Keyword in Focus

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 massĀ  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
Keyword in Focus

Keyword in Focus: Millennium Development Goals

If there is a keyword that best summarizes this week’s international agenda it’s this: UN Millennium Development Goals. Ten years into the third millennium and five years before the goals need to be attained, at the occasion of the UN summit taking place in New York today and tomorrow, political leaders, activists, journalists and academics discuss what has already been achieved and what still needs to be done.

What are we talking about? The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of eight goals, with several concrete targets each, to which all 192 UN member states as well as dozens of international organizations committed in 2000:

The eight Millennium Development Goals
Image: courtesy of UNDP

The situation regarding the goals doesn’t look as bleak as some like to imply. But it doesn’t look too good either.

For a more nuanced evaluation, check our our Digital Library, where some or our partners from the north, south, east and west have published excellent reports, analyses and commentaries on 10 years of MDGs. Under the keyword UN Millennium Development Goals you will also find primary resources, such as the UN Millennium Declaration from 2000, organizations that deal with the MDGs, links and ISN news articles.

The fact that we still talk about the MDGs is, in my view, a surprising success for the UN leadership. It shows the UN’s agenda setting power. On the other hand, I’m still skeptical whether we’re not missing something by focusing on these eight development goals. And there is an inherent problem in the goals as with all output-oriented performance evaluation: You only measure what’s measurable and human well-being is notoriously difficult to measure.

Keyword in Focus

Keywords in Focus: Haiti and Cuba

It’s easy to retrieve information from the depths of the ISN Digital Library either by searching or by browsing our comprehensive keyword-tree (either by subject or by region.)

Two countries (and keywords!) that have recently been in the headlines are Haiti and Cuba – the former because it suffered a devastating earthquake earlier in the year and the latter because significant changes seem imminent in one of the world’s last communist bastions.

For both countries our Digital Library offers extensive resources for research ‘behind the headlines’ and for further insights into the historical challenges and future prospects of these two fragile Caribbean nations.

Head out to explore our holdings and let us know what you found particularly interesting and helpful. Some publications worth highlighting include: