Why People Become Jihadists

MEF, by A.J. Caschetta
The Jerusalem Post
June 11, 2017

In Riyadh last month, US President Donald Trump broke from the usual script of an American president addressing a Muslim audience. Predictably, he urged the assembled leadership of the Muslim world to fight terrorism, but he also named “the ideology that drives it.”

Revealing a canny understanding of the lure of martyrdom and the myths of Islamic paradise, Trump boldly urged Muslim religious leaders to preach a clear message: “If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be fully condemned.”

This flies in the face of the media-Hollywood belief that US foreign policy and Western culture cause terrorism, and the dominant view in academia that suicide terrorism is unrelated to Islam. Terrorists are often quite candid about why they are fighting us, yet we continue to search for “the root causes that lead people to join these groups,” as president Barack Obama’s State Department spokesperson Marie Harf phrased it. Harf offered “lack of opportunity for jobs” as one of those root causes.

Proponents of this view recently celebrated “scientific proof” for their assertions.

Linetsky asserts that “survey data collected in the three Nigerian states most affected by Boko Haram (Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe) show that Islam is not a major factor in motivating recruits. Unemployment, not religiosity, is the best predictor of support for the terrorist group.”

Linetsky’s argument fails to examine the circumstances that enabled Boko Haram to come into existence and allow it to endure. For not all of Nigeria has the same problem – Boko Haram’s recruits come only from the North, where the population is mostly Muslim and where 12 states have adopted Sharia law. Linetsky might consider studying the connection between lack of job opportunities and imposition of Sharia law. In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s 1996 imposition of Sharia law ended all job opportunities for all women, none of whom joined the Taliban.

While unemployment is no doubt a factor in some individuals’ motivations to join terrorist groups, the conventional wisdom that terrorism is caused by poverty and a lack of education was statistically dismantled by Marc Sageman in Understanding Terrorist Networks (2004). But the theory never really passed the sniff test for informed and objective observers given the plethora of wealthy engineers, physicians and scholars (and the dearth of goatherds) populating the terrorism hall of fame, as well as the readily observable infrequency of terrorism in most of the world’s poorest and least-educated countries. There are no Islamic State (ISIS) attachments or al-Qaida franchises in the Congo, Mozambique, Malawi, Burundi or Liberia, where unemployment is comparable to Nigeria.

Somalia has a long history of poverty and unemployment, far worse than Nigeria’s, but there was no terrorism emanating from Somalia until Osama bin-Laden moved to the Sudan in 1991 and made partnerships with Somali warlords, such as Mohammad Farah Aidid, made infamous in the1993 raid leading to the events described in the Black Hawk Down book and film.

Linetsky equates terrorism with crime and conflates violent offensive jihad with other violent crimes like theft, muggings and gang-related turf wars. A case of adolescent ennui might lead an otherwise fine young lad to become a drug-runner, purse-snatcher or small time street thug, but boredom never turned anyone into a suicide bomber.

Linetsky’s solution to Nigeria’s Boko Haram problem is not to address the repressive ideology it feeds off of, nor is it to kill its soldiers. He is a proponent of USAID “soft power” such as “development projects, job training, educational programming, and dispute resolution programs.” But Boko Haram isn’t waging jihad against infidels because the Nigerian government and ours fail to provide them with good opportunities to work.

Rather than distributing aid to potential terrorist recruits, the West should devote its efforts to understanding and combating the ideology that attracts the recruits and defeating the organizations that disseminate it.

Trump got it exactly right – only by subverting the theological equation of martyrdom with paradise can we stop the global suicide bomber epidemic.

A.J. Caschetta is a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum and a senior lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology.



Grooming Jihadists: The Ladder of Radicalization and Its Antidote

Gatestone Institute, by Saher Fares, June 1, 2017:

  • What you find is that behind every jihadist, who usually starts out as a young, often angry, Muslim seeking a purpose, lies a pulpit ideologue promising rewards and threatening punishments both on earth and in the afterlife.
  • Violent jihad may be postponed not out of concern for its victims, but rather if it might adversely affect a Muslim community. This view is frequently mistaken as “moderate.”
  • Use the press and social media to expose young Muslims to facts other than those they are fed in mosques and the textbooks of their native countries, including the humanistic values of the West, such as freedom of speech and of the press; equal justice under the law — especially due process and the presumption of innocence; property rights; separation of religion and state; an independent judiciary; an independent educational system and freedom of religion and from religion — for a start.

On March 22, when Khalid Masood rammed his vehicle into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London before attempting to stab his way to the Parliament building, it was as if the heart and soul of British democracy were under assault.

As horrifying as the terrorist attack was, however — murdering four innocent people and wounding scores of others — it belied the magnitude of a much larger problem that has been plaguing Europe and creeping up on the rest of the West. Jihadists committing murder in the name of Islam have left a trail of blood across North America, the Middle East, Australia, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe.

Police officers stand guard on London’s Westminster Bridge on March 29, 2017, a week after Khalid Masood began his murderous car-ramming and stabbing attack at the site. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

In November 2015, a suicide-bombing and shooting spree in Paris left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded; in March 2016, three coordinated suicide bombings targeting travelers in Brussels killed 32 and wounded hundreds; and last December, a truck-ramming at the Christmas market in Berlin left 12 people dead and another 56 injured.

These were just a few of the successful attacks; those thwarted were more numerous.

France’s prime minister said last September that authorities were foiling plots “daily,” while some 15,000 people “in the process of radicalization” were being monitored. Last year, British security services prevented no fewer than 12 other assaults.

The average European now knows the names of Masood and those of other publicized terrorists. But few in the West are familiar with the many people who put those terrorists on their path by leading them up the rungs of a ladder of radicalization.

If you spend hours listening to speeches and sermons — and reading countless articles by “respectable” local imams, community leaders and Islamic scholars — you can see a pattern emerge. What you find is that behind every jihadist, who usually starts out as a young, often angry, Muslim seeking a purpose, lies a pulpit ideologue promising rewards and threatening punishments both on earth and in the afterlife.

The following is a description of the ladder of radicalization, based on material from 45 detailed case studies, covering the period 2012-2015, compiled by the author from U.K. government sources:

  • A radical preacher commonly employs theological “carrots and sticks” as a spur to action. He attempts to terrorize audiences with passages from religious literature about the horrors of hell. He shames those he brands complacent or reluctant to engage in jihad, and instills a heightened sense of crisis. He does this while harping on the notion of Muslim superiority and providing an idealized reading of history that emphasizes “glorious Islamic conquests.”
  • The preacher quotes passages from the Quran and hadith [the sayings and deeds of Muhammad], gradually ratcheting up his rhetoric until openly calling for the restoration of the caliphate through global jihad. The preacher determines whether jihad is beneficial at a given time — or whether it needs to be deferred — depending on the clout a Muslim community has attained in a host country or culture. In other words, he decides whether to “declare jihad” based on what he deems possible for the Muslim ummah [community] at that time. Violent jihad may be postponed not out of concern for its victims, but rather if it might adversely affect a Muslim community. This view is frequently mistaken as “moderate.”
  • The preacher presents stark, simplistic choices, cornering his audience into accepting his particular reading of Islam, and leaving no option but jihad. He does this by using language that evokes gut emotions. He presents the Quran, hadiths and Islamic history in a way he knows his audience is in no position to challenge. He juxtaposes, for instance, incidents in Muhammad’s life to explain modern geopolitics — such as the Arab-Israeli conflict — and that point to a particular course of action. Or he uses ancient Islamic conquests as an inspirational model for current jihadist attacks against the West.

At the root of such preaching is a totalitarian worldview. According to it, there is no distinction between private freedoms and the public good. The past and the present are on a continuum. Secular matters are meticulously “guided” by clerical judgements. The nation state, he alleges, will give way to the caliphate. Morality is stressed, but expressed more in outward appearance (such as modest dress) than as an internal spiritual goal. And he emphasizes that the purpose of public worship is to consolidate al-mumeneen (the believers) into a unified bloc in the cause of jihad — which ultimately entails physical warfare. The underlying theme is that all “infidels” are to be held in perpetual hostility until, as is written in the Quran, “Allah’s word reigns supreme.”

One reason that this radicalization process has gone undetected in the West has to do with language. Imams and Islamist intellectuals use terms that are seemingly identical to those of Judeo-Christian or secular-liberal discourse, but which have an entirely different connotation in Arabic.

Salaam, “peace,” means the peace that will reign only after the whole world has accepted living under the rule of Islam.

Shihada, for example, often translated as “martyrdom,” usually refers to the act of those who kill or are killed in battle for a religiously-sanctioned cause. It is not a testimony of faith in laying down one’s life instead of recanting under pressure.

Iman, translated as “faith,” is proven by total submission to Allah, His Messenger Mohammed and the edicts of sharia as propagated by the leader. It is of great “faith” not to waver in battle against Allah’s enemies.

Qassas, wrongly interpreted as “justice”, often entails a sense of vindictiveness, and “eye-for-an-eye” revenge. It is also circumscribed by Islamic law, sharia: whatever is inside sharia is just; whatever is outside sharia is not just.

Fight them; Allah will torment [not “punish” as many current translations claim] them by your hands… and will give you victory over them and satisfy the breasts (give a great sense of satisfaction, relief) of a believing people. — Quran, 9:14, after Sahih International

Power is elevated as an Allah-given right to the believers, whereas humility is scorned as a sign of weakness. The goal toward which you are urged to aspire is not equality but ascendancy.

It is a matter of ihssan, or “benevolence” of Muslims that they tolerate the life and severely limited “liberties” of dhimmis (subjugated non-Muslims) so long as the latter pay a “protection” tax, the jizya, and abide by a covenant of inferiority “while feeling themselves subdued”. In a state ruled by sharia, equal citizenship between Muslims and non-Muslims is unthinkable.

To challenge Islam’s authority, its prophet’s character or received tradition, or to critique the religion, is construed as ihanah, or “insult”; sabb-e-Rasul, “disparaging the Prophet,” is a libelous offense worthy of death. Failure to accept Islam is also regarded as an “insult” that justifies attack:

As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help. — Quran (3:56)

Counteracting the radicalization of vulnerable Muslims requires a multi-pronged effort on the part of governments, academic institutions and community leaders. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Discourage voluntary segregation in Muslim communities. Establish initiatives that introduce genuine multiculturalism into classrooms, neighborhoods and community centers. This is the only way that insular, extremist thought can be debated and challenged openly by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
  • Prevent fundamentalist Muslim community leaders from hiding behind a “moderate” or “mainstream” façade. Hold preachers accountable for the content of their sermons, and make sure that what they are promoting in Arabic aligns with their public statements in English.
  • Subject the history of early Islam — the conquests of Persia, the Byzantine Empire, the Middle East, North Africa, Greece, Spain and most of Eastern Europe — to the same academic rigors to which Western history has been subjected. Do not allow a romantic view of it as a “superior” model to go unchallenged, and do not shy away from examining similarities between current and centuries-old jihadism. The same goes for religious texts and their modern-day interpretations.
  • Use the press and social media to expose young Muslims to facts other than those they are fed in mosques and the textbooks of their native countries, including the humanistic values of the West, such as freedom of speech and of the press; equal justice under the law — especially due process and the presumption of innocence; property rights; separation of religion and state; an independent judiciary; an independent educational system, and freedom of religion and from religion — for a start.

Those who preach hate simply build on ahistorical, uncontested narratives to spread the messages that inspired the Manchester, London, Paris, Brussels and Berlin terrorists and that groom the terrorists of tomorrow. When will correcting the record and addressing the root causes please start?

Saher Fares is an Arabic linguist and researcher from the Middle East.

FBI Releases Video, New Details in Minnesota Mall Terror Attack by Somali Refugee Dahir Adan


The FBI held an unusual press conference today in the case of last month’s terror attack at a shopping mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The attacker, 20-year old Somali refugee Dahir Adan, was shot and killed on the scene by an off-duty police officer after stabbing ten mall workers and shoppers.

The press conference was unusual in that the investigation into the matter is still ongoing, but the FBI and local law enforcement felt the need to release graphic video of the attacks in order to shoot down various conspiracy theories circulating in the Minnesota Somali community and perpetuated by Black Lives Matter groups.

One of the early conspiracy theories floated by Adan’s family was the claim that he was an innocent bystander who was in the mall to pick up his new iPhone at the mall:

Those false rumors led some in the Somali community to use the incident to circulate claims that the shooting of Adan was unjustified:

Others claimed that Adan was mentally ill, which the family denied:

Just last week FBI Director James Comey testified that Adan appeared to be inspired by “extremist ideology”:

The FBI released further details on his possible motivation during their press conference today.

CBS News reports:

The stabbings at a central Minnesota mall last month that wounded 10 likely was premeditated by the attacker, who may have become radicalized recently, federal authorities said Thursday.Dahir Ahmed Adan became interested in Islam in the last several months, withdrew from his friends and encouraged his sisters to be more religious, FBI Special Agent Rick Thornton said at a news conference.

Witnesses told investigators that 20-year-old Adan yelled “Islam, Islam” and “Allahu akbar,” as well as asking several people whether they were Muslim before stabbing them during the Sept. 17 attack, which started outside Crossroads Center mall before moving inside.

“We were told Adan had not previously shown an interest in religion. Adan also encouraged some female relatives to become more religiously observant,” Thornton said, adding that investigators continue to analyze Adan’s digital footprint, including his social media and online activity, and are trying to obtain permission to unlock his smartphone.

FBI Director James Comey said last week it appeared Adan was at least partly inspired by extremist ideology. Thornton also said that Adan went from being a high academic performer to failing out of college “almost overnight” after taking an increased interest in Islam.

Read more

Homeland Security’s Alarming Message on Immigration-Terror Links

DHSCounterJihad, Sept. 2, 2016:

Two former Obama administration officials, Betsey Cooper and David Benjamin, published what is meant to sound like an authoritative rebuttal to the Donald Trump immigration speech.  Instead, it raises questions about whether the Obama administration even understands the dangers facing it on immigration and its link to terrorism.

Of course, in the wake of the Ben Rhodes scandal on the “Iran deal,” we can never be sure if the Obama administration’s allies are serious about what they put forward as ‘authoritative rebuttals.’  Just as with Rhodes’ management of the Iran debate, this may simply be an attempt to set up an echo chamber designed to prevent a real discussion of the risks.  However, if this article represents the real opinion of administration insiders, it shows an alarming failure to understand what is going on with immigration and terror.

Let us go through a few of the major errors of thought on display.  Number one:  Donald Trump, more than the failures of our system, is responsible for public concern.

The inescapable message is that the nation’s $25 billion-a-year immigration system cannot identify and keep out bad actors. And while the killings in San Bernardino and Atlanta have undoubtedly sharpened Americans’ fear of terrorist attack, Trump’s rhetoric is clearly having an impact: A Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll showed that 79% of Republicans favor limiting the flow of refugees and migrants and imposing stricter border controls to help prevent terrorism.

Indeed, major and obvious failures of the system ought to call into question the validity of the system.  It does seem that we are spending a vast amount of money on a system that does, in fact, fail to identify and keep out bad actors.  The response to this that strikes them as the “most obvious counter” is ridiculous:  that the real killers have gone through even more DHS vetting than ordinary refugees and immigrants.

The most obvious counter to Trump’s narrative is to note that not a single terrorism-related death since 9/11 was caused by foreign operatives coming into the country to cause violence—from Fort Hood to Orlando, the killings were all caused by citizens and green card holders.

Why should that make anyone feel better?  The process of getting a green card, or citizenship, is even more invasive than anything involved in getting a visa.  Indeed, the biggest problem of all is the one they merely wink at:

[R]adicalization is not a hereditary affliction—indeed, most parents of extremists have been aghast at their children’s deeds…

In fact, second-generation immigrants are more than twice as likely to become radicalized as their parents.  That being the case, it doesn’t matter how good your vetting of immigrants might be.  It is their children, perhaps not even yet born, who are most likely to turn against a Western system.  This problem has been carefully studied by numerous perfectly mainstream media outlets and scientists, and there is no good solution for it.

That a first generation of Muslim immigrants is often succeeded by a radical second generation has been documented by Foreign Policy, PBS, and by statisticians in Denmark.  The first generation came to America or to Europe for reasons they felt strongly enough to make the move.  They understood they were electing to move to a society that was less Islamic, and accepted the trade off.  Their children, born in the West, did not experience the realities that made their parents leave the old world.  They reject the laws and customs of their new society as being opposed to their Islamic identity.  The Danish statistics found that second-generation Muslim immigrants are 218% more inclined to crime than their parents’ generation.

If the children are the greatest threat, how can vetting the parents even help?  By the same token, if the green card system doesn’t work at identifying bad actors, let alone the process of obtaining citizenship, why should we have any faith in the visa system?  The whole system is a failure, not just the visa process.  Every part of the system of immigration has failed.

That said, the visa process is also a failure.  The visa system has two major problems, neither of which do they acknowledge.  The first one is that all the various steps that they talk about at such length require access to records that do not exist.  “Before prospective visa holders even arrive at a U.S. Embassy or consulate for an interview, their names, photographs, fingerprint and other data such as marriage licenses are first validated,” we are told.  Now, photographs and fingerprints can be validated in the absence of records by taking new ones.  How do you validate a “marriage license” from Syria right now?  Its records have been destroyed in the war, and its few remaining public officials are (a) too busy fighting a war to handle records requests, and (b) no longer in any sense an American partner, as we have long opposed the Syrian regime for waging chemical warfare on its own population.  They have no reason to help us, and even if they wanted to help us, they have no power to help us.

The vetting process on visas is thus completely worthless if there are no records that would identify someone as a problem, nor records against which we can check their claims.  The second problem, though, is that refugees admitted first to Europe won’t require a visa anyway.  Under the visa waiver program, anyone holding a passport from most European nations are admitted with no visa scrutiny at all.  All that happens in these cases is a reference to “Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record information,” databases that depend entirely on what the refugees told their original country of refuge.

What is wrong is not that there isn’t a huge and expensive system with lots of box-checking steps.  What is wrong is that all those steps by all those bureaucrats have no connection to reality.  The connection between terrorism and immigration is undeniable.  It is only made stronger by the fact that the second generation turns out to be more often committed to terror than the original immigrants.  It is only made worse by the fact that the more thorough processes for green cards and actual citizenship show regular failures in identifying bad actors.

The system is a failure.  The only thing that is unclear is whether the Obama administration understands even that it has failed, let alone why it has failed.  We cannot begin to fix it until we acknowledge the problem.

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?


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.

What motivates a Canadian jihadist?

Video footage showing Aaron Driver is seen behind RCMP Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana (left) and Assistant Commissioner Jennifer Strachan during a press conference for what the RCMP are calling a terrorism incident, in Strathroy, Ontario yesterday, on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Video footage showing Aaron Driver is seen behind RCMP Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana (left) and Assistant Commissioner Jennifer Strachan during a press conference for what the RCMP are calling a terrorism incident, in Strathroy, Ontario yesterday, on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

A study stresses real religious zeal, not loners seeking a way out

Macleans by John Geddes, Aug. 15, 2016:

A new study based on interviews conducted over social media with foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria raises doubts about the commonly held notion that young men in North America and Europe who are drawn to violent Islamic extremism must be marginalized loners looking for an alternative to their dead-end lives.

Three university researchers who contacted dozens of jihadists from abroad in Iraq and Syria, including some Canadians, say they seemed to be drawn mainly by the religious ideas—“no matter how ill-informed or unorthodox”—behind jihadism. Rather than being isolated individuals who self-radicalized in front of their computer screens, the report says they usually found mentors and, at least in the case of the Canadians, joined the fighting in “clusters.”

In the working paper entitled Talking to Foreign Fighters: Socio-Economic Push versus Existential Pull Factors, the researchers caution against assuming that radical Islam appeals only young men on the edges of society, those without good job prospects or supportive family and friends.

They suggest previous academic studies have put too much weight on those “push” factors—the problems and frustrations in the lives of young men who turn to extremist Islam and, ultimately, terrorist violence. “Based on what we are hearing in interviews with foreign fighters—more interviews than anyone has yet to report on—we think more attention and significance should be given to the repeated affirmations of the positive benefits of being jihadists,” they say.

From mid-December 2015 to Feb. 29, 2016, the researchers put questions to 40 foreign fighters, 60 family members, friends and associates, and 30 online fans, recruiters, and potential fighters. (Among the Canadians the interviewed was Aaron Driver, the would-be terrorist killed last week in a confrontation with police in Strathroy, Ont.) Those fighting in Syria and Iraq were interviewed through “extended social media dialogues.” But their working paper, posted recently on the website of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, is based on an initial analysis of just 20 interviews with foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.

The researchers are Lorne Dawson of University of Waterloo’s sociology and legal studies department, Amarnath Amarasingam of George Washington University’s program on extremism, and Alexandra Bain of St. Thomas University’s religious studies department. Dawson told Maclean’s by email that they plan to eventually publish a more complete paper on their research in a peer-reviewed journal, and are also “being pressed to write a book in short order.”

In the working paper, they write that the foreign fighters they contacted “run the gamut from troubled youth with personal problems to accomplished young men and women from stable backgrounds.” In the 20 interviews they analyzed, not one of their subjects suggested “directly or indirectly” that being marginalized socially or economically pushed them onto such an extreme path. “Anger and frustration have their role to play in the process, but it is the positive investment in an alternate world-saving role that matters most, no matter how strange it may appear to outsiders,” they say.

As well, the paper points to the importance of influential radical voices who carry some form of religious authority. “In most cases, we would say the help and encouragement of some other outside mentors is required to complete the process of radicalization, to turn wannabe terrorists into deployable agents or independent martyrs for the cause. The process of self-radicalization needs to be legitimated to be complete.”

To probe the views of radicalized young men directly, the researchers had to assure them that they were not seeking “operational information” that would put them at risk. The questions focused on personal and family background, their sense of identity, and how they became fighters.

Along with information about the individuals, the researchers assembled a sort of group portrait of the Canadians fighting for various terrorist and radical factions in Iraq and Syria. “It is extremely difficult to verify any of this information, however, and for the most part we are merely reporting what one or more individuals have told us,” they admit. Still, the outline they sketch is intriguing.

They say Canadians tend to be radicalized in “clusters” and travel to the conflict zone in small groups. Of those who have made the journey, at least 19 Canadian men have died fighting in Syria and Iraq, five or them converts to Islam, the rest from Muslim backgrounds. Eight were from Ontario, eight from Alberta, and three from Quebec. The researchers say they “have good reason to believe” most of the radicalized Canadians in the war-torn region have joined ISIS, but others are fighting for less well-known groups, like Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar as-Sham, while at least 15 have fought with Kurdish or Christian militias.

The paper estimates that between 10 and 15 women have gone from Canada to Iraq and Syria to back ISIS, often marrying terrorists. “We know that three have given birth to babies as a result of their marriages to ISIS fighters, who are usually other foreign fighters,” they say.

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