Islamist ideology, not Islam as theology, key to combatting extremism


isis-randKosovo police said on Thursday that they prevented simultaneous attacks by the Islamic State group, including on the Israeli national football team that played a World Cup qualifier in neighboring Albania, AP reports:

Nineteen people were detained in Kosovo on 4 November, of whom one has since been released, police there said. Albania and Macedonia announced six more people were detained. The Kosovo police said that at the suspects’ homes and premises officers found explosive devices, weapons and electronic equipment, including “religious material and literature from well-known authors recognised for their extremist ideology”.

ISIS uses social media to broadcast its message, inspire followers, and recruit new fighters. Although much attention has been given to ISIS’s effective use of Twitter, a recent RAND analysis found that ISIS opponents on the social media platform outnumber supporters by a six-to-one margin. Even so, supporters are more prolific, each producing 50 percent more tweets per day.

jihadi-radicalisedThe attacks in Paris in January and November 2015 heralded the beginning of a new wave of terrorism one rooted in the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq, notes Peter Neumann, the author of Radicalized: New Jihadists and the Threat to the West:

As ISIS seeks to expand its reach in the Middle East, its territory serves as a base for training and operations for a new generation of jihadis. Thousands of young people from the West, primarily from Europe, have travelled to join ISIS, re-emerging as hardened fighters with military training and a network of international contacts. Many of these have now returned to their homelands, where it is feared they are planning a new series of brutal attacks.

Some analysts are concerned about signs of a shift in approaches to combatting radical extremism by focusing on the theology of Islam, instead of the ideology of Islamism.

Equating radical terrorism with Islam is not only inaccurate, it is “not very helpful if we are talking about a lasting ISIS defeat,” one defense official told The Daily Beast, adding that it allows the terror group to claim that it is defending Muslims everywhere. “They will say, ‘Join us. America has declared war on Islam.’”

isis-apocalypse2“The Bush and Obama administrations agreed that the key to defeating jihadist recruitment is to carefully distinguish between jihadists and mainstream Muslims,” the Brookings Institution’s William McCants, author of The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State, told The Daily Beast.

He is concerned that “rhetoric and policies [which] collapsed that distinction…..will make us all less safe because it gives credence to jihadist propaganda that the United States is at war with Islam.”

Some in the West will be “disappointed when heavy-handed police tactics and state-appointed clerics fail to dim the appeal of jihadism in Muslim autocracies,” McCants contends:

The disappoint stems from the desire to attribute the jihadist phenomenon to a single cause rather than to several causes that work in tandem to produce it. To my mind, the most salient are these: A religious heritage that lauds fighting abroad to establish states and to protect one’s fellow Muslims; ultraconservative religious ideas and networks exploited by militant recruiters; peer pressure (if you know someone involved, you’re more likely to get involved); fear of religious persecution; poor governance (not the type of government); youth unemployment or underemployment in large cities; and civil war. All of these factors are more at play in the Arab world now than at any other time in recent memory, which is fueling a jihadist resurgence around the world.

While Bush thought a lack of freedom caused jihadi terrorism to spread, others believe the fault lies in Islam itself, The New York Times adds.

“It is a sea change, and it really changes the terms of the discussion about what to do about it,” said McCants.

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