A GOVERNMENT booklet linking environmental activism and alternative music to violent extremism has been widely ridiculed by Australians.
Australia’s anti-terror minister Michael Keenan launched the Radicalisation Awareness Kit earlier this week, urging it be shared in schools.
But the use of a case study of a girl called Karen – who gets into music and student politics, then criminal protests – has sparked both concern and humour. The #freeKaren hashtag started trending yesterday, and inspired offshoots #IamKaren and #JeSuisKaren.
The publication, Preventing Violent Extremism and Radicalisation, says young people can become violent because of ideologies such as “environment or economic concerns, or ethnic or separatist causes”.
The case study says Karen grew up “in a loving family” but when she went to university “Karen became involved in the alternative music scene, student politics and left-wing activism. In hindsight she thinks this was just ‘typical teenage rebellion’ that went further than most”.
“One afternoon Karen attended an environmental protest with some of her friends. It was exhilarating, fun and she felt like she was doing the ‘right thing’ for society.”
The booklet goes on to describe Karen’s involvement in violent environmental protests before describing how she eventually became disillusioned and cut ties with the group. She struggled to “recover” from radical activism, but reconnected with family, found a job and developed a “more moderate eco-philosophy”.
The International Association for the Study of Popular Music said it “strongly objects to the linking of participation in the alternative music scene to radicalisation of any kind”.
“There is no reputable evidence to suggest that listening to certain types of music leads to particular political outcomes for the audience,” it said in a statement.
“The idea that young people who like certain types of music are problems waiting to happen needs to be challenged, as it has consequences for them.”
The booklet comes amid concerns that Australia is facing an increasing domestic terror threat from people linked to or influenced by militant groups overseas.
Speaking earlier in the week, Australia’s new defence minister said the threat from groups such as Islamic State was “very serious”.
“There is absolutely no doubt that there are individuals, leaders in that organisation, who are intent upon disrupting Western democracies,” Marise Payne said. “I don’t think that the magnitude of the threat should be underestimated.”