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.
Who are the Real Terrorists in North East Syria?
Earlier this week President Trump abruptly changed course and green-lighted a Turkish incursion into north east Syria with disastrous results. The subsequent invasion has unleashed a hellish nightmare of carnage and chaos in what was a dangerous, but relatively peaceful, area governed by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who had just defeated ISIS territorially.
In recent days, over 30 civilians—including Kurds, Christians and minorities, and very young children—have been killed in indiscriminate Turkish bombings and mortar fire. Likewise, the UN reports that over 130,000 Syrians have suddenly become displaced, fleeing Turkish violence. In addition to these massive displacements, Turkey insists that it will forcibly repatriate 1 to 2 million of the 3 million Syrian refugees it is currently housing back into the SDF-held areas it is now overtaking. That 83% of these Arabs never lived in the areas they are to be forcibly resettled in, begs the question of whose homes and lands will they be overtaking?
Turkey claims to be fighting a terrorist group and wanting to clean their border area of terrorists, but the pictures coming out of northeast Syria instead make Turkey look like the terrorist aggressor. Countless photos and videos, many of them validated, circulate of Syrian civilians lying bloodied and dead on the ground while their family members wail unconsolably. Hevrin Khalaf, a female, and the Secretary-General of the pro-Kurdish Future Syria Party, is reported to have been dragged from her car and assassinated by Turkish-hired thugs who said while filming her corpse, “this is the corpse of pigs.” Likewise, video footage of bearded mercenary soldiers backed by the Turks, shooting their Kurdish captives while calling them “kufar scum” (unbelievers) are said by U.S. forces to appear authentic. If so, these actions are war crimes.
These bearded assassins, backed by Turkey are likely the same unemployed ISIS, al Nusra, and other former jihadists still happy to kill in the name of Allah, who Turkey used to clear Afrin in 2018. Indeed, they have shown a brutality akin to their mother groups, some even shouting ISIS slogans as they kill, such as “Baqiya wa tatamadad!” meaning we (ISIS) will remain forever, and expand.
That Turkey would use former ISIS cadres to fight the Kurds is no surprise, given they worked closely with ISIS to try to quell the Kurds early on in the Syrian conflicts and continue to see their interests in destroying Kurdish power to lie with militant jihadist and Islamist groups. An ISIS emir that ICSVE interviewed in 2019 went into great detail about his work on behalf of ISIS, about how he negotiated with the Turkish MIT and military regarding border entry for the 40,000+ foreign fighters that streamed across Turkey into ISIS-controlled areas of Syria, agreements for sending wounded ISIS fighters back into Turkey for medical treatment, supplying water for the Tabqa dam to provide electrical power for ISIS, and so on. According to this emir, even then, Turkey was insisting on a buffer security zone. Now it appears they will go to any lengths to get it.
Meanwhile, General Mazloum Kobani Abdi told U.S. Ambassador William Roebuck, the U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS “You have given up on us. You are leaving us to be slaughtered.” He also asked in confused despair how the U.S. could also insist that the Kurds not turn to others, like the Russians for support, effectively boxing them in for slaughter.
When ISIS foolishly attacked Kobani in 2014, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) rose up and fought valiantly and since 2015, they fought with U.S. military backing, to defeat ISIS. They have been our “boots on the ground”, sustaining most of the casualties and doing all the heavy lifting in defeating a global foe. While U.S. forces lost less than 20 troops after they aligned with the Kurds to fight ISIS in Syria, our hardy allies lost 11,000 male and female brave fighters who faced down this global foe.
Indeed, while ISIS was an active force on the ground in Syria, it external emni (intelligence arm), threatened the globe, mounting and inciting attacks in many major cities from New York, to Brussels (where two Americans were killed), to Paris, Nice, Stockholm, London and Istanbul to name but a few.
In serving as our “boots on the ground” forces for the territorial defeat of ISIS, and continuing to battle the remnants of ISIS, the Kurds saved, and continue to save, countless Americans and Westerners from being slaughtered by a heinous force willing to attack, anywhere, at any time.
Yet their current aggressor, Turkey, calls these Kurds terrorists. That picking up arms against ISIS gave them the sudden opportunity to rule a considerable swathe of Syrian land that they had liberated from ISIS is no one’s fault, except those who supported ISIS in the first place—Turkish government officials among them. No doubt, the Kurds once in power, made some mistakes, but it is notable how quickly they moved to incorporating minorities into their ranks and transitioning to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who have had a good record of building a grassroots democracy amidst the ashes of war. That their majority Kurdish leadership may have long-term aspirations to one day become a fully independent Kurdish state should be no surprise, but that they were acquiescing to all U.S. demands upon them to remain within Syria and negotiate some kind of governance agreement with Assad also needs to be noted. The trouble in that regard, is Assad wants to appoint top-down leaders in the area and thereby destroy the grass-roots nature of the Kurdish democracy building. From a position of strength and good governance, with U.S. backing behind them, the SDF had a chance of becoming a real island of democracy, perhaps even one day spreading such, within the Syrian state.
In the meantime, with ISIS defeated territorially, ISIS is still far from total defeat. In recent months ISIS has been attacking on a weekly basis in both Syria and Iraq, and the SDF were busy rounding up ISIS sleeper cells while also holding more than 70,000 ISIS prisoners and their family members, thousands of which are from European and Western countries who have refused to repatriate and bring them home to justice.
Now, amidst the chaos unleashed by Turkey, up to 800 ISIS cadres have escaped when their prison was shelled, with hundreds more ISIS women and children escaping from their bombed and burning camps. Where they will run to amidst the chaos is uncertain, but Turkey and beyond, is certainly a possibility given that when cornered in Hajin, and later Baghouz, SDF leaders told ICSVE that ISIS leaders were asking to be bussed out of Syria into Turkey—presumably believing they would be welcomed into a country that had helped them in the past.
500 of the worse ISIS cadres are said to have been transferred by U.S. forces from Syria, into Iraq, and possibly more will befall the same fate. For those of us who still believe in human rights and rule of law, even when applied to ISIS cadres, it’s unfortunate that in Iraq these prisoners—many of them Westerners—can expect forced confessions, hurried court proceedings and almost certainly sentence of life imprisonment, or death, based on very little, if any, evidence presented against them. Whereas, in our ISIS interviews conducted in SDF territory, with 100 of the ISIS foreign terrorist fighters, the prisoners stated that they were not being subjected to torture and were fairly treated by the SDF. Likewise, the SDF was working patiently, including in efforts with ICSVE, to gather testimonies and data to prod Western countries into action that have been reluctant to take their ISIS citizens home for prosecution.
While the SDF could only do its important work with U.S. support, this support was not costing us much. Few troops were deployed on the ground and our air support was operating out of Iraq, where it is likely the U.S. forces will stay for some time. That we should not involve ourselves in endless wars or that the troops need to come home is something most agree with, but how and when is also of great importance.
Any U.S. withdrawal of support for the SDF should only occur because they are no longer serving our interests and must take place in a planful and secure manner without allowing for an all-out slaughter of civilians or of the allied forces who, by fighting ISIS, saved Americans countless lives.
Given that the Kurds sacrificed greatly to defeat ISIS territorially on the ground, and when in power, began at once to build one of the only democracies in the middle east that is respecting minority rights and following Western rule of law, while being surrounded by dictatorial and corrupt regimes, it seems we should have continued to give them our full support. Instead Trump has unleashed Turkish forces on a group that Turkey universally treats as terrorists and is willing to violently displace and kill. This sudden betrayal of our loyal allies is a matter that needs to be quickly resolved in Washington, D.C.
Our American ideals, and our reputation as stalwart and reliable allies, are at stake right now, and this disastrous decision needs to be reversed immediately.
From our partner ICSVE Brief Reports.
Strategies for combating international terrorism in Central Asia
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asia has been cast as the site of a new “great game”. Central Asia has been largely influenced by international developments and the emergence of persistent sources of instability and tension in other parts of the world, including the Middle East and North Africa. Some states in the region have succeeded in expanding their relationships with other actors. For example, Kazakhstan has tried to advance its goals by participating in important international issues and designing appropriate policies. Although Kazakhstan has succeeded in this path, most of the countries in the region face major challenges.
At the moment, Central Asian states are facing serious menaces to their security from various challenges like drug trafficking, water disputes, religious fundamentalism and expansion of terrorist and takfiri groups such as ISIS.
Given the increased risk of terrorist groups infiltrating the region, the key question is: “What strategies exist to counter international terrorism in the Central Asian region?” This study suggest that an integrated long-term strategy is an effective and comprehensive way to combat international terrorism.
Central Asia and international terrorism
The war in Syria and Iraq has significantly altered modern terrorism, with radical Islamic militants from Central Asia being no exception. Most importantly, for the first time travelling outside of the region to fight in the ranks of militant and terrorist organisations became a mass phenomenon. In Syria, the radical Islamic militants from Central Asia have established terrorist organisations of their own. These terrorists have Salafi-Wahhabi inclinations and are among the backers of al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front, and Daesh Takfiri groups. They have turned into a potential threat for countries in Central Asia as these international and organized terrorists may one day find their way to other regions and states after Syria.
Activities of extremist networks which send their members and devotees to Syria have a determining role in the region. Many of the foreign rebels operating in Syria had links to these groups in their own countries. A portion of them are being encouraged by their relatives and friends in Syria to join the ranks of the Takfiri militants, especially older brothers motivate the younger ones to join the terrorists.
The terrorists’ method for recruiting forces is almost the same in most of the countries in the Central Asia. They usually do this through local sources and Islamist groups and organizations that have close ties with al-Qaeda, Salafists and Wahhabists. However, this is not done openly.
A number of terrorist groups are tasked with recruiting individuals to send them to fight in Syria. In fact, all terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and the al-Tahrir Party are busy with the recruitment. The Takfiri groups of al-Nusra Front and the so-called Islamic Jihad Union are also employing nationals from Central Asia. In some countries, the process of employment is done through indigenous people. For instance, one-third of all Kyrgyz people who have traveled to Saudi Arabia in pursuance of religious education have turned into extremist Salafi-Wahhabi preachers in Kyrgyzstan. That is why today the Kyrgyz are employing their people to prevent this.
The Challenges of Combating Terrorism in Central Asia
Fighting terrorist threats in Central Asia is a complex issue. To counter these threats, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian governments have been reevaluating their national counter-terrorism strategies. Counter-terrorism cooperation under the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has its limits because not all the Central Asian governments are members of the organizations. Also these strategies have been mainly established to counter-terrorism within the member states, not the ones stemming from other regions.
On the other hand, some external actors play a destructive role in improving the security situation in the region. Indeed none of the great powers are not serious fight against terrorism. At present, the security conditions of the region can be made more complicated for several reasons:
First, the spread of terrorism and extremist groups;
Second, U.S. competition to increase penetration;
Third, ISIS’s willingness to be present in the region;
Fourth, the presence of people from the countries of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the ranks of ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria;
Iran and Fighting Terrorism in Central Asia
The rising threats of extremism in Central Asia represent a strong menace for Iran interests. Due to the increasing presence of ISIS forces in Afghanistan, the security of Central Asia remains a top priority on the Iran security agenda. The Iran-Central Asia Strategy should include in its objectives the challenges of foreign fighters and radicalization, drug trafficking and organized crime, and conflicts that require cooperation between Central Asia and Iran.
No one and no country can deny the constructive and positive role of Iran in fighting the scourge of terrorism in the region and the world. Iran’s efforts and assistance to regional countries have helped reign in the violence and bloodshed of ISIS terrorist group in various parts of the world by bringing the self-proclaimed statehood of ISIS to an end in Iraq and Syria. The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to advocate dialogue, cooperation and trust among regional countries as the only viable way to end terrorism and devastating wars in the Middle East. In result no country would benefit from weakening Iran in the region.
In the past years, Iran has acted as a buffer zone and has prevented the entry of terrorist groups from Middle East to Central Asia. Iran has always tried to fight with terrorist and takfiri groups. Among foreign actors in the region Iran and Russia have a good cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Iran and Russia are winning the Fight against Terrorism in Syria. Undoubtedly Iran and Russia can offer their experience in combating terrorism to Central Asian countries.
No doubt, security, peace and respect for the sovereignty of countries, as well non-interference in their internal affairs, and an effective fight against terrorism without double standards will be in the interest of all countries in the world.
Fight against Terrorism Requires a holistic and coordinated approach. For the implementation of the international Counter Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia need a Regional Joint Action Plan. Integrating counter-terrorism strategy to political, economic and social development policies is an important part of the comprehensive approach.
In order to combat terrorism in Central Asia, there are a few issues to consider:
1. All States in region to combat terrorism must take coordinated action.
2. Fighting terrorism in Central Asia will not succeed without creating peace and stability in Afghanistan.
3. Combating terrorism requires the formation of a regional and international coalition with States that really have a concern for countering terrorism, not the countries that have been sponsors of terrorist groups.
4. The fight against terrorism requires the use of past experiences in this regard. Iran and Russia have considerable experience in combating terrorism.
From our partner Tehran Times
Fighting Terrorism Online: EU Internet Forum committed to an EU-wide Crisis Protocol
The participants of the 5th EU Internet Forum, hosted by Commissioners Avramopoulos and King, have committed to an EU Crisis Protocol – a rapid response to contain the viral spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online. The Commission, Member States and online service providers, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, JustPaste.it and Snap have committed to working together on a voluntary basis within the framework set out by the Crisis Protocol, while ensuring strong data protection and fundamental rights safeguards. The EU Internet Forum also discussed the overall progress made in ensuring the removal of terrorist content online since its last meeting in December 2018 as well as how to strengthen cooperation on other challenges, such as child sexual exploitation online.
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “Since I launched the EU Internet Forum 4 years ago, it has gone from strength to strength, offering Member States and online platforms an effective framework to work together to tackle terrorist content online. We have managed to build a strong relationship of trust and mutual understanding with the internet platforms. I am pleased with the progress we are making and the remarkable results we have achieved. Today, we are taking this cooperation another step further with an EU Crisis Protocol. With this, we will be ready to act quickly, effectively and in a more coordinated way to stop the spread of terrorist content.”
Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King added: “The events in New Zealand earlier this year were a stark reminder that terrorist content spreads online at a tremendous speed. While our response might be quick, it isn’t quick enough. The Protocol is an EU response to contain the havoc created by such events – in a coordinated way.”
In the aftermath of the terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, government leaders and online platforms agreed on the Christchurch Call for Action. On this occasion, President Juncker announced the development of an EU Crisis Protocol in the context of the EU Internet Forum. The EU Protocol will allow Member States and online platforms to respond rapidly and in a coordinated manner to the dissemination of terrorist content online in the event of a terrorist attack.
The EU Crisis Protocol endorsed by the EU Internet Forum today will:
Provide a coordinated and rapid reaction: Member States’ authorities, together with Europol, the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) and online service providers will be able to respond quickly, in a coordinated manner to ensure that the spread of terrorist or violent extremist content is swiftly contained.
Facilitate public and private sector cooperation: In the event of a crisis, law enforcement authorities and online service providers will share relevant information on the online content (e.g., URLs, audio-visual media, and metadata) on a voluntary basis, in a secure way and in real time.
Facilitate a voluntary arrangement: The Protocol does not replace national legal frameworks or existing national crisis management mechanisms. It should apply only to extraordinary situations where those national measures are no longer sufficient to coordinate a rapid and cross-border response.
The EU Internet Forum also discussed the overall progress made in ensuring the removal of terrorist content online since its last meeting in December 2018 and looked at the emerging challenges. This included, for the first time, a discussion on the global threat of online child sexual abuse and exploitation. Cooperation between public authorities and online platforms is key to fight against these horrible crimes effectively. Participants also took stock of the work to tackle the challenges presented by right wing extremism and the radicalising effect of violent political discourse.
The EU Internet Forum was launched by Commissioner Avramopoulos in December 2015 to address internet misuse by terrorist groups. It brings together EU Home Affairs Ministers, the internet industry and other stakeholders who work together voluntarily to address this complex issue. Since its creation, the EU Internet Forum meets annually to take stock of the progress made in removing terrorist content online and to discuss emerging challenges. In 2015, an efficient referral mechanism to flag and remove terrorist content online was created at Europol.
In 2016, at the EU Internet Forum, the industry announced the creation of the “database of hashes” to make removals permanent and irreversible. The database is a critical tool in stemming the spread of terrorist content online. Since its launch, the database has gathered over 200,000 hashes (pictures, videos, etc.) and has helped both large and small platforms to remove such content quickly.
President Juncker announced the development of the EU Protocol in Paris earlier this year when he attended a meeting of government leaders and CEOs of major online platforms that was co-hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
A first exercise to operationalise the Protocol already took place at Europol on 11 September 2019.
The EU Crisis Protocol will contribute to efforts undertaken at global level in the context of the Christchurch call, in particular the Crisis Response Protocol as announced in September at the margins of 2019 UNGA.
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