Thursday, March 26, 2015

26-Mar-15: Australia's rising pre-occupation with its death-cultists

A widely-publicized image from Sydney's 2012 Hyde
Park riots
 [Image Source]
Australia, host to one of the world's most congenial societies, is undergoing wrenching changes that challenge Australians' sense of who they are. Its easy-going, live-and-let-live character has been embraced and increasingly exploited by people with the darkest of motivations and religious passions. In their wake, Australia seems a nation more polarized, more dangerous and more worried than the place we used to call home.

First a statistic, via an Associated Press report today, that expresses the scale of the change.
230 jihad suspects prevented from leaving Australia | Rod McGuirk | AP | March 26, 2015 | Counterterrorism squads have prevented 230 suspected jihadis from departing Australian airports for the Middle East this month, including at least three teenage boys, officials said Wednesday... Since counterterrorism units were attached to eight Australian airports in August, 86,000 travelers have been questioned and 230 people prevented from flying on suspicion that they were headed for the battlefields of Iraq and Syria to fight with groups including Islamic State, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Parliament. Experts disagree about why Islamic State had been so effective recruiting in Australia, which is widely regarded as a multicultural success story, with an economy in an enviable 24th straight year of continuous growth.
The London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence... center estimates that about 100 fighters came from the United States, which has more than 13 times as many people as Australia... “It is absolutely critical that the people of Australia appreciate that the death cult is reaching out to vulnerable and impressionable young people,” [Abbott] said, referring to the Islamic State group. “The death cult is reaching out, seeking effectively to brainwash people online.”
A report in today's Australian looks at a piece of the essential infrastructure that is so effectively reaping a harvest in gullible would-be Islamist foot soldiers who ache to become cannon fodder in the Arab-on-Arab slaughterhouses of the Middle East.
Online extremist propaganda is growing at an alarming rate | Sarah Martin | THE AUSTRALIAN | March 26, 2015 | A forum on extremism and social media yesterday at the Australian National University heard that Islamic State’s online promotion of its “brand and a lifestyle” was challenging the ability of authorities to respond effectively. The Australian Security Research­ Centre event heard that the growth of extremist material online was growing expon­entially faster than the ability of authorities to take it down. The government has promised a “counter-narrative” strategy and the forum was told this would include the need to undermine the intellectual arguments propagated by Islamic State, while promoting the “good story” of Australian ­society... Charles Sturt University national security lecturer Levi West, who is an expert in the use of technology in jihadist terrorism, said Islamic State had become the “market leaders” in online propaganda... The forum heard the government was taking a four-tiered approach targeting vulnerable people and community groups in an attempt to prevent high-risk individuals becoming radicalised. The strategy includes programs aimed at education, social ­inclusion and economic participation, and a focus on combating extremism online... Outlining a range of methods used to disseminate Islamic State’s message — from high production videos including militants giving “candy to kids” to how-to guides for foreign fighters — Professor West said there had been a “sudden and enormous spike” in extremist propaganda in the past year that was almost impossible to control. He said instead the government should seek to use intelligence from ­Islamic State sites, rather than shut them down.
The distribution power of the Internet and easy, anonymous access to its content, is central to the missionary strategy of the jihadists.
Islamic State launches step-by-step dossier for Aussie jihadists on how to get to frontline in Syria | Armando Cordoba | March 22, 2015 | News Corp Australia Network | The Islamic State has launched a step-by-step dossier to help would-be Australian jihadists flee the country and fight alongside the terror group. The online guide, posted to sympathisers’ social media network on March 14, includes details and advice on how to use a vast online support network on home soil and, ultimately, slip through security cracks... The new dossier, provided by an IS sympathiser, stresses the importance of contacts for foreign fighters travelling to Turkey from their country of origin. It even provides a series of ‘Useful Twitter contacts who are in IS to Private Direct message’...The dossier says that between 2012 to 2014 the most common method of crossing the border from Turkey to Syria was to enter Turkey, make contact with IS in Syria, then cross from the Bab al-Hawa and Baab al-Salaam crossing between Turkey and Syria. Now, due to heightened security in Turkey, IS fighters are directed to get a hotel room on arrival in Turkey and contact their Twitter correspondence ‘and they will together go to Sanliurfa in Turkey’...The dossier amplifies the importance IS places on the internet.
The how-to-get-to-Syria report illustrates, in passing, how those Islamism-minded would-be warriors, headed for the killing fields, become that way because of a claimed insensitivity on the part of Canberra's decision-makers:
Silma Ihram, a member of the Australian Muslim Women’s Association based in Sydney, says youths are drawn to IS because the Australian government "continues to create an us versus them" mentality... [News Corp]
Ms Ihram, born Anne Frances Beaumont, is an articulate advocate for racial tolerance and the notion that it isn't Moslems but just some angry peripheral people that give Islam a bad name. A 2006 Australian movie review called her "Erin Brockovich in a hijab". If she's right, this is all bound to end up peacefully and well, and the "them" (from that us -vs- them mentality she cites) will calm down and get on with living constructive lives. But it could all get a lot more serious if she's wrong.

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