Islamophobia in Australia 2014 – 2016: the report is out

I am proud to be one of the authors of the report “Islamophobia in Australia 2014 – 2016”. Specifically, I have contributed to the analysis of the data collected by the Islamophobia Register Australia together with Dr Derya Iner and Iman Zayed. The report can be found here.

The report describes and categorizes 243 verified cases of Islamophobic incidents collected between 2014 and 2015 in Australia. Among the key findings, the report highlights that: women have been the main victims of Islamophobia in Australia, and one-in-three female victims had their children with them at the time of the reported incident. Perpetrators were more likely to be male. Almost half (48%) of the Islamophobic attacks occurred in crowded public spaces (like train stations and shopping centers) in front of a large numbers of bystanders. However, nobody intervened in 75% of the reported incidents.

The launch of the report had large media coverage, including articles published by SBS, ABC, SMH, The Conversation among others. Please see here for a definition of the term “Islamophobia”.

High-quality evaluations need to be built into CVE programs

I just published a new opinion piece on The Interpreter about the need for rigorous impact evaluation of CVE programs in Australia. Based on public health best practices, I propose a list of evaluation components to lift the quality of the impact assessment of CVE programs. We need impact evaluations to ensure that government investment in such programs is not better spent elsewhere. Otherwise, costly programs with weak impact evaluations risk to waste public funds. Please read the piece here.

The more Australians know about Islam, the less prejudice they have against practicing Muslims

Preliminary results from the first 2016 wave of the AuSSA survey indicate that the more Australians know about Islam, the less prejudice they have against practicing Muslims.

First, we measured how much participants were concerned of Muslim, and we found that Islamophobia exists in Australia.

islamophobia-infographic

Second, we measured both self-reported knowledge of Islam and factual knowledge of Islam. Specifically, we asked: “how much do you think you know about Islam?”, but we also asked five factual questions about the religion, for example: “Is Jesus a revered Prophet in Islam?”

Unsurprisingly, knowing about Islam and thinking to know about Islam were not the same. In fact, the people who knew more about Islam indicated less prejudice against practicing Muslims, but not the people who thought they knew about Islam. Similarly, knowing more Muslims (for example at work, or at school) was associated with less prejudice against Muslims.

Moreover, we also measured the perceived threat of terrorism, and we found that the people who were more concerned of terrorism were also more concerned about practicing Muslims.

The research, that I conducted with Prof. Fethi Mansouri, is part of the ongoing “Muslims and Islamic Religiosity in the West” ARC research project. You can find the official press release on the website of the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.

 

Death Reminders Increase Agreement With Extremist Views but Not Violent Extremist Action in Indonesian Muslims

I’ve co-authored an article with Muhammad Iqbal, Kerry O’Brien and Ana-Maria Bliuc on the effects of death awareness on young Indonesians’ support for extremism and violent extremism. The article can be accessed here.
Muslim and non-Muslim Indonesian students in Australia were randomly assigned to an MS (Mortality Salience, i.e. we asked them to think about death) or control condition. Following a delay, participants were asked to rate their agreement/disagreement with another Indonesian Muslim student’s (bogus) statements toward extremist views and violent extremist actions. After controlling for alienation, Muslim students in the MS condition reported significantly higher levels of support for extremist views than did non-Muslims. However there was no significant effect of MS on support violent extremist action in either Muslims or non-Muslims. The results suggest that reminders of death may lead young Muslims to be more supportive of politically and religiously extreme views, but not violent action.
In conclusion, our article suggests that death awareness does not appear to be a cause of engagement in violent action as previous research suggests (see for example this article on the effects of MS on the support for martyrdom among Iranian Muslims).

How ISIS’ language changed over time: more concern with females and more “net-speak”

We (myself and Ana-Maria Bliuc) just published a brief research-paper in the Italian magazine “Security, Terrorism and Society“. We used the computerized text analysis program LIWC (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) to investigate the evolution of the language across the first 11 Issues of Dabiq.

Our paper shows ISIS’ increasing concern with females. This is especially important because it shows that ISIS needs to attract not only fighters but also women in order to create a society that is not only composed by warriors but also by families, where people can live an “ordinary” life.  This is a cornerstone of ISIS “utopia”, which is a powerful radicalization motive. The next figure shows the increased concern with females in ISIS language.

Female

Additionally, our analysis shows that ISIS increased its use of internet jargon (for example abbreviations like “btw”, “lol”, thx”). We believe that this suggests that ISIS complies with the requirements of the internet environment, and aims to connect with the identities of young individuals. The next figure shows the increase in “net-speak” in ISIS language.

netspeak

We believe that the analysis of ISIS language with LIWC categories is particularly interesting because it offers insights about the motives, emotions and concerns of the terrorist group. Research in the field of psychology of political leadership showed that the success of a leader depends on a match between the personal characteristics, the historical context and the followers’ psychological characteristics. The psychological structures of a text can generate identification in the audiences that recognize themselves in such structures and motives: the fact that ISIS is more concerned about females, means for example that ISIS is trying to connect with females and with people concerned with females. The fact that ISIS uses more “net-speak” means that the groups wants to connect with people who use the same language.

This is just a descriptive research that we hope can generate discussion. More research is needed in this area: we (myself and Ana-Maria) conducted more studies on ISIS language that are under review and will (hopefully) appear soon on this blog.