Half of Prominent Jihadis Tied to “Non-Violent” Islamism, New Study Shows

by IPT News  •  Apr 30, 2017

Half of the prominent jihadists profiled in a new study by The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics had ties to supposedly non-violent Islamists prior to joining terrorist organizations.

The study’s authors – Mubaraz Ahmed, Milo Comerford, and Emman El-Badawy – explore pathways to militancy among 100 prominent figures within the wider Salafi-Jihadi movement. The individuals examined derive from the Middle East and Africa, across multiple generations. Some of the findings suggest that membership or ties to non-violent Islamist organizations can be associated with an individual’s trajectory towards violence and terrorism.

51 percent of the terrorists under study were previously connected to Islamist groups that claim to be non-violent, including “bodies that are not necessarily political activist organizations but form a functioning arm of existing Islamist groups, such as youth wings, student associations, and other societies.” Since membership in Islamist groups is often secretive and sometimes prohibited in various Middle Eastern countries, the authors acknowledge that the proportion of jihadists with Islamist affiliations are likely higher.

Some of the case studies explored in the report include Djamel Zitouni, the leader of the Armed Islamic Group who was previously a member of an Islamist organization that supposedly eschewed violence – the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). Senior Al-Qaeda leaders, including Abdullah Azzam and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, were involved with or direct members of the Muslim Brotherhood before turning to violent jihad.

One in four of the jihadists examined had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood or its affiliated groups.

Another interesting finding shows that 65 percent of the sample had been imprisoned at some point throughout their lives, some of whom served time before engaging in violent jihad. There has been growing concern for years about Islamist radicalization of potential terrorist recruits in prisons worldwide.

The study shows that personal networks are critical in the formation and development of the global Salafi-jihadi movement.

“Our data links the leaders of Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS today to the forefathers of the movement through people they met in prison, at university, and on the battlefield,” write the authors.

Purportedly non-violent Islamist groups not only serve as potential incubators for radicalization and violence – they also continue to engage in violent incitement, encouraging others to carry out terrorist attacks.

For example, on Wednesday, a senior Muslim Brotherhood member, ‘Izz Al-Din Dwedar, called for an “intifada” targeting Egyptian embassies around the world, in a Facebook post translated by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

In protest of death sentences handed to members of the Brotherhood in Egypt, Dwedar suggested for violent action on May 3.

Egyptians abroad should “protest [outside] Egyptian embassies and lay siege to them, and steadily escalate [their actions], up to and including raiding the embassies in some countries, disrupting their work and occupying them if possible, in order to raises awareness to our cause,” wrote Dwedar.

Karim Cheurfi: From the Cauldron of Prison to the Streets of Paris

by Patrick Dunleavy
IPT News
April 24, 2017

The initial reports regarding Islamic terrorist Karim Cheurfi, the man responsible for the latest attack that killed French police officer Xavier Jugele and wounded several others, contained the all-too-familiar phrase – “known to authorities.”

What actually was known? Cheurfi had a predisposition for violence, animosity toward authority – he had tried to kill police officers twice before – and a sense of alienation. They also knew that he had spent a significant period of his life in a place that some authorities called a radicalizing cauldron, the French prison system. Inside those prisons, a small group of Islamic terrorists was effectively radicalizing other inmates who came in as petty criminals with no religious leanings, said Pascal Mailhos, past director of France’s domestic intelligence agency.

Mailhos’ warning proved prophetic as French prisons spawned terrorists like Mohammed Merah, who in 2012 murdered police officers and Jewish school children in Toulouse, and Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a police trainee before storming the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket and killing four hostages. Charlie Hebdo attacker Said Kouachi, like Karim Cheurfi, came out of the joint radicalized and ready to kill law enforcement, military personnel and innocent civilians in the name of Allah.

This problem is not unique to France. Former inmates who turned to the violent path of jihad plotted or carried out terrorist attacks in the United States, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom.

For some, particularly for those who have spent time in prison, the radicalization process from conversion to violence is more accelerated. “Some individuals, particularly those who convert in prison, may be attracted directly to jihadi violence…for this group, jihad represents a convenient outlet for (their) aggressive behavior,” the Central Intelligence Agency said in a report, “Homegrown Jihad – Pathway to Terrorism.”

When you combine the ingredients of violent aggressive behavior, animosity toward authority, incarceration, and radical Islamic ideology, you will almost certainly produce a deadly toxin. French prosecutor Francois Molins insisted that Cheurfi showed no signs of radicalization prior to the attack. Missing the signs could be the result of bad eyesight or, a lack of training. “We don’t have anyone trained for anti-radicalization,” said David Dulondel, the head of the union representing officers at France’s Fleury-Merogis maximum security prison. “We can’t say whether someone is in the process of radicalizing or not.”

Despite an acknowledged problem with insufficient training, groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) seek to censor any mention of Islamic radicalization from American law enforcement and military training.

In 2004, the FBI’s official definition of radicalization was “the process of attracting and possibly converting inmates to radical Islam.” They since have been pressured to change the term to “violent extremism.”

Removing warning labels from canisters containing caustic material does not render the substance inside harmless. It only increases the risk of a deadly incident. Toxic waste spills are often the result of carelessness.

Prison radicalization should not be treated this way. We must put the tools in place to monitor and control this threat. Others have done it. Following last month’s Westminster Bridge attack by Khalid Masood, British authorities announced the formation of a task force that will combine intelligence, law enforcement, corrections and probation personnel to look at literature, clergy, and other influences available in prisons. The task force will also closely monitor recently released inmates for changes in behavior or association with known radical mosques or people. France, which has suffered its share of jihadi violence carried out by ex-inmates, had to admit that its program to address prison radicalization had been an utter failure. Yet it has not made any significant changes.

Here in the United States, it is imperative that the Justice Department and the FBI revise the Correctional Intelligence Initiative Program to include the proper vetting of clergy and a post release component to track people who were radicalized or previously incarcerated for terrorist crimes. The initiative started in 2003 with a mission to “detect, deter, and disrupt efforts by terrorist and extremist groups to radicalize or recruit within all federal, state, territorial, tribal and local prison populations.”

Failure to effectively address the ongoing threat is not an acceptable option. At some point there will be a price to pay.

IPT Senior Fellow Patrick Dunleavy is the former Deputy Inspector General for New York State Department of Corrections and author of The Fertile Soil of Jihad. He currently teaches a class on terrorism for the United States Military Special Operations School.

Terror ‘Defector’ Stories Hyped by Media Collapse Underneath the ‘Deradicalization’ Narrative

PJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, MARCH 16, 2017:

The “deradicalization” narrative — and a whole industry of academics pursuing large cash grants from governments looking to set up such programs — are built upon the premise that the right set of information and conditions can not only turn terrorists away from violence, but even into respectable and productive citizens.

More often than not, it seems, reality demonstrates the premise’s naivety.

In my previous article, I looked at the current case of Brooklyn native Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya, a former ISIS fighter who defected from the group and is now being enlisted by the Justice Department to help “deradicalize” other terror recruits. Having already plead guilty to his crimes, he is looking for reduced sentencing in exchange for his assistance.

I noted that many “deradicalization” programs established by Western governments have been fraught with repeated and embarrassing failures. But these programs have failed in the Muslim world, too — including in Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population of any country, and Saudi Arabia, which arguably has the most global influence. If Muslim countries can’t figure out how to craft effective Islamic “deradicalization” programs, what hope do Western countries have?

Two recent high-profile cases of former terrorists turned defectors touted by the international media represented the promise of “deradicalization” programs, but delivered the predictable failure that seems the dominant pattern with such efforts.

THE METEORIC RISE AND FALL OF AL-QAEDA RECRUITER TURNED DERADICALIZER JESSE MORTON

Last August, national and international media organizations were abuzz with the news that a former Al-Qaeda recruiter, Jesse Morton aka Younus Abdullah Muhammed, was given early release from his 12-year federal prison sentence so that he could take up an academic research position at the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

Now Morton was not your average material support for terrorism jihadist wannabe. Not only was he in direct communications with senior Al-Qaeda leaders over seas, but as one of the leaders of the New York-based Revolution Muslim network, he was responsible for recruiting an eye-popping number of now-convicted domestic terror supporters.

As the FBI press release published at the time of his conviction on terror charges states, he openly supported the 9/11 attacks and the November 2009 massacre at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan, as well as directed his supporters to commit violence against Jewish organizations and the creators of the “South Park” Comedy Central Network TV program.

Amidst a PR effort by the GWU Program on Extremism, the media adored Jesse Morton’s story of radicalization and redemption:

Morton was sought after for interviews by media organizations all over the world…

[…]

It was no surprise when, exactly five months after Morton’s hiring was announced by GWU, news broke that he had been arrested again, this time for vice:

In their rush to garner media, did the GWU Program on Extremism push Morton out into the public eye far too soon? How much confidence did they have in his “conversion” story? Was the narrative that “deradicalization” was possible in such a high-profile case too tempting for the media to apply basic journalistic scrutiny?

The answer to the first two questions may never be known. But the media’s haste to push the “deradicalization” narrative again exposed their ideological bias when all the evidence urged caution.

[…]

Chasing the “Deradicalization” Unicorn

There are endless calls for governments to increase funding for “deradicalization” programs, and there are many NGOs, researchers, and academics seeking those funds. Yet as I noted in Part 1, these government-sponsored “deradicalization” programs are failing everywhere. Worse, there are not many ways to objectively measure success when something doesn’t happen.

In the recent cases of Jesse Morton and Harry Sarfo, the media failed in their basic journalistic responsibilities — in both instances they advanced the “deradicalization” narrative that fell apart in the matter of months.

Needless to say, the follow-up reporting that undercuts the initial stories did not get anywhere near the hype or attention of the original sensational stories.

It should also be noted that in virtually all of these cases of “reformed” or “deradicalized” terror recruits and operatives lies the threat of criminal prosecution. The suspects themselves have a real-world incentive beyond media recognition to spin personal stories of redemption: avoiding prison time.

Which brings us back to the case of Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya.

The Justice Department enlisted this former ISIS fighter as part of a “deradicalization” program. However, even in his initial communication with the FBI when he sought to return from Syria, he made clear that his intention was to eliminate any legal consequences for having joined the most lethal terrorist organization in the world.

He faces sentencing in federal court later this year.

An examination of these “deradicalization” programs in the U.S., other Western countries, and even in the Muslim world shows that the Justice Department’s chances of success are risky at best. Yet now we have the media, yet again, pushing a sensational story of a “reformed” former terrorist operative.

Why are they so insistent on not learning any lessons?

While the Justice Department and the media chase the mythical “deradicalization” unicorn, Americans face greater risk because of their pursuit.

Read  more

Chelsea bombing suspect spent weeks at Islamist seminary in Pakistan

Ahmad Khan Rahami Photo: AP

Ahmad Khan Rahami Photo: AP

New York Post, by Kathianne Boniello, Sept. 25, 2016:

The alleged New Jersey terrorist charged with trying to blow up Chelsea last weekend with homemade bombs spent weeks getting an “Islamic education” at a Pakistani seminary, according to a report.

Ahman Khan Rahami spent three weeks in Kuchlak, an area described as a longtime “hub” for the Taliban, in 2011, a security official inside the country told the Guardian.

Rahami, 28, attended lectures at the Kaan Kuwa Naqshbandi madrasa.

US authorities have been tight-lipped with details of Rahami’s trips to Pakistan, acknowledging he was married during a visit to Quetta.

Security agencies inside Pakistan have tried to “hide all details” of his visits to Quetta, one anonymous official told the Guardian.

Rahami also visited Surkhab and Nushki, where a US drone killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in May.

Refuting the denial of religious motivation for Jihad

Islamic State jihadis (Photo: video screenshot)

Islamic State jihadis (Photo: video screenshot)

What Drives Foreigners to Join the Islamic State?

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Aug. 30, 2016:

Almost 15 years after the 9/11 attacks, the West is still debating the cause of such terrorism even as repeated studies and common sense points in one direction:  Islamist ideology based on certain religious interpretations.

Now we can add another study to this heap of evidence, as a new study of foreign fighters has confirmed that ideology is the primary factor.

The new study released by the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society is based on interviews with 40 foreign fighters who went overseas to join Islamist terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria and 100 other relevant players, such as their family members and online supporters.

Of these, 15 joined the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), 12 joined Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing), three joined the Free Syria Army and 10 joined other rebel groups, mostly jihadist in nature.

Here are five of the most important findings from the study:

The primary factor is religious interpretation.

“As our interactions with these individuals are so heavily mediated by a religious discourse, we also think that religiosity (i.e., sincere religious commitment, no matter how ill-informed or unorthodox) is a primary motivator for their actions. Religion provides the dominant frame these foreign fighters use to interpret almost every aspect of their lives.”

And:

“There is a real concern with real moral issues, with knowing and doing the right thing—again, not as determined by the seeming apathetic and corrupt surrounding society but by some higher or transcendent authority.”

This is the obvious conclusion that many observers have sought to deny, such as when former State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said ISIS is caused by unemployment and subsequently defended her comments. She was laughed out of her job, but her illogical understanding of the problem remains pervasive as many Westerners desperately seek to find a more comforting and relatable cause than Islamism for Islamist terrorism.

One Western Muslim told the authors, “The zeal of jihad always struck me when I would sit in my room and read Quran with English translation. I would wonder how jihad was fought today.”

The political gripes of the Islamist terrorists are a subset of their religious gripes.

“[Most] provided justifications for being a foreign fighter that were largely moral and religious in character, more than explicitly political.”

The researchers found that the decision to become a foreign fighter was more about rejecting Western governments and societies than a decision to combat Western foreign policy.

The common mantra that Islamist radicalization is simply a religious expression of political protests over Western “imperialism” is false. The primary factor is the adoption of the ideology and those that hold that ideology will become exponentially more infuriated over the West’s foreign policy. If you believe in resurrecting the caliphate, then you’ll rage against the West’s presence in the Middle East that stands in your way.

It’s not about inequality.

“None indicate, directly or indirectly, that forms of socio-economic marginalization played a significant role in their motivations to become a foreign fighter.”

Here we have yet another study finding no connection between Islamist radicalization and unemployment, poverty, lack of education, broken families, mental illness, etc. About half of the foreign fighters in this sample went to university and one-third graduated.

The study identified five “ecological niches of homegrown terrorism:” Late modernity (our Internet-driven society); the immigrant experience (most come from Muslim immigrant families); youthful rebellion; ideology and group dynamics.

The linkage between Islamism and lack of integration is overemphasized.

“The correlation between marginalization or lack of integration and radicalization are not as robust as commonly assumed.”

Previous studies have shown a linkage between a lack of assimilation and Islamist radicalization. For example, Marc Sageman’s pivotal study based on 400 biographies of Al-Qaeda members found that 80% “were, in some way, totally excluded from the society they lived in.”

This study doesn’t deny that a correlation exists, but rather that the correlation is played up too much. The authors refer to how some respondents described feeling out of place in the West as they saw how it conflicted with their faith. In these cases, the religious belief is prompting the individual to marginalize himself, as opposed to Western society marginalizing the individual and pushing him towards radical beliefs.

They aren’t lone wolves.

“The process of self-radicalization needs to be legitimated to be complete.”

The researchers found that, in most cases, “outside mentors” enter the Islamist’s life and guide him into becoming a foreign fighter. They are not lone wolves if they are being led, even if it is online.

The West can either craft a strategy for each Islamist terrorist group it goes up against, starting over and over with each new manifestation or it can target the common variable between all of them. This study, like others before it, finds that the common variable is Islamism and its foundational religious interpretations.

***

Robert Spencer on the Obama/Clinton war against the reality of the jihad threat:

***

Secure Freedom Radio with Jim Hanson Aug. 30, 2016:

SEBASTIAN GORKA, Chairman of the Threat Knowledge Group, author of “Defeating Jihad: the Winnable War”:

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

  • ISIS is totalitarianism centered around religion
  • What does it take to win the war against Jihad?
  • Jihadist use of both kinetic and subversive methods against western civilization

Also see:

Developing an Effective Counter Radicalization Strategy

1796by Scott Newark
Special to IPT News

August 29, 2016

Western governments appear to have finally accepted the reality that a new front on the Islamist war has opened up and it’s in our own backyards. It is all too easy for al-Qaida, or ISIS, or whatever new Islamist group, to publish propaganda to incite radicalized or radically prone young Muslims living in the West, and to hand them chillingly accurate information to “build bombs in your mother’s kitchen.”

These young recruits are being recruited to kill soldiers, police and civilians in their own countries rather than attempting to travel to join the Islamist slaughter abroad. And while there has been some success in suppressing the capabilities of international Islamist networks and in military action against the ISIS “caliphate,” domestic terrorist attacks throughout the West show that the threat has not gone away or even been diminished. And that means our approach must also evolve.

We must acknowledge that this threat comes from people and groups who have an unyielding belief that their version of Islam calls for the submission of the world to its dictates, and that killing those who oppose or resist this is not only permissible but obligatory..

Equally, while the Islamist ideology may prey on and exploit persons with mental illness, they are yelling Allahu Ahkbar and not “Sigmund Freud” when they detonate the suicide bombs or murder innocent civilians with knives, guns or trucks. The extremist religious motivation is the key to understanding their actions and in developing a strategy to help prevent the radicalization that leads to it.

Second, this “religious” motivation must be acknowledged by our official entities and the larger Muslim community within Western societies who want nothing to do with it and who reject its goals. For them, Islam may be a religion of peace that forbids killing of innocent civilians, but for others, their version of Islam commands it. There are clearly different conclusions being reached, but the good guys and the bad guys are reading from the same book, and acknowledging this fact is essential if we’re going to be successful. Candor, however uncomfortable, is a better long-term strategy than forcing security and law enforcement agencies to twist themselves into pretzels at each new incident to avoid offending anyone.

It is also critical to recognize that the domestic terrorist pool is comprised of people who, through different processes, have been indoctrinated into the Islamist extremist ideology that includes committing murderous acts of terrorism. This must be the starting point of the counter-radicalization strategy. Simply focusing on “de-radicalizing” extremists does nothing to stop someone from heading down that path in the first place. Similarly, limiting intervention to those espousing extremist beliefs and violent intentions assumes an ability to foretell actions that is simply unrealistic. While not all Islamic extremists are terrorists, all Islamist terrorists ascribe to the extremist version of Islam. It only makes sense to start where the terrorism motivation originates.

We also must acknowledge that the Islamist strategy includes establishing a “global Caliphate.” This vision is not limited to the overt savagery wrought on Muslims and non-Muslims alike, but also includes the murky Islamist political efforts of the Muslim Brotherhood and its spidery network of seemingly benign organizations. Their intent, in their own words, is “destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” One other quote worth keeping in mind is the official motto of the Muslim Brotherhood which says it all:

“God is our goal, Quran is our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, struggle [jihad] is our way, and death in the service of God is the loftiest of our wishes.”

Lest there be anyone who still doubts the existence and clear purpose of this long-term strategy, let me suggest you read the materials in the Holy Land Foundation terror financing case or the compelling 2011 book, The Grand Jihad by former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy.

It is also important to understand that for the Muslim Brotherhood network of groups, “war is deception.” Lying to the kuffar (non-believers) is fully authorized by the Quran through the doctrine known as taqiyya.

Domestic Islamist inspired terrorism incidents in the West (and elsewhere) are getting worse. What’s more, there is clear evidence that significant numbers of their Western citizens have travelled to the Middle East to pursue murderous Islamist jihad, and increasing numbers of them are finding ways to return “home.”

While some cases have involved people who received training abroad, most of these cases involve radicalization that took place in Western societies including Canada and the United States. That’s a chilling reality that must be acknowledged including determining how it took place and who was involved. That hard truth was summed up by a parent of one of the young Toronto 18 would-be terrorists when he warned, “They’re stealing our kids.” It’s time we started focusing on who “they” are.

While there has been significant work done on analyzing the general psychological profile of persons vulnerable to such radicalization, very few concrete measures have been taken to identify and then proactively target the means by which such radicalization occurs.

What follows, therefore, are specific action item suggestions to confront and defeat this newest security threat.

Counter-radicalization actions

1/ Ensure there is a clear and official awareness of the threat of extremist Islamism and domestic radicalization, and an understanding of the supportive Muslim Brotherhood’s long-term goals.

2/ Identify all Muslim Brotherhood links in Islamic groups including mosques and Islamic learning centers.

3/ Identify all Wahabbi/Saudi/Salafist linked funding of mosques and learning centers and Islamic organizations with a consideration of prohibiting it.

This issue has already been the subject of some media reporting and given the charitable or non-profit status of such organizations, the required information should be available. What’s required is personified by the mission statement of the Investigative Project on Terrorism: Investigate, Analyze, Expose.

4/ Improve “community outreach” efforts

Outreach to the Islamic community is a critical component of preventing radicalization, but it must be conducted on an informed basis so that the people included are not pursuing a contrary agenda. Authorities engaging in outreach activities must conduct sufficient background analysis to ensure that liaisons are established with persons genuinely seeking to prevent Islamist radicalization rather than with self-appointed “leaders” of the community whose views (public and private) are not representative of the communities they claim to represent. The goal is to both detect and assist people at risk of radicalization (and their families) and to help rehabilitate people who have been radicalized.

5/ Promote integration and identify segregation efforts

Successful integration into Western multicultural society is likely the best protection against radicalization, and thus efforts to promote it should be recognized and supported. Conversely, deliberate efforts by mosques, learning centers or Islamic organizations to promote segregation of Muslims away from the larger community should be recognized as cause for concern.

6/ Use existing legal tools

Use existing hate speech laws, which prohibit promoting hatred against groups based on religion, gender or other defined factors, for unlawful conduct that is part of Islamist radicalization. Also, use the full spectrum of civil regulatory tools to try to prevent publicly regulated facilities from being used to promote radicalization or activities which are contrary to defined Western societal values. This strategy of “using all the tools in the toolbox” will be controversial but will also likely expose such anti-social practices to the light of day, which is a good thing.

7/ Amend Immigration and Citizenship Legislation

These statutes could be amended to modernize inadmissibility or acquired citizenship revocation criteria to people who actively advocate or promote cultural, religious or racial intolerance, gender inequality or the elimination of any of secular democracy, individual liberty or the rule of secular law. It’s time we recognize that we do have a “culture” and it’s worth protecting and preserving.

8/ Proactive cyber efforts against recruitment/radicalization sites

Self-radicalization, aided by jihadi websites, is a reality facing intelligence and law enforcement personnel. While monitoring such sites is obviously a useful tactic, at some point the harm in allowing the glorification and recruitment outweighs the benefit of monitoring this activity. Deploying a proactive offensive cyber attack strategy to melt down the bad guys’ cyber and social media capabilities is worth considering.

9./ Protect children from radicalized parents

Children living in Western societies should receive the full benefit of our laws that are explicitly designed to protect them from harm, including anti-social indoctrination or abuse from their parents in the name of extremist Islam. This could provide refuge for victims of “honor violence,” like the murdered Aqsa Parvez and the Shafia sisters in Canada. These kids deserved better and we should ensure that such abuse does not continue because of a politically correct aversion to confronting the truth.

Western countries face an unprecedented threat to domestic security through the radicalization of persons to a nihilistic Islamist ideology, where death is a preferred tactic to discussion. These suggestions will legitimately generate controversy precisely because they go to the core of the threat, which is violence predicated on religious beliefs. It is clearly a difficult challenge, but one that must be undertaken with truth and candor as our guides.

This article is an update of the author’s previous columns for Front Line Security magazine and the Macdonald Laurier Institute.

Scott Newark is a former Alberta Crown Prosecutor who has also served as Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association, Vice Chair of the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime, Director of Operations to the Washington D.C.-based Investigative Project on Terrorism and as a Security Policy Advisor to the Governments of Ontario and Canada

What’s Wrong with These Four Approaches to “Deprogramming” Jihad?

1769

You have to look past what you wish were true.

CounterJihad, Aug. 26 2016:

Let’s say that you wanted to reach the people who carry out murder in the name of jihad, and persuade them not to kill anyone.  How would you do it?  There are four approaches that governments are trying today, and none of them work.

The first approach is to identify likely candidates for radicalization while they are young, and talk them out of it using government propaganda.  The FBI’s “Don’t Be A Puppet” campaign is an example of this.  It aims at young people using an online video game that rewards them for solving problems associated with recognizing attempts to radicalize them.  The hope is to teach them to recognize that they are being manipulated by radical religious figures so that these young people will turn away from those messages.

Because the FBI is a counterintelligence agency using government propaganda, however, it has a serious credibility problem with young people — especially those in the community that the FBI is targeting.  Credibility is the currency in propaganda operations, just as it is in any other attempt to lead or influence or persuade.  If you’re a young Muslim, you can see that the FBI doesn’t trust you, is thinking a lot about you, and is trying to manipulate you.  Secretive government agencies — of the US or any other government — are operating out of a serious deficit compared with any religious leader that the community takes to have a real relationship with God.  While these propaganda efforts are not necessarily a complete waste of time and money, as they might persuade a few who are inclined to view the government positively, the people you really want to reach are likely to take this attempt to manipulate them as further evidence that you don’t trust them — and, therefore, that they shouldn’t trust you either.

The second approach treats jihad not as a crime or an act of war, but as a psychological problem.  There are significant moral and legal problems for forcing people into psychological programs designed to alter their religion.  An even bigger problem, though, is that there’s very little evidence that such psychological approaches even work.  Thus, in addition to being government-backed violations of the basic human right to freedom of religion, it’s likely that the approach will only harden opposition among Muslims to the government.  Indeed, there’s a reasonable argument that a government that used these approaches to force your children to change their beliefs would really be creating an actual moral justification for violence.

What about an approach by leaders of factions of Islam to persuade the young?  Egypt’s Al Azhar University is attempting that right now.

In a speech to Muslims worldwide and the West, Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb had renounced all radical takfiri-inspired actions, saying that such deeds are in no way related to the teachings of Islam’s fundamental Sunni sect….  The top Muslim scholar then confirmed that the sole salvation and solution for such an abomination is the true interpretation and abiding by the true Sunnah teachings of prophet Mohammed (pbuh) and companions.

Allowing that a rejection of “all takfiri-inspired actions” would represent a real improvement, this approach does nothing to solve the problem of jihad against non-Muslims.  Takfiri violence is about declaring other Muslims not to be real Muslims, and thus to be subject to violence as apostates.  The attacks on 9/11, and in places like San Bernardino, Orlando, and Paris, are attacks of jihad against non-Muslims.  The attempt to spread Islam through coercion is a huge part of the problem, and yet in the traditions of Islamic law endorsed by generations of scholars, that is more plausibly a duty than an affront.  A full scale reform of Islam must occur to change that, one that sets aside all of its existing factions for a new way.

Finally, what about divide and conquer?  The Russian government appears to be approaching the problem in this way.  They are backing Iran and Assad against Sunni groups in a manner designed to set various Islamic groups against one another.  There is also a propaganda campaign designed to push the idea that a kind of socialism designed to govern Islam was the real answer to violence.  This campaign paints the United States as the real enemy of Islam (and therefore not Russia), as the United States opposed socialist Islam and Russia supported it.

Divide and conquer does not reduce violence, however, it increases it.  The hope is that it will become manageable not because people stop fighting, but because they expend most of their energy fighting one another.  In terms of the number of people convinced that violent jihad must govern their lives, however, that number will greatly increase if we follow such a strategy.

Ultimately none of these answers work, though in the third answer we at least get a glimpse of a solution that might.  Pushing a real reform of Islam, one that sets aside all existing categories and all traditional schools of thought, at least has the potential for putting an end to the violence.  So far, however, that approach is the purview of only a tiny minority of Muslims.  No government, Islamic nor Western, has endorsed the program.