SSI welcomed two esteemed academics at its Ashfield head office on April 30, for a roundtable discussion on countering violent extremism. Associate Professor Anne Aly, a research fellow and head of the Countering Online Violent Extremism Research (COVER) program at Curtin University, and Professor Andrew Jakubowicz, Chair in Sociology at the University of Technology Sydney, led the discussion.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis, Professor Andrew Jakubowicz, Dr Anne Aly and Esta Paschalidis-Chilas
Dr Aly’s research focuses are in the areas of terrorism studies and counter terrorism, including civil society and policy responses to terrorism. Her PhD explored the mediated fear of terrorism among Muslim communities and the broader community in Australia. Dr Aly has presented at national and international conferences and workshops on terrorism and counter terrorism and Australian Arab relations. She is the author of four books, including Terrorism and Global Security: Historical and Contemporary Approaches (Palgrave Macmillan). Dr Aly’s work with COVER involves creating counter narratives to those of violent extremists and a focus on understanding victims.
SSI Government and Member Relations Manager Esta Paschalidis-Chilas said Dr Aly was invited to speak to the roundtable because SSI and community organisations it worked with saw great value in her work.
Dr Aly stressed that strategies to counter violent extremism were multifaceted and started in communities at the grassroots level. “Countering violent extremism really is about social intervention at the root cause,” Dr Aly said. In her work with COVER, that intervention includes supporting young people in vulnerable communities by creating opportunities for them to explore how they can fulfil their potential.
“Countering violent extremism isn’t another layer that organisations should do,” Dr Aly said, “it’s embedded in your practice. Narratives are a very important part of it. Narratives are how we learn from a young age about the world and our place in it. Fairy tales and fables all have a moral component to them. They teach children the right way. Violent extremists use narratives much the same way.
“Countering violent extremism really is about the stuff that you already do,” Dr Aly told the roundtable meeting, “with you your clients as service providers — giving them positive alternatives. It doesn’t have to be overtly telling them “I’m de-radicalising you”, it’s not about that at all.”
Ms Paschalidis-Chilas said it was important for all communities to work at engaging with vulnerable people to provide positive opportunities and alternatives to all forms of violence and anti-social behaviour.
Find out more about Dr Aly’s work here.