Episode 10: Countering violent extremism, with Ross Frenett and Vidhya Ramalingam

vidhyaramalingamheadshotFor this episode, Andrew spoke to Vidhya Ramalingam and Ross Frenett about countering violent extremism (CVE), which refers to non-coercive efforts to help prevent involvement in terrorism.

Ross and Vidhya previously worked for organisations such as the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and Google Ideas. They recently founded their their own organisation, Moonshot CVE, building on their work with former violent extremists and experiences in the tech sector.rossfrenettheadshot

In the interview, we discuss the concept of countering violent extremism, the value of work and research in this area, but also some of the dilemmas and risks involved.

The interview covers similarities and differences between various types of violent extremist groups, the ways that governments across Europe understand the issue, the rise of far-right violent extremism and the role of women in the Islamic State. We also discussed past projects that Vidhya and Ross have been involved in, their work with former violent extremists, the importance of rigorous evaluation, and more.

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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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