By Kema Rajandran, ASM.
Despite a view that security and counter terrorism is male dominated; Dr Anne Aly has established quite a high profile within the industry.
A senior lecturer, researcher, author, Councillor for Australian-Arab Relations and mother of two who also made an appearance as a model at the Perth Fashion Festival last year, Dr Aly believes that being passionate about what you do is absolutely essential so it does not feel like work.
With a Bachelor of Arts from the American University in Cairo, a Post Graduate Diploma in Linguistics, a Master of Education and a PhD in Cultural Studies, Dr Aly is one of the most respected counter terrorism and counter radicalisation experts in Australasia.
Her knowledge stems around working and researching in terrorism studies, where she developed an interest in how people respond to terrorism and how those responses are part of the broader effort to counter terrorism through both hard (military, defence and security) measures and soft measures that involve social change.
Previously holding a position as Senior Policy Officer within the Office of Multicultural Interests in Western Australia, Dr Aly started to focus on the issues that Muslims were facing in response to the September 11 attacks in the United States.
“I really enjoy policy and have an interest in how policy can be influenced and shaped. After the terrorist attacks in 2001, I had a lot more to do with the government’s policy responses to terrorism and initiatives such as the National Action Plan.”
It comes as no surprise that her advice is sought after worldwide. She has published papers on the fear of terrorism, the media discourse on terrorism, the media construction of Muslim women and Australian Muslim identity, presented papers at national and international conferences on the history of terrorism, the media and Australian Muslims and the policy response to the threat of terrorism and Australian Muslim identity.
She had been working on policies and projects with Muslim communities that were under the banner of countering terrorism and after the attacks in London in 2005 when the opportunity arose for a PhD scholarship in the area, which she quickly snapped up.
Her thesis was on Australian responses to terrorism and delved into the fear of terrorism in Australia among Muslims and the broader community.
Much of the media and literature represented Australian Muslims as the victims of negative media stereotyping post the September 11 attacks and Dr Aly’s research explored the implications of the phenomenon of what it means to be an Australian Muslim.
As part of her PhD project, Dr Aly and her supervisor – Professor Mark Balnaves, developed Australia’s first Metric of the Fear of Terrorism. As a self professed “progressive Muslim”, Dr Aly is proud of her culture as a mix of Australian, Egyptian and Muslim, while she observes Muslim traditions such as Ramadan however she chooses not to wear the head scarf or traditional dress.
Dr Aly grew up in Sydney, a place she feels is very multicultural however she admitted having faced some racism and discrimination which contributed to her identity and personal strengths. “I attended an Anglican school for girls and had to learn how to navigate two very different worlds. It was a real advantage although a challenge at times.”
“I think religion is a personal matter and it is about cultivation a relationship between yourself and whatever higher being you believe in.”
While her beliefs and practices did not change, she observed some people become more religious after the terrorist attacks and believes the trend is about identity and the cultivation of a Muslim identity.
“I think Australia is a very multicultural country. We can’t allow events like September 11 to divide us – that’s what terrorists want. Above all terrorists aim to influence populations. We cannot let them influence us by dividing us along cultural, racial or religious lines.”…
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