’. But Reuters’ Michael Martina and Krista Hughes report that the laws may compromise the security and privacy of data of anyone engaged in business with China. President Obama believes the law must be changed if China wants ‘to do business with the United States’. See here for China’s response.
Turning now to Islamic State, the FBI has conceded that it’s ‘losing the battle’ against the online allure of the extremist organisation. Whilst the United States had produced ‘an effective counter-narrative…the sheer volume (of Islamic State’s online messaging) eclipses our effort’. Writing on Defense One, Simon Cottee argues that IS’s videos of ‘shock and gore’ have the advantage over official US counter-narratives of ‘mock and bore’. Further, IS has a large online network of ‘fanboys’ and an emotionally poignant narrative (‘Muslims are being killed’) that current counter-narratives lack.
Can other fields offer useful insights into developing deradicalisation strategies? In Canada, reformed white-supremacist Daniel Gallant drew on his experiences in the recently-launched online Islamic State deradicalisation program, ‘Extreme Dialogue’. The program targets school children at risk of radicalisation by Islamic State, through providing online resources including short films and educational resources:
The common denominator is that both (Islamic state and white supremacist) narratives include conspiracy theory about Zionism, that there’s a specific group of Jewish people that are controlling the world…What we’re seeing with the ISIS and the jihadist-type narrative currently is almost like a replication of the stuff that was going in the 80s and 90s…
Ever delved into the mind of a violent extremist? Aimen Dean, a founding member of al Qaeda who switched to becoming a British spy, documents his experiences in this BBC interview. Similarly, former Islamic extremist and now chairman of the CT organisation Quilliam, Maajid Nawaz identified alienation and ‘charismatic recruiters’ as crucial radicalisation risk factors in this NPR podcast (4mins).
Lastly, for some weekend reading, Anita McKonea reviewed the fiction novel Confessions of a Terrorist, penned by terrorism expert Richard Jackson. The novel weaves factual information into a story about a Middle Eastern violent extremist and a British intelligence officer. Aiming to go beyond the ‘good guy/bad guy mindset’, McKonea writes that the book provides uncomfortable answers to the question of why a person becomes a terrorist.
Stephanie Huang is an intern at ASPI. Image courtesy of Flickr user PeacockArmageddon.