Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation
imageWhat possesses a Queensland teenager like Oliver Bridgeman to go to fight in Syria? Online propaganda is not an adequate explanation on its own. Facebook

The discussions around why young Australian Muslims are leaving home to join the fighting in Syria and Iraq on the side of or against Islamic State (IS) suffer from two kinds of reductionism. First, they assume that the phenomenon of young (or not so young) people leaving their homes to join these terrorist groups is largely a Western phenomenon. Second, they reduce the explanation to the primacy of information on social media that is radicalising youths in the comfort of their homes.

These two strands fail to appreciate that foreign fighters are not just originating from the West, including Australia. They also hail from Indonesia, Malaysia, China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Tunisia – to name a few.

Access to the internet in these countries is not at the same level as in developed states like Australia. So, their departure is caused by factors and processes other than the internet.

We need to demystify online influence

Even within Australia, privileging the internet as the prime cause and space of radicalisation assumes a dominant role for available information as the route to learning (in this case, how to join the terrorists in Syria and Iraq). If we accept that information on the web is similar to information in other spaces, the question we must then ask is why the “learning” in this space results in the outcomes that IS and other terrorist organisations seek.

What is the agency of the learner in this space? To put it differently, why are these youths being influenced by this online information? And is the information being acquired only via social media or being supported by other means such as personal contacts and whispers among people?

Consideration of these matters would suggest that not all those who access the material online are radicalised. But if they are searching for something missing in their lives, they could be influenced by the information. This could be a simple search for filling the void one feels at entering adolescence, being isolated, a sense of not belonging to the space one is physically a part of, or a simple desire for heroism and an urge to be noticed.

For some youth, it could be a search for meaning in their lives. Admittedly the information being generated by IS targets most of these needs. Videos of gun-toting young Australians chanting “Allah Akbar” appeal to feelings of Muslim camaraderie in a world where contradictions between Islam and the West are continuously and erroneously promoted.

Melbourne teenager Jake Bilardi is one of the recruits to feature in IS propaganda videos.

References to the caliphate appeal to those somewhat familiar with the glory days of Islamic caliphates. They have the aim of eliciting support for recreating the same environment. It is a quest to disaggregate the Islam versus the West thesis in favour of Muslim glory, thereby removing any sense of inferiority or disengagement someone might be feeling in their specific environment.

And then there is the IS video depicting the neat and clean environment of the hospital for children. This attracts those focused on humanitarianism in a world constantly facing disasters due to political, environmental and social factors.

Internet recruiting can’t work in isolation

But why does a young person accessing this learning material internalise this information? If the internet alone has successfully radicalised anyone, then IS has discovered a magic formula, a pedagogical innovation that has so far eluded every university trying to educate students via the internet.

Those familiar with the psychology of learning would know that simple exposure to information is not the route to learning. Shared learning, though, provides a quick and fast route to understanding and relating to information.

imageCounter-terrorism co-ordinator Greg Moriarty needs to bring a multidimensional approach to the complexities of radicalisation.AAP/Lukas Coch

So, we need to understand the spaces in which the internet information is being supported and supplemented with shared learning through human contacts and ideas. Without such deeper exploration we run the risk of focusing on uni-dimensional analyses that give us only half-answers.

So, if we are to understand why a teenage Australian convert to Islam chose to join Al Nusra, the answer may not be just in the internet. We need to consider the search for a purpose that took him to Indonesia to help others, the loneliness in the process of temporary migration that he would have experienced, and the silent in-person recruitment in Indonesian educational institutions that IS supporters and its opponents are using.

A complex interplay of these factors, and not just a reductionist identification of internet information, is probably the answer to the question: why are our youth becoming foreign fighters?

And so the answer must rest with more nuanced, in-depth and integrated analysis that learns and interacts with the knowledge base developed not just in Western liberal societies but also Muslim majority states. Let us hope that it occurs with the latest appointment of Greg Moriarty as the new national counter-terrorism coordinator.

Samina Yasmeen received funding from Australian and West Australian Governments to conduct research on Muslim Identities in 2006-7. But this contribution draws upon her personal research on militancy among Muslims in the West and in Pakistan.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/is-radicalises-western-youth-via-the-internet-its-not-that-simple-42414

Writers Wanted

Super-charged: how Australia's biggest renewables project will change the energy game


Why Your Small Business Should Bulk Buy Hand Sanitiser


The Conversation


Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Business News

Why Your Small Business Should Bulk Buy Hand Sanitiser

As a small business owner, employee and customer safety is at the very top of your priority list. From risk assessments to health and safety officers, appropriate signage and proper briefing...

News Co - avatar News Co

How Phone Number Search In Sydney Can Help Your Business

To run a successful business, keeping track of your company and competitors are the major factors. With a lot of tools, available businesses have options to stay current. One way in which busine...

News Co - avatar News Co

Guide to Shipping Container Hire

If you are thinking of hiring a shipping container rather than purchasing one, there are many great reasons to do so. It is a more affordable option and when you are done using it for what you neede...

News Co - avatar News Co

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion