Episode 8: Conflict and Muslim-Christian relations in Papua, with Umar Werfete

Umar WerfeteFor this episode, Kate spoke with Umar Werfete. Umar is a lecturer and a head of research at the State Islamic University of Jayapura in Papua, Indonesia.

He also researches religious issues in Papua in his position within the Division for Research and Development, Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI) Papua and is responsible for peace education initiatives and interfaith dialogue in his position within the Division of Peace Education and Interfaith Relations, Council of Papuan Muslims.

We discuss key issues in interfaith relations in Papua today, and how civil society groups work to promote peace between faith communities in Papua when the potential for clashes between Muslim and Christian communities remains high.

We also discuss how developments outside Papua affect interfaith relations, including the ways in which Muslim-Christian relations in Muslim-majority Java affect interfaith relations in the province, as well as the kinds of programs and initiatives that have proven most successful for Umar and his colleagues in reducing conflict among cultural and faith groups in Papua.

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Episode 7: Social media and the Australian Army, with Mick Cook

mick cook picFor this episode, Andrew interviewed Major Mick Cook from the Australian Army.

In recent years the Army has withdrawn from deployments in Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands (but been sent back to Iraq). Its soldiers are having to learn lessons from past conflicts and prepare for whatever future conflicts they may end up in.

But unlike earlier generations, today’s soldiers live and learn in an increasingly digital environment, where social media plays a large role in people’s lives.

Major Mick Cook, who currently serves as the Australian Army’s social media and online engagement manager, has lots to say on this. We discussed:

  • Outreach efforts, such as the official Facebook pages and Twitter accounts run by various Army units, and actions to inform the public about training exercises like the recent Exercise Hamel.
  • Soldiers’ personal use of social media, and initiatives to use various types of online media for intellectual discussion and professional development.
  • How the tactical responsibilities of junior commanders have changed since the World Wars.
  • How some officers are using online outlets such as podcasts, web-based journals and social media to to discuss military theory and practical lessons with other officers and military thinkers, both across Australia and overseas.
  • The need for innovation and entrepreneurship within the Australian Army, and some of the dilemmas involved.
  • Mick’s own military careers, his online projects, and reading interests.

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Episode 6: Gender politics in Indonesian media, with Firly Annisa

Firly Annisa 2 smallerFor this episode Kate interviewed Firly Annisa, an activist and lecturer in Media and Communication at Muhammadiyah University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Firly is also involved with the NGO Rumah Sinema (Cinema House) where she promotes media literacy amongst young people.

We spoke about issues around the portrayal of women in Indonesian media and advertising, and how social stereotypes of gender roles affect the way women see themselves and interact with society.

We also discussed the rising trend of Muslim Middle class consumption, the concurrent rise of Islamic fashion amongst Indonesia’s middle class, and the unrealistic moral and aesthetic pressures this highly visible consumer trend places on Indonesian women – from skin whiteness as an association with ‘Muslim piety,’ to the irony of the commodification of a pious aesthetic by the fashion industry.

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Episode 5: Signals intelligence and counter-terrorism, with David Wells

david_wellsFor this episode, Andrew interviewed former GCHQ employee David Wells about counter-terrorism.

GCHQ is the UK government’s signals intelligence agency, similar to the United States National Security Agency (NSA) or the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). The interview discusses the nature of signals intelligence and its current role in counter-terrorism. We discuss the threats posed by the “Islamic State” and al-Qaeda as well as the difficulties of preventing terrorist attacks like those seen in Brussels and Paris. We also discuss the current terrorist threat to Australia and dilemmas raised by counter-terrorism efforts so far.

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Episode 4: Refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia, with Trish Cameron

Trish CameronIn this episode Kate interviewed Trish Cameron, Legal Aid Coordinator at Suaka, an Indonesia-based network that works for refugee rights protection in the country.

While global focus has been on the refugee crisis in Europe, it is important to remember that Indonesia and Asia Pacific region are also affected .

Although Indonesia allows asylums seekers and refugees to remain in the country until they find a permanent place of resettlement, the country is also reluctant to come up with a more concrete strategy on how to handle the arrival and presence of asylum seekers in the long-term. While existing migration and security forums such as the Bali Process and the ASEAN have lost momentum in addressing the issue – despite the growing numbers of displaced people in Southeast Asia such as the Rohingya – Australia has closed its borders to asylum seekers and refugees arriving by boat from Indonesia. As a result, Indonesia has transformed from a place of transit, to hosting growing numbers of asylum seekers for longer periods while they await resettlement.

In this episode, Kate and Trish spoke about the issue of increasing numbers of asylum seekers in Indonesia and the region, the challenges this poses for Indonesia-based organisations, and how civil society organisations are working towards the creation of effective refugee processing legislation and systems in the Asia-Pacific. Trish also spoke about the most useful (and not so useful) ways eager refugee advocates can channel their desire to support refugees in the region.

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Episode 3: Understanding terrorism in Indonesia, with Noor Huda Ismail

Noor Huda headshotFor this episode, Andrew spoke to Noor Huda Ismail, an Indonesian author, film-maker, activist, and PhD candidate.

Huda set up several non-government rehabilitation programs for terrorists released from jail in Indonesia, to help prevent them from becoming involved in violent extremism again. He’s now based in Australia, studying the involvement of Indonesians with the “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq.

The episode begins by discussing Noor Huda’s journey into this world. We talk about his teenage years in a boarding school in a central Java that was run by Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Baku Bashir. Sungkar and Bashir were members of an Indonesian jihadist movement called Darul Islam and would become the co-founders of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

Several students in this school were recruited into JI, trained in Afghanistan, and later carried out bombings in Indonesia in the early 2000s. But Huda’s life went in a very different direction.

Huda explains how he felt compelled to help tackle terrorism in Indonesia. He was inspired by non-government efforts he saw working in Northern Ireland, and tried to set up similar programs in Indonesia. Not all of these worked, and he explains several of the successes and failures in this episode.

We also talk about the evolution of terrorism in Indonesia, strengths and weaknesses of the state’s counter-terrorism efforts, how the Syrian civil war and the rise of the “Islamic State” has changed the threat, and how he conducts research on this.

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Episode 2: Muslim women and the War on Terror, with Shakira Hussein

Shakira HusseinIn this episode, Kate spoke with Shakira Hussein, a researcher at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute and author of the recently released book From Victims to Suspects: Muslim Women Since 9/11.

We discussed her new book’s main theme – the transformation of Muslim women in the public eye since 9/11, from being helpless victims awaiting rescue, to becoming potential threats to be monitored and kept under control.

The episode covers her research on Muslim women in Pakistan, and how the War on Terror has effected the lives of women there. We then discuss how counter terrorism (CT) and countering violent extremism (CVE) has changed the aid landscape in Pakistan, before discussing recent developments in the Australian government approaches to CVE, including the dilemmas of funding community programs with CT money and the potential that CVE policy-initiatives targeting the Muslim community have for securitising them and further alienating some people.

Finally, we discuss the role of women in terrorist organisations, Western-raised women who have offered themselves as ‘Jihadi Brides’ to the Islamic State, and the way the participation of Muslim women in acts of violent extremism received a greater degree of attention because of the perception of such acts being an aberration of Muslim gender norms.

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