Counter-terror expert suggests training Australian Imams to combat radicalisation

Dr Ahmed Abbadi, the – Secretary-General of the Muhammadan League of Religious Scholars Source: Supplied

A Moroccan Islamic scholar says Australia could learn insights from his country's experience de-radicalising returned foreign fighters

A prominent terror expert from the North African nation has praised Australia’s counter-terrorism strategies but warned against complacency.

“I believe a country like Australia faces the threat of sticking with the security it has … without realising the changes that are occurring around us,” Ahmed Abbadi said.

Muhammadan League of Religious Scholars secretary general Ahmed Abbadi is in Australia this week.

Dr Abbadi suggested Australia could follow Morocco's example of the Mohammed VI Institute for Imams and Preachers, which teaches religious scholars how to counter extremism.

"The state has a responsibility to guarantee a secure religious discourse," Dr Abbadi said.

"We need to train them [Imams] and have them realise how heavy the responsibility is."

He said Imams were vital in promoting moderate Islam.

"We should never waste those hundreds of thousands of half hours that will be spent in Jummah Prayers or in the preaching on Sunday or the prayers of Saturday," he said.

He's met Attorney-General George Brandis and the joint parliamentary intelligence committee and shared his insights into what makes de-radicalisation and prevention programs successful.

It's estimated hundreds of Moroccans have gone to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Moroccans don't need visas to travel to Turkey or Syria so it's difficult to tell exact numbers of foreign fighters.

But, according to the US State Department's latest Country Reports on Terrorism, approximately 1,500 Moroccans have traveled to fight with extremist groups in the Middle East.

Dr Abbadi said de-radicalisation programs in prisons were showing signs of success in five months.

"We've been working with them in prisons and trying to have them acquire the capacity to interact with their peers," he said.

He stressed the importance of combating extremist propaganda on social media and said there was also scope to channel messages about moderate Islam through popular platforms such as entertainment, popular culture, and video games.

Dr Abbadi said it was also crucial women played a role in preventing radicalisation by exerting their influence over sons and brothers.

But such encouragement had to be done in a gentle way, he said.

Morocco has a special council charged with supervising sermons to stamp out radical hate preaching.

In April 2011, 17 people were killed and 25 injured in a large explosion in Marrakech and 45 people died in Casablanca suicide bombings in 2003.

A 22-year-old Moroccan man was responsible for the Barcelona attacks in August.

SBS has contacted the Australian National Imams Council and the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils for comment.

-With AAP.

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