Islamophobia

Media ‘sensationalism’ slammed in terror report by Victoria Police and Victoria Uni

Media ”sensationalism” is unfairly linking Islam to terrorism and inflaming tensions between Muslims and other Australians, a detailed study has found.

newspaper-with-terrorism-headlineby Ben Schneiders, Source: http://www.smh.com.au

Media ”sensationalism” is unfairly linking Islam to terrorism and inflaming tensions between Muslims and other Australians, a detailed study has found.

The first comprehensive study of community attitudes in Australia into radicalisation, written by Victoria Police and Victoria University, found most of more than 500 community leaders, government stakeholders and everyday Australians surveyed regarded the risk of terrorism as fairly low.

They were deeply critical of media sensationalism when covering the risk of terrorism, which an ”overwhelming majority” said was unfairly linking it to Islam. Some respondents felt the reporting was so far slanted that they wanted greater regulation or monitoring of media organisations.

Victoria Police’s Dr Hussein Tahiri and Victoria University’s Professor Michele Grossman were the research authors.

The year-long study was based on 47 focus groups.

Professor Grossman said the responses indicated Australians were ”less susceptible to media sensationalising” about the risks of violent extremism ”than you otherwise might think”.

Dr Tahiri said the research showed there was a ”perception we are not at risk or under threat as other countries”.

”I suppose there is a kind of truism,” he said. ”You don’t need a lot of people to become radicalised and adopt violent extremism as a platform to do an enormous amount of damage.”

One notable finding was divergent attitudes among respondents to major anti-terror operations Pendennis and Neath in 2006 and 2009, which resulted in 21 convictions.

The operations centred on plans to attack an army base in Sydney in 2009, and a case related to a conspiracy involving radical preacher Abdul Nacer Benbrika.

While government respondents almost unanimously felt the operations showed the integrity of Australia’s democratic and justice systems, responses from the public were very different.

That reflects largely the response of Muslim respondents who said they felt the police operations were more about harassment than detecting crime. Many expressed unease about conspiracy charges that were based on what people thought rather than what they did.

Professor Grossman said this had led to Muslim concerns the raids were ”used to damage the entire community”. Some respondents pointed out it was Muslims themselves who had told authorities about some of the people later targeted by Operation Neath.

Professor Grossman said respondents cited a range of factors contributed to violence, including racism and marginalisation, which could ”erode social cohesion” and lead to people ”feeling they don’t belong and they don’t have power in a social or political system”.

The research, funded through a subcommittee of the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee, would be used to understand better how to ”mitigate violent extremism”, she said.

Respondents said there needed to be a greater focus on education in reducing the appeal of violent extremism.

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