Following the Parramatta shooting and Western-Sydney terror raids last week, many of us are concerned about the radicalisation of young men and the possibility of more “homegrown” terrorists on our streets.
Today it’s been announced that the government will most likely introduce the fifth wave of terror laws including the ability to immediately detail or monitor suspects a young as 14, and increasing the time suspects can be held without charge from 14 days to 28.
Last night, Muslim chaplain and community leader Sheikh Wesam Charkawi appeared on Q&A and said that tackling the issue involves the “whole community” and a “holistic” approach.
He said that terrorism was not just a “Muslim problem” and that one of the key factors that needed to change was the language Australian society used when speaking about Islam and Muslim people.
“I’m on the ground and I speak to a lot of these youth, and I can tell you that the reason why it requires a different way of doing things as to what we have previously done is because I’m seeing a lot of identity issues with the young men and women.
“I keep hearing from many on the streets and in the schools that I visit that they tell us that we don’t belong; they say that we are not part of the Australian society. We are not part of the Australian community, that we are terrorists, that we are extremists, that our religion is one that is of destruction and loss of life and so on and so forth.
“You’ve got to remember these people were born into the age of terror, and they are being told that they don’t belong.
“What that leads to is to marginalisation, isolation, and if you add that to the mix of the propaganda that is being put forward by the groups like ISIS, it’s a very dangerous mix.
“So you see that it requires a whole-of-society effort and that’s the reality of it. We can’t just do what we have done in the past. It really requires everyone to get on board.”
The Sheikh continued, “This is a universal phenomenon. You know, terrorism did not begin with September 11 and neither did it begin after the Cold War, or Munich, or Oaklahoma.
“This has been a universal problem. It’s a cyclical problem that has touched every age and every religion. We have to look at it in terms of what are the other driving factors influencing this very issue. I think if we simply restrict it, we are never going to break that cycle.”
Mr Charkwari said he also believed there was a a general lack of understanding about the Muslim faith in Australian society.
“A lot of the people that I come across when I visit and go to the outback is they tell me, you know, does your religion say to do this and does your religion say to do that?”
“Not many people know what it stands for. I tell you that I would help any person regardless of their faith, regardless of their background, even if they are atheist.”
The Sheikh says the issue could be better tackled by using the same approach as the government is using with domestic violence.
“In Australia, domestic violence is tackled through – they tackle mental health issues, they provide awareness campaigns, they counter the narrative. They have support services. So they do that in a way that doesn’t demonise all men,” he said.
“If you change the language, I mean, this can have a profound effect. When somebody like the Prime Minister comes out and says, you know, we shouldn’t discriminate and so on and so forth and speaks about respect, that makes my job far more easy and effective.
“When you look at the opposite of that, when you have somebody who says we want Muslims to talk about peace and mean it, it’s very, very hurtful and it makes my job far more difficult and these are the differences.”
What do you think of what Sheikh Wesam Charkawi has to say? Is it time we adopt a new strategy to stop young people turning to violence?