It is often said that Terrorism has nothing to do with religion. That is patently not true at least to the extent that a cult can be termed a religion. Certainly without fail, all terrorists acknowledge a religious motivation for their acts whether it’s blowing up their underwear or shoes in planes over the US or hacking to death infidels on the streets of our homelands.
What the authorities mean to say (laudably) is that Terrorism does not equate with Islam for fear of tarring the whole Islamic community with the same brush. I have written an interesting article on the need to be accurate in describing the terrorist threat: https://www.moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=134:islam-the-religion-vs-the-wahhabi-salafi-takfiri-cult&Itemid=487
Not all Muslims are terrorists but some of them clearly are. What’s more worryingly is that many millions (not just hundreds) are potentially terrorists with very little radicalizing and indeed some have become terrorists very soon after ‘conversion’ to ‘Islam’.
Look to any Islamist street demonstration or riots against the West over the past 14 years (see picture as example of protests over the Danish cartoon incident) and you see similar hatred of the West based on the fingers pointed to Allah and the slight against their religion as a justification for their outrage. A convert after saying that there is only one God, Allah and that Mohammed is his prophet must then try and be a good Muslim. However how Muslim ought to live his life (especially in the West) is where the problem of identity, self-esteem and civic responsibility to adhere to the laws of the land arise. That’s where the extremist Salafi cult comes in and creates a tear in the social fabric and poisons the mind of some Muslims and where counter terrorism and anti-radicalization measures must interdict future terrorism mindsets.
The extremists Muslims (those that want to follow a literal and strict adherence to the warrior ways of the first Muslim caliphs) give the young Muslim men the ideological blueprint on how to be a good Muslim. These extreme fundamentalists are called Salafis/Whabbi’s (or in Indian sub-continent Deobandi/Taliban). Whilst there is a quietest branch of these religious Islamic fundamentalists, at the extreme end of the spectrum are the ‘Takfiri’ (those who see any deviation from their ideology as apostasy and all who practice falsity deserve death. Therefore the Wahhabi Salafi Takfiri Jihadi glories in terrorism (especially if by Allah’s providence they can be also martyred at the same time) and the barbaric acts we have all witnessed in the deserts of Syria and Iraq and on the streets of New York, Boston, Toulouse and Woolwich, Train stations in London and Madrid, bars in Bali, the primary schools of Beslan or the concert halls of Moscow.
ISIS like the Woolwich slayer, Michael Adebolajo is just following the Salafi Takfiri script as written by its ideologues like The Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, Anwar al-Awlaki, Omar Bakri Mohammed, Abu Hamza (al-Masri) , Anjem Choudary, Trewvor Brooks (Abu Izzadeen), Mizanur Rahman, Mohammed Achamlane, Mohammad Ali Baryalei, and Abu Musab Al Suri, al-Bagdadi etc .
It is good and admirable that leaders make a distinction between mainstream Islam and the Islamists but it is wrong to say terrorism of the Jihadist kind has “nothing to do with religion” or religious ideology. The population will switch off this narrative as it’s obvious that Jihadist terrorism is inspired by something in Islam. What the people do not understand however is that it’s an extreme sect within Islam. When the next horrific Wahhabi Salafi Takfiri terrorist attack happens, like the planned random beheading of person on the Streets of Australia, there will be a backlash against the Muslim community as a whole, especially those that are ostensibly fundamentalist (such as men with beards and long white robes and women in black burqas).Also there will be little hope in tacking the extremist pro-terrorism ideology of the Wahhabi Salafi Takfiri’s if security agencies monitor potential terrorists too broadly which will only tend to alienate the Muslim community who will feel under siege.
World leaders have finally come to the conclusion that civilization must not only attack ISIS on the ground but also its ideology. President Obama, Australian PM Abbott and UK PM Cameron have come to call ISIS a ‘death cult’. This too whilst an accurate descriptor is not helpful in the degradation of their ideology and ability to radicalize homegrown terrorists or fighters for their land wars in the Middle East. Now how does one attack a ghost death cult that has nothing to do with Islam? It is not possible. There is no ‘Death Cult’ website, bookshop or headquarters. The leader of ISIS al-Bagdadi, has a PHD in Islamic studies and would but for his barbaric methods in Syria and Iraq be considered as an ‘Islamic Scholar’. So it’s not about Islamists having a shallow understanding of Islam. It’s about a sect within Islam itself.
Al Qaeda too, once a formal and structured terrorist group has become after years of degradation, more of an ideal and an enabler than a formal group. Again you won’t find an Al Qaeda bookshop or HQ. However you find the same ideology behind their motivation and justification for terrorism against the West.
The ideology of all the terrorist organizations or lone wolves that have or want to commit terrorist acts against the West whatever they call themselves is a cult of Islam that can be correctly and accurately described and called the Wahhabi Salafi Takfiri Jihadi. That is the one ideology that is behind all the fronts and brand names like: Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and ISIS ‘al Muhajiroun’, ‘Islam4UK’, ‘Sharia4Belguim’, Forsane Alizza, ’Force de Défense Musulmane sur Internet’, ‘Sharia4France’, Al-Haramain , Benevolence International Foundation, Wafa al Igatha al Islamia , Hizb ut-Tahrir, al-Gheraba, Muslims Against Crusades, et al.
Underscoring this point is the life sentence for terrorism this week handed down by a New York court of Osama bin Laden’s son in law, Sulaiman Abu Ghayth (pictured far left next to OBL).
Abu Ghayth was jailed for life September 2014 for conspiring on a planned second wave of 9/11 attacks. What was his previous occupation and driving motivation when planning more 9/11 attacks on the West? He was a religious instruction teacher at school and an imam at a Kuwaiti Mosque. He was a ’religious’ man but of a fanatical Salafi sect of Islam, the Wahhabi Salafi Takfiri sect. In court Abu Ghayth denied he was an al-Qaida recruiter and claimed his ‘role was a religious one aimed at encouraging all Muslims to rise up against their oppressors’. Speaking in Arabic through a translator, Abu Ghayth also told the New York court, “today when you are shackling my hands, and intend to bury me alive, you are unleashing the hands of thousands of Muslims and they will join the rally of free men.” In his March 2014 trial prosecutors showed jurors a 50-second clip of a five-minute videotape of Abu Ghaith from October 9, 2001, in which he threatens that “America must know that the storm of airplanes will not abate, with God’s permission.” Alluding to martyrdom, he said there were “youths who are yearning to death just as Americans yearn to live…. “We strongly advise Muslims in America and the Britain, the children and those who reject unjust American policies, not to board aircraft and we advise them not to live in high-rises and tall buildings.”
When you see pictures of ISIS fighters what are they gesturing with their hands? They are pointing with a finger toward heaven/Allah, in whose name they slaughter the innocents. In fact they are brainwashing their children from a very young age to equate submission to God with terrorism as the picture of ISIS children shows.
What is on their black flag but religious symbolism that all Muslims would easily recognize?
What is the essential message of ISIS and all such Wahhabi Salafi Takfiri groups and individual fanatics? That Islam is ISIS, God inspired, God sanctioned and God predestined to rule over all with their version of Sharia law. What did Mohamed Merah say just before he gunned down little Jewish children in Toulouse France: “This will bring France to its knees before Allah”:
What do they do before they blow themselves up, execute someone or fire a weapon but a religious salutation Allahu Akbar (Arabic: الله أكبر meaning “God is greater” and in context of the salutation before committing violence…’ (their ideology, their God, their faith’ is greater than the infidel non-believer/apostates or their errant religion or man-made democracies).
The Islamists whether they are ISIS fighters or lone wolf be-headers on the Streets of our homelands are brainwashed by the Wahhabi Salafi Takfiri Jihadi cult to believe their barbarous acts are sanctioned by the Quran and the example of their Prophet, Mohammed in the way in which he went about securing temporal power in the Middle East and North Africa in the seventh century creating the First Islamic Caliphate. To deal with the terrorist threat humanity has to deal with their ideology. The people best placed to do that are the vast majority of Muslims. To engage with that community, we should not speak for them when terrorism happens. We should give the Muslim majority a voice.
George Bush or President Obama saying Islam is a religion of peace is not the best way to go about the PR war on ISIS Al Qaeda or other Wahhabi Salafi Takfiri terrorists. They must call the terrorists by name of their ideology. Islamism is not accurate appropriate or helpful. It is the Wets lazy shorthand. When Western leaders refer to them they should use their correct descriptor Wahhabi Salafi Takfir Jihadi or WSTJ…that will cover the fighters and supports of ISIS, Al Qaeda ,Boko Haram, etc. and also the hate preachers, supporters and potential fifth column terrorists in our homelands. Our leaders and media should also let the voice of moderate (and majority) Islam be heard immediately after the terrorist attacks occur as we need to empower the Muslim community to inoculate their people from the WSTJ Ebola type contagion and be seen to condemn these attacks and also be seen by the non-Muslim fellow citizens as not condoning terrorism against their fellow citizens by apparent silence.
Until the Western leaders and media appreciate that one cannot understand (let alone defeat) ISIS or Al Qaeda without defeating their ideology, there is little hope. Their implacable hatred of the West is based on their genuinely and fanatically held religious views. There will be no end to terrorism of the Jihadist/Islamist kind, in fact it will only get worse,(especially in our homelands) even if ISIS is bombed back to the stone age unless the West recognizes the terrorist problem as associated with the extreme Salafi sect of Islam and their ambition to hijack that religion for the imposition of Sharia and world domination by WSTJ Muslims as the vanguard of an Islamic ‘Third Reich’ type Caliphate.
Wahhbai Salafi preachers like The Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman have been at the forefront of radicalization and terrorist plots in the Middle East and the West for decades.
The arrests this week of Choudary and his ilk are long overdue and should be repeated around the world against all radicalizers and advocates and supporters of terrorist ideology irrespective of their protests that they are ‘religious men’. What is needed now is a microphone and camera in front of Muslim leaders welcoming the arrests of these evil men who threaten their communities as well as the countries within which they live. The Islamic leaders will speak the truth and say these men are from a minority sect Islam which they and most Muslims find abhorrent and against their principles and beliefs as ‘good Muslims’. Unless this happens neither we nor the Muslim youth can recognize what being a good Muslim is or is not and our security in the West will remain precarious. Counter rsadicalization in civil society is therefore more important than Counter Terrorism laws in defeating ISIS and Al Qaeda. Choudray’s 2IC, Abu Izzadeen told then UK home secretary John Reid he was an ‘enemy of Islam’ after the minister asked Muslims to step in if they thought children were being radicalised.
This is where the real war on terrorism needs to focus. Had the UK and other Western nations acted earlier to clean out the vipers den of al Muhajiroun’, ‘Islam4UK’ etc, ISIS may never have had the support of foreign fighters recruited from the West. Ideology is important. Politicians and the media must act responsibly and honestly in reporting the religious sect ideology behind terrorism so that it can be interdicted and the fabric of our multi0cultural societies not be rent by a backlash of the community who no longer listen to their leaders rhetoric.
UN launches new project to address link between terrorism, arms and crime
Cheap and easily accessible small arms are increasingly becoming the “weapon of choice” for many terrorist groups, the UN counter-terrorism chief told an event on Friday aimed to raise awareness of the nexus between terrorism, organized crime and illicit small arms trafficking.
“Insufficient international response in countering the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons, the challenges that Member States face to detect and seize them, as well as porous borders, allow terrorists and criminals to move illicit weapons from one country or region to another,” said Vladimir Voronkov, UN Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism.
It is widely acknowledged that the connection between terrorism and organized crime, including illicit small arms and light weapons trafficking, is a serious threat to international peace and security. It is also an obstacle to sustainable development and a menace to the rule of law.
To illustrate the challenges, Mr. Voronkov, who is also Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT),
of the UNOffice of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), revealed estimates indicating that the African continent alone has one hundred million uncontrolled small arms and light weapons concentrated in crises zones and security-challenged environments.
“With an estimated population of 1.2 billion in Africa, this is an unfortunate and significant ratio of one to 12”, he lamented.
Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy
Without a strong international response, terrorists and criminals would easily be able to move illicit weapons from one country or region to another.
The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy underlines the connection between terrorism and the illicit small arms trafficking, conventional ammunitions and explosives, and calls on Member States to strengthen coordination and cooperation to address this challenge.
The UNOCT chief illustrated this through the example that “illicit weapons originating from Libya were finding their way into the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel”.
Since ast year, UNOCT and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) worked closely with the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA) to develop a project enhancing national legislative, strategic and operational capacities to prevent, detect and counter the firearms trafficking and other illegal activities related to terrorism and organized crime in Central Asia.
“The project is also another example of our ‘All-of-UN’ approach to support counter-terrorism efforts of Member States”, concluded Mr. Voronkov.
No country alone
In her video statement, UNODC Executive Director Ghada Fathi Waly affirmed her Office’s “unique approach” to addressing the complex interlinked challenges of terrorism, crime and corruption.
Using a “holistic approach”, Ms. Waly maintained that the project tackles “the full range of obstacles”.
She singled out adequate legal frameworks, strengthening law enforcement and criminal justice capacity, improving data and addressing cooperation gaps, saying that it is “essential to deal effectively with threats that no country can face alone”.
UNODC supports nations in implementing global counter-terrorism instruments, as well as the Firearms Protocol to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, through the UNODC Global Firearms Programme.
“I will be eagerly following the project’s advancement and I hope that its outcomes and learnings can inform the international community’s efforts, feeding into the next reviews of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, this year and in 2022”, concluded the UNODC chief.
Preventing terrorists’ access
Meanwhile, CTED Deputy Executive Director Weixiong Chen pointed out that the new initiative is “one of the important requirements of several relevant Security Council resolutions”.
Citing five resolutions, he noted that “the Council has repeatedly stressed the importance to prevent terrorist access to weapons”.
Mr. Chen noted that the most recent resolution, 2317, brought a comprehensive new set of topics and domains, saying that they have strengthened CTED’s mandate, particularly through its “assessments, analyses and identification of gaps”.
The CTED chief underscored the importance of Member States’ will to implement Security Council resolutions on preventing illicit small arms and light weapons trafficking and concluded by sharing his hope “that OCT and UNODC will be able to fully utilize CTED’s expertise and recommendations in this field”.
The launch also introduced the new project’s activities, including missions to assess regional situations, relevant legislation and response capacities to the threat posed by firearms trafficking, terrorism and related crimes.
Escaping IS: What Exiting an Armed Group Actually Takes
Authors: Dr Siobhan O’Neil and Dr Mara Revkin*
Although Islamic State’s territorial control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria came to an end in 2017, civilians, and particularly children, in these areas are still living with the long-term consequences of the group’s violence and exploitation. According to a new report by Human Rights Watch, this includes thousands of children abducted by Islamic State (IS) who remain unaccounted for today and thousands of children who cannot move on from conflict because they are viewed as threats and won’t be allowed to reintegrate back into society.
Last week, International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers was marked around the world to reflect on the policies and programmes that are most likely to protect rights, promote accountability, and enhance security of young people in armed conflict. In doing so, it is clear that many of the current approaches to those once associated with armed groups do not always strike the right balance. Children’s rights and best interests risk being trumped by short-sighted security considerations, which may ultimately put us all at greater risk.
One such child is “Amr”* – a juvenile detainee at a reformatory in Kurdish Iraq – who we met while undertaking research examining the recruitment and use of children by armed groups. After dropping out of elementary school at the age of 12, Amr worked at a steel factory. One year later, he would become employed as a cook by IS.
Amr was an unlikely recruit. For one, the group had murdered his father. But Amr needed the job in the IS kitchen. It paid better than the steel factory, and he was now responsible for helping support his mother and six siblings, so he felt that he had little choice. A few months after he started to work for IS, Amr was recruited by a family member to spy on the group for a state-sponsored militia. After he was caught taking photographs, Amr was thrown into an IS prison. He eventually managed to escape, only to be caught by security forces and imprisoned again for the crime of having joined a terrorist group.
In many ways, Amr’s story exemplifies the complexity of association with armed groups today. It is often assumed that anyone who becomes involved with such groups must have been brainwashed or be driven by deep-seated ideologically-motivated hate. Yet, involvement with armed groups – even those deemed “violent extremist” like IS or Boko Haram – is never as simple as this conventional narrative, nor is exiting their grasp.
For many like Amr, ideology played no role in motivating or facilitating his involvement with IS or the anti-IS militia. Indeed, our previous research in conflict areas found that young people associating with armed groups are usually influenced by a multitude of interrelated structural, social, individual, and historical factors, of which ideology was rarely the driving determinant. Rather, physical and food security, family and peer networks, financial incentives, coercion, and the pursuit of status and identity were more central for explaining the involvement of many young people with armed groups.
In many countries there is little differentiation made in how or why individuals were associated with such groups. As documented in related research, the use of indiscriminate “iron fist” approaches means that tens of thousands of people – not just those associated with military functions, but also tax-payers, cleaners or cooks like Amr – have been detained on terrorism charges, with thousands believed to have been sentenced to death. Thousands of children languishing in Syria have been barred or discouraged from returning to their home countries, despite the fact that many had no choice in living under IS. This sort of collective punishment could further encourage cycles of violence. We must find ways out for the vast majority of individuals who are associated with armed groups but who do not pose a risk to society.
To create a safer future, and to avoid denying one to the children who have lived under or been associated with armed groups, we need to better understand their experiences and needs for transitioning to a life oriented away from conflict. We need to rethink our assumptions about armed group association and neutrality in conflict, engage children and youth as partners in their own recovery, and support them in the long-term exit process from armed groups. Only then will young people like Amr have a real chance to escape the pull of violent conflict and give back as productive members of their communities.
* Name has been changed for safety reasons.
*Dr Mara Revkin was the lead researcher on the Syria and Iraq case study featured in Cradled by Conflict and the Iraq case study for The Limits of Punishment: Transitional Justice and Violent Extremism. She is a National Security Law Fellow at the Georgetown University Law Center.
Foreign fighters: ‘One of the most serious dimensions’ in global counter-terrorism struggle
Over the past few years, ISIL and Al-Qaida terrorist fighters have posed an “unprecedented threat to international peace and security”, the UN counter-terrorism chief said on Wednesday in Vienna, at the close of a joint UN- Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) regional conference on addressing challenges posed by terrorists who have gone to fight overseas.
Under-Secretary-General of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, Vladimir Voronkov, recalled that last week he presented to the Security Council the Secretary-General’s report on the continuing threat posed by ISIL.
“ISIL is resurgent as a covert network in Iraq and Syria”, he said. “Thousands of foreign terrorist fighters remain at large, posing a threat to Iraq, Syria, and the countries they might return or relocate to”.
Mr. Voronkov stressed that all sessions of the conference underlined the need to further strengthen international, regional and bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation – with many participants highlighting the centrality of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
He highlighted that the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) for implementing the Strategy in Central Asia “could serve as a model for collaboration in other regions”.
“We are also working closely with the Arab Interior Ministers Council to strengthen Arab countries’ measures to effectively counter terrorism”, using JPOA as a model, he said.
According to the Counter-Terrorism chief, participants stressed the urgent need for gender and age-sensitive programmes to assist children linked with terrorist groups.
As thousands of children remain trapped in Syria and Iraq, facing a multitude of challenges, including rejection and life-long stigmatization, Mr. Voronkov stressed that Member States have “the primary responsibility to address the plight of their nationals, including children trapped in conflict zones”.
“Children should always be seen as victims and efforts to address their plight should be based on the best interest of the child”, he spelled out.
Disrupt terrorist travels
The need to prevent, detect and disrupt the travel of foreign terrorist fighters, in accordance with international law, was front and centre during discussions as well, drawing attention to the importance of enhancing Member States’ capacities to do so.
“Both the OSCE and the UN are helping countries adopt and use Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record data systems”, he informed those gathered, calling the UN Countering Terrorist Travel Programme “a flagship demonstration” of how the UN system, together with international policing organization INTERPOL and others, are “working as one” to provide tailored, impactful assistance to Member States.
Noting that “the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters is one of the most serious dimensions of the terrorist threat”, Mr. Voronkov concluded by urging Member States to continue working together, through the UN and other platforms, “not only to protect people on their own territory, but extend solidarity and assistance beyond their borders”.
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