An interesting paper (5-page PDF) on how ISIS, Al-Qaeda and its spin-offs, and other extremist groups make use of social media to promote their messages and to recruit new members. The report is from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism.
The innovative ways that foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq are leveraging social media and mobile apps to recruit aspirational supporters in the West reveal what is actually a paradigm shift occurring within the global jihadist movement, away from the organization-centric model advanced by Al-Qaida, to a movement unhindered by organizational structures. Counterterrorism policy and practice must rethink the way it approaches countering online radicalization.
Saudi Arabia has arrested eight men who had been working to recruit young Saudis to join up with ISIS, Al Arabiya TV reports. It might well serve the Saudi government if, when they are tried, it relax its rules about not naming names and fully publicize its efforts to eradicate extremism within the country.
The Saudi interior ministry said Tuesday it detained eight individuals for trying to recruit youth into “extremist groups abroad.” Al Arabiya News channel that the recruits were for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“Security authorities conducted on Monday an operation that led to the arrest of eight citizens who were involved in recruiting youth to join extremist groups abroad,” an interior ministry statement carried by the country’s Saudi Press Agency said.
Saudi Arabia has taken a tough stance against militant groups in the kingdom and has made arrests of cells with links to extremist elements in different Arab countries.
Asharq Alawsat reports that similar arrests have been made in Jordan:
Jamal Khashoggi has an interesting article translated on today’s Al Arabiya TV website and in Arabic at Al-Hayat newspaper. He takes a look at ISIS and sees it as a “third-generation” takfirist/salfist movement. He sees its origins in Egypt of the 1990s. I’d put it earlier, if not with the 1979 takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, then at least in the 1980s, with the conflict between Muslim Brotherhood associates and the Syrian government in Hama. There, the Syrian government succeeded in (bloodily) suppressing the group. This time around, it’s not being terribly successful.
Khashoggi is right in pointing out that you don’t fix a problem or cure a disease until you have a correct diagnosis and understand the cause. There is far too much refusing to look for, look at, or otherwise identify the causes, but they are known. Treating the symptoms may make things look or feel better for a time, but that does not solve the problem. Nor do $100 million dollar donations to talk about the problem.
How can we defeat ISIS if we don’t understand it?
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been digging its own grave, just as it has irrationally led many to their graves. It did not disappoint all those who followed its rise and predicted the inevitability of its end, as it carried the seeds of its own destruction within itself.
Last year, I published an article entitled “What history teaches us about Syria’s extremists.” At the time, ISIS was emerging in Syria and rebelling against those involved in the revolution. It was like an uninvited guest. I wrote about a story that took place in the Indian continent in the 18th century; the story of a young fighter who became the Emir of Peshawar after the success of the Islamist corrective movement to liberate the city from the rule of the “Maharajah” in just two months.
After the imposition of hardline provisions by the new emir on the tribal population of the region, they rebelled against him and brought back the Sikhs and their army to rule again. They did not rebel against the emir alone but against the whole movement, and its spiritual leader.
Asharq Alawsat runs an interesting piece from the Associated Press on how a campaign of the war with IS is taking place in social media. Social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube are taking down the graphic images of the murder of American journalist James Foley. The platforms do not wish to be engaged — or to be used — as part of IS’s propaganda.
This raises issue itself, however. Not only is there a form of self-censorship going on (not that that is all bad), but publicizing that you will not publicize something is, in fact, publicizing it.
The article notes that IS is far more sophisticated in its use of media than were the Taliban in Afghanistan, who had a visceral dislike of media, particularly electronic media. The current group, perhaps aided by volunteers from the technologically-advanced West, are taking the conflict to new and wider levels.
Beirut, AP—The extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have turned their social media into a theater of horror, broadcasting a stream of battles, bombings and beheadings to a global audience.
The strategy is aimed at terrorizing opponents at home and winning recruits abroad. But there are increasing signs of pushback—both from companies swiftly censoring objectionable content and users determined not to let it go viral.
Public disgust with the group’s callous propaganda tactics was evident following their posting of the beheading video of American journalist James Foley—footage that spread rapidly when it appeared online late Tuesday.
The slickly edited video begins with scenes of Obama explaining his decision to order airstrikes in Iraq, before switching to Foley in an orange jumpsuit kneeling in the desert, a black-clad ISIS fighter by his side.
The fighter who beheads Foley is then seen holding another US journalist, Steven Sotloff, threatening to kill him next. “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” he says.
By Wednesday, many social media users were urging each other not to post the video as a form of protest.
Phillip Smyth, a University of Maryland researcher who tracks the social media activity of jihadists, has noted a modest but noteworthy rise in the speed with which rogue accounts are being removed from Twitter and terror-supporting pages are being pulled from Facebook.
“It’s happening,” he said. “I can tell you first-hand because I look at this stuff every day.”
Saudi Arabia makes its condemnation of the Islamic State complete with a statement from Grand Mufti Sheikh Abudulaziz Aal-Alsheikh. The government has already placed the group on its list of terrorist organizations and has promised to punish those found supporting it. It has followed through on that promise by firing imams and jailing Saudis who return to the country after fighting alongside the group in Syria and Iraq. The country has also warned those who offer support — financial or other — to the extremist group.
Grand Mufti: IS is Islam’s ‘enemy No. 1’
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Aal Alsheikh on Tuesday blasted Al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants as “enemy number one” of Islam.
“The ideas of extremism, radicalism and terrorism… have nothing to do with Islam and (their proponents) are the enemy number one of Islam,” the Kingdom’s top scholar said in a statement issued here on Tuesday.
He cited militants from the Islamic State, which has declared a “caliphate” straddling large parts of Iraq and Syria, and the international Al-Qaeda terror network.
“Muslims are the main victims of this extremism, as shown by crimes committed by the so-called Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and groups linked to them,” the grand mufti said, quoting a verse from the Holy Qur’an urging the “killing” of people who do deeds harmful to Islam, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
Alsheikh’s stance reflects the growing international hostility toward Islamic State militants, known for their brutality.
Asharq Alawsat reports that Saudi Arabia is fully backing a UN resolution that attacks the funding of ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front. The resolution names six individuals to be blacklisted, including two Saudi nationals. Both already appear on Saudi Arabia’s list of “most-wanted” criminals.
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia committed to implementing a UN Security Resolution targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front on Friday, after the measure blacklisted two Saudi nationals.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Abdullah Al-Maulamy, told Asharq Al-Awsat the Kingdom was always in agreement with the “international legitimacy” of the Council and its decrees, and that the latest resolution was being studied closely so that “decisions could be made in light of them.”
The Security Council unanimously adopted a UK-drafted resolution on Friday designed to attack the sources of funding for both groups, blacklisting six individuals believed to be associated with the groups and freezing their assets.
Two of the six individuals, Abdul-Mohsen Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Sharekh and Abdulrahman Mohamed Zafir Al-Dabidi Al-Jahani—both accused of links to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front group currently active in Syria—were Saudi nationals.
Who represents the greatest threat to Muslims today? It’s not the US. It’s not Israel. It’s other Muslims, argues Azeem Ibrahim, of the US Army War College, at Al Arabiya TV.
Killing Muslims in the name of Islam is perverse. Religion is being used as a cloak for what is actually “ethnic, social, sectarian and/or tribal cleansing,” he says. Again, an article worth reading in full.
What is the greatest global threat to Muslims?
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
Who is responsible for the greatest numbers of deaths against Muslims today? Who commits the worst atrocities against Muslims? It is not the West that claims the highest headcount nor is it Israel. The sad truth is that today Muslims kill the most Muslims around the world.
Since the beginning of the Arab Spring in late 2010, more than 100,000 have been killed. Many of these deaths were in Syria, where thousands more languish in prisons expecting similarly grim fates. And with the rise of ISIS and the threat that it poses to regional stability, many more are expected to die.
Most of the fighters are killing “infidels”. Most of the those dying are allegedly “infidels”. Almost always, that means that they are the wrong kind of Muslim to the other Muslim holding the gun. Whether they are fighters or civilians, the sin of those dying is in many cases simply being Sunni rather than Shiite, or Shiite rather than Sunni. And woe betides any smaller minorities caught in the middle.
Writing at Al Arabiya TV, Hisham Melhem finds the origin of extremist groups like ISIS to be in the Arab penchant for “conspiracy theories, delusions, self-deception, paranoia and xenophobia.” Undemocratic societies, where government seek to control the flow of information, leave vacuums which people will seek to fill. They end up filling them with nonsense, with anger, with paranoia.
It’s worth reading his column in full. He does a good job of pointing out the various zany theories that are rippling across not only the Arab world, but the world at large. And it’s scary.
Most people are averse to introspection, and rarely engage in self-criticism. Arabs are no different. However, the political culture that developed in the Arab World in the last 60 years, particularly in countries ruled by autocratic regimes, shifted blame from their catastrophic failures in governance to other external, sinister forces. For these countries, self-criticism has become next to impossible.
Over time, this legacy has created fertile terrain for conspiracy theories, delusions, self-deception, paranoia and xenophobia. If you read an Arab newspaper or many a website in the region, you will invariably encounter some of these symptoms. Admittedly, sometimes they can be entertaining, but in most cases they are downright ugly, reflecting deep pathologies of fear.
The Saudi government is vehemently denying press reports that tens of thousands of Egyptian and Pakistani troops have been brought into the country to help secure its northern border with Iraq and Jordan, in light of the growing strength of the so-called Islamic State. Reports, seemingly originating in London, have suggested such an event.
As Arab News reports, the Saudi Arabian National Guard believes it is able to confront any such threat and has not called for foreign assistance.
National Guard Minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah has denied press reports that Egyptian and Pakistani military forces have been deployed along the Kingdom’s northern border.
He said Saudi armed forces are capable to defend the Kingdom.
“We have very good relations with Egypt and Pakistan but the reports about the presence of their forces in the Kingdom are not true,” the prince said while talking to reporters in the northern city of Arar where he arrived on Tuesday to inspect National Guard forces stationed in the region.
“The Kingdom’s military strength has reached 27 million, which is the population of the country including soldiers and ordinary citizens. Every citizen in the Kingdom is a soldier and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has stated he will be in forefront to defend the nation,” he said.
Asked about the threat of terrorist groups to the Kingdom, Prince Miteb said: “It’s better for them not to approach the Saudi border.”
The passage of time changes things. Rather than a vast, undelimited region across which migrating tribes traveled, there are now national borders that delineate the countries of Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Oman. With the drawing of borders came nationalities; with nationalities, there came regulation, registration, and documentation.
Some of the members of the migrating tribes missed out on becoming anchored to a nationality. They, known as the Bidoon, or “stateless” suffer in various ways through their lack of anchoring. As they cannot demonstrate that they belong to any one state, they do not qualify for state-offered programs and support like education, health care, and various subsidies, as well as access to jobs. The various countries in which the Bidoon are found have offered a variety of ways in which to ‘regularize’ them, with some programs being better than others.
Saudi Gazette reports on a new Saudi initiative that will offer government-provided ID cards to the Bidoon to grant them access to at least some social programs. This will not make them Saudi citizens — they won’t be eligible for Saudi passports, for instance — but it will not leave them completely out in the cold, either.
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — The Directorate General of Passports (Jawazat) has issued special ID cards for the members of migrant tribes currently living at the outskirts of the Kingdom’s regions. The people of such tribes are commonly known as the Bidoon (people without identities).
Director General of the Jawazat Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al-Yahya told Al-Hayat newspaper in a statement published Tuesday that the new ID cards would facilitate all the official procedures for these people.
“The cards look similar to the iqamas (residence permits) of the expatriates but they have many privileges over them. Their holders will be treated on equal footing with the Saudi citizen,” he said.
Al-Yahya said the data on the Bidoon are currently being collected prior to the issuance of these cards.
In a statement that may indicate that he is getting too old for the job, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh blames the spate of murders and destruction in the region on “foreign intelligence agencies.” No Muslim, he says in a widely reported Friday sermon, would kill other Muslims.
Assuming that the sheikh wasn’t napping for the past 30 years, his memory may be failing him. Muslim-on-Muslim violence has been violent, brutal, and widespread. While the current regime of terror may be put at the feet of extremist groups, state governments have engaged as well, and well beyond the prosecution of crimes.
Perhaps we should take the sheikh’s comments as aspirational rather than as a reflection on the facts. Muslims oughtn’t be killing other Muslims willy-nilly. Nor should they be killing non-Muslims. They do not now and have not in the past needed assistance or motivation from “foreign intelligence agencies”.
Grand Mufti: Killing of Muslims the work of foreign agencies
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — The Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh said the killings of innocent Muslims in some countries is the work of foreign intelligence agencies that seek to damage Islam.
He added that those who kill other Muslims do not represent Islam, because Islam is a religion of mercy and justice that embraces Muslims and non-Muslims alike, Al-Hayat daily reported.
During the Friday sermon at Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Mosque in Riyadh, Al-Asheikh said it is forbidden for a Muslim to kill another Muslim as Islam emphasized the importance of respecting and preserving lives.
“Such teachings are the basis for a settled society, and if Muslims follow these teachings, they will live in complete harmony,” he said while referencing daily reports of gruesome criminal activities being committed by what he described as “evil persons and factions that are enemies of Islam.”
Al-Asheikh went on to say that Islam is innocent of such crimes, and every Muslim should denounce crimes that are committed against Muslims who pray and fast.
Following the death of a Saudi who had traveled to Sierra Leone and is said to have died as a result of the Ebola virus, Saudi authorities are denying that a second case has presented itself.
The country has cancelled Haj visas for visitors from the African states currently suffering from the Ebola outbreak: Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. It stands ready to expand the ban if the virus spreads. The risk of an Ebola outbreak during Haj, which starts next month, is a nightmare.
The Health Ministry denied Thursday the appearance of another Ebola virus fever case in Jeddah and urged the media not to publish such reports without confirmation.
“We will inform the public about the development of the new killer virus in full transparency and have taken measures to protect citizens and residents from such infectious diseases,” the ministry said.
Meanwhile, Abdul Aziz Al-Zahrani, the brother of the man who died of Ebola on Wednesday, blamed the negligence of medical staff at a private hospital in the city for the death.