Workshop two highlights

The second workshop for the National Imams Consultative Forum (NICF) was held over 20th–21st April 2013 at the University of Melbourne. A total of 20 imams attended, including 7 from Victoria, 3 from New South Wales, 2 from Western Australia, 3 from Queensland, 2 from South Australia, and one each from Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

The workshop was opened by Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh, Deputy Director of the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies, and a welcome was given by Sheikh Mohamadu Nawas, Public Relations Representative of the Australian National Imams Council.

Over the course of the weekend, participants engaged with a number of local and international speakers as follows:

  • Professor Scott Atran (Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, via video conference), addressed a range of issues including the factors leading to violent radicalization, the social and educational backgrounds of those attracted to extremism, the importance of ideology and jihadist narratives, and the types of interventions that are likely to be successful in countering radicalization. Watch the presentation here:

  • Mr Colin Milner (Special Adviser, Regional Communities Outreach Program, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) spoke about Australian regional and international policy initiatives to counter violent extremism and radicalization in the region and more broadly.
  • Imam Afroz Ali (President, Al-Ghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences & Human Development) discussed the process of radicalization from his experience as a community leader and gave examples of initiatives that have successfully brought about a personal change in individuals formerly socially alienated or attracted to extremism. Watch the presentation here:

  • Dr Abdul Haqq Baker (Lecturer in Terrorism studies at the University of St. Andrews’ Centre for Studies in Terrorism and Political Violence, via teleconference) discussed the experience of working with young people at risk of radicalization in the UK context, giving examples from the STREET (Strategy to Reach Empower and Educate Teenagers) initiative in London, including actions taken to gain the trust of young people and deconstruct radical narratives. Read Dr Baker's presentation on 'Violent Extremism and Counter-radicalisation: Experiences from the UK'.
  • Dr Abdul Rahman al-Hadlaq (General Director of Ideological Security Directorate, Ministry of Interior for Saudi Arabia) detailed the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program for former extremists, including in-house programs as well as community re-integration, and touching on the reasons why young people are attracted to extremism.
  • Associate Professor Mohamad Abdalla (Griffith Islamic Research Unit, Griffith University), gave an overview of the experience of Queensland Muslim community leaders, who have so far been able to work together to head off any potential threats of extremism or radicalization among community groups, as well as initiating a number of important research projects in the area. Download A/Prof Abdalla's presentation on 'Strategies dealing with radicalisation and extremism in Queensland' and sample khutba (sermon) he provided workshop participants on 'Islam and Democracy' and 'Advice to Australian Muslim Youth'.
  • Mr Rod Wise (Deputy Commissioner, Corrections Victoria) provided an overview of the issues that have so far arisen, and the lessons learned, in managing individuals detained and/or convicted on terrorism charges in Victorian prisons, and steps taken to address these issues.
  • His Honour Richard Maidment SC (Judge of the County Court of Victoria) outlined his view on the need for counter-terrorism laws in Australia, as well as giving a frank assessment of the successes and failures in their implementation to date. Read Judge Maidment's paper on 'Australia's Anti-Terrorism Laws - The Offence Provisions'.