Australia Turns to Education to Combat Radical Islam, Islamophobia


A new proposal would ask Australian schools to teach students about Islam and Middle Eastern politics in an effort to combat the messages of radical Muslim preachers who are encouraging the creation of a new generation of jihadists.

A suite of new measures will be considered by state and federal Education Ministers that would combat the radicalization of school children.  The measures are being considered a matter of urgency as part of a larger effort to decrease jihadist-brainwashing that caused a 15-year-old high school student to shoot Sydney police accountant Curtis Cheng in October, killing him.

Prior to the meeting, leading national security expert Peter Jennings made a push for the incorporation of teaching Islam and Middle Eastern politics into the national curriculum before “misleading online hate-preachers” offered their own information, reports Lauren Wilson for News Corp Australia Network.

Mr Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said if Australian school students “spent one less hour learning about Gallipoli and one extra hour having a sensible discussion about contemporary Middle Eastern politics, they might not be seeking that information out online.”

Academic Kevin Donnelly agreed that all religions should be taught in schools throughout the country, adding that the focus should be to teach students “what it means to be Australian.”  He went on to say that while all major religions should be taught, it should be done in a way that is not sanitizing.

At the same time, former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott recently announced that “cultures are not all equal,” and that the West needs to proclaim superiority over Islam, saying the culture has “massive problems.”

The issue is becoming pervasive for both younger students and those in higher education. Universities throughout Western Australia are increasingly experiencing Islamophobic attacks, most recently with a severed pig’s head being found in in the bathroom of the University of Western Australia’s mosque by a Muslim Ph.D. student, writes Somayra Ismailjee for Junkee.  A volunteer teacher said the incident is indicative of a culture of hostility toward Muslims throughout the country, adding that many in the country “see Islam as a threat to their established norms and lifestyles. They are worried (unfoundedly) that the Islamic lifestyle will take over Australia if nothing is done to stop Islam.”

A Griffith University Islamic Studies teacher, Associate Professor Halim Rane, was recently named Australian University Teacher of the Year.  Rane created the Islamic Studies course when he arrived at the university in 2008.  No such course existed at the school before then.

Rane said his focus continues to be on ensuring his students have the knowledge necessary to be competent in the field of Islamic-Western relations.  His course ensures that students have an understanding of Muslim communities and offers them the ability to engage with the Muslim world.