Cultural immersion plan to stop Muslim youth being radicalised
Young Muslims at risk of being radicalised by terrorists would be given free tours of Australian cultural icons such as the Sydney Opera House and parliament under a plan by Islamic leaders to turn them away from extremism.
The tours, which would aim to "re-engage" disaffected youth with broader society, were among a raft of ideas presented to Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a meeting with Islamic leaders last week after Melbourne's deadly Bourke Street attack.
The suggestion comes despite several of the suggested landmark sites, such as Melbourne's Federation Square, already being the focus of thwarted plots, or involved in brushes with previous terror attacks, such as NSW parliament, which had to close to the public during 2014's Lindt Cafe Siege.
Other proposals included a hotline for members of the Muslim community to dob in friends and relatives who showed signs of radicalisation, and enlisting community leaders to be mentors to youth at risk.
The meeting went ahead last Thursday despite a boycott by some of Australia's most senior Islamic leaders in response to comments Mr Morrison made after the Bourke Street attack and the arrest last week of three men accused of an ISIS-inspired plot in Melbourne.
Dr Jamal Rifi, a respected leader in the Sydney Muslim community who helped collect ideas for the meeting, said the proposal for visits to iconic places involved giving vouchers for free trips to parents and children who attended information meetings to help identify signs of radicalisation.
The places could include the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the War Memorial in Canberra, Federation Square and the Islamic Museum, and state parliament houses.
"Mr Morrison said it was a thumbs-up in principle and the proposals were music to his ears," Dr Rifi said.
"If we foil one terror attack and catch one lone wolf, it will be work and money well spent."
A spokesman for Mr Morrison said the Prime Minister welcomed the ideas.
"The Prime Minister was encouraged by the willingness to work together to address these serious issues," he said.
But psychologist Dr Rose Cantali, an expert on Muslim boys and their connections to school, said relying on parents and community leaders to spot the signs of radicalisation was doomed to fail.
"Parents don't always know if their child is disengaged, it's the teachers who are trained to spot the signs," she said.
"Drugs and mental health problems are often an issue among extremists and getting counsellors and experts into the home won't work - we need a group that will look at every case on merit to decide best practise for each individual family."
The community leaders' ideas are now being compiled into a more formal proposal to be presented to Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Minister David Coleman.
Nick O'Brien, associate professor of counter terrorism at Charles Sturt University, said the security risks would have to be "tightly" assessed before allowing people at risk of radicalisation to tour government buildings.
"The biggest problem is the interest factor - what young person wants to visit a museum? That's not a way to engage someone who feels disconnected."