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Defensive or Offensive Jihad: Classical Islamic Exegetes vs. Contemporary Islamists’ Propagation

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The main objective of Islam is to implement Allah’s divinely ordained religion on Universe in its entirety. It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated; to impose its belief system on all the nations, not to be imposed upon religiously; and to extend its power to the entire planet, not to be governed by infidels.

To achieve its objectives, Islam justifies all means by the use of Jihad against the infidels. Claiming they do it for the defense of their religion, the Muslim lands, and the Muslims’ honor, Jihad is permitted and lawfully justified.

The issue at stake is the deep gap between the horrific acts of terrorism coming from the World Islamic Jihad groups, and at the same time the propagation coming from the Islamists, Muslims and Westerners. Firstly, they claim that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, hijacked by extremists; secondly, that there is only one Jihad, the spiritual, that means to worship Allah; and thirdly that the Muslims are ordered to fight their enemies only defensively.

The stunned Free World witnesses the atrocious acts of terrorism, slaughtering and beheadings, and at the same time is being told that this is only retaliation to the Western colonialism and neo-imperialism, that these groups are only a small minority, weeds; that the threats of demolishing modernity and bringing it back to the 7th century are only because World Islamic Jihad wishes to defend its lands, its lives and honor against Western aggression. However, as Muslims see it, Islam is for everyone in the human race and should be expanded as a winning religion, until all human beings proclaim that “there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.”

Jihad appears 41 times in 18 Sûwar in the Qur’ān, mostly coupled with fi-Sabīlillāh (in the way of Allah), which gives it a religious sanctioning. There are 527 verses in the Qur’an that show deep intolerance towards the infidels, and 109 verses straitfully call to fight the infidels, with all kinds of slaughtering. Contemporary world statistics is very clear and horrifying: over 90% of world terrorism and over 70% of world violence is perpetrated by Muslims. As for 2015, the statistics is stunning and dramatic: 451 of 452 suicide terror attacks in 2015 were perpetrated by Muslims. The remaining one in Turkey was perpetrated by a Russian woman. It is now investigated that she was radicalized by Wahhabi ideology.

Jihad is universally understood as war on behalf of Islam, and its merits are described plentifully in the most-respected religious works. It is sometimes called “the neglected duty” or “the forgotten obligation,” and regard as the sixth pillar of Islam. Lewis finds that “overwhelming majority of classical theologians, jurists and traditionalists… understood the obligation of Jihad in a military sense.” The elevation of Allah’s word cannot be achieved without Jihad (al-Baqarah, 2:251; al-Nisā’, 4:75; al-Anfâl, 8:39; al-Hadīd, 57:25).

All four Islamic Schools of Jurisprudence (Madhāhib al-Fiqh) and most of Islamic exegetes agree that the aims of Jihad are at removing the infidel’s oppression and injustice; eliminating the barriers to the spread of Allah’s truth; and establishing Islamic justice universally. There are four different ways in which the believer may fulfill his obligations: a) by his heart; b) by his tongue; c) by his hands; d) by the sword. They are aimed at establishing Allah’s rule on earth, until either the infidels embrace Islam; or submit to Islamic rule and agree to pay the tax poll, the Jizyah; or be killed in the battleground by Jihad war.

From the Islamic vantage point, all wars in Islam are religious; there is no concept of secular war” and Jihad is the only just war known. So, even according to Islamic Jurisdiction, one can wage the most aggressive war using atrocious evil deeds and still see it as a defensive war. Muslim legal theory states that Islam cannot exist together with idolatry. This is Shirk, meaning association of other gods and idols with Allah (al-Nisā’, 4:48, 166; al-Qasas, 28:17; al-Luqmān, 31:13; Yā Sīn, 36:74; al-Sāfāt, 37:158). According to a Hadīth related to Muhammad, he declared: “I am ordered to fight polytheists until they say there is no god but Allah.” Muslims are under the Qur’an Commandments’ obligation to slay the idolaters (al-Baqarah, 2:193; al-Taubah, 9:5; al-‘Imrān, 3:167-168; al-Nisā’, 4:84, 88-89). Terrorizing Islamic enemies is Allah’s commandment (Bukhāri, 1:24, 6:19).

There are four Qur’an “sword verses” relating to different types of people against whom Muslims are obliged to fight: a) Surah 9 verse 5: Fighting the Idolaters; b) Surah 9 verse 29: Fighting the People of the Book, Ahl al-Kitāb; c) Sûrah 9 verse 73: Fighting the Hypocrites and the infidels; and d) Surah 47 verse 4: Fighting the Enemies of Islam whoever they are and whenever they can be found. Most Islamic exegetes claim that Surah 9 verse 5 abrogates 114 or 124 other un-militant verses from Mecca.

The Shahīd is one who is killed and has achieved martyrdom in the battle of Jihad, and he is granted seven glorious gifts. Islamic exegetes take the Qur’an statements that the Shuhadā’ are alive living beside Allah and enjoying all his grace (al-Baqarah, 2:154; al-‘Imrān, 3:169).

Muslims view peace as a tactical means for achieving their strategic objective, by defeating the enemy. Peace constitutes a temporary break in the ongoing war against the enemy, until Islam controls the whole world. They might come to terms with the enemy, provided that they should resume the Jihad after the expiration of the treaty. By their very nature, treaties must be of temporary duration, for the normal relations between Muslim and the infidels are not peaceful, but warlike.

In spite of the extensive agreement among Islamic classical exegetes based on the Sharī’ah, Islamists in the West emphasize the milder verses from the Qur’an, actually showing the abrogated `Meccan Islam’ in order to camouflage the living `Medina Islam’. They state that Islam is defensive and the fighting injunctions in the Qur’an are only in self-defense. They carefully hid the unconscionable and intolerable verses that litter from all the Medinan Sûwar by saying that ‘those verses were taken out of context’ and that they were not applicable to the infidels. Ali Cheragh brings verses from the Qur’an which he claims are limited or conditional, and “only two verses in the Qur’an containing an absolute or non-conditional injunction for making war against the un-believers.” however, for Cheragh it is very simple: wherever you find verses contradictory to his opinion about the interpretation of the Qur’an, it is ruled out as non-operative. Therefore, if Muslims summon their enemies to embrace Islam and they refuse to accept it, then all the Islamic wars are defensive by definition. All those who disagree with him are “wrong in history, chronology, as well as in understanding the general scope of the Qur’an and the tenor of the Sûwar.”

Mahmoud Shaltut comments are also indicative: “People would do well to learn the Qur’an rules with regard to fighting, its causes and its ends, and recognize the wisdom of the Qur’an. The role of the Qur’an is to summon humanity to submit to Allah, as the natural process. As about war verses, they all deal with the defense of the Islamic community, and are fully legitimate.

Jamal Badawi, a member of the Fiqh Council of North America, claims that Jihad is a struggle against inner desires and a fight against social injustices. Combative jihad is not only restricted in terms of what may or may not justify it, and also strictly regulated. War should not be resorted against peaceful and just but to stop aggression or oppression. There must be a declaration of war by a legitimate authority after due consultation; noncombatants should not be hurt; and Prisoners of war and the injured must be treated humanely.

The main of the Muslim propagators is to clearly lie and mislead the ignorant infidels of the meaning of Jihad, claiming it means the spiritual struggle of the believer to Allah. This is untrue. j-h-d, on the first Arabic conjugation, means indeed to make efforts, to strive. However, Jihad and Mujāhadah are the noun of the third conjugation, Jā-h-d, which means to fight, to make war against. Muslim propagators know Arabic and they just evade the truth. They also ignore the physical military aspect of Qitāl, as fighting and slaughtering to make Islam prevail over all other religions and governmental systems.

Indeed, these statements are pure fraud propagation. Of all the Islamic duties (A’māl), Jihad is considered the noblest, next to belief (Imān) and prayer (Salāh). The one who died without waging Jihad against the infidels, nor intended to fight Jihad in the way of Allah in his heart, he died like a hypocrite (Munāfiq). From its beginning, the Islamic movement had struggled aggressively to subdue religiously, to conquer politically, and to expand territorially other peoples and to bring the Islamic mission to all mankind. This was an offensive Jihad proper, and nobody recognized any other kind of Jihad.

Stage one: defensive Jihad ordered

At Mecca, Muhammad kept moderation with regard to war, preaching to Arabs on the spiritual level. Being small in number the followers of Muhammad would have been wiped out if they had tried to retaliate. The Arabs of Mecca resisted Muhammad’s preaching, and treated him as if he was crazy or storyteller (Saba’, 34:45-46; al-Tûr, 52:33; al-Mudaththir, 74:24-25; al-Mutfiffīn, 83:13). They claimed that these were old stories which were written by others and read to him (al-Furqān, 25:4-5; al-Tûr, 52:30; al-Haqqāh, 69:41).

Muhammad tried hard to convince them that all his words were true and this can be testified and substantiated by the evidence of the People of the Book (al-Baqarah, 2:146; al-Mā’idah, 5:44, 48; Yûnus, 10:94; al-Shu`arā’, 26:196-197; al-Qasas, 28: 52-3; al-Ahqāf, 46:10; al-Takvīr, 81:19-23). He told the Arabs what happened to those who did not listen to the prophets: the deluge generation and Noah, the Sodom people and Lot, and Pharaoh destiny (al-Shu’arā’, 26:10-12; al-Qamar, 54:17-19, 32-34). Yet, the people of Mecca asked him to show them the Book from which he told these stories (Bani Isrāīl, 17:93). He responded that it is the same as the Book of Moses, kept beneath the Tablets of Testimony (al-An‘ām, 6:7; al-R`ad, 13:43; al-Nahl, 16:101-103; Bani Isrāīl, 17: 88-90; al-Mu’minûn, 23:96; Hā Mīn al-Sajdah, 41:42; al-Zukhruf, 43:1-4; al-Ahqf, 46:12; al-Waqi`ah, 56:78-79.

The tiny Muslim community in Mecca was an object of oppression by the Quraysh, continuously subjected to torture, repression and persecution. They were ridiculed and assaulted, they were mocked and beaten. Others were boycotted and even denied access to the Ka`bah to fulfill their religious obligations. Muhammad’s message to the believers was clear: to be patient and bear with those who deny the truth; wait patiently in the knowledge that they are constantly under Allah’s eyes, care and protection.

When Muhammad found it critically dangerous to his community to continue staying in Mecca, and his life was threatened, he fled with his followers to Yathrib (later called Medina), where he hoped to find a much more open and tolerant approach to his religion, since there were Jewish tribes there. The Hijrah marked a turning point in the career of Muhammad and a revolution in Islam.

Stage Two: Defensive Jihad requested

the idea of Jihad as the legitimate just war against the infidels was raised, between March 623 and August 623: Permission is granted to those who fight because they were oppressed (al-Hajj, 22:39). The expedition to Nakhlah, on December 623 has become the general Jihad declaration against the infidels (al-Baqarah, 2:216-217). In late January 624, in a Friday sermon, Muhammad made the Islamic congregation pray facing Mecca, as the new direction (Qiblah). War became a religious obligation, permissible in self-defense.

The first battle was in Badr, in March 624, signified the new era of fi-sabīlillāh. Everything can be done for the sake of Allah: “They ask you of war in the holy month. Tell them to fight in that month is a sin. But a greater sin in the eye of Allah is to hinder people from the way of Allah…” (al-Baqarah, 2:217). Muhammad ordered to instill terror into the hearts of the infidels. The victory of Badr was labeled by Muslim exegetes as the day of deliverance (Furqān). Jihad became the most important slogan, and the Jews were the first victim: the deportation of Banu Qaynuqa’ tribe.

From that event on, Muhammad put strong emphasis on ideological commitment to fighting Jihad wars in the way of Allah by repeated promises of rewards in glorious paradise and living with Allah. Now there was a definite list of the enemies of Islam: first, the idolaters, the Kuffār; second, the hypocrites (Munāfiqûn); and in the third place, the Jews, by refusing to accept Muhammad as the seal of all prophets. As a symbol, Muhammad deported the Jews of Banu al-Nadir tribe.

Stage Three: Offensive Jihad Commanded

The most important outcome from the Trench War, in year 627, was that from a defensive situation Muhammad had moved to an offensive Jihad. From that time on until the year 743, the offensive holy war, Jihād fi-sabīlillāh, was the customary, characterizing phenomenon of Islam. Jihad as a holy war against the infidels, became the only accepted instrument of the Muslim’s policy, the only means for the spread of Islam as a grand strategy. The spirit of Jihad was to reorder matters according to their religious values. This was marked by Muhammad’s declaration: from now on, we will attack them and they will not attack us (Bukhāri, 3:33).

The orders were clear-cut: Strike terror in the hearts of the infidels; attack them and never turn back; keep on fighting until the persecution vanishes and Islam is established worldwide; Kill anyone who opposes Muhammad; continue killing and do not take prisoners until the land is subdued; and enjoy the war booty, mainly women. Those who retreat from the battleground, Allsh will punish them and send you to Hell-fire. Those who are killed in the way of Allah are in fact not dead, but alive, enjoying Paradise and the virgins there. Those who win in the battleground enjoy great rewards of booty and take women captives as concubines.

The war against the Jews of Khaybar, the richest fertile oasis in Hijāz, marked the first aggressive-offensive Jihad war. The climax of Muhammad’s achievements was the conquest of Mecca on January 11, 630, almost without resistance from the Meccan army. The Khudaybiyah affair and the conquest of Mecca were a crucial turning point in the history of Islam, according to all Islamic exegetes, and they identify it with the term Fath, opening, and hence conquest. Mecca came under Islamic rule, and Muhammad established his control over most of the area of Arabia as a head of a religious community and a military leader. The army became the melting pot of the new community, and the Jihad war was the chief means to the Islamic ends.

It is no longer just defensive fighting, but aggressive Jihad against the infidels, which serves as the arbitrator line between Dār al-Islām and Dār al-Harb. Indeed, what we find in the Qur’an is a gradual, developmental and staged strategy, according to Muhammad’s situation and achievements: in the first period he ordered withdrawal, forgiveness and summoning; in the second period, he ordered to fight Jihad in self-defense; and in the third period, he ordered to fight Jihad war aggressively for territorial and religious expansionism.

Stage Four: Total Offensive Jihad under the Khulafā’

After Muhammad’s death, on June 8, 632, at the age of 62, his four successors, al-Khulafā’ al-Rāshīdûn, started with a long period of Islamic Jihād wars that extended much of Western Asia, North Africa and parts of Europe. The official purpose of the polity of Islam was to expand the ideology of Jihad as the main instruments of foreign policy. The Arab empire under the Khulafā’ carried on the doctrine of Jihad, the struggle to establish Allah’s rule on earth, through continuous military wars against the infidels. Almost to the end of the Umayyad caliphate, the policy of Jihad was applied all the way, as the main underpinnings of the Islamic state.

The emphasis put on Jihad from its earliest times is one of the best attested facts of Muslim history. He who wishes to comprehend the Arab spirit of violence, that the sword has never stopped being employed in Arab-Muslim politics, the rebellious character of the Arabs, will find the fact that three out of the first four Khulafā’ al-Rāshīdûn were murdered; that between 632, after Muhammad’s death, and 690, there were three large revolts, as national domestic wars, and one huge schism: the division of the Shi’ite from the Sunnah. We can examine this from another angle: the expansion of the Arab empire had stopped in 743, after Jihad, as the spirit of the Arab conquerors’ foreign policy, had disappeared.

Khalid Blankinship puts it very clearly: in view of its ideology, the simplicity of its functions, and the actual course of its history, the Islamic state through Umayyad times is the Jihad state par excellence. From 632 to 740, the Muslim state was engaged in hostilities against all those who were defined as infidels.

The conclusion for our contemporary situation is clear. Jihad is the Islamic war against all the infidels wherever and whenever they are, and it is offensive with the means of controlling the entire world: humanity must come under Islamic rule and the Shari`ah must be the only constitution and law for all humanity. Those who reject this clear will of Allah must put to death in Jihad. The Judeo-Christian Golden Rule and moral values do not exist in Islam, as it is atomistic approach: anything that Allah commands is perfect and moral and must be followed without questioning. This also applies to Jihad. Never in Islamic history has Jihad been defensive, but always a religious command to fight the other, to conquer territories and to subdue humanity.

Islam is a violent, expansionary ideology that seeks the subjugation of other faiths and cultures. It is political even more then it is a religion, and it seeks to impose its Sharī’ah over the entire world and humanity. The only peace that Islam seeks is a world united by the Islamic faith in which all other faiths and political regimes have been suppressed or eliminated.

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Terrorism

Who are the Real Terrorists in North East Syria?

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D

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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.

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Strategies for combating international terrorism in Central Asia

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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.

Conclusion

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

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Fighting Terrorism Online: EU Internet Forum committed to an EU-wide Crisis Protocol

MD Staff

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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.

Background

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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