In this second special report on terrorism, University World News writers investigate the ways that higher education institutions around the world are developing methods to counter terrorism and de-radicalise young would-be terrorists.
The terrorist attacks in Paris and Verviers in eastern Belgium represent part of a new shift in the world of terrorism and an increasing global trend. Terrorism today is carried out mostly by a small number of home-grown individuals, often friends and relatives, where a high level of secrecy and trust is maintained.
There seems to be a widespread sense that the phenomenon of terrorism presents one of the largest threats our societies currently face. This is, indisputably, a very significant challenge, but we need to address it in conjunction with the wider phenomenon of radicalisation, mainly of young people.
Concern is mounting among overseas students at a build-up of blanket hostility towards foreigners following the terrorist attacks in Paris. Politicians fear that far-right movements could cash in on the sentiments developing after the murders.
As a result of heightened concerns about terrorist threats of attacks within Australia, increasing numbers of universities have established research centres focused on global terrorism and how it might be combated. Several universities have this year also begun offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses in this field, with one running an online bachelor of social science in security and counter-terrorism that it says “will give you the training to work as a security and counter-terrorism specialist”.
The continual conquest and annexation of sections of north-east Nigeria by the Islamic sect Boko Haram is cause for growing concern in the nation’s universities. The country’s sovereignty is under threat, especially where the sect has proclaimed, in areas under its military control, the imposition of a ‘caliphate’ with implementation of Sharia law.
Throughout his term of office Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has moved towards more extreme, right-wing positions. Seeing him stand shoulder to shoulder with other world leaders – many of whom are, if not initiators, at least supporters of violence and terror in their own countries – before the huge demonstration in Paris following the murder of the Charlie Hebdo journalists would have made those victims turn in their graves.
To meet the Islamic State threat at home, the Australian government must focus on developing ways to disengage and even de-radicalise supporters and returning foreign fighters – recognising that the latter is the most challenging. And, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t all about religious extremism.