From Pop Star to Jihadist?

Bali memorial, photo: crater/flickr

Now, this would certainly make for an unlikely path in life.

Rumours abound in Indonesia that jailed pop star Nasir “Ariel” Irham (jailed for his involvement in a sex scandal under the controversial 2008 anti-pornography law) has had contact with Abu Bakar Bashir, the notorious Indonesian jihadist and founding member of the notorious but increasingly weak Jemaah Islamiyah group, while in prison.

Although Bashir allegedly castigated the young man for his un-Islamic ways, the former heartthrob has reportedly been attending mass  prayer held my Bashir in prison and may have sought out advice from the radical cleric.

The fact that this information comes from Bashir’s personal assistant hardly makes it all that credible. The old man is probably just seeking some street cred among the increasingly non-Jemaah Islamiyah oriented young jihadists in Southeast Asia and ‘converting’ a young, ‘broken’ pop star to their cause might be good PR for the ailing demagogue.

Whatever the reality of the situation in this specific case, the story highlights some very important dilemmas: How a multicultural and tolerant Indonesia will deal with fundamentalist and religiously conservative pressures in the future and how young people, eager to embrace many aspects of more liberal western lifestyles (including pop stars), will deal with these pressures from below and above.

And perhaps more universally: How do you prevent and discourage radicalization in prisons, where psychological and physical conditions make young men particularly susceptible to a message that preaches power to those that are bound to feel powerless?

Our Digital Library offers a wealth of resources on the keywords psychology of terrorism and terrorism recruitment. Make sure to check out:

  • A USIP report on why young people join Al-Qaida
  • An RSIS commentary on the recruitment tactics of Indonesian jihadists
  • An RSIS paper examining the patterns of radicalization in Southeast Asia and the Jemaah Islamiyah group
  • An International Crisis Group briefing on the growing attractiveness of a jihadi narrative in the wake of the floods and worsening IDP crisis in Pakistan
  • An Elcano Royal Institute working paper on radicalization in the Muslim diaspora in Europe
  • A recent ISN Podcast on the Europeanization of jihad and the challenge this poses to counterradicalization efforts on the continent
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Keeping Mothers Alive

Mother and child in Chadian refugee camp, photo: Physicians for Human Rights/flickr

Last week the international community convened in New York to discuss progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, with maternal mortality among those lagging furthest behind. This week the ISN takes a closer look at the unabating danger of women’s death and acute injury during childbirth – and what the international community is doing about it.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Allyn Gaestel about the impact of last week’s UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) summit on goal number five: maternal health.
  • A Podcast interview with Claudia Leimgruber-Neukom of Women’s Hope International about the tragedy of obstetric fistulas developed through childbirth – and how education is the key to addressing the condition.
  • Security Watch articles discussing the obstacles to achieving the MDGs by 2015.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including the Overseas Development Institute’s ‘MDG Report Card’ published earlier this month.
  • Primary Resources, like the full-text of the UN Millennium Declaration at the dawn of a new century.
  • Links to relevant websites, like a Time video, featuring a short film on current maternal health issues in Sierra Leone.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Washington, DC-based Center for Women Policy Studies.
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Venezuela’s Election: Operation Complete!

Hugo Chávez

Hugo Chávez, courtesy of Bernardo Londoy/flickr (cc-nc-sa)

As a great revolutionary commander, Hugo Chávez knows how to motivate his troops. His military career clearly inspires him in his current job as a populist leader.

It’s been deliciously entertaining to follow last Sunday’s election on Chávez’s blog and twitter stream. I thought I’d (roughly) translate a few selected pieces of his rhetoric for the benefit of  all the English-speakers out there. Here’s how the Venezuelan president rallied his troops on the eve of the election:

21:50, Saturday 25 September – Chávez’s blog

“These have been difficult times. Full of pain. But the People are taking it into their stride. Fight. And always vanquish! The time has come, so let’s go! Charge!!

We pray God and give our love to those who suffer most. And despite the pain and the exhausting effort, we leave early for the battle.

Everybody on the offensive at reveille! We will demonstrate again that the revolution is here to stay! No one remains without voting!

The bugle call must resound in every corner of the Nation announcing what will be a great Popular Victory!!

Come on, all candangueros and candangueras, tweet reports from the Operation Willian Lara!”

» More

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Dirty Swiss Secrets

Painful Memories – Lost in a Haze, photo: Ben/flickr

Only a couple of days ago, on 10 September 2010, Switzerland’s justice minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf issued an official apology on behalf of the Swiss government to thousands of her fellow citizens, as the small Alpine republic was once again shaken by a confrontation with its not so distant, not so clean past.

The reason for the admission of guilt was the long-awaited acknowledgment of government atrocities committed between 1942 and 1981, when thousands of men and women across the country were imprisoned without trial, in line with a policy then called ‘administrative detention’. This procedure was aimed primarily at young men and women, usually teenagers, who were judged by their parents and/or communities to be socially ‘difficult’. Official reasons for the incarceration often included ‘depraved lifestyle’, ‘licentiousness’ or ‘alcoholism’.

Many cases involved unmarried girls who got pregnant, and were then shunned by their embarrassed families only to end up being forced to give up their babies for adoption. Some young women – deemed to have ‘loose morals’ – were even forcibly sterilized by command of the authorities.

At the same time, thousands of young men, most of them unskilled day laborers, were imprisoned and forced to work without pay. All these men, women and children had, however, never committed a crime and had therefore also never faced trial. They never had access to any form of legal support and were never given the possibility to appeal. They were completely innocent – even according to the laws of the day. » More

She’s Made It. Follow Her!

Simonetta Sommaruga, the latest woman to join the Federal Council, courtesy of Simonetta Sommaruga

What do Rwanda, Sweden, Argentina and Finland have in common?

They are the world champions of women in politics. Women make up more than 40 percent of each country’s parliament. Switzerland just joined the club of the women-friendly elite on Wednesday. The Federal president, as well as the speakers of both legislative chambers, are women, and now the Federal Council, the executive organ of the government, has four women among its seven members.

Women’s strong showing in the Swiss executive branch is surprising for several reasons. First, it stands in sharp contrast to women’s representation in the legislature: there, women do not even reach the 30 percent mark -  28.5 percent of parliament members are women, while in the executive, they represent 60 percent.

Second, women only gained the right to vote in 1971. Yes, 1971. The country of humanitarian law and human rights allowed women to vote 51 years after Azerbaijan, 40 years after Sri Lanka and nine years after Afghanistan.

I congratulate members of the Swiss parliament for having elected another woman to the Federal Council to help ameliorate the shame that had made Switzerland look like an undemocratic country.

It can only encourage other countries that have only recently instituted women’s suffrage to believe that rapid progress really is possible.

On the same topic: Check out our recent Special Report “Closing the Gender Gap.”

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