Counter-extremism plan for schools ‘a waste of money’

by Brett Henebery03 Nov 2015

NSW Premier Mike Baird has announced a $47m counter-radicalisation plan for the state’s schools, which will involve specialist teams being sent to the state’s schools and footy stars becoming advocates against violent extremism.

The Premier’s decision follows the fatal shooting of NSW Police accountant Curtis Cheng in Parramatta at the hands of school student, Farhad Jabar Khalil Mohammad last month.

However, Hussain Nadim, University of Sydney’s South Asia Study Group co-ordinator, told The Educator the NSW Government’s plan was doomed to fail.

“There are a couple of problems with this plan. One of them is that the government is spending $47 million on something that is nearly impossible to do, which is identify students at risk of radicalisation.”
 
“You can’t define who is at risk. What are the indicators?”
 
Nadim said schools were the only places where Muslim youth could be integrated into Australian mainstream society.
 
“If the Australian Government goes ahead with this plan, it will securitise the education space. This means these kids will be further isolated and marginalised. Every kid at school will know that this program is tailored specifically towards Muslim kids,” Nadim said.
 
“What you’re doing is racially profiling based on race, religion, skin colour and by the child’s name.
 
“I think this would be a huge disaster for a government that is trying to de-radicalise at a very sensitive school space where kids need to be integrated. Instead, what the government is doing will further isolate and radicalise them.”
 
So how should the government – and communities – approach the issue of student radicalisation?
 
By looking to programs that have worked rather than failed, said Nadim.
 
He said similar programs had been tried, tested and rejected in countries like the US due to their “marginalising” effect. Nadim said for the issue to be effectively addressed, it must start at home rather than in schools.

“These kids need to feel as if they’re part of the Australian society, but some parents are playing a huge role in this problem by teaching their kids hard core ultraconservative Islamist ideology.”

“What we should be doing is reaching out. I don’t think the Muslim community leaders represent these kids. There is a huge generational gap there that isn’t being recognised.”

Nadim pointed to the efforts of the new Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who has maintained a consistent dialogue with the country’s Muslim community. As a result, said Nadim, Trudeau enjoys a significant approval rating with Canada’s Muslims.

“Trudeau has reached out. He hasn’t spent a single dollar on any re-radicalisation programs. He’s just making them feel like they’re important and part of the community.”
 

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