The Centre is headed by a Muslim (not that there is any hint of that in Lentini's lengthy biography) (reference)
But Geoff Strong, in A Convert to Islam, spills the beans:
He was already a citizen of the world's most powerful nation (US) when he arrived in Australia, but was so impressed by Australia's approach to multiculturalism that he took our citizenship as soon as he could in 2002. A year later he took that multiculturalism a stage further and became an Australian Muslim.
...he had been fascinated by Islam since he was a 17-year-old student of Afro-Asian studies. He continued his studies in the British cities of Glasgow and Birmingham, where he met more Muslims whose contented attitude to life impressed him.
He believes the solution to the growth of extremism in his adopted religion lies in education... young Muslims should be encouraged towards the kind of liberal education that encourages critical thought. "I don't think there has ever been a suicide bomber who came from a liberal education background. I know I am going to get into trouble saying it, but Osama bin Laden started his career as an engineer."
"Many Muslims learn the Koran like a parrot but don't understand it, and I think that is part of the problem with extremism. The book was revealed 1400 years ago, at a time when people were used to stories of allegory and symbolism. These days people who are not well educated are tempted to take such stories literally."
Lentini said a program begun by a judge in Yemen had been successful in diverting jailed extremists from their destructive ways. "What they did was take senior Islamic scholars to debate these guys in prison over whether extremism and terrorism was the correct direction of Islam. So far the scholars have won 365 to nothing."Lentini adopted Islam after studying the Koran and believed that in its tolerant form, it was the logical extension of Christianity and Judaism. "I see it as a bridge to knowledge." (source)
I can't say I've ever noticed Muslims' contented attitude to life: on the contrary, they seem to have endless grievances, most of them centering round infidels. And Lentini might claim Muslims don't take such stories literally, but isn't the Koran the immutable word of Allah? The terrorists seems to have no trouble quoting (accurately) from the Koran to justify their actions. After all, what's to interpret about -
Koran 47.4: “Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers, smite at their necks and when you have caused a bloodbath among them, bind a bond firmly on them.”In LETTER FROM AUSTRALIA: When Islam meets multiculturalism, K.C. Boey eulogises Lentini:
As a scholar in Russian studies ... Lentini makes no claim to scholarship on Islam.
But his work on global terrorism, leading to a book that he jointly edited with Monash colleagues Marika Vicziany and David Wright- Neville, had sharpened the sensitivities of the political scientist to the emerging role of religion in the shaping of public policy, in particular Islam.
Now Lentini is embarking on his post-doctoral project, Rethinking Islamism and Islam: Confronting Adversarialism and Apologetics.
The dominant image of Islam today is one of religious fanaticism.
The stereotype is of a Muslim from birth, of Middle Eastern, South Asian or Southeast Asian extraction: the "Orientalist stereotype" of a monolithic, homogenous Islam.
Lentini accepts he may be seen as the antithesis of that stereotype. "The only reason I did that was to demonstrate the diversity within Islam, and that there are gradations of religiosity."
Islam came to him through intellectual processes, and what he finds appealing is its intellectual traditions.
Lentini is encouraged by the core of Muslim public intellectuals now engaging in public debate...
The extent to which progressive Islam will prevail over radical ulama will depend on how the media is prepared to give space for mainstream Islam to be heard, he says.
Wright-Neville confines the negative stereotyping of Muslims to the more "hysterical elements" in Australia. "Most Australians are more sophisticated in their understanding of Muslims," he says. But he says the public profile of Lentini can help dispel the myth of Islam as an intolerant religion.
Both Wright Neville and Lentini blame "negative stereotyping" for Islam's image problems, rather than Islam's jihadi texts and actions. Should propagandists like this be advising our police and important decision makers on terrorism?
The Centre is coordinated by Dr. Pete Lentini, a specialist on terrorism and politics in the former Soviet Union, Associate Professor David Wright-Neville, former Senior Counter-terrorism Analyst for the Office of National Assessments, Dr Andrew Newman, whose main research interests include WMD terrorism, US foreign policy and arms control, and Professor Gary D. Bouma, the UNESCO Chair in Intercultural and Interreligious Studies.
- The Centre's mission is to generate interdisciplinary, culturally informed research into terrorism, counter-terrorism and related forms of identity-based conflict and cooperation. This includes:
- Using collective expertise and research to enhance international scholarship and Australia 's reputation in the study of terrorism, political violence, cultural conflict and cooperation;
- Providing information services for the private, public and philanthropic sectors and broader publics in Australia and abroad;
- Offering students a culturally informed curriculum in the study of terrorism and related forms of political violence. (source)
Curiously, Waleed Aly is no longer listed as a staff member of the Centre:(reference)
Yet he was in 2007 :
Monash University has united a team of experts to help understand and combat one of our greatest social and economic threats. Specialists at the University's new Global Terrorism Research Centre are researching the best ways to combat extremism and train a new generation of political scientists.
...former Deputy Commissioner of Victoria Police Bill Kelly is helping guide a new University team researching the best ways to combat extremism around the world, as part of the new Global Terrorism Research Centre (GTReC).
The Centre's Director, Professor Gary Bouma, says "It is clear that since religion is a significant part of the problem of terror, religion must also be part of the solution. .. the best policy for terror-proofing a nation is to promote policies of social justice and social inclusion."
Associate Professor David Wright-Neville, the Centre's co-founder, was formerly a senior intelligence analyst for the Office of National Assessments (ONA).
Monash academic and former Islamic Council member, Waleed Aly is another member of the GTReC team. He has found the quality of pro-active counter-terrorism policing through community engagement can vary widely. "The Victorian police have a dedicated multicultural liaison unit that has been quite successful in building trust between the police and various communities..At the federal level...it seems there is a much higher level of mistrust arising from communities, especially Muslim Australia." (source)
So why has Waleed disappeared from GTReC? Could it have something to do with the fact that Wright Neville, one of his Masters supervisors, recently resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct with a student?
Master of Arts (Research)
"Ideological ancestors: Modern Muslim radicalism and the Islamic history of militant heterodoxy"
Dr Pete Lentini/Assoc Prof. David Wright-Neville (reference)
You can see his staff profile at:Monash-Staff
Incidentally, Vice Chancellor Larkin failed to justify Wal's initial appointment. To be considered for employment as a lecturer; the minimum requirement would be a good degree and a PhD , or significant completion thereof, or perhaps a significant portfolio of works published in refereed journals in that particular field. Yet Wal was appointed as a lecturer in Politics despite not having the requisite qualifications.
He graduated in 2002 from Melbourne University with degrees in Engineering and Law, obtaining a Class 2B Honours in completing the LLB, finishing 8th from the bottom of the list of H2B recipients. (source)
How the above qualify him to be an academic in the field of politics is a question unlikely to be answered by Richard Larkin, who also failed to explain why the Monash Asia Institute hired Zulfikar Shariff, a known supporter of Osama bin Laden, as a research fellow, despite Shariff not having any academic qualifications at all.
(with thanks to Ganesh Sahathevan for this information from August 2007.)
Waleed is now in the Security Research Cluster (reference)
The Security Research Cluster’s objectives are threefold:
1.To publish scholarly work in leading national and international publications.
2.To secure funding to support both pure and applied research.
3.To engage in collaborative research projects, both within the cluster, and with international partners.
He is currently researching his postgraduate thesis, entitled ‘Ideological ancestors: Modern Muslim radicalism and the Islamic history of militant heterodoxy’.
His research projects include: Islam and Islamism: New Mediations (Funded by Monash University Grant Schemes); Counter-Terrorism Policing for Culturally Diverse Communities (with Associate Professor Pickering) (funded by Australian Research Council, in partnership with Victorian Police Counter-Terrorism Coordination Unit). In 2009, Dr. Lentini (with Dr. S. Moss and Dr. G. Ilardi) obtained a large ARC Linkage grant of $884,000 over five years (2009–13), in collaboration with Victoria Police, the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, the Australian Federal Police and the Victorian Department of Justice, entitled ‘Radicalisation, Counter Radicalisation, and De Radicalisation: Developing a New Understanding of Terrorism in the Australian Context’. *
Professor Jude McCulloch – is undertaking research and scholarship in relation to the ‘war on terror’ in the context of neo-liberal globalisation.
As mentioned previously, Wal's former mentor is under a cloud:
Dr David Wright-Neville resigned from the university this month, the day he was to be suspended without pay over allegations of sexual assault.
The academic, a regular on 3AW and a delegate last year to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's 2020 Summit, had been on sick leave since January.
Dr Wright-Neville denied all allegations against him.
University sources said the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Dr Rae Frances, first became aware of the allegation last October and immediately contacted police.
The university has also launched an independent investigation which is expected to focus on how long staff in the School of Political and Social Inquiry -- where Dr Wright-Neville worked -- had concerns over his conduct.
One academic has told this newspaper he first learned of the alleged assault in March last year.
Monash University spokesman Tim Mitchell confirmed that a university academic was recently suspended without pay over alleged serious misconduct. (source)
Wright Neville has recently been involved in a project, Radicalisation, Counter-Radicalisation, and De-Radicalisation: Developing a New Understanding of Terrorism in the Australian Context., yet his name is absent from the list of members of the Security Cluster;
Concentrating on the unique drivers of extremism within Victoria (and Australia), the study will enhance counter terrorism stakeholders' understanding of domestic radicalization. This will assist in designing policies appropriate for Australian circumstances that can: 1. pre-empt, prevent and detect radicalisation without jeopardising social cohesion and 2. reduce Australia's reliance on overseas counter-radicalisation and de-radicalisation models, where practitioners confront different community dynamics. Working towards understanding what causes radicalization in Australia, the project offers to enhance national security and by addressing local circumstances carries the prospect of creating more cost-efficient counter terrorism practices. (source)
Australian Multicultural Foundation director Mr Hass Dellal, Associate Professor Sharon Pickering, Inspector Graeme Sprague, Associate Professor David Wright-Neville, Associate Professor Jude McCulloch, Dr Pete Lentini and Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon (front), are due to be part of a major international counter-terrorism conference co-hosted by Monash University.
Do the ranks of Middle East studies professors include terrorists? If the allegations against University of Ottawa professor Hassan Diab are proved true, the answer will be yes.Australians concerned about the objectivity of our academic staff should be keeping a close eye on that is happening.
Diab, a Lebanese-born dual Canadian citizen, is a lecturer in sociology at the University of Ottawa. His job ended last month following allegations by French authorities that Diab was the leader of a commando team that perpetrated the 1980 bombing of the Rue Copernic synagogue in Paris. The bombing, which was attributed to a splinter group of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), killed three Frenchmen and an Israeli woman and wounded 20.
French authorities who seek to extradite Diab for trial in France accuse him of making and planting the bomb used in the attack... But Mr. Diab, who has a common Lebanese name, insists that he is a wholly innocent victim of mistaken identity.
Diab's friends and colleagues insist that he is a peaceful, non-violent man who has never shown anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist leanings.
Predictably, Carleton University's decision to terminate Diab has caused an uproar among his academic peers. An August 1, 2009, Ottawa Citizen op-ed signed by 30 members of Carleton's Department of Sociology and Anthropology labelled Diab's firing "an attack on widely held democratic values, and on the need to achieve justice through the law and due process" and "a bleak chapter in the story of injustice and discrimination in the dark shadow of 9/11."
Diab has yet to stand trial, but the reaction of his academic peers demonstrates a knee-jerk opposition to authority, an arrogant rejection of accountability, and a dangerous naiveté towards the dangers of Islamic terrorism. Rather than expressing shock and horror that one of their own may have been involved in a heinous crime, they immediately jumped to his defense. But what will they do if the allegations against Diab prove true?
This isn't the first time the Middle East studies establishment has rallied around a beleaguered professor accused—or even convicted—of terrorism charges.... or acted as cohorts or apologists for those with proven Islamist sympathies. (Here Stillwell cites many examples.)
Viewing the Middle East studies establishment's support for Diab against this background reveals a disturbing pattern. The presumption of innocence is one thing. Blindly throwing one's support behind any colleague accused of terrorist ties is another. (source)
Many questions need to be asked. Here are just a few for readers to ponder:
1. Why did Monash show its preference for Islam above all other religions by giving land for a mosque.? Despite many letters, VC Larkin refused to give a satisfactory reply . (see Democracy Retreats from Monash University )
2. When teaching about Islamic terrorism, should staff be Islamic?
Can an unrepentant Nazi teach objectively about the horrors of Nazism?
3. In relation to the sexual assault claims against Wright Neville, given the cosiness between members of staff, are there others involved who knew and looked the other way?
4. Were Wright Neville's bias against Judeo-Christian values known at the time of his appointment? Should people with such extreme views which are hostile to our democratic values be allowed to indoctrinate our students?
5. Why are the rigorous standards for appointment of lecturers relaxed in the case of Muslims? (see Different standards for Muslims? )