Dr. Laura Zahra McDonald

Dr Laura Zahra McDonald is a founding director of ConnectFutures and former academic at the University of Birmingham.  After studying Social Anthropology with sub-honours in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of St Andrews, she completed her PhD at the Centre for Women’s Studies, University of York in intersectionality and Islam. Her post-doctoral work at the University of Birmingham investigated state -community engagement in the context of security and conflict post 9/11, within which she highlighted the importance of community partnership with leadership from young people and women.

She has been a key developer – designing, testing and evaluating – in the OSCE’s new Leaders Against Intolerance and Violent Extremism (LIVE) initiative, which is a long term training and capacity building programme for young leaders in Western Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia to tackle extremism in their local contexts. Laura has also contributed to the development of an online course for UNITAR around countering violent extremism within a human rights framework. She also developed training modules for the HMPPS funded Way Out Project:  Supporting Muslims in Prison (2018), an action research project based on lived experience of offenders.  Together with St Giles Trust, she has been a key developer of the Building Resilience to Violent Extremism (BRAVE) programme for schools and colleges, and is experienced in evaluating the impact of different forms of intervention such as films and testimonials as well as social media and dialogue.

She is the author of a range of academic and practitioner publications including Way Out: Increasing equality outcomes for Muslim Prisoners (2018); Fairness in policing: Communicating Procedural Justice to Young People (2016); Formers and Families: Journeys of Violent Extremists (2015); Methodological Partnerships in ‘Community Tensions’(RUSI & STFC 2014) ;Gender within a Counter-Terrorism Context‘ & ‘Engaging Young People within a Counter-Terrorism Context’ (Spalek 2012).

Email: [email protected]

9/11: The Al Qaeda attacks on New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon in Washington on 11th September 2001, which triggered President George W Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ and the  wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

7/7: The co-ordinated bomb attacks on London by four young British men in the name of Al Qaeda, on 7th July 2005, which killed 52 people.

Al Qaeda: Terrorist group founded in 1988 by Osama Bin Laden, which committed the 9/11 attacks.

Islamic State (Daesh/IS/ISIS/ISIL): Terrorist group formed after the fall of Saddam Hussain in Iraq and the civil war in Syria. It is the most prominent recruiter of Westerners to its mission to establish its own state.

CONTEST & the ‘4 Ps’: The British Government’s Counter Terrorism strategy initiated in 2006, revised in 2011, consisting of 4 strands: Prepare, Protect, Prevent and Pursue.

Prevent: Aiming to stop (prevent) individuals from supporting terrorism or becoming terrorists.