Predicting Radicalisation

The Australian reports today on the latest piece of fully sick research to come out from the habib braintrust of south west Sydney:

Howard government-funded research has also found there are more young Muslims per capita who are vulnerable to the influence of radical Islam in Australia than in any other western country.

In order for this statement to be true, the researcher would have needed to:

  1. Develop a predictive model (based ideally on some sort of empirical research) of externally observable behaviours and/or social features that could be used, with some accuracy, to predict future radicalisation;
  2. Apply that model to a significant and randomly selected sample of Muslims in Sydney (controlling for possible biases) in order to quantify the number of Muslims who are likely to become radicalised later in life;
  3. Then — and this is where it becomes really impressive — apply that same model to every country in the Western world in order to then reach the conclusion that there are more potentially radical Muslims in Australia per capita than anywhere else. Alternatively, if similar studies (using the exact same criteria) were carried out independently in every other country in the Western world, then they could also refer to that research too.

There are a few other means by which such a conclusion could be reached such as making it all up, consulting tea leaves, applying a priori gut feel or statistical shamanism. Of course, this would never happen in this case because we learn that the author was handed $200,000 — $66 per radical discovered! — of taxpayer’s money for this amazing research.

Mr Kara-Ali – who was given a $200,000 grant by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in June last year to investigate the radicalisation of young Muslims in Sydney’s southwest – told The Australian there were up to 3000 young Sunni Muslim in that region of the state who were part of “ideological sleeper cells” on the brink of becoming radicalised.

“I believe in Sydney alone there’s about 2000 and 3000 young Muslims vulnerable to being radicalised,” he said.

“There are ideological sleeper cells waiting to be completely radicalised. Because radicalisation … is to act upon your extremist teachings.”

The second impressive aspect of this research is that it has also created a term that, according to Google, nobody has ever used before: ideological sleeper cells. That is to say, people who have a few ideas but not all the ideas necessary to be fully radical but are sitting around in Sydney’s south west waiting for that last piece of the ideological puzzle — perhaps the answer to a question on some internet fatwa site on ablution — to be slotted into place so they can finally become genuine extremists.

It’s terrifying but don’t worry because taxpayer-funded pamphlets are on the way!

Mr Kara-Ali said his project would publish a 100-page guide book – The Way Forward for Australian Muslims: A Good Practice Guide for Building Identity and Resisting Radicalisation – which is currently under review and is expected to be distributed in Sydney’s southwest this month.

All jokes aside — and it is hard not to joke about these sorts of ‘findings’ — why is the government funding this sort of arrant dribble? Surely, if the intent was to discover potential security threats in Sydney, that $200,000 would have been better spent on ASIO or the Australian Federal Police (AFP) rather than handed to some guy with an ideological axe to grind and a scary story to tell the media.


#1 Quantifying the Risks on 07.02.07 at 2:11 pm

[...] ← Predicting Radicalisation [...]

#2 James on 07.02.07 at 2:26 pm

Let’s see triggering methods for the sleeper cells. Salman Rushdie getting knighted would that be the thing that sets da Muslim Yooths in to a tailspin? Perhaps they will inspired by the recent attacks in London? Of course they could go 180 out and become strict vegan pacifist Sufi’s who indulge in making Organic Halal cruelty free granola.
Then we could move from cells in “sleeper” mode to cells that are in full-out coma. I see another $200,000 research opportunity here. So tell me who do I apply to for the grant?

#3 Umm Yasmin on 07.02.07 at 2:41 pm

oh GREAT. This is going to make my job (legitimate research) so much harder. Arrrgghhh *bashing head on keyboard*

#4 Amir on 07.02.07 at 2:43 pm


Provided you can somehow link your ‘research’ to terrorism and have a suitably scary story to tell the media, I see no reason why you too can’t also apply for a federal government grant.

For example, take your “Organic Halal cruelty free granola”. I don’t think most extremists, terrorists or other assorted radicals eat this stuff. When was the last time you saw Osama delivering one of his missives with a bowl of granola next to him? Exactly.

Therefore, we have an inverse correlation that, I am sure, would be worth at least $200,000 to the Australian taxpayer. The opportunities are endless: after establishing that most terrorists don’t eat organic granola, you could then ask for an additional $200,000 to produce a pamphlet targeted at potential radicals extolling the virtuous effects of the product on the digestive system.

#5 dawood on 07.02.07 at 10:00 pm

Where has all that money gone? That is the one thing that really annoys the heck out of me. Of all the things the government spends money on – instead of educational and other projects for the “target audience” and so on… grrrr.

I could make a 100 page pamphlet in a couple of days from my home pc with better quality than the “report” from both him and the “reference group” combined.

#6 AU on 07.02.07 at 11:24 pm

I suggest people call the DIAC media office on 02 6264 2244 and ask for a copy of the report. I would be keen to hear what they say.

#7 When Angry gets angry on 07.03.07 at 10:51 pm

[...] we’re not really sure what’s provoking Angry’s anger), they’re probably the 3,000 Muslim youths exposed to radical teachings in [...]

#8 Irfan Yusuf on 07.04.07 at 1:04 am

The fact is that Richard Kerbaj from The Australian repeated verbatum claims made to him by Mustapha Kara-Ali. How do I know this? Because he told me so.

Kerbaj did not actually check to see if Kara-Ali’s claims were correct. In fact, Kara-Ali lied when he claimed to have received $200,000. DIAC has not provided a single cent to Kara-Ali. Instead, the BIRR Project is a project run by al-Amanah College who disburse funds for the project in accordance with the grant. Further, the amount awarded was just over 75% of the amount Kara-Ali claimed to have received.

All Kerbaj had to do was check the DIAC website and he would have discovered Kara-Ali’s deliberate deceptions. Instead, Kerbaj took Kara-Ali’s words as gospel and plastered the results on the front page of the national broadsheet.

So we have perhaps the biggest story of the week being based upon unsubstantiated lies which are easily checkable by recourse to information that has been in the public domain for well over 12 months.

#9 Kuranda Seyit on 07.04.07 at 11:53 am

The argument that Muslims are more prone to radicalization in Australia because its a new country with no traditional base for Muslims to fall back on is exactly the reason why terrorism instigated by Muslims is highly improbable. In Australia the fact that we do not have a long history of Islamic traditions and that the Muslim community is made up from a wide spectrum of cultural and ideological viewpoints, makes Australia a place where difference can be tolerated and opposing groups co-exist in harmony. Australia does have one great tradition that transcends all religious boundaries and that is the freedom to believe what you want and to live your life the way you want as long as you don’t try to stuff it down others’ throats. That’s a great motto to live by, don’t you think?

In Australia, radicalization is a very small threat and a threat that can be isolated to just a small segment of the Muslim Australian community. Just as it is in the Christian community, the Jewish or the Hindu and so forth. In Australia we have nutcases and radicals who preach that we should protect ourselves and our children from the evil influences of a non-believing society. That is relatively harmless albeit distasteful. But this is reality. Differences of opinion are healthy for societies and in many respects keep our lives dynamic and challenging. As they say if you have two Muslims in a debate you will get three opinions. In Australia the average Muslim lives an invisible life. On the fringe, however, those who tend to hold strong views about government policies and feel passionate about international affairs tend to be more vocal and conspicuous. Yet, in terms of numbers they are significantly small and only a tiny percentage within that tiny percentage have the potential for extreme violent behaviour. More people are likely to die from road rage accidents involving Middle Eastern drivers than a home grown Middle Eastern terrorist.

#10 No More Free Radicals on 07.04.07 at 4:26 pm

[...] the natural consequence of this “research“: if you can develop a predictive model capable of identifying members of a “sleeper [...]

#11 Waiting, waiting on 10.09.07 at 11:14 pm

[...] July, 2007, Sydney’s Mustapha Kara-Ali appeared in the media touting his taxpayer funded “research”  into Islamic extremism in Sydney’s south west.  According to this “research”, [...]

#12 Kara-Ali Report Watch on 11.26.07 at 9:47 pm

[...] canary in the coal-mine of Islamic extremism, remains silent. His report, supposedly detailing the imminent radicalisation of thousands of Muslims seems to have vanished into the sock drawer, or the same place where the TV [...]

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