CVE report: non-violent Islamist groups ‘a recruitment pool for jihadists’



Non-violent Islamist groups have acted as a recruitment pool for dozens of jihadists who have gone on to join al-Qaeda, Islamic State and similar extremist groups, according to research by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

More than three quarters of British jihadists have been involved with non-violent Islamist groups before turning to foreign fighting and carrying out terrorist attacks, following association with Islamist organisations or connections to those who spread extremist ideology, the report – For Caliph and Country – suggests.

Researchers examined the biographies of 113 people from across the UK who had joined the jihadist movement, from the 1980s to the Syrian civil war, adds researcher Rachel Bryson:

The institute’s report says that at least 77 per cent of the sample had links to Islamism, either through association with Islamist organisations or by connections to those who spread the extremist ideology. Such groups invoke their right to free speech but the report argues that the authorities need to take a tighter grip on such preaching. They include al-Muhajiroun, run by the hate preacher Anjem Choudary, who has been linked to multiple plots and attacks and is in prison for supporting Isis.

Blair named an Egyptian Islamist preacher as a key influence among jihadi terrorists, nearly twenty years after he first tried to deport him from the UK. The former Labour Prime Minister identified London-based cleric Hani al-Sibai, linking him to 13 jihadis, including Mohammed Emwazi, also known as Jihadi John, The Daily Telegraph adds:

The report, which has analysed the backgrounds of 113 terrorists, jihadis and Islamist ideologues, claims al-Sibai is “suspected of having been involved in the radicalisation of Mohammed Emwazi, otherwise known as ‘Jihadi John,’ and El Shafee Elsheikh, two of the so-called ‘Beatles’ group of British jihadis in Isil, and of ties to Seifeddine Rezgui, who gunned down tourists on a beach in Tunisia in 2015.”

Public opinion research released by the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Center for Insights in Survey Research offers new insights into vulnerabilities to violent extremism among segments of Kosovo’s population:

Through in-depth focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews with residents of four municipalities in Kosovo—including three returned foreign fighters who travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with groups such as ISIS—IRI identified recommendations for community-led initiatives to counter the influence of violent extremism…. The findings indicate a strong perception that frustrations with corruption and unemployment are driving young Kosovars toward violent extremism. Participants noted the dearth of outlets for young Kosovars, and believe that the government is not doing enough to give young people a sense of purpose.

“As one of Europe’s youngest democracies with a very recent history of ethno-religious conflict, Kosovo is uniquely vulnerable to violent extremism,” said Paul McCarthy, Regional Deputy Director for Europe for IRI [a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy].

Increasing engagement

“As Kosovo continues to develop as a democracy, it is crucial that both the national and local governments work together to formulate policies that address the vulnerabilities identified in this report,” said IRI Director of Governance Rima Kawas. “Increasing engagement with citizens, increasing government transparency, and improving coordination between national and local authorities are some key measures that will help strengthen Kosovo’s democracy and help prevent violent extremism.

A new study from the United Nations’ Development Program, or UNDP – Journey to Extremism [above and below] – has found that measures taken by African governments to prevent terrorism may actually make more people join violent groups, VOA reports:

More than 700 people were questioned for the study. Nearly 600 of them were voluntary or forced recruits of extremist groups in six African countries. The countries are Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria, Sudan, Cameroon and Niger.

The study noted a lack of a strong family structure, lack of education and poverty as reasons why people turn to violence and extremism. State violence and abuse of power provide, what the study called, a “final tipping point” for the people to join extremist groups.

In their approach to counter-radicalization, European leaders not have not “understood the difference between Islam and Islamism, between the religion and the political ideology,” German feminist and journalist, Alice Schwarzer told a French newspaper at the weekend. They should read a book by a French reporter called David Thomson, writes analyst Gavin Mortimer:

Called Les Revenants [The Undead], the title is a nod to the French jihadists who fought for the Islamic State before returning home. It is a disturbing but masterly work of research by a journalist who, in his own words, was ‘humiliated’ on television in 2014 for daring to suggest events in Syria would cause terrorist blowback in France.

Prison is described by Thomson as a jihadist’s university – as it is in across Europe – where Allah’s battle-hardened warriors can radicalise impressionable young Muslims serving time for petty crime. It was reported this week that in Belgian prison inmates now receive letters under their cell doors inviting them to join Isis.

For the moment, Europe retains blind faith in its approach. ‘In the long term, authorities and local communities need to work together to resocialise or integrate returnees into society’, said a recent report published by the European Commission’s Radicalization Awareness Network. Alice Bah Kuhnke, Sweden’s minister of Culture and Democracy, said something similar earlier this year, declaring the need to have ‘structures locally, such as social services, around our country to integrate them back into our democratic society’.

Political Islamism has a long history in Malaysia but the country has no significant recent tradition of “radicalism,” notes analyst Meredith L. Weiss. Most importantly, Islamism projects through political parties, she writes for the Hoover Institution:

PAS [the Pan-Malayan Islamic Party], which remains strongest on the east coast, has downplayed ethnic chauvinism since the 1980s and has a readily activated, hierarchically structured mass base. However committed to Islamization, and despite vacillation under current president Hadi Awang, PAS has been a key proponent of political liberalization, allying intermittently with other opposition parties to advocate for democratization, good governance, and social justice, since the late 1990s. …

A vibrant and intellectually diverse Islamist civil society (for instance, the several important and distinct groups Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid and Che Hamdan Che Mohd Razali profile in a 2016 working paper) spans education, social welfare, proselytization, and other domains, notwithstanding an ever more managed orthodoxy in religious praxis and expression; “liberalism” and “pluralism” are increasingly verboten. Pushback risks sanction, while “deviant sects,” including Shi’ism and Wahhabism, are proscribed (most formally with a 1996 fatwa, implemented across most Malaysian states). RTWT

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