The CSS Blog Network

Can Military Might Alone Defeat al-Shabaab?

Courtesy of Surian Soosay/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 21 March 2017.

Developing a “security pact” to tackle insurgent jihadists al-Shabaab, who continue to stifle state-building efforts, is one of the key agenda items at the upcoming high-level conference on Somalia scheduled for May this year in London. This complex challenge first depends on identifying what makes al-Shabaab such a resilient movement. Despite some success on the battlefield, this is an understanding that has largely escaped Somalia’s various security forces—and their international supporters—until now.

Donors such as the United Kingdom, European Union, and United States have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Somalia’s security services, including 1.8 billion euros pledged in September 2013 as part of the “New Deal Compact.” Yet al-Shabaab remains a potent force throughout most of the country. The London conference thus presents an opportunity to develop security architecture—and associated justice mechanisms—more in line with previous political progress in Somalia.

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Breaking the Cycle of Terror: Democratic Alternative

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Courtesy Syria Freedom / Flickr

This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review (HIR) on 25 August 2016.

In June of 1981, after serving for 16 months as the first president of Iran, I was in hiding. There had been a coup against me; a fatwa had been issued for my execution seven times over. I published an open letter to the Iranian people, quoting Madame Roland’s last words under the guillotine during the French Revolution:

“One day, a condemned woman under the guillotine said – ‘Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!’ Today, and more so tomorrow, it will be said – ‘Oh Islam, such crimes are committed in your name!’ Islam will be so discredited that for a century no one will speak of rights in the name of religion.”

This prediction is truer today than it was then. The dynamics of power remain constant. Power needs an enemy, and violence is the sole means of its interaction. But power cannot exercise itself without legitimacy; it requires ideology, in which ideas are manipulated to serve the needs of power. Gradually, the ideas are divorced from their origins and the process of their alienation in power becomes complete. What is left of the ideas is nothing but an ideological shell filled with violence and power.

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Is New Narrative on Fighting Extremism a Fantasy?

NCRI Headquarters Muslims to unite against terrorism and extremism under the name of Islam

This article was originally published by the Global Observatory on 26 January 2016.

Amid the past two weeks’ dehumanizing cataloging of death tolls from extremist violence—in Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, and Somalia—an attack that claimed relatively few innocent lives likely tells us the most about the evolving ideological response to the threat, as well as its inherent cognitive dissonance.

The haphazard killing of four people in Jakarta on January 14th by sympathizers of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), who also perished in the attack, has altered a popular narrative of Indonesia. The Southeast Asian nation has gone from one that has long been praised for fostering a devout yet peaceful Muslim population to one that might soon explode into flames. Once known as the nation where 50 million Sunnis reputedly told ISIS to “get lost,” Indonesia has been quickly recast in international media as a country in which insufficient and poorly targeted government deradicalization efforts have aided the group’s growth.

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Hasan al-Banna and the Political Ideologisation of Islam in the 20th Century

Poster of Muslim Girls at Prayer, courtesy Adam Jones/flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations (E-IR) on 2 February 2016.

The political ideologisation of Islam refers to the interpretation of Islam as a ‘political ideology’: a comprehensive ‘system of ideas for social and political action’ (Safire, 2008: 336) which serve as a functional tool for the ordering of state and society, whilst also outlining how this ideal socio-political order might be attained (Erikson and Tedin, 2003: 64). It is precisely this tendency to interpret Islam as a political ideology which scholars frequently attribute to the twentieth century Egyptian and founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hasan al-Banna. This text will therefore assess the extent to which al-Banna’s thought signifies the political ideologisation of Islam in the twentieth century. To do so, it will first combine a contextual appreciation with an explanation of al-Banna’s call for the establishment of an Islamic State, rooted in his understanding of Islam as a perfect, all-embracing political solution. The text will then proceed to explore al-Banna’s political ideologisation of Islam, focusing on his calling for ‘Islamic governance’, his Fifty-Point Manifesto, his portrayal of Islam as an alternative to competing ideologies and his founding of the Muslim Brotherhood. Next, the text will consider other twentieth century thinkers who have also contributed to Islam’s political ideologisation, notably Sayyid Abu’l-A’la al-Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb. Finally, this analysis will conclude by outlining the notion that al-Banna’s thought does indeed signify the political ideologisation of Islam, but must nevertheless be appreciated within a broader ‘neo-revivalist’ tendency to politically ideologise Islam.

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