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Terrorism and radical Islam in public perception: myths and truth

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In recent years, Russian society has increasingly acknowledged terrorism as a national and global threat. Terrorism, with its   significant uncertainty in both the likelihood of occurrence as well as the extent of its consequences, infuses certain public fears and concerns.

There are a number of myths about terrorism and radical Islam, established in Russian society. This article is an attempt to articulate some of myths but not all of them. Among others, I have to emphasize the following: terrorism equals crime, terrorists are mentally ill, all terrorists are Muslims, and US is one of the main sponsors of terrorism.  

Problem with the definition: Terrorism as crime

In Russia, terrorism is interpreted as a criminal act, which embraces such illegal actions as hooliganism, burglary, weapon trade, human trafficking, etc. Putin’s administration has portrayed terrorists as bandits, members of criminal gangs or criminal elements, and used these notions interchangeably. In fact, the Russian government demonstrated a flexible approach to “terrorism”: during the second Chechen war, people who advocated for the independence of Chechnya were demonized as “criminals”, “terrorists” and “bandits”. For instance, in 2012, during the meeting Putin reported that “ … during last months, the FSB, military forces and police conducted joined operations, where they detained 479 bandits and killed 313 terrorists, which did not want to obey…” . In the speech after the Boston bombing of 30 March 2011, Putin called the brothers Tzarnaev criminals but not terrorists!

However, terrorism is more than a run-of-the-mill criminal action. Underlining the political aspect of terrorism, Russian politicians rarely refer to its ideological base, which makes hard to compare terrorists with other criminals. On one hand, the majority of people do not observe religion as an important part of social life, and as a result, Russians are ready to equalize terrorists and criminals. On the other hand, in the Russian mind, Islam is connected to terrorism; they barely understand this connection which leads to stereotyping and the oversimplification of terrorism as a phenomenon (all Muslims are terrorists; All terrorists are Muslims). In part, this can be explained by the atheist Soviet heritage, the inability of the Russian Church to raise its reputation within its own population, low interest in religion, and the absence of knowledge about Islam and its radical sects. For instance, according to the Levada survey of 2015, 26 % of respondents stressed that they have no knowledge about Islam and Muslim traditions.

Terrorists are mentally ill people

Our media was not perceptive about how frequently and in what way it presents terrorism. So, discussing terrorism, a common speculation that people hold is that ‘terrorism is a sign of insanity or mental illness or that terrorism is a mark of a lunatic fringe. This suggests that terrorist behavior is only adopted by deranged individuals with poor education, detrimental habits (drugs), criminals, or people with a criminal past.   Sergei Goncharov, a Chief of “Alfa” Veteran organization and a deputy of the Moscow city Duma stresses that terrorists are irrational actors which are stimulated by drugs or antipsychotic medicine. The same suggestions of psychological abnormality were expressed by the following political figures such as Zhirinovsky , Zyuganov, Putin, Patrushev , etc. Nonetheless, the reality is different. Alla Saprikina, a suicidal terrorist, had a high education and worked in the Russian Theater in Dagestan. Doku Umarov had an engineering degree. Zakaev Akxmed had a university degree. Such perception leads to misconceptions about terrorism   of terrorism and its nature.

All terrorists are Muslims

Interestingly, people that participated on multiple Russian TV reality shows, (including Orthodox clerics, common people, intellectuals, political figures) do not take reports about Russian terrorists (converts to Islam) seriously. Despite the high involvement of Russian coverts in terror attacks against Russian citizens, there is no concern to raise this issue or discuss it. Several documentaries, produced by the most popular TV channels, reveal detailed information about converts’ activities in radical organizations, views, testimonies of relatives, friends and coworkers. But they failed to ignite a public interest to this problem.

Despite the fact that the number of Russian converts to radical Islam is not very significant, they present a threat to national security, as well as to the image of the entire Muslim community. Some Muslim clerics and scholars underline that converts were engaged in more ferocious actions than ethnic Muslims . They suggest that the conversion of Russians to Islam is a dangerous event because non-Muslims often join to radicals .   Dmitry Sokolov, Anna-Amnat Saprikina, and Vitaly Razbydko – these Russian converts are well known in Russia. Although, there is a litany of Russian converts who conducted terror actions against innocent people.

The US is one of the main sponsors of terrorism

In many speeches Putin, Patrushev, Medvedev, as well as military experts, and hosts of shows underline the decisive role of the US in sponsoring terrorism and rejecting beneficial cooperation in the count-terrorism field. They have tried to deliver and incorporate the idea about the US helping terrorist groups and organizations which challenge the unity of the Russian Federation through   emotional appearances, images, expert’s opinions, or public speeches. To support these speculations, people are referred to 9/11. Shortly after the attack, the media circulated various conspiracy theories (for example, Dylan Avery and Jason Bermas).

Politicians made direct and indirect statements about US double standards in the international stage and support to certain terrorist organizations. For instance, Patrushev repeatedly underlines the dubious role of the leading Western democracies and in particular, the US in the global fight against terrorism. Such statements allowed common people to make wrong conclusions.

Worth noting is that the traditional anti-Americanism of the post-Soviet society, which is now revived, made the people   ready to accept   the most unreal falsifications. For instance, during the TV reality show “Vockrecnij Veter c Vladimirom Colov’evim” in May 2013, an Islamic cultural leader, Djemal received a higher online score among Russian audience than his opponent, Professor Satanovcky; Djemal stressed that Bin Laden was not killed by the US troops, and that this military operation was another concocted story for American voters .

These myths prevent a clear comprehension of the reality and modern threats in this fast changing world. On one hand, under the burden of these assumptions, Russian society cannot adequately address security concerns to the authority. On the other hand, the government receives an opportunity to manipulate by wrong assumptions in order to strengthen control over its people.

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Terrorism

Western strategic mistake in the Middle East

Sajad Abedi

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The widespread terrorist acts and catastrophic events of 2016 in Europe have revealed new approaches to extremist and radical groups to create fears among Westerners.

The investigation of the destructive actions of two past years has shown that such terrorist operations were based on networked and coordinated approaches. That is, the terrorist cells carried out their destructive actions based on a timetable group plan. In such circumstances, it is possible to observe such behaviors, given the familiarity of security guards and intelligence agencies in Europe, but it is difficult to change the approaches to monitoring such actions in the two past year. Instead of taking collective action, terrorists use the means of mass destructive actions in their new ways. In such a situation, a person kills public places instead of communicating with the supporters or members of terrorist currents such as ISIL with the aim of shedding people’s blood. Events like the French Nazi Crusade, or the accumulation of people in Germany, have been blamed for such an approach. Naturally, the use of such methods and the use of public transport vehicles, or even sticks and gadgets, has provided security and intelligence agencies with a great deal of difficulty in detecting criminal agents.

Evidence suggests that in the new approaches of the ISIL, they are seeking to use any means to achieve their goals, and it is natural that in these circumstances the concept of security in Europe has a change undergone. From another perspective, the use of such practices shows that the Isis are seeking to use any means to demonstrate their power and, along with this issue, to supporters and groups that want to recruit and join terrorist groups. They order that they do not necessarily have to endure the journey to accompany them, but that pro-active agents can arrange their subversive moves at the same location. The facts indicate that the only wolves used for ISIS terrorist groups are the instigation of this issue to Westerners, which, despite the efforts of some countries to eliminate ISIS’s fears, and fears of Europeans from recurring events the terrorists will not end.

ISILs are always trying to organize people from the corners of the world for terrorist acts; those who are known for wolves only because of the nature of isolation and psychological frustration. That is why, with many beliefs, this group is now considered to be the most dangerous terrorist organization. In the current situation, although the possibility of reversing and defeating ISIL in the region and eliminating the danger of the formation of the Islamic Emirate of Iraq and the Shamal seems probable, it is important to understand that different groups, including ISIS and other organized terrorist groups, are based on ideological. It seems that in such a case, the disintegration of the organization will not eliminate ISIL’s thoughts, but those who have such intellectual foundations will underground forms of state-controlled current state of affairs. Continue their terrorist operations.

While the West’s false policy on dual use of terrorism against the developments in the region, especially in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Libya, is a major contributor to terrorism, the immigration of citizens from different countries, including Europe to Syria and the return of Western terrorists to Europe. Today, more than any other country in Europe is the target of ISIS attacks in Europe, which in the developments in Syria, we saw that the country adopted the strongest positions in support of irresponsible armed groups and some terrorist groups.

We are now witnessing an unholy unity among apparently secular currents claiming liberty with radical Fascist currents and their consensus over the limitation of Islamic groups and the suppression of Muslims. In fact, now, the West is not only captured by ISIS terrorist incidents, but is also threatened by extremist rightwing people who have received a high vote in some elections because of Islamophobia. The same groups that have tackled the asylum seekers have been slogans for victorious dynasties.

On the one hand, non-Muslims who carry out acts of terrorism on the basis of personal or even religious beliefs carry out terrorist acts, the westerners regard the disciples, but at the same time, any Muslim who subjugates propaganda acts based on non-Islamic and non-religious ideas of the Islamic State is a circle Muslims consider his actions taken from Quranic teachings.

Along with this, it should be noted that the West is fully aware of Saudi Arabia’s role in current supporting terrorist. The evidence clearly shows the country’s financial and spiritual backing of the jihadist Salafi in 2001 and Takfiri Salafi since 2011, and the US Senate’s 28-page report contends. However, an attempt by Western countries to pressure Saudi Arabia or change it’s political, military, and economic relations with the country does not take place.

At the beginning of the formation of ISIS, the West had the hope that with the issuance of radical Islamists to Syria and Iraq and the emergence of conflicts among Islamic countries, the Takfiris’ duty would be completely determined, and the countries of the region would be involved in tribal conflicts. The formation of such a subjectivity in the West, of course, was due to the fact that the insecurity of the region would provide a platform for Islamism and their more active presence in the Middle East and West Asia, but we saw that prostitutes of the chickens return to the nest in Europe, and that the boomerang ISIS sat back in the heart of Europe.

Of course, not all terrorist attacks in Europe can be attributed to the organization of ISIS, and it seems that the basic premise of terrorists is based mainly on the basis of their thinking and reasons, such as family and mental problems, on subversive acts. ISIS, however, uses all its media capabilities to take advantage of these actions, and it has tried to magnify its operational capability by assigning individuals who have sometimes died as a result of terrorist acts and suicide attacks.

On the other hand, terrorism should be viewed as a global issue, and at the same time it should be emphasized that foreign policy of some countries and their interference in the affairs of other countries is one of the factors of the emergence and spread of terrorism. These countries must rethink their policies in order to provide a ground for the elimination of terrorism.

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UN launches new framework to strengthen fight against terrorism

MD Staff

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United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres launched a new Organization-wide framework on Thursday to coordinate efforts across the peace and security, humanitarian, human rights and sustainable development sectors.

Termed the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact, the framework is an agreement between the UN chief, 36 Organizational entities, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the World Customs Organization, to better serve the needs of Member States when it comes to tackling the scourge of international terrorism.

Speaking at the first meeting of the Compact’s Coordination Committee, at the UN Headquarters, in New York, Mr. Guterres highlighted the need to ensure full respect for international human rights standards and rule of law in countering terrorism.

“Policies that limit human rights only end up alienating the very communities they aim to protect and which normally have every interest in fighting extremism,” he said, adding that as a result “such policies can effectively drive people into the hands of terrorists and undermine our efforts on prevention.”

He also urged greater vigilance against the misuse of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, drones and 3D (three-dimensional) printing, as well as against the use of hate-speech and distortion of religious beliefs by extremist and terrorist groups.

According to the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, the Coordination Committee will oversee the implementation of the Compact and monitor its implementation. It is chaired by UN Under-Secretary-General for counter-terrorism, Vladimir Voronkov.

At its meeting, the Coordination Committee also discussed strategic priorities for the next two years, based on the sixth review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, relevant Security Council resolutions and UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) assessments as well as Member States requests for technical help.

It also looked into the organization of work and ways to improve the delivery of an “All-of-UN” capacity-building support to Member States.

The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact Task Force will replace the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, which was established in 2005 to strengthen UN system-wide coordination and coherence of counter-terrorism efforts.

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Terrorism

ISIL’s ‘legacy of terror’ in Iraq: UN verifies over 200 mass graves

MD Staff

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Investigators have uncovered more than 200 mass graves containing thousands of bodies in areas of Iraq formerly controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), according to a United Nations human rights report out on Tuesday.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said the 202 mass grave sites were found in governorates of Nineveh, Kirkuk, Salahuddin and Anbar in the north and western parts of the country – but there may be many more.

In the joint report, Unearthing Atrocities, the UN entities said the evidence gathered from the sites “will be central to ensuring credible investigations, prosecutions and convictions” in accordance with international due process standards.

Ján Kubiš, the top UN official in Iraq and the head of UNAMI, said that the mass grave sites “are a testament to harrowing human loss, profound suffering and shocking cruelty.”

“Determining the circumstances surrounding the significant loss of life will be an important step in the mourning process for families and their journey to secure their rights to truth and justice,” he added.

Between June 2014 and December 2017, ISIL seized large areas of Iraq, leading a campaign of widespread and systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, “acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possible genocide,” the report states.

Traumatized families have the ‘right to know’

The UNAMI-OHCHR report also documents the “significant challenges” families of the missing face in trying to find the fate of their loved ones.

At present, they must report to more than five separate authorities, a process that is both time-consuming and frustrating for traumatized families.

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, underscored that the families “have the right to know.”

“ISIL’s horrific crimes in Iraq have left the headlines but the trauma of the victims’ families endures, with thousands of women, men and children still unaccounted for,” she said.

“Their families have the right to know what happened to their loved ones. Truth, justice and reparations are critical to ensuring a full reckoning for the atrocities committed by ISIL.”

The report documents 202 mass grave sites across Iraq, amid fears that there could be more. Source: UNAMI-OHCHR report

Victim-centred approach needed

Among its recommendations, the report calls for a victim-centred approach and a transitional justice process that is established in consultation with, and accepted by, Iraqis, particularly those from affected communities.

It also urges a multidisciplinary approach to the recovery operations, with the participation of experienced specialists, including weapons contamination and explosives experts and crime scene investigators.

Alongside, it also calls on the international community to provide resources and technical support to efforts related to the exhumation, collection, transportation, storage and return of human remains to families, as well as their identification, particularly by helping strengthen the national Mass Graves Directorate.

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