Posts Tagged ‘Islamism’

Documents of Note #4

18 May, 2008

The following is the latest in a periodic round-up of reports, papers, monographs, etc likely to be of interest to IRG members and the wider COIN/CT community.

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The International Crisis Group has released the following new reports:

The Philippines: Counter-insurgency vs. Counter-terrorism in Mindanao

Lebanon: Hizbollah’s Weapons Turn Inward

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The Combined Arms Research Library has made the following documents available. Original date of publication is provided if the document is not new.

Violent Islamist Extremism, The Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat – US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Hamas: How Has a Terrorist Organization Become a Political Power? – Ben-Zion Mehr

Global Jihad: The Role of Europe’s Radical Muslims – James Palumbo and Daniel Vaniman, 2007

Losing the Population: The Impact of Coalition Policy and Tactics on the Population and the Iraqi – Timothy Haugh, 2005

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The SWJ Magazine has published interim versions of the following papers:

Third World Experience in Counterinsurgency – Russ Stayanoff

Force Structure for Small Wars – Andrew C. Pavord

Guerrilla Warfare and the Indonesian Strategic Psyche – Emmet McElhatton

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Eldis has made the following reports available:

Demilitarising militias in the Kivus (eastern Democratic Republic of Congo) – Institute for Security Studies (ISS)

Humanitarian action in Iraq: putting the pieces together – Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

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RAND has published the following research papers:

Breaking the Failed-State Cycle

Afghanistan: State and Society, Great Power Politics, and the Way Ahead

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More:
Documents of Note #3 [03 MAY 2008]
Documents of Note #2 [17 APR 2008]
Documents of Note #1 [14 APR 2008]

Islamism in Algeria and the Al-Qaeda Threat in North Africa

4 May, 2008

Presentation at RUSI
9 June 2008

The following upcoming presentation at RUSI looks interesting:

About the Event:
How real is the present Al-Qaeda threat in North Africa?  How much is this a new front which threatens Europe?  How should we respond?  In posing these questions this RUSI Middle East Forum will trace the history and roots of Islamism in Algeria over the last twenty years.  It will ask ‘who’ these people are and ‘what’ inspires their struggle. It will also link Algeria to broader international developments in the Muslim world.

About the Speaker:
Martin Evans is Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Portsmouth.  He is the author of the Memory of Resistance: French Opposition to the Algerian War 1954-62 (Berg, 1997) and the co-author (with John Phillips) of Algeria: Anger of the Dispossessed (Yale, 2007) which is also his latest book.  Prof. Evans is a member of the History Today editorial board.  He is presently a Senior Research Fellow at the British Academy where he is completing a project on political and military decision making during the Algerian War 1954-62.  This research is to be published by Oxford University Press.

For booking information, check the RUSI site here.

Terrorism in the EU – Trends in 2007

8 April, 2008

Europol have just released a very useful report examining annual trends in terrorism in the European Union. Entitled EU Terrorism Situation & Trend Report 2008, it provides a comprehensive but concise analysis of the situation in the EU in 2007. The analysis is based on quantitative data supplied by EU member countries, making it a useful source of citable information.

This short extract, summarising terrorism-related arrests, was interesting:

A total of 1044 individuals were arrested for terrorism-related offences in 2007. This is an increase of 48 percent compared to 2006. France, Spain and the UK have reported the largest number of arrests per member state.

The number of arrested suspects for separatist terrorism has more than doubled in comparison to 2006. This increase is mainly due to the vast increase in the number of arrests in France and Spain. In 2007, Spain saw a seven-fold increase in arrested suspects: from 28 in 2006 to 196 in 2007. France went from 188 people arrested in 2006 to 315 in 2007, an increase of almost 68 percent.

Concerning Islamist terrorism, the number of arrested individuals decreased compared to 2006. In 2007, 201 persons were arrested for Islamist terrorism, compared to 257 in 2006. This decrease can mainly be attributed to a 35 percent decrease in the number of arrested suspects reported by France.

However, the UK reported a 30 percent increase in arrested suspects. Although no affiliation could be assigned, UK authorities estimate that, out of the 203 persons arrested in 2007, the vast majority were in relation to Islamist terrorism.

Get the report here.
(thanks to the anonymous reader for the tip and the link)

Update:

There have been some problems with the Europol link above. To download the report directly from the IRG, click here.

Hassan Butt & Counter-Radicalisation

5 April, 2008

Reuters has a short interview with Hassan Butt, the reformed former British jihadist who spent 10 years recruiting and organising the training of European militants.

Hassan Butt (BBC)

Former radical, Hassan Butt (BBC)

Butt describes how he turned his back on extremism following the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, and how he has since devoted himself to convincing others to do the same, despite death threats from his former peers, and the ongoing threat of prosecution for his past activities.

Since he turned his back on extremism, Butt has become a touchstone for young Muslims looking to escape militant groups.

He has met the government’s counter-terrorism minister to discuss “outreach” to hardened British Islamists — estimated to number at least 2,000 — and taken his ideas into prisons and mosques, where much of the radicalization is said to go on.

Butt says he has helped 15 young men in Manchester alone extract themselves from their extremist ideology, potentially thwarting attacks.

“Of the 15, 11 had been sent for terrorist training. I know because I personally sent these guys to camps,” he says.

With more support and funding, he is convinced he could establish outreach countrywide.

“With everything else in Britain — gangs, drugs, domestic violence — there’s an outreach program. But when it comes to Islamic radicalism, there is no credible program because no one has any idea how to run one properly,” he says.

Read the interview here. For a more in-depth interview with Butt, check out this 2005 piece by Aatish Taseer in Prospect magazine.

Comic Strip Heroes vs. Al-Qaeda

26 March, 2008

In a novel effort to combat the Al-Qaeda narrative, innovative officials in the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state in Germany have turned to comic strips in a bid to counter the radicalisation of young Muslims.

Following the success of a similar campaign against right-wing extremism in 2004, in which schoolboy hero Andi stood-up against xenophobia and racism, a new strip has been produced in which Andi helps his Muslim girlfriend rescue her brother from the influence of a radical friend and an Islamist “hate preacher”.

26MAR08_Andi

The comic — printed in 100,000 copies and distributed to every secondary school in Germany’s most populous state — aims to show young people the difference between peaceful mainstream Islam and the violent, intolerant version peddled by militants.

“We were always careful not to hurt feelings and anger people by painting a caricature of Islam,” said Hartwig Moeller, head of the NRW interior ministry’s department for protection of the constitution, responsible for intelligence gathering.

“We had to make clear we weren’t aiming against Muslims, but only those people who want to misuse Islam for political aims,” added Moeller, who despite his intelligence role says 50 to 60 percent of his work is educating the public about threats.

The cartoon, featuring boldly drawn Manga-style figures, is designed to be used in citizenship and religion lessons for schoolchildren aged 12 to 16.

“We have learned from our opponents. This is exactly the age at which the Islamists are trying, through Koranic schools and other means, to fill young people with other values,” Moeller told Reuters.

Athough unconventional, reaction from German Muslims has been generally positive, although there have been some reservations:

“We found the basic approach was right and good, we only regretted (the authorities) didn’t tell us about this initiative in advance, then it could have been made much better,” said Aiman Mazyek, general secretary of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany.

He said the portrayal of the Islamist hate preacher was “a bit overdone”, but added: “There are people like that, I can’t say there aren’t.” He said copies of the comic have been distributed in mosques.

Another regional government, Hamburg, is also using the Andi story, and there has been interest from Austria, Denmark, Japan and the United States.

It’s hard to say whether the strategy will be effective, or should be adopted elsewhere. However, with the campaign in NRW state costing just 30,000 euros ($47,440) for the artist and the print run, as long as any such campaign is not counter-productive, which could be ensured via proper prior consultation with Muslim youth workers, there would seem very little to lose.

Read the Reuters article here.

Update 1:

A copy of the comic strip (in German) can be downloaded here. A follow-up piece from Reuters is available here.

Update 2 (15 April 2008):

Newsweek has a feature about a similar intitiative being run in the Middle East, with an X-Men style series called The 99, which is a creation of Kuwaiti psychologist and entrepreneur Naif Al-Mutawa.

A graduate of Tufts University in the United States with a triple major in clinical psychology, English literature and history, the 37-year-old Al-Mutawa also has a keen sense of symbols. Mainstream comics in the West have drawn heavily on Judeo-Christian narratives and iconography, he says. Why not create a cast of characters whose powers echo Muslim history and traditions? And because his company, Teshkeel, is the distributor of Marvel and DC comics in the Middle East, Al-Mutawa knows just where to find top writers, pencilers and inkers to make his new publications as polished as any on the market.

Countering Jihad in Germany

26 March, 2008

The international online edition of Spiegel magazine has an in-depth interview with Ernst Uhrlau, the president of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND. Uhrlau discusses the threat to Germany posed by Al-Qaeda inspired jihadist militants; the role played by homegrown terrorists, and by converts in particular; and the processes by which the marginalisation of Muslims can lead to radicalisation.

AFP/SITE Institute via SPIEGEL

The whole interview is recommended, but the following is an extract:

Uhrlau: Turkish Islam traditionally plays an important role for the domestic intelligence agencies. Milli Görüs, the largest Islamist organization in Germany with about 26,000 members, is under observation. With its extremist worldview, it poses a threat to our constitutional democratic order. But it is not an organization that preaches violence. Germany’s 2.5 million Muslims of Turkish origin come from a secular country that is strongly oriented toward the West, a country where militant fundamentalist movements are relatively insignificant — unlike Lebanon, say, where the radical Hezbollah has many supporters.

SPIEGEL: Does this mean that we should be pleased that the Turkish variety of Islamism is so strong in our country?

Uhrlau: At least we don’t have the kinds of problems that the United Kingdom and France are facing because of their colonial past. The Pakistani Muslims in England and the North African Muslims in France come from countries in which Islamist beliefs and violence play a more important role in parties and movements than in Germany. This is also reflected among the immigrant population.

SPIEGEL: Your counterparts in Paris and London are concerned about so-called home-grown terrorism. Is this something that we also have in Germany?

Uhrlau: The arrests in Oberschledorn are evidence that we also have this phenomenon in Germany. Even though many of the potential terrorists were born and grew up in Europe and do not stand out, they feel marginalized. As a reaction to this, the second or third generation of immigrants reverts much more strongly to its roots. In the process, religious belief becomes decisive. A process of isolation begins that leads to a parallel society. They are convinced that they must defend their own religion and values against the majority Western society.

SPIEGEL: Feeling misunderstood and wanting to defend your faith is one thing, but wanting to killing “infidels” is another.

Uhrlau: A fanatic prepared to commit violence sees himself as part of the ummah, the Muslim community of believers. He perceives any attack on his fellow Muslims — be it by the Israelis in the Gaza Strips or by the Americans in Iraq — as an attack on himself and his religion. Someone like this is an easy target for jihad or al-Qaida propaganda and can be recruited for the holy war against the “infidels.”

SPIEGEL: Did the refusal of the Social Democratic and Green Party coalition government under former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to take part in the Iraq war reduce the risk of attack in Germany? Will a stronger German military presence in Afghanistan increase it?

Uhrlau: Jihad is triggered by current political developments. The jihadists do not reward us for having stayed out of the Iraq war. And whether we increase our presence in Afghanistan is irrelevant for the Islamists. As far as they are concerned, Germany is already not a neutral country. We are on the side of the hated Americans and we traditionally support Israel, which they consider a “Zionist entity.”

SPIEGEL: How large is the army of jihadists in Germany?

Uhrlau: We estimate that there are a few hundred extremists who are prepared to commit acts of violence. Up to 700 people are under various levels of observation by German intelligence and security agencies. Most of them live in our midst. A small proportion of these people, however, stand out by being frequent travelers. We currently know that more than a dozen people, including converts, have traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years, where they seek contact with like-minded people.

SPIEGEL: So you simply allow these potential terrorists to go about their business?

Uhrlau: As long as there is no concrete evidence that they are making preparations for attacks, we have no other choice. But we do attempt to monitor their movements and determine their destinations. Not all of them are potential bombers — some are traveling as couriers. The Islamists are very familiar with the technical possibilities which the intelligence agencies have at their disposal. Hence important messages are delivered in person.

SPIEGEL: Can you prove direct contacts to al-Qaida?

Uhrlau: We follow them into the inaccessible tribal areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan …

SPIEGEL: … where al-Qaida’s terrorist training camps are located …

Uhrlau: … and we try to find out what they are doing there and with whom they are meeting. A lot of information is due to intensive cooperation with intelligence agencies in countries through which these suspects pass on their way to the Hindu Kush region. Some are briefly detained and questioned for other offences on their way back. But the fact that we are on their tail doesn’t really deter them. They continue undaunted. This doesn’t necessarily have to lead to the construction of a bomb. Some specialize in propaganda, in recruiting other activists or in conveying information.

Read the full interview here.

The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East

15 March, 2008

Presentation at Chatham House
9 April 2008, 17:30 to 18:30

As another event from Chatham House (see below), I was going to post this as an update to the last post – but seeing as the speaker is Olivier Roy, author of the excellent Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah, I figured it deserved its own post:

The speaker will argue that the unintended and unforeseen consequences of the ‘War on Terror’ have artificially conflated conflicts in the Middle East such that they appear to be the expression of a widespread ‘Muslim anger’ against the West. He will discuss his new book in which he seeks to restore the individual logic and dynamics of each of these conflicts to better understand the widespread political discontent that sustains them. Instead of two opposed sides, an ‘us’ and a ‘them’, he warns that the West faces an array of ‘reverse alliances’. He concludes that the West has no alternative but to engage in a dialogue with the Islamo-nationalists of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

For more information on this members-only event, and to register, click here. His new book is available here.

Update:

Roy currently has a piece in the International Herald Tribune, entitled Iraq will not be a Qaedistan, in which he takes exception to those in the West who “persist in seeing Al Qaeda as a territorialized Middle East organization bent on expelling the Christians and Jews from the region in order to create a ‘Dar al-Islam’ (land of Islam) under the umbrella of a caliphate”.

Instead he argues:

It is pointless thinking of Al Qaeda as a political organization seeking to conquer and rule a territory. Al Qaeda recruits among disenfranchised youth, most of them without direct connections with the embattled countries of the Middle East. Second-generation Western Muslims, converts, Saudis, Egyptians and Moroccans make up the bulk of the Al Qaeda traveling jihadists – not Afghans, Palestinians or Iraqis. Al Qaeda does not have the necessary local rooting for taking power.

While acknowledging that the Al-Qaeda phenomenon has operated within a truly global area of operations, Roy stresses that the movement has failed to achieve significant penetration within any single theatre:

…in Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and now Iraq, the Islamist internationalist groups have been unsuccessful in diverting local and national conflicts, playing only the role of auxiliaries. The key actors of the local conflicts are the local actors: the Taliban in Afghanistan, the different Sunni and Shiite groups in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon. These groups are not under the leadership of Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda has managed only to implant foreign volunteers into these struggles, volunteers who usually do not understand local politics and find support among the local population only as long as they fight a common enemy, such as American troops in Iraq.

But their respective agenda is totally different: Local actors, Islamist or not, want a political solution on their own terms. They do not want chaos or global jihad. As soon as there is a discrepancy between “the policy of the worst” waged by Al Qaeda and a possible local political settlement, the local actors choose the local settlement.

Read the full article here.