Dr. Laura Zahra McDonald

Laura has extensive experience in innovative enquiry and evaluation as an academic and independent consultant for policy, practitioner and community-based organisations. She has worked to counter extremism, exploitation and inequality since 2003 in a range of roles within those sectors, engaging formally in understanding and developing preventative approaches since 2005. Laura specialises in qualitative methodologies and participatory action research in the areas of justice, security and social relations, and has a particular interest in the connections and impact between the local and transnational. Her focus is on women and young people.

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 young people and women.

She is the author of a range of academic and practitioner publications including ‘Formers and Families: Journeys of Violent Extremists (2015); ‘Muslim Communities and the Securitization of Islam in the UK’ (in Lazaridid & Wadia 2015);  Methodological Partnerships in ‘Community Tensions’ (RUSI & STFC 2014) and ‘Gender & Engaging Young People within a Counter-Terrorism Context’ (Spalek 2012). Prior to co-founding ConnectFutures, Laura lectured internationally while researching, engaging and advising high-impact projects for diverse organisations.

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.