Police suspect Toowoomba teenager Oliver Bridgeman is currently in a conflict zone. Photo Contributed
Police suspect Toowoomba teenager Oliver Bridgeman is currently in a conflict zone. Photo Contributed Contributed

Vulnerable teens radicalised in pursuit of status, purpose

GLORY, heroism, brotherhood. Most young men want it and terror group the Islamic State promises it.

However, those impressionable Australian Muslims who fall for the fanaticism and falsehoods find themselves in a war zone where religious violence is the benchmark and hatred of the West is bred.

There is no accurate figure for the number of people the Sunni extremist organisation has massacred as it creates its caliphate, or Muslim state.

Many of the group's victims are minority religious group members and opponents across Syria and Iraq.

The UN estimates at least 220,000 Syrians alone have been killed.

Who?

Australian Catholic University's Dr Joshua Roose said Australia and Belgium had the highest number of people per capita joining overseas terror groups.

Melbourne's Jake Bilardi, dubbed Jihadi Jake, is one example of the digital generation "radicalised" through the IS's social media prowess.

The 18-year-old suicide bomber's parents were separated and his mother had died not long before he joined the group.

Another person drawn to the IS was Khaled Sharrouf, a former drug user and paranoid schizophrenic.

Why?

Dr Roose said there was no "one size fits all" for people drawn to the IS, but there were some similar feelings among those drawn to terror groups.

Chief among those are grief, humiliation and isolation. He said, like Bilardi, many were bullied and wanted to prove themselves.

Bilardi's father also believes his son could have had mental health issues.

Dr Roose said Bilardi proclaimed himself a warrior before he blew himself up, adding it was this "incredibly powerful" language which drew in Muslim men.

Dr Roose said the IS described their dead fighters as brothers, lions and heroes. He also said on average Australian Muslims were more educated, but it did not equate to better jobs and this meant fewer Muslim homeowners.

Dr Roose said home ownership was symbolic of belonging and provided stability.

Solutions

The many inspiring Australian Muslim success stories were not getting enough publicity, Dr Roose said.

He also said the government could not change the perceptions of Muslims. Dr Roose said it was up to the Muslim community to change views.

Griffith University Associate Professor Halim Rane said the Muslim community needed to condemn the IS publicly and have an honest conversation among themselves. He said people needed to understand the IS's plan for a caliphate was not part of the Quran, but an idea of Sunni scholars - something many Muslims did not realise.

Assoc Prof Rane also pushed for all Australians and all Muslims to understand being Western and Muslim was not mutually exclusive.



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