Anooshe Mushtaq has recently joined the ASRC, having been an opening speaker at our Social Media and Extremism Forum earlier this year. Please see below the text of her most recent foray into public life, as it appeared in the Australian this week (23 June 2015) written by Sarah Martin.
Anooshe Mushtaq describes herself as a moderate Muslim and a “mainstream” Australian who sees government attempts to counter violent extremism missing a key element: people like her.
The first-generation Australian of Pakistani descent believes the government is failing to connect with young Muslims because it lacks cultural and theological understanding.
Ms Mushtaq, who has written for the Australian Security Research Centre on countering violent extremism, says governments “miss the point” when they try to express solidarity with mainstream Muslims or claim the Islamic State terrorist group is not religious.
“Islamic State is very Islamic,” she said. “The vast majority of Muslims, nationally and internationally, don’t support terrorist organisations and their extreme views. However, there are people in all religions who take it further than others.”
By promoting an extreme interpretation of Wahhabism, Islamic State — or Da’ish as it is known by its Arabic acronym — was using religious teachings and Islamic cultural values, particularly those related to the afterlife, to develop powerful propaganda.
The concept of the apocalypse, which Islam shares with Judaism and Christianity, also was being exploited to sell the appeal of fighting for the caliphate.
“Strict Wahhabis believe that all those who don’t practise their form of Islam are infidels and enemies,” she said.
“Islamic State has taken this principle to its logical conclusion, persecuting not only non-Muslims, but slaughtering thousands of Muslims who don’t share their fundamentalist beliefs.”
Restoring civilisation to 7th-century Islamic ways was a precondition to the apocalypse.
“Understanding the nature of Islamic State’s appeal is critical to designing and implementing policy to combat radicalisation,” she said. “Have our policy writers been brought up in the Islamic religion and culture, integrated in the Muslim society? Do they possess an understanding of the underlying issues?”
She said policies to combat radicalisation must address both religious and cultural drivers and government programs would fail unless they were informed by an understanding of Islam in Australia.
“This is best achieved by involving and perhaps employing trusted members of the Muslim community in policy design, intelligence and national security,” she said. “There is a danger that policy designed in ignorance of the true drivers of radicalisation in the community will be ineffective, or worse, may act to exacerbate the issue.”
It could take a non-Muslim “a lifetime” to understand the intricacies of Islamic culture and religion, she warned.