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Sunday June 20:
“Legitimate Demands  Barack’s Dilemma” – Adam Gadahan, As-Saḥāb Foundation for Islamic Media Publication: http://bit.ly/c6dQXK
“Forget the substance of Gadahn’s post, it’s the tech that matters” – J.M. Berger, IntelWire: http://bit.ly/dty6tR
“Good Deal for Gaza” – Marc Lynch, The Middle East Channel: http://bit.ly/blRn8x
Monday June 21:
“Kandahar Timeline 1979-2010″ – Alex Strick van Linschoten, A Different Place Blog: http://bit.ly/aM0bld
“The 2010 Failed State Index Rankings” – Foreign Policy Magazine, July/August 2010: http://bit.ly/9kutY3
“State of Jihad: 2010 and Beyond” – Matthew M. Reed, International Affairs Review: http://bit.ly/cYX4w4
“Politics and prayer”- Review of “A Mosque in Munich” – Issandr El Amrani, The National: http://bit.ly/95mbax
Jihadi Websites Monitoring Group, Periodical Review June 2010 – No. 1, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism: http://bit.ly/ab2WDN
“Profiles of the 15 known Saudi Guantanamo recidivists” – Thomas Joscelyn, The Long War Journal: http://bit.ly/bL1CEw
“A New Taleban Front?” – Thomas Ruttig, The Afghanistan Analysts Network: http://bit.ly/aexJjQ
Tuesday June 22:
“Yemen: Avoiding Freefall” – Ginny Hill, The World Today, Volume 66, Number 7, July 2010: http://bit.ly/aA7kln
“West Africa and the Maghreb Security Brief June 7, 2010 – June 22, 2010″ – Critical Threats Project: http://bit.ly/cHdVL7
“Punjab’s growing militant problem” – Interview with Hassan Abbas, The AfPak Channel: http://bit.ly/c9Rvm4
“West coast jihad” - Brian Fishman, The AfPak Channel: http://bit.ly/dzmznm
Wednesday June 23:
“Militant’s Path From Pakistan to Times Square” – Andrea Elliott, New York Times: http://nyti.ms/b1ZJEX
“Veiled Truths- The Rise of Political Islam in the West” – Marc Lynch, Foreign Affairs: http://bit.ly/caa3UL
Thursday June 24:
“The Iraqi Elections of 2010—and 2005″ – Kanan Makiya, The Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Middle East Brief 42, June 2010: http://bit.ly/9OfrOA
“Puncturing Pakistan’s “madrasa myth”” – Gregg Carlstrom, The Majlis: http://bit.ly/9vNjZR
Friday June 25:
“Saudi Preacher: The West Implements the Humane Values of the Shari’a Better than the Muslims” – Middle East Media Research Institute: http://bit.ly/9KHXNj
“The Legal War on Terror for the week of 6/18-6/24″ – Andrew Lebovich, Foreign Policy: http://bit.ly/cI0a7I
“Al-Qaeda losing supporters in jihadi groups across Arab world” – Camille Tawil, Magharebia: http://bit.ly/bZw7yr
“Islamist Preacher Zakir Naik, Barred from U.K. and Canada – An Ideological Profile” – Steven Stalinsky, Middle East Media Research Institute: http://bit.ly/cXSiR4
‘Scratching the Surface of Radicalism in Germany” – Andrew Lebovich, The Washington Note: http://bit.ly/9ZsTHm
On Monday Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, announced the launch of a new counter-terrorism initiative, a hotline for members of radical Islamists groups to call where they can get advice for leaving the group. The idea, based on long-running programs for Germans leaving neo-Nazi groups, has gotten relatively favorable coverage from wire services and news sites. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière described it as a “valuable preventive effort” in helping counteract the threat of domestic radicalization.
For the last few years German officials have expressed increasing concerns about radicalization, first of German Muslims from immigrant backgrounds and more recently from German converts to Islam. Germany reportedly monitors 29 different Islamist organizations, and estimates that roughly 36,000 members of these organizations pose potential security risks. The 2007 Sauerland cell arrests raised the specter of terrorism against German and American targets, and more recently anecdotal evidence suggests a small but steady flow of young Muslims and converts (estimated to be about 40 per year) to conflict zones such as the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. The death of wanted militant Eric Breininger and the publication of his jihadist memoirs/travelogue soon after shone a spotlight on this phenomenon, and brought new attention to the persistent rumors of a “German colony” of jihadists in Pakistan.
Religious and potentially violent extremism is thus a clear problem in Germany, as in other European countries, but a jihadist recovery hotline hardly qualifies as de-radicalization. And while not a bad idea at all, this idea is neither preventive nor likely to be particularly effective.
On the one hand, many factors have to converge for someone to even use this hotline; an individual, having joined a radical organization, would have to have come to the decision not only to leave an organization with likely tight-knit members, but also overcome the very real fear of retribution as well as accept the possible arrest of friends and associates in the group as a result of their return from an extremist environment. This is a small group of people, though by all means governments should provide them the support they can.
Yet the real problem lies not in getting through the social and security pressures placed on militant group members, but letting the process radicalization get that far in the first place. In a 2009 report the Muslim Public Affairs Council attempted to lay out the complex and ill-understood manner in which an individual progresses from a so-called “normal” life, to possessing radical ideas, and perhaps to action. The report lays out a variety of factors (economic, political, social/cultural and personal) as well as steps that generally occur as someone grows more radical.
While radicalization is different for each person, the report helps demonstrate that a long process precedes the act of joining an activist or militant group, whether the seeds for this progression are sown in a mosque, amongst a circle of friends, or on the internet. Waiting for someone to join, lose taste for, and summon the courage to leave a militant organization is not preventive, it is reactive. And it means that for every person who goes through all of these steps, many more undergo radicalization unabated.
I do not doubt that German officials understand the threat posed by radicalization. And thankfully the threat from domestic terrorism, whether in Europe or the United States, remains low. But the fight against terrorism requires continuous effort to understand and treat the causes of radicalization, rather than dealing with symptoms as they appear.
Andrew Lebovich is a Research Associate for the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. He writes the weekly column “The Legal War on Terror” for Foreign Policy and blogs at The Washington Note. You can follow him on twitter at twitter.com/tweetsintheme.
NOTE: I recently received an email from an individual who would like to remain anonymous since he works in the government. In it he provides his own take on my recent blog post about counter narrative strategy and al-Qā’idah. He agreed to allow me to re-post his comments here since I thought it would be fruitful to continue the conversation. The opinions expressed below are those of the guest author and they do not necessarily represent the views of this blogs administrator. That said, I hope you enjoy the post and as always comments are welcomed!
I’m not deep into the theological arguments for or against the Al Qaeda worldview, but I’m a pragmatist and will point out a few things.
1. I really liked Jarret Brachman’s position that Al Qaeda and their associated groups should be labeled “Qutbians” to bluntly insert a human into their idealogy and see how many religious scholars can be found to argue against Qutb.
2. Brachman’s research into the mindset of the jihadist forum readers shows that:
A) Qutb is still the most widely read “theologian” by jihadists (hence calling them Qutbians) by a wide margin.
B) Al Qaeda and their supporters react immediately to threats to their worldview as seen in their responses to the rejection of their ideology by Dr. Fadl and the LIFG.
3. There is already a small counter-narrative as noted above. I don’t believe a U.S. counter-narrative will have a great effect on the current crop of committed jihadists. It may help reduce the number of available recruits but it would more likely affect their support base and erode some supporters.
4. The same philosophy professor who cited the need to agree on definitions in order to engage in constructive debate also stated that you can’t debate belief (faith) because faith has no basis in empirical fact. No matter how you couch your arguments, true believers (i.e. committed jihadists who believe that the non-Muslim world is at war with Islam and who see the world as a binary — dar ul harb or dar ul Islam) cannot be reasoned with because they cling to blind faith. So who is the counter-narrative trying counter?
5. What the U.S. and the Western world says about Al Qaeda and others not being Islamic may have a positive effect and reduce the so-called “home grown” extremists because of the volume of the message locally. What the U.S. and the Western world says about AQ will likely have no effect in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. because of the number and volume of voices who denounce the western world.
6. These loud voices are heard from childhood in the madrassas of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and are a trusted voice compared to the voice of the Western world. Part of the challenge is getting the Muslim world to denounce violent organizations and what seems to occur more often is the Muslim world embracing the violent organizations.
7. The “rehabilitation” programs, as exemplified by the Saudi program, attempts to establish a counter-narrative and to rehabilitate those who see violence against those who do not share their beliefs as a valid program. The Saudi counter-narrative carries more weight than a U.S. counter-narrative would have and the Saudi program boasts an 80-90% success rate… of those that agreed to attend. Even if those percentages are correct, they’re likely misleading. Of the number of people who engaged in “jihad” over the past twenty years (meaning those Muslims who traveled to another country and received combat training), how many actually continued to support violent jihad cause over the long-term? That was a rhetorical question, the number is small. Of the thousands who filtered through training camps in Afghanistan over the decades, only a very small number continued to actively engage in supporting violence. So are the Saudis convincing a bunch of people who aren’t committed to violence to not be committed to violence? Good success rate to publicize with little effect of the overall levels of violence. The hard-core guys never even showed up.
As always, making simplistic blanket statements in a complex world is dangerous, but my gist is that we do need to strike up a counter-narrative, but we must understand that our narrative will have little effect globally without other, more trusted Islamic voices stating the same. Even then, a committed core will continue to decry those Islamic voices as apostates who have joined with the infidels to steal the resources of the true Muslims and to enslave the righteous.