Engage us earlier in anti-radicalisation moves, Muslim leaders say
Islamic leaders in Victoria say cases of extremism and IS recruitment could be avoided if law-enforcement agencies involved community groups earlier.
The Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) has called for authorities to involve them as early as possible when potential jihadists are identified.
ICV secretary Ghaith Krayem says recent counter-terror raids in Melbourne have revived the Council’s push for early intervention.
“We’re saying if you’re concerned about somebody, involve us much earlier in the process,” he said. “Before they’ve gone down this path, give us a genuine opportunity to help them.”
Melbourne teenagers Harun Causevic and Sevdat Ramden Besim, both 18, face possible lengthy jail terms if found guilty of conspiring to commit an act of terror.
“We’re saying if you’re concerned about somebody, involve us much earlier in the process.”
The men were reportedly known associates of Numan Haider, the teenager fatally shot by police last September. From that point onwards, they have been on the radar of counter-terrorism officers.
Mr Krayem said that if the ICV had been notified by police at that point, last month’s raids and any possibility of an Anzac Day incident may have been avoided.
“From our perspective, an arrest or a raid is a failure”.
“From our perspective, an arrest or a raid is a failure,” he said. “It means somewhere along the way, whatever strategies are in place haven’t worked, and our aim is actually so there is no raids and no arrests.”
Aden Ibrahim is a family friend of Sharky Jama, the model turned jihadist who was killed fighting with IS last month.
Jama was also known to authorities and Mr Ibrahim believes that if the local Somali community was notified, the outcome would have been be quite different.
“If at early stage it had been notified to us, I 100 per cent believe it could [have been] be prevented,” he said.
Like the Islamic Council, Mr Ibrahim advocated a system similar to one proving successful in Europe where a support team including religious mentors, health professionals and family support is established when young people’s behaviour is identified as problematic.
“It can be far more helpful and far cheaper than losing a life”.
“It can be far more helpful and far cheaper than losing a life,” he said.
In a statement to SBS, an AFP spokesman said it encouraged community engagement.
‘The AFP recognises and values the integral role of local communities, and leaders, in building resilience to violent extremism and creating strong community networks,” the spokesman said. “Community leaders have been very effective in proactively condemning local community violence.
“The AFP and the Australian Government will continue to support community and religious leaders to spread the message that violence is illegal and detrimental to the vibrant, inclusive and culturally diverse nature of Australia society.”
The AFP said there were intervention programs currently in place to prevent radicalisation.
“Australian Governments are working together to deliver Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Intervention Programmes in each state and territory,” the spokesman said.
“These programs aim to connect risk individuals with a range of services to divert them away from their current path.
“The main goal is to intervene at an early stage and prevent persons from continuing down a path which could end in them either preparing and committing acts onshore or preparing to travel off-shore to participate in hostile activities. Families, communities and local institutions will play a pivotal role in re-engaging with the individual, and reintegrating them within society.”
In a statement to SBS, a spokeswoman for the Attorney-General’s office said the government was “committed to working with our communities to address the radicalisation of young Australians.”
“We have consulted with experts and with representatives of the community on the best way to keep the Australian community safe,” the spokeswoman said.
“The Government has provided over $1.6 million to 34 community-based organisations from across Australia under the Government’s Living Safe Together Grants Programme. The grants are part of the Living Safe Together intervention programme, which has been established to identify radicalised and at-risk individuals and provide tailored services to address the root causes of their radicalisation.
The spokeswoman said community leaders and community service providers were “crucial partners in delivering intervention programmes.”
Comment has been sought from Victoria Police.