“Crime and Gangs: The Path to Battle for Australia’s Islamist Radicals”
Reuters, October 6, 2014
“The children of refugees who fled Lebanon’s civil war for peaceful Australia in the 1970s form a majority of Australian militants fighting in the Middle East, according to about a dozen counter-terrorism officials, security experts and Muslim community members. Of the 160 or so Australian jihadists believed to be in Iraq or Syria, several are in senior leadership positions, they say. But unlike fighters from Britain, France or Germany, who experts say are mostly jobless and alienated, a number of the Australian fighters grew up in a tight-knit criminal gang culture, dominated by men with family ties to the region around the Lebanese city of Tripoli, near the border with Syria. Not every gang member becomes an Islamic radical and the vast majority of Lebanese Australians are not involved in crime or in radicalism of any sort. Australian Muslims say they are unfairly targeted by law enforcement, especially after the surge in fighting in Iraq and Syria, and that racial tensions are on the verge of spiraling out of control. Still, there is a clear nexus between criminals and radicals within the immigrant Lebanese Muslim community, New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas told Reuters. … When the civil war erupted in Syria in 2011, the fighting was a draw for many Lebanese Muslim families in Australia. Clannishness and old family networks made it easy for youngsters from the community to slip away and join the fighting. … For Muhammad, a young man of Lebanese ancestry who grew up in the western suburbs of the city, the evolution from hard man to militant makes perfect sense. … ‘The violence stays, it’s just that you’re doing it for a purpose this time,’ he said of those who fight alongside Islamic State or other groups in Syria and Iraq.”
Quickie Analysis: An excellent example of the nexus between organized crime and extremism.