By Karen Kelly
Photos by Andrew McEwen
Q&A with Fahad Ahmad, a PhD candidate in the School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA), and a 2018 Trudeau Foundation Scholar.
Can you describe the experience that inspired your research?
I used to be the COO and interim CEO of a non-profit called Soliya, which fostered cross-cultural dialogue between young people from America and Europe, and young people from predominantly Muslim countries. Soliya was created in response to the one-sided portrayal of Arabs and Muslims following 9/11.
At one point, the Countering Violent Extremism Unit within the U.S. State Department, responsible for supporting “community” efforts to reduce the risk of domestic terrorism, expressed an interest in collaborating with Soliya. But there were problems with their approach: they claimed to empower communities, but their efforts exceptionalized Muslim violence and they sometimes even used counter-radicalization programs as an avenue for surveillance. That experience really made me reflect on how security policy can pull well-intentioned non-profits into the security domain.
How has this experience influenced your research?
It got me interested in the idea of what counter-radicalization policy is and how non-profits are responding to it. Soon after, I decided to pursue a PhD at Carleton and chose to focus on how counter-radicalization policies shape the work of community organizations that serve Muslim immigrants and diaspora. I am interested in how governments and these community organizations influence each other—specifically in Canada and the U.K. How is government counter-radicalization policy configuring the landscape of these organizations? How many are adapting to the state orientation and how many are challenging it? Once I understand that, I want to consider why some organizations go one way and others go another way.
Why are these community organizations so important?
There’s something to be said for the role our community organizations play in building resilient societies. Community organizations play a vital role in providing services and fostering community relations. So, it is important that their ability to represent and advance community interests is unencumbered. I hope my research will provide a better understanding of the role of community organizations in fostering social cohesion and mitigating violence.
What is the significance of being named a Pierre Elliott Trudeau scholar?
I am honoured and thrilled to have received the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Doctoral scholarship, which provides a stipend and travel allowance for three to four years to support my research. It also plugs you into a community of other scholars and offers a platform for sharing your ideas with a broader audience.
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