This week’s attack on two mosques in New Zealand reflects a paradigm shift: the erosion of liberal values and the rise of civilisationalism at the expense of the nation state.
So do broader phenomena like wide spread Islamophobia with the crackdown on Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang as its extreme, and growing ant-Semitism These phenomena are fuelled by increasing intolerance and racism enabled by far right and world leaders as well as ultra-conservatives and jihadists.
These world leaders and far right ideologues couch their policies and views in terms of defending a civilization rather than exclusively a nation state defined by its citizenry and borders.
As a result, men like China’s Xi Jingping, India’s Narendra Modi, Hungary’s Victor Orban and US president Donald J. Trump as well as ideologues such as Steve Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former strategy advisor, shape an environment that legitimizes violence against the other.
By further enabling abuse of human, minority and refugee rights, they facilitate the erosion of the norms of debate and mainstream hate speech.
Blunt and crude language employed by leaders, politicians, some media and some people of the cloth helps shape an environment in which concepts of civility and mutual respect are lost.
Consequently, the likes of Brenton Tarrant, the perpetrator of the attacks on the Christchurch mosque in which 49 people died, or Andreas Breivik, the Norwegian far-right militant who in 2011 killed 78 people in attacks on government buildings and a youth summer camp, are not simply products of prejudice.
Prejudice, often only latent, is a fact of life. Its inculcated in whatever culture as well as education in schools and homes irrespective of political, religious, liberal, conservative and societal environment.
Men like Messrs. Tarrant and Breivik emerge when prejudice is weaponized by a political and/or social environment that legitimizes it. They are emboldened when prejudice fuses with politically and/or religiously manufactured fear, the undermining of principles of relativity, increased currency of absolutism, and the hollowing out of pluralism.
Their world is powered by the progressive abandonment of the notion of a world that is populated by a multitude of equally valid faiths, worldviews and belief systems.
The rise of civilisationalism allows men like Messrs. Tarrant and Breivik, white Christian supremacists, to justify their acts of violence in civilizational terms. They believe their civilization is under attack as a result of pluralism, diversity and migration
The same is true for jihadists who aim to brutally establish their vision of Islamic rule at the expense not only of non-Muslim minorities but also Muslims they deem no different than infidels.
Civilisationalism provides the justification for men like Hungary’s Mr. Orban to adopt militant anti-migration policies and launch attacks laced with anti-Semitism on liberals like financier and philanthropist George Soros.
It also fuels China’s crackdown on Turkic Muslims in the north-western province of Xinjiang, an attempt to Sinicize Islam and the most frontal assault on the Islamic faith in recent memory.
Similarly, civilisationalism validates Mr. Modi’s notions of India as a Hindu civilizational state and Mr. Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-migrant policies and his continued vacillation between lending racism and white supremacism legitimacy and condemning far-right exclusivism.
Civilisationalism poses a threat not only to the world we live in today but to the outcome of the geopolitical struggle of what will be the new world order. The threat goes beyond the battle for spheres of influence or competition of political systems.
Civilisationalism creates the glue for like-minded thinking, if not a tacit understanding, between men like Messrs. Xi, Orban, Modi and Trump, on the values that should undergird a new world order.
These men couch their policies as much in civilisationalism as in terms of defense of national interest and security.
Their embrace of civilisationalism benefits from the fact that 21st century autocracy and authoritarianism vests survival not only in repression of dissent and denial of freedom of expression but also maintaining at least some of the trappings of pluralism.
Those trappings can include representational bodies with no or severely limited powers, toothless opposition groups, government-controlled non-governmental organizations, and some degree of accountability.
The rise of civilisationalism is further facilitated by a failure to realize that the crisis of democracy and the revival of authoritarianism did not emerge recently but dates back to the first half of 1990s.
Political scientists Anna Lührmann and Staffan I. Lindberg concluded in a just published study that some 75 countries have embraced elements of autocracy since the mid-1990s. Key countries among them have also adopted aspects of civilisationalism.
The scholars, nonetheless, struck an optimistic tone. “While this is a cause for concern, the historical perspective…shows that panic is not warranted: the current declines are relatively mild and the global share of democratic countries remains close to its all-time high,” they said.
This week’s attack in Christchurch is one of multiple civilizational writings on the wall.
So are the killings committed by Mr. Breivik; multiple jihadist attacks, the recasting of political strife in Syria and Bahrain in sectarian terms; the increasing precarity of minorities whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish; rising Buddhist nationalism, and the lack of humanitarianism and compassion towards refugees fleeing war and persecution.
These alarm bells coupled with the tacit civilisationalism-based understanding between some of the world’s most powerful men brushes aside the lessons of genocide in recent decades.
Ignoring the lessons of Nazi Germany, Hutu Rwanda, the Serbian siege of Srebrenica or the Islamic State’s Yazidis poses the foremost threat to a world that is based on principles of humanitarianism, compassion, live-and-let-live, and human and minority rights.
Framing the challenge, Financial Times columnist Gideon Rahman noted that Mr. Trump’s “predecessors confidently proclaimed that American values were ‘universal’ and were destined to triumph across the world. And it was the global power of western ideas that has made the nation-state the international norm for political organisation. The rise of Asian powers such as China and India may create new models: step forward, the ‘civilisation state.’”
Mr. Rahman argues that a civilizational state rejects human rights, propagates exclusivism and institutions that are rooted in a unique culture rather than principles of equality and universalism, and distrusts minorities and migrants because they are not part of a core civilisation.
In short, a breeding ground for strife and conflict that can only be kept in check by increasingly harsh repression and/or attempts at mass re-education and homogenization of the other – ultimately a recipe for instability rather than stability and equitable progress.
Boko Haram and Its Current Situation in Nigeria
Authors: Farzad Ramezani Bonesh and Chidiebere Favour Nwobodo
Although boko haram and ISIS have been confusingly used interchangeably due to their seemingly common characteristic, which majorly stems on terrorism, this research gives a clear distinction between the duos. Different tactics are being used by these groups ranging from locally made weapons to acquiring sophisticated weapons to carry out their attacks. Understanding the strategic trend of these terrorist groups will aid in the understanding of their operations.
Boko Haram And ISIS: An Overview
Boko haram in Nigeria has not only become synonymous with terrorism but has also become a nightmare in the history of the national security. When one talks about boko haram, one refers to an era of kidnappings, killings, bombings and displacement, which have left many in the dungeon of misery. The Arabic name for boko haram is Jama’atu Ahlissunnah lidda’awati wal Jihad, which means ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’ (Onuoha, 2011). The sole aim of the group is the overthrow of the Nigerian state and the implementation of Sharia across the entire country.
On the other hand, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), according to a BBC report, was originally formed in April 2013 and emerged out of Al Qaeda in Iraq (BBC, 2014 I in Olayinka, 2020). Abu Bakr Baghdadi was the Caliph of this group.
Differences And Similarities Between Boko Haram And Isis In The Year 2019 And 2020
One major difference between these two groups is the fact that these groups are from different parts of the world. Whereas boko haram originated from Nigeria, ISIS emerged out of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Another major difference is in their funding. According to Eme,O.I and Ugwu, C.C(2016), Boko haram in Nigeria generates their funds through bank robbery, and other illegimate transactions. In the cases of ISIS, their most common ways is through the black-market antiquity sale. They also partake in the illegal sale of treasures and artifacts, oil smuggling and trafficking. ISIS has been known to be state-sponsored by some countries.
Based on their similarities in the recent year, this research analytically looks at their mode of operation and attacks. In general, the weapon types common with these terrorist groups are explosives and firearms, while the attack types common to them are armed assault, assassination, and bombing. For example, Guardian newspaper (2019) recorded that “More than 60 mourners leaving a funeral at Maiduguri in north-east Nigeria were killed by the militant group of boko in haram in 2019”. This Day newspaper (2020) recorded on March 31st, “a theatre of death for Nigerian soldiers” as 47 soldiers were killed and 15 others badly injured by boko haram. Similarly, The Guardian (2019) in the rise and fall of the ISIS “caliphate” posits that “Destruction had been a calling card of ISIS’s presence ever since Baghdadi”.
Most Important Changes To Boko Haram In The Past Years
This has to do with the evolution of this group over the years starting from the bringing in of Abubakar Shekau into power as the successor of Mohammed Yusuf (founder), after he died in the Nigerian police detention. This group has survived thanks to its ability to reinvent itself, change tactics and adopt different strategies. Over the years, this group had adopted varying different terror strategies, which include upgrading from locally made weapons to sophisticated weapons, upgrading from bank robbery to kidnapping as their means of funding and so many others.
Current Situation Of Boko Haram In Nigeria
The emergence of Boko Haram; particularly, the adopted mode of prosecuting their objective have posed serious threat to Nigeria and its citizen without excluding foreigners. It must also be noted that Boko Haram’s activities has also led to closure and abandonment of people’s business activities within the affected area.
Currently, the emergence of Boko Haram in Nigeria has negatively affected the relationship between Nigeria and other nations of the world because of bombing couple with kidnapping and hostage taking with or without demand for ransom; particularly of alien.
Conclusively, the current situation of boko haram in Nigeria still poses security threat and economic threat in Nigeria. This research also opines that terrorism has been and is still the watchword of these two groups; therefore, one cannot be mentioned without the other. The changes made so far to boko haram is still a nightmare to both Nigeria citizens and non-citizens. To so many foreign countries, Nigeria is being described as one of the most dangerous places in the world filled with corruption.
As various economic, social, political, religious factors and environmental challenges were involved in the formation of the Boko Haram extremist group, various factors also have role in its future and the continuation of its power in Africa.
In recent years, Boko Haram has been present in nearly twenty Northern provinces of Nigeria, the Republic of Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Sudan, and has been able to expand its relations with Salafi jihadist groups domestically, regionally and internationally. In addition to working with extremist groups in West Africa, the group is linked to ISIS and its affiliates and allies around the world.
Boko Haram is still financially part of the world’s richest terrorist organization, and could be no less violent and dangerous than ISIS with its main focus is on terrorist attacks on close enemies (Christians and Shiites in Nigeria).
In fact, although the Nigerian government and neighboring countries have been battling the Boko Haram terrorist group in recent years, they have so far failed to completely defeat the group. In the meantime, since the various roots of the formation of Boko Haram have not yet been eradicated in West Africa, we should not wait for the failure of Boko Haram in the short term. In fact, it seems unlikely that governments will be able to take an effective step toward a complete boycott of Boko Haram, and that these areas will continue to be the strongholds of these extremist and fundamentalist groups
Covid-19 and Threat of Bio-War
“In 1879, General William Sherman of the American Civil War Union Army uttered the immortal words, “War is hell.” However true that may be, one thing is clear: war is good for business, and weapons are amongst the most lucrative products known to man”
World has been spending huge amount of money over new and innovative technologies with regard to hard power which emphasizes over military might and destructive weapons since long. Those states which are spending more money on acquiring new technology in weapons and arms remain much influential and powerful nations of the world. For instance, United States of America remains at the top of the list of the countries which spend lot of money for their defense and arms technology. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the world military expenditure rose to US $1822 billion in 2018 which shows an increase of 2.6 percent as compared to previous year. In the year 2018, the top five countries which spent huge amount of money on military expenditure are the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, India and France. In 2019, global defence spending rose by 4.0 percent as compared to year 2018. Along with this the international arms transfer has increased by 5.5 percent in five years from 2015 to 2019 as compared to years 2010 to 2014. In which the United States of America remains at the top and other nations such as Russia, France, Germany and China respectively come after it.
The changing dynamics of world also effect the moods of war, transitioning from traditional to other forms such as Bio-War, Hybrid war, and Cyber war etc. As far as the Bio-War is concerned, it could be more destructive than any other form of wars. The possibility of current pandemic COVID-19 caused by Coronavirus, being a bio-weapon cannot be ruled out. The world scientists and virologists are closely monitoring its causes and spread however, so far have largely remained unsuccessful. Nonetheless, in addition to causing wide scale deaths across continents, this has spread acute fear across the nations of the world for now, it is highly embroiled in various conspiracy theories. These term Coronavirus as a bio-weapon created either by China or the US. In 1981, Dean Koontz an American fiction author in his work titled “The Eyes of Darkness” described a virus which would emerge from a Chinese city of Wuhan and spread throughout the world. He further identified it as the most important and dangerous biological weapon known as the Wuhan-400 by the Chinese.
Furthermore, Dany Shoham, a former Israeli military intelligence officer, who has studied Chinese biological warfare said the Wuhan Virology Institute is linked to Beijing’s covert bio-weapon program. Explaining to Washington Time he stated that “certain laboratories in the institute have probably been engaged, in terms of research and development, in Chinese biological weapons at collaterally yet not as principal facility of the Chinese BW alignment”. He further explained that “the Wuhan Virology Institute is under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, but certain laboratories within it have linkages with the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) or BW-related elements within the Chinese defense establishment”. Another theory regarding this was published in CBC News that “Dr. Xiangguo, her husband Keding Cheng and an unknown number of her students from China were removed from Canada’s only level-4 Infectious Disease Facility laboratory. Therefore, it is said that two Chinese spies stole this particular virus and brought it to Wuhan lab that’s how this Coronavirus outbreak took place. Third theory originally floated by a YouTuber and conspiracy theorist Jordan Sather which entertains that the patent for Coronavirus was applied in 2015 and granted in 2018 to Pirbright Institute UK.
As far as the Chinese point of view regarding Coronavirus outbreak is concerned, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian’s tweets claim that the US military brought Coronavirus to Wuhan. In addition, “Zhao urged his more than 287,000 followers in two tweets to widely share an allegation from a Canada-based conspiracy website that the coronavirus originated in United States rather than the Wuhan. The allegation was apparently linked to the US Army’s participation in the international Military World Games held in Wuhan in October, 2019”.However, there is no substantial proof or credibility behind these conspiracy theories about Coronavirus’ outbreak but it has wrapped the whole world in fear because of its fast spread all over the world. This clearly shows that the threat of covert Biological Warfare among the nations is real which has affected the whole financial, political, social and economic structure of the world.
There are various writers and scholar who have informed the world about the new forms of war and threats such as Bill Gates, during its TedTalks, explained that the disaster we worried about most was a nuclear war. “Today the greatest risk of global catastrophe is not nuclear weapons instead it is Bio-War or Bio-Terrorism in the form of virus. If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war, not missiles, but microbes. We have invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents and invested little in a system to stop epidemic”. Moreover, the current pandemic has exposed how ill prepared the nations are to deal with a virus. Therefore, it is high time that robust measures and parallel efforts are invested in finding defence, cure and vaccines against new and emerging threats in the form of Coronavirus. In this regard, nations have to be rational when it comes to policy making. Therefore, world needs to prepare a group of epidemiologist, medical team, volunteers, treatment approaches, health workers, good response system, make drugs and vaccines fit for that pathogen, strong global health system, to set up advanced research and development and to allocate a moderate budget.
ISIS in Their Own Words
Authors: Anne Speckhard and Molly Ellenberg*
ICSVE is proud to announce our newest publication in the Journal of Strategic Security
ISIS in Their Own Words: Recruitment History, Motivations for Joining, Travel, Experiences in ISIS, and Disillusionment over Time – Analysis of 220 In-depth Interviews of ISIS Returnees, Defectors and Prisoners
From 2015 to 2019, Dr. Anne Speckhard interviewed 220 Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] defectors, returnees and imprisoned cadres in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, the Balkans, Europe and Central Asia. During these in-depth interviews, Dr. Speckhard examined the demographics, psycho-social vulnerabilities and motivations for joining ISIS, in addition to the influences and recruitment patterns that drew them to the group. Moreover, Dr. Speckhard inquired as to the interviewees’ roles, experiences and relationships within ISIS, variance in their will to fight and support violence, disillusionment and attempts to leave.
This study’s sample of the first 220 (out of 239 to date) consisted of 182 men of 41 ethnicities, representing 35 different countries, and 38 females of 22 ethnicities, representing 18 countries. 51.1% of the men and 76.3% of the women were foreign members of ISIS, some who traveled to live under ISIS, and a few who engaged in ISIS recruitment or other activities, including planning attacks, in their home countries. The participants were primarily young and middle class. Most were raised Sunni Muslim, whereas others reverted or converted before joining ISIS. The participants had vast variation in their educational levels and socioeconomic statuses, thus representing the broad range of people from all over the world who have joined ISIS.
The most common vulnerabilities to ISIS recruitment for the entire sample were poverty, unemployment and underemployment. Breaking it out by gender, the most common vulnerabilities were a criminal history for men and poverty, family conflict, and prior trauma for women. Poverty and unemployment tended to be much more influential for Iraqi and Syrian ISIS members, who joined the group after it took over their villages, whereas foreign participants had more complex vulnerabilities, such as the combination between a criminal history and substance abuse, and viewing un-and under-employment as a consequence of discrimination over being Muslim and/or from an immigrant background.
For men, the most common influences to joining ISIS were friends, face-to-face recruiters, and passive viewing of videos on the Internet and social media. The majority of participants were influenced in some way online, and a significant minority reported that all of their recruitment occurred online. For women, the most common influences were spouses, Internet recruiters, and parents. This can be expected due to the greater tendency for women to make decisions based on the preservation of relationships, particularly with their parents and spouses. While many women followed their husbands to ISIS out of fear of emotional or financial abandonment, only three women credibly claimed that they did not know where they were going when they left their home countries for ISIS territory—although many men and women had no idea it would be as bad as it was.
Motivations for joining ISIS differed drastically by location. Foreign males tended to be motivated by a “helping” purpose to provide humanitarian and defensive militant aid to the Syrian people, whereas foreign women tended to be motivated by the desire to pursue an Islamic identity, which many felt was not possible in their home countries due to harassment and discrimination. European women were also motivated by family ties, meaning that they followed their parents or husbands. Local men and women were motivated less by ideology and higher goals and more by employment, fulfilling basic needs and personal and familial safety.
Men’s roles in ISIS were extremely varied. 51.6% of the men admitted to serving as fighters, ribat (border patrol), or both, during their time in ISIS. It is likely that many more of the men were fighters but did not want to incriminate themselves by admitting it. Other commonly reported jobs were engineers, mechanics, and medical personnel. 97.4% of the women claimed to have acted as wives and mothers. The roles of suicide terrorist, face-to-face recruiter, and medical personnel were endorsed by one woman each in the sample. Additionally, two women reported being members of the hisbah, ISIS’s brutal morality police.
The most commonly endorsed sources of disillusionment among men were mistreatment of civilians, lack of food, and mistreatment of women, although ISIS’s mistreatment of women was not reported to be as powerful as a disillusioning influence as mistreatment of ISIS members. For women, the most common sources of disillusionment were mistreatment of women, lack of food, and the acts of ISIS attacking outside their territory—particularly back home.
The participants reported experiencing, witnessing, and committing atrocities during their time in ISIS. Men most commonly reported experiencing bombings, being imprisoned by ISIS and being tortured, while women most commonly reported experiencing bombings, being widowed by ISIS-related violence, and being forced into marriage. The men most commonly reported witnessing executions, executed corpses, and torture, and hearing about the killing of a family member, while women most commonly reported witnessing executed corpses, torture and the death of a family member, as well as hearing about a family member being killed in battle or in bombings. Despite Dr. Speckhard’s warning not to self-incriminate, some men admitted to killing on the battlefield, performing beheadings, other executions, and torture. One man admitted to owning a slave. One woman admitted beating, flogging, and biting as a member of the ISIS hisbah.
The will to fight describes the motivation cited by ISIS fighters for why they went to battle for ISIS, oftentimes after they were already disillusioned. Commonly reported wills to fight included fighting the Syrian regime, being a “true believer” in ISIS’s ideology and hope to build the Caliphate, and fear of the brutal punishments meted out by ISIS if they refused to fight.
The results of this study demonstrate the utility and validity of qualitative interview-based research with terrorists. From the stories of the participants’ experiences in ISIS, it is clear that most FTFs living far from ISIS territory are motivated more so by a desire to solidify their identities and help the greater Muslim community than for economic purposes, although some were attracted by the ISIS promises of free housing, jobs, marriage, etc. FTFs were also responding to push factors at home including marginalization and discrimination. In contrast, these existential motivations are less important for those living in conflict, who felt pressure to join ISIS in order to secure food and some semblance of safety for themselves and their families. Thus, the risk of former ISIS members rejoining the group if they are released or escape from SDF detention where many are held, even if they have been disillusioned with much of ISIS’s ideology and methodology, should be a serious concern for military and intelligence personnel. Moreover, the threat of FTFs returning to their home countries should be countered through deradicalization and rehabilitation programs that address the vulnerabilities, influences, and motivations that drove them toward ISIS in the first place, as well as the traumas that they experienced while living under ISIS.
The complete report of ISIS in their Own Words is published in the Journal of Strategic Security and can be viewed here.
*Molly Ellenberg is a Research Fellow at ICSVE, working on coding data from qualitative interviews, developing trainings for use with the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project videos, and assisting with the creation and analysis of the Facebook campaigns
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