Over a decade of securitised transnational approaches to combatting terrorist activity and propaganda have shown that such approaches are ineffective on their own. Sometimes, these ‘hard power’ measures can actually damage efforts to roll back the appeal and participation in violent extremism.
While such steps may be justified in domestic contexts where threats are critical or imminent, failure to accompany these with robust ‘soft power’ initiatives will prove fatal in the longer-term. If we are to succeed in countering violent extremism, these are some key strategies to invest in:
How secure is Europe? What is the future of the Muslim community in the West? What should be the nature of Europe’s relationship with the Islamic world? In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, these were some of the questions addressed by Dr. Jack Goldstone at a recent ISN-CIS roundtable held on 20 January 2015 at ETH Zurich.
After diagnosing Europe’s demographic situation, Dr. Goldstone’s message was a straightforward one: without continuing large-scale immigration, Europe will soon begin a rapid economic decline. The continent therefore does not have an ‘immigration problem.’ It has an integration problem.
The rise of ISIL and the so-called Islamic State in 2014 has given prominence to discussions of religious violence in the media, with much emphasis placed on questions of the relationship between Islam and violence. In his speech to the nation on 10 September 2014, President Obama restated his longstanding view that no one who commits violent atrocities in the name of religion can be considered an authentic believer. Similarly, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium affirms that in the face of “disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” Others, however, have responded negatively to such statements, citing, violence in the Qur’an, religious leaders who have promoted violence, and contemporary and historical cases of religious violence linked to Islam.
TRIPOLI – “We certainly did not expect the results, but…our future is certainly better than our present and our past,” said Sami al-Saadi, the former ideologue of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and the founder of the political party al-Umma al-Wasat, which finished third in Central Tripoli during Libya’s recent parliamentary election. The man whom Taliban leader Mullah Omar once called the “Sheikh of the Arabs,” and who authored the LIFG’s anti-democracy manifesto The Choice is Theirs, accepted the apparent victory of Libya’s more liberal forces.
The idea that Islamic extremists use the internet for terrorist purposes is not exactly a revelation – terrorists have been coordinating attacks and spreading propaganda via email since the 1990s. Nevertheless, recent reports from the White House, as well as the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, suggest that the internet is being used more and more as a platform for extremist recruitment. With the rise of ‘Web 2.0’, or user-generated web content, extremists are now able to reach and interact with audiences of all ages, genders, backgrounds across geographic boundaries. Consequently, there has been a sharp increase in the number of ‘non-affiliated cells’ willing to carry out potentially fatal attacks.
The internet is now the most important method of spreading jihad and Islam.
-Imam Samudra, orchestrator of the 2003 Bali Bombings
This audio-visual slideshow looks at the methods currently being used by Islamic extremists to radicalize individuals online and equip them for violence._
The internet can be a powerful weapon for spreading extremist messages. With the exponential growth of global internet connectivity, it is now more important than ever that NGOs, think tanks, and governments work together to generate effective strategies to counter the use of the internet for these purposes. As noted at the conference of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) on the Use of the Internet to Counter the Appeal of Extremist Violence in Riyadh earlier this year, for every harmful message on a particular internet medium, there should also be a counter-narrative on the same medium which provides a sound alternative to radicalized ideologies. Terrorist recruitment on the internet should not be a problem that is dealt with reactively– it needs to be defused before the real damage is felt.
For a much more detailed analysis on these topics, please read: