For the past decade the issue of radicalization has been grabbing attention of the international media. Global terrorist attacks such as the Boston marathon bombings or the Charlie Hebdo shootings have exposed a negative light on Muslim communities.
Many Europeans are dissatisfied with Muslim response to such attacks and consequently lack of condemnation and rejection unnerves the suggestion that Islam itself may be to blame.
But in reality the role of Islam found within the process of radicalization is lesser than one may expect. So far there has been no research found which supports the theory that any religious ideology may become a major influencing factor. In fact, many of those willing to fight in Syria and Iraq have a limited knowledge of Islam. It is other contributing factors that play a much greater part in one’s journey towards radicalization. The legacy of the War on Terror, the torture and human rights abuses found at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons, the promise of martyrdom and adventure, or the Western double-standards reaching from Palestine to Western Sahara, have all been connected to cases of radicalization.
In order to better understand why and how some people become indoctrinated one needs to accept the fact that the reasons behind radicalization are much more complex. In the case of the Kouachi brothers responsible for the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the road to violent jihadi involves a criminal and unstable past. For individuals with a similar background, the use of religious ideology is an escalation of what is an already violent lifestyle. Over the past years, prisons have been viewed as a safe haven for extremist recruitment. France is a prime example as over half of its inmates are Muslim due to the growing poverty and unemployment. This disproportionate figure of young and disadvantaged Muslims being imprisoned in overcrowded and poor conditions does little to discourage radicalization.
However, if you study the case of Mohamed Merah who killed four Jews and three Muslim soldiers in south-western France, the picture appears much more complicated. Despite being under surveillance by French domestic intelligence after being identified in Afghanistan, Merah gave the impression of a well-integrated individual who led a normal life, when in reality he trained with Pakistani Taliban to fight against NATO forces supporting the Kabul government. There is a growing trend in ‘lone wolf’ militants who after being lured into violent Islam become foot soldiers used for carrying out terrorist attacks. In the case of self-radicalized individuals, the Internet is often a major influencing venue. Despite Britain’s best efforts at removing over 30,000 pieces of terrorist material since the start of the year, the struggle against viral extremism is on-going.
While Western efforts have focused on the large numbers of male jihadists travelling to Syria and Iraq, security officials are becoming increasingly concerned about a steady stream of female groups heading the same way. Young and educated Muslim girls brought up in the West are regarded as rewards for fighters who are keen to marry. According to Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at Sweden’s National Defence College, of 85 jihadis who have left from Sweden, around 20 are women. Muslim girls residing in the West are often targeted by recruiters through social media and false friendships as a way to convince them to volunteer in war-torn areas. The promise of an adventure and a contribution towards the holy war is just the kind of jihadi romance propaganda used to recruit women.
So what can be done? Well Britain may have lessons for others. After the shock of 9/11, the UK adopted a two way approach to counter extremism. The first aim was to remove hate preachers, while the second part of the programme, known as “Prevent”, saw assistance given to Muslim leaders to counter radicalization found throughout communities. However, the programme proved to be a total failure with many flaws including misdirection of funds, poor communication and difficulties in identifying those vulnerable to radicalization. Britain’s 2.7 million Muslim population viewed Prevent as nothing more than a police-led spying exercise. Identifying those at risk is extremely difficult, however Germany is succeeding in its family counselling approach. It is often the family members who first notice any signs of radicalization, and so the German Hayat programme offers counselling used to resolve any outstanding issues or leave positive influences on confused individuals. The programme has been recently adopted in Canada, France and Britain.
As an indifferent world looks on, the Syrian nation is dying posing an increasing risk at becoming “Afghanistan on the shores of the Mediterranean” (Abdullah Gul, Turkish President). The international community’s and UN’s security council’s response to tackling humanitarian and moral challenges presented by the Syrian crisis fall nothing short of disappointing.
People need to comprehend the idea that radicalization is not some evil brainwashing, but a gradual process by which people come to freely accept a violent path. There is no psychological explanation to it, as the journey to inhuman terror begins with human error. The best we can do is to promote good values, as well as tackle racism and poverty.
War Victim Becomes Hope For Pakistan’s Tribal Districts
A 10-Year-old boy Irfan Ullah Jan would walk down the streets of Sadda, Kurram district heading to his school with one simple fantasy: one day he would become something. He aspired to return something back to his loved ones. Sadly, Jan’s fantasy didn’t remain simple as it seemed to be after a deadly bomb blast. But today, he is giving back a lot more to the once war-torn Tribal districts.
An IED blast ripping through the Awami Bazar, Sadda in Kurram District killed three people on spot, leaving several injured back in July 2011. Among them was Jan, whose legs had to be amputated to rescue his life. It took almost 10 years for him to formulate an organization in the once war-torn Tribal districts of Pakistan called as “FATA Disable Welfare Organization”. Till date, he has enrolled thousands of poor disabled students in private schools.
Furthermore, he rendered social services for disables by forming an organization “Kurram Union of Special Persons”. This union facilitated disabled children to get their early education without any cost. The union after years of hard work has been matured into FDWO – FATA Disable Welfare Organization. The now chairman of FDWO, Irfan Ullah Jan has successfully assisted hundreds of war victims in getting free access to education. FDWO has rehabilitated more than one thousand disabled persons by providing them with artificial limbs. Philanthropist Mr Jan has reintegrated the disabled persons by arranging community activities like Sports galas. Speaking to us on the support he has been receiving, Irfan Ullah Jan says “FDWO receives charity money from public at large. Pakistan Army has been pivotal in facilitating me to inaugurate rehabilitation center for Special Persons along with an imperative support in educating disabled children of the area. I received “President’s Pride of Performance Award” this year for the services FDWO has been providing in the region.”
He expresses that “the tribal region has seen worst militancy in the past which includes deaths, economic losses and instability. Apart from these challenges, rehabilitating war victims was the biggest challenge for the government of Pakistan and this was the aim behind the foundation of his organization to rehabilitate and bring normalcy in the region.”
The long wave of militancy which effected people economically and socially especially in the tribal districts has now transformed into a wave of rehabilitation. Youth like Irfan Ullah Jan are returning a lot more to the once war-torn Tribal districts.
With Al Qaeda down but not out, killing Zawahiri is symbolic
President Joe Biden was not wrong when he declared that “justice has been served” with the killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri in a US drone strike.
The problem is that’s only half of the truth; the other half is that Mr. Zawahiri was more a has-been than a power to be reckoned with on the jihadist totem pole. In death, he may have scored his most significant achievement since becoming head of Al Qaeda as the symbol of the failure of decades of war in Afghanistan.
Mr. Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul in a house owned by Sirajuddin Haqqani, Afghanistan’s de facto deputy head of state, will be touted as evidence that Afghanistan has reverted to being a base for terrorist groups. Mr. Haqqani’s son and son-in-law are believed to have also died in the drone strike.
In addition, the killing will likely become a partisan issue in domestic US politics, with Republicans pointing to Mr. Biden’s bungled withdrawal a year ago of US troops from Afghanistan.
In anticipation of the criticism, Mr. Biden said the killing demonstrated the United States’ post-withdrawal ability to protect Americans without “thousands of boots on the ground.”
Even so, the withdrawal resulted from a war that the United States and its allies could not win and a fundamentally flawed US-Taliban agreement negotiated by the administration of former President Donald J. Trump that helped the Taliban regain power.
Since succeeding Osama bin Laden after the United States killed him in 2011, Mr. Zawahiri, the man who helped shape Al Qaeda from day one, could not garner the stature of the group’s former leader. Nor was he able to impose his will on Al Qaeda franchises in Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere in Africa.
Researcher Nelly Lahoud argues in a recently published book based on computer files confiscated in the US raid that killed Mr. Bin Laden that Al Qaeda had lost much of its operational capability in the immediate years after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
The Islamic State, the foremost jihadist organization locked into a bitter fight with the Taliban, increasingly overshadowed Al Qaeda, showcasing Mr. Zawahiri’s inability to fill Mr. Bin Laden’s shoes.
In fact, the Islamic State today poses a greater threat to the United States than Al Qaeda. Equally importantly, the Islamic State also constitutes a more significant threat to Central Asian states like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as Russia and China.
If Mr. Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul raises questions about the Taliban’s willingness and determination to prevent militant groups from operating from its territory, repeated Islamic State attacks on domestic Afghan targets, and the firing of rockets into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan call into question the group’s ability to do so.
To be sure, granting Al Qaeda leaders shelter does not by definition amount to Taliban acquiescence of the group launching attacks from Afghan soil.
The questions are particularly acute given that Mr. Zawahiri was killed days after the Taliban engaged with representatives of 30 countries at a conference in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent in a bid to unfreeze some US$7 billion in Afghan foreign currency reserves.
Days later, Tashkent hosted foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO), who had Afghanistan high on their agenda. The SCO groups India, Russia, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
The Taliban regime has yet to be officially recognized by any country. Countries across geopolitical divides have insisted that the Taliban first demonstrate their willingness and ability to control all of Afghanistan and curtail militant groups.
The international community also required the Taliban to form an inclusive government and ensure women’s rights. The Taliban have yet to deliver on any of its promises.
Reporting to the United Nations Security Council in January, UN Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons noted that “the existence of numerous terrorist groups in Afghanistan remains a broad international and especially regional concern. The desire of the de facto authorities to take on this threat across the board remains to be convincingly demonstrated.”
Ms. Lyons’ remarks have seemingly gone unheeded in Kabul. In response to the Islamic State attacks on Tajikistan, home to Russia’s largest foreign military base, the Taliban are building a watchtower on the two countries’ border with the help of a Tajik group bent on changing the regime in Dushanbe.
Adding insult to injury, graffiti near the tower celebrates Muhammad Sharipov, aka M. Arsalon or Mahdi Arsalon, a Tajik national wanted by authorities for the past eight years on terrorism charges.
During talks last month, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon cautioned his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, against a possible recognition by Moscow of the Taliban regime. Mr. Putin insisted that he would consider Tajik concerns about ethnic minority rights in Afghanistan.
While ethnic minority rights may be a Tajik concern, the opposite may be true for China. China fears that the militant Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), also known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), hardened by the war in Syria, may want to use Afghanistan as a launching pad for attacks in retaliation for China’s brutal crackdown on the Uyghur Turkic Muslim minority in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.
A United Nations Security Council report said last month that the group had built strongholds in Badakhshan near the Chinese border in northeast Afghanistan, where it had “expanded its area of operations and covertly purchased weapons, with the aim of improving its capabilities for terrorist activities.”
The Taliban suggested that they had moved the estimated 1,000 Uyghur fighters away from the Chinese border to other parts of Afghanistan last October. China has long pressed the Taliban to curtail the group’s activity.
Creating distance between Uyghur militants and the Chinese border may not be good enough. The Islamic State sought to make that clear when it employed an Uyghur as a suicide bomber in an attack last October on a Shiite Muslim mosque in the Afghan city of Kunduz.
The message was: Uyghur militants have alternatives. The Taliban may not be their best bet.
Afghanistan on the Verge of Religious Terrorism and Sectarian Warfare
In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s position towards the Salafists has become punitive and ruthless once again. Albeit followers of numerous religious Sects live in Afghanistan, such as Ismailia, Shia, Jafri, Ahle-Hadith/Wahhabis, and Sunni-Hanafi. The position of the Taliban militants concerning the Sunni-Hanafi religion is soft and the level of danger to its followers is very low and even zero, compared to followers of other religions. Nevertheless, there are three religious sects, whose followers are utmost risk, and are under the greatest threat and danger.
These three religious groups are particularly tarnished in Afghanistan, since they are assumed to be the elements of foreign intelligence organizations and are used for a common intelligence goal. The first category is the Shias, whose lives are currently under threat in the country, and there are always deadly attacks on their religious ceremonies. Even the Taliban militants intervene in their rites, while disrupting their religious rituals and beating them up. Meantime, attacks against the Shia religions by the Daesh group or using the name of this group have been intensified, while slaying them, are tactics of foreign intelligence especially CIA.
Steering an intelligence war tactics in the name of religion between Daesh/Salafi and Shia religions in Afghanistan, like Mosul and other parts of Iraq, which will in turn strain the relations between the new administration of the Taliban of Afghanistan and Iran, is part of the CIA’s policy. Because it will force Iran to use the Fatimun proxy group to defend the right of the Shia religion’s followers in Afghanistan. Thus, the practice of anti-Taliban armed forces and fronts against the Taliban to indirectly control the Taliban in Afghanistan is a special part of the US foreign policy. Nonetheless, if the US wants to directly control the Taliban, then they are supposed to intervene militarily, or apply tremendous external pressure on the Taliban, to get them abide by the US policy.
However, after August 15, the United States used some methods to directly control the Taliban, but the result was deleterious. Because the relationship between America and the Taliban has strained and the United States almost lost control over, this organized and faith-based armed militia. Consequently, the United States, with the help of the Daesh group or using its name, incited the followers of the Shiite religion against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
As they want to create such anti-Taliban fronts against the Taliban in Afghanistan letting other countries support them financially, providing them with training centers and sanctuaries, and on the international level, they will be defamed, while benefiting America indirectly. The United States will keep the Taliban amused by claiming to defend the Taliban against those groups, and in some cases, the United States will conduct airstrikes to defend the Taliban against the anti-Taliban fronts. Actually, the US tries to wage a religious and ethnic war in Afghanistan, by means of the Daesh group to multiply the heat of the civil war in Afghanistan.
Moreover, the first juncture of the civil war, is the use of the Daesh group against the Shia religions in Afghanistan, and for the defense of Shia sects, Iran will deploy its proxy-armed groups, namely Fatimiun fighters. Keeping the ethnic war upward in Afghanistan, the main victims are supposedly Tajiks, Hazaras and other non-Pashtun tribes, but the likely victims of this war will be Pashtuns as well.
The second sect’s follower whose lives are under severe threat and danger, are Ahle-Hadith/ Wahhabis/Salafis. The Wahhabi religion has many followers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In Afghanistan, Wahhabis are called by the Taliban as Khariji and the pedigrees of ISIS. Henceforth, its followers have been either killed, missing or persecuted.
Wahhabis, whose financial supporters are said to be the Gulf countries, customarily some of their citizens are active members of Daesh.
The third sect of which followers’ lives are currently under threat in Afghanistan are the Ahle-tasawuf/ Sufis, whose followers were targeted and their worship places have been blown up recently.
Subsequently, a new phase of intelligence warfare between the US’ CIA and Iran’s VAJA, thru their proxies will begin, and Afghanistan will turn into a hotbed of state sponsored Jihadi terrorism, which will in turn extensively divide Afghanistan into numerous fronts. Moreover, the contemporary values such as democracy, peace, political stability, republicanism and social-market economy will remain vague and unachievable.
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