In the past few weeks ANU academics have become a much sought after resource, and authoritative opinion, on the current situation in Iraq and Australia’s involvement in the Middle East.  Current events in the Middle East, with the actions of the group calling themselves Islamic State (IS), has sparked a dramatic response in Australia, with the terrorism alert level raised to high, military personnel deployed to Iraq, new anti-terrorism laws proposed, and anti-terrorism raids carried out across the country.

This fear that the unrest in Iraq and Syria could extend to our shores, and a renewed focus on Islam and the Middle East, has seen Australian citizens asking more questions and calling for more information about the situation. ANU academics are answering that call, lecturers and researchers providing commentary on radio and television, both locally and nationally, in the past couple of weeks, with four interviews on ABC radio alone.

Among those is Dr Raihan Ismail, researcher and associate lecturer in the Centre for Arabic and Islamic Studies (CAIS). Dr Ismail has appeared on both ABC radio in Canberra and Queensland in the past week, providing information in areas such as why Muslim women wear burkas and whether the wearing of burkas should be banned in Australia, and also explaining Sharia law.

Another leading ANU researcher in the field is Dr Robert Bowker, adjunct professor at CAIS and former Australian Ambassador to Syria, also appeared on national radio in the past week expressing concern over Australia’s deployment of troops to Iraq. “It is an extraordinarily fraught area for anyone to become engaged in anything that goes to the heart of Arab perceptions with their dealings with the West” Dr Bowker stated, encouraging that Australia “keep our intentions well understood and our objectives modest”.

Other ANU academics include Jacky Sutton, scholar also from CAIS appearing on ABC radio and Sebastian Klich, appearing on The Drum last week. The prevalence of ANU academics in recent media illustrates the indispensable role the university plays in understanding contemporary political and social issues. If you’re interested in finding out more about the current situation in the Middle East and IS, Woroni will be holding a forum on this issue on the Tuesday, the 21st of October.