Capture of underage female IS-supporter in Mosul shows extent the group’s appeal

 

As the so-called Islamic State’s last bastions in Mosul fell, Iraqi soldiers and militias captured a host of IS-fighters. Amongst them were a larger number of foreigners who had joined the terrorist group over the preceding years.

Trip to the Levant in 2016

Yet few arrests have called forth more international attention than the case of Linda Wenzel, a 16-year-old girl from a small town in Saxony, Germany. She was discovered by Iraqi forces in a tunnel along with 20 other female IS-supporters, three of whom were also German.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/islamischer-staat-vermisste-jaehrige-aus-sachsen-im-irak-aufgegriffen-1.3599355 ))

The teenager had left her home in 2016 and had been missing since then. Her turn towards jihadism had occurred unbeknownst to her parents and her family. According to investigators, online conversations with IS-sympathisers were key in swaying the girl to travel to the Levantine battlefields via Frankfurt and Istanbul.((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/islamischer-staat-die-dschihad-braut-aus-pulsnitz-a-1159114.html ))

“Jihadi bride”

Her precise role within IS remains unclear. Iraqi sources have described her as a sniper; yet given the group’s conservatism in gender matters it seems unlikely that the young woman was allowed to play an active combat role, even if she should have wished to do so.

According to intelligence sources, she was married off to a Chechen IS-fighter; a fact that has led many media outlets to refer to her as a “jihadi bride.”(( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/18/teenage-german-isil-bride-captured-mosuls-old-city/, http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/islamischer-staat-die-dschihad-braut-aus-pulsnitz-a-1159114.html )) This points to the ways in which the IS’s female recruits are seen as even more ‘exotic’ and quintessentially incomprehensible than their male counterparts.

IS’s female members

Yet in contrast to many other jihadist groups, the IS has been extremely adept at attracting female supporters. According to the German domestic intelligence service, the Verfassungsschutz, 20 per cent of Germans who have joined the group are female. And among the minors flocking to the caliphate, 50 per cent are women.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-07/islamischer-staat-linda-w-dresden-is-kaempferin ))

German Islamic studies scholar and counter-terrorism expert Marwan Abou-Taam points to the ways in which the IS has managed to offer an appealing vision to many young women. Many are taken in by the glossy portrayal of jihadi fighters online. Becoming a wife and child-bearer to a fighter provides new sense and meaning, Abou-Taam highlights.((http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-07/islamischer-staat-linda-w-dresden-is-kaempferin ))

Extradition to Germany

Not all women are joining the IS for personal or marital reasons, however: many wish to make a contribution to the creation of the caliphate and are highly ideologically motivated.

Whether this was the case for Linda Wenzel remains to be seen. Personnel from the German Embassy are in touch with her and the other German women arrested in Mosul. It is understood that Germany will seek their extradition. If they remain in Iraq, the women may be facing the death penalty, as marriage to and support of IS-fighters are treated as a capital offence in Iraq.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-07/islamischer-staat-linda-w-dresden-is-kaempferin ))

Challenge of reintegration

In her home town of Pulsnitz in Saxony, public opinion is split on Linda Wenzel’s arrest and her potential return. Some of the town’s inhabitants expressed relief that the girl had been found. They hoped for a speedy reunion with her parents.

Others openly voiced their fears. One of the girl’s former neighbours asserted that “we don’t need her here. At the end of it, she might show up with an explosive belt.”(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/islamischer-staat-die-dschihad-braut-aus-pulsnitz-a-1159114.html ))

This highlights once more how the arrest of the so-called “foreign fighters” that had joined extremist groups in Iraq and Syria is not so much an endpoint as a new start to the problem: the meaningful reintegration of these men, women, and children remains an issue that European governments will have to struggle with for the foreseeable future.

Muslim teen in Minnesota wins fight to box wearing a hijab

Amaiya Zafar, a 16-year-old from Oakdale, who is Muslim, recently won a battle that will allow her to wear a hijab and fully cover her arms and legs while boxing. That means she can put on her boxing gloves later this month to fight her first sanctioned match.

Zafar has her sights set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. To get there, she’d have to persuade the international boxing organization — the AIBA — to allow her to box in her modest attire.

For now, her right to wear the scarf is only with USA Boxing.

2 charged with lying to help friend linked to Islamic State

Two northern Virginia men have been indicted after authorities charged them with lying to the FBI to protect a friend under investigation for his support of the Islamic State group.  According to an FBI affidavit, the two were questioned about their friend Haris Qamar last year. The affidavit alleges the two knew Qamar had tried to join the Islamic State in 2014, but denied it to protect him.

The federal grand jury in Alexandria indicted 28-year-old Michael Queen of Woodbridge and 32-year-old Soufian Amri of Falls Church Tuesday on charges including obstruction of justice and making false statements involving international terrorism.

 

Jean-Marc Ayrault speaks out against Trump’s travel ban

French and German foreign ministers met on Saturday to discuss President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on nationals from seven countries entering the US. The ban affects citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, and is in effect for an extendable initial period of 90 days.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said, “We have signed international obligations, so welcoming refugees fleeing war and oppression forms part of our duties. There are many other issues that worry us. That is why Sigmar and I also discussed what we are going to do. When our colleague, [Rex] Tillerson, is officially appointed, we will both contact him.”

The International Rescue Committee said, “The agency is calling President Donald Trump’s suspension of the U.S. refugee resettlement program a ‘harmful and hasty’ decision. America must remain true to its core values. America must remain a beacon of hope.”

French President François Hollande said, “We should engage in discussions that sometimes should be very firm … When he rejects the arrival of refugees, while Europe has done its duty, we should respond to him.”

Meanwhile, Trump has said the new ban is working out “very well.”

“It’s not a Muslim ban. It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over. We’re going to have a very, very strict ban and we’re going to have extreme vetting which we should have had in this country for many years,” Trump said.

The entire text of the executive order can be read here. Although most media coverage refers to a ban on Muslim refugees, the executive order makes no explicit mention of Islam. It does, however state that “In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law.

“In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including ‘honor’ killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”

German courts seek to move beyond counter-terrorism measures in path-breaking trials of fighters from the Syrian battlefields

From organisational to substantive criteria

Over the past few months, German prosecutors have cautiously embarked on new paths to bring to justice crimes committed in the Syrian Civil War. Like most of their European counterparts, German investigators had so far remained focused on offences against counter-terrorism provisions (codified in Germany under §§129a and b of the country’s criminal code).(( https://dejure.org/gesetze/StGB/129a.html ))

Consequently, until now verdicts were based on charges of terrorist conspiracy (Bildung einer terroristischen Vereinigung) and thus on purely formalistic criteria: what was penalised was only the formation or support of a terrorist association, not the substantive rights violations that perpetrators had committed in the Syrian war zone.

However, amidst the increasing rates of the return of German foreign fighters – of the more than 750 that have made their way to Syria, more than 250 returned ((https://www.icct.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ICCT-Report_Foreign-Fighters-Phenomenon-in-the-EU_1-April-2016_including-AnnexesLinks.pdf , pp. 25 f.))– and against the backdrop of the growing number of Syrian refugees in the country, prosecutors are apparently seeking to enable more ambitious judicial proceedings taking the commission of international crimes – violations of fundamental human rights and of international humanitarian law – into account.

The case of Aria L.

In July 2016, the German national Aria L. was sentenced to two years imprisonment for war crimes by the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt. Having travelled to Syria in spring 2014, L. had not directly participated as a fighter in the Civil War – at least not to the court’s knowledge. However, pictures of L. posing next to the severed heads of two Syrian government soldiers made their way on to Facebook. ((https://olg-frankfurt-justiz.hessen.de/irj/OLG_Frankfurt_am_Main_Internet?rid=HMdJ_15/OLG_Frankfurt_am_Main_Internet/nav/d44/d4471596-ad85-e21d-0648-71e2389e4818,3ed60b46-2d1d-d551-d064-8712ae8bad54,,,11111111-2222-3333-4444-100000005004%26_ic_uCon_zentral=3ed60b46-2d1d-d551-d064-8712ae8bad54%26overview=true.htm&uid=d4471596-ad85-e21d-0648-71e2389e4818 ))

The Court viewed L.’s actions as fulfilling the criteria for war crimes set out in §8.1.9 of the Code of Crimes against International Law (Völkerstrafgesetzbuch), the code translating the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court into domestic German law: L. was condemned for having treated a person protected under international humanitarian law – a category which includes enemy forces that are hors de combat – in a gravely degrading manner. ((https://olg-frankfurt-justiz.hessen.de/irj/OLG_Frankfurt_am_Main_Internet?rid=HMdJ_15/OLG_Frankfurt_am_Main_Internet/nav/d44/d4471596-ad85-e21d-0648-71e2389e4818,3ed60b46-2d1d-d551-d064-8712ae8bad54,,,11111111-2222-3333-4444-100000005004%26_ic_uCon_zentral=3ed60b46-2d1d-d551-d064-8712ae8bad54%26overview=true.htm&uid=d4471596-ad85-e21d-0648-71e2389e4818 ))

From foreign fighters to Syrian nationals

Significantly, the Völkerstrafgesetzbuch also contains provisions of universal jurisdiction; i.e. provisions allowing German courts to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes even if they are committed by foreign citizens abroad. Normally, national courts do not have the authority to adjudicate on acts that have no connection either with the national territory (territorial principle) or with national citizens (principle of nationality). ((http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/vstgb/__1.html ))

Consequently, the code offers the possibility to bring to justice not just ‘foreign fighters’ (German nationals or residents that have travelled to the Middle Eastern theatres of battle) but also Syrian nationals that have sought refuge as asylum-seekers in Germany after having committed international crimes. In fact, at least one trial against a Syrian national is ongoing in front of a German court, and another in preparation. The offences involved include attacks on protected persons, torture, and pillaging. ((http://www.ejiltalk.org/justice-for-syria-opportunities-and-limitations-of-universal-jurisdiction-trials-in-germany/ ))

Information from within a divided Syrian community

Syrian refugees are by now systematically asked whether they have witnessed crimes against humanity or other offences justiciable under the German code, or whether they can even name perpetrators of such offences. Asylum authorities have sent 25 to 30 tips to prosecutors per day, amounting to over 2000 indications of international crimes over the course of 2015. ((http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-01/refugee-influx-spurs-germany-to-tackle-syrian-war-crimes/7374152 , http://www.ejiltalk.org/justice-for-syria-opportunities-and-limitations-of-universal-jurisdiction-trials-in-germany/ ))

At the same time, some of these tip-offs is either not verifiable, based only on rumour, or reflective of the distrust and recriminations prevailing between different groups fleeing the ravages of the Syrian war. Investigators noted that informants sometimes accused members of other ethnic or religious groups of having perpetrated war crimes without being able to furnish concrete evidence for these claims. ((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/kriegsverbrechen-101.html ))

Challenges of evidence collection

This highlights the challenges involved in the collection and evaluation of testimonies and evidence. These challenges only grow in importance due to the fact that investigators have of course no access to the sites of crimes in Syria. Often, evidence is insufficient for the opening of legal proceedings but substantial enough that suspicions remain, leaving a bitter aftertaste among prosecutors as well as among Syrian human rights groups striving to bring perpetrators of international crimes to justice. ((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/kriegsverbrechen-101.html ))

A related concern is that prosecutions under the provisions of the Völkerstrafgesetzbuch only target a small sub-section of war criminals from the Syrian battlefields. First of all, those responsible for the large-scale orchestration of fundamental rights violations have not left Syria and asked for asylum in Germany – meaning that German prosecutors must confine themselves to go after the small fry only. ((http://www.ejiltalk.org/justice-for-syria-opportunities-and-limitations-of-universal-jurisdiction-trials-in-germany/ ))

Moreover, there is a concern that the henchmen of Bashar al-Asad will by and large escape judgement under these provisions, since comparatively few of them have asked for asylum in Europe. ((http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-01/refugee-influx-spurs-germany-to-tackle-syrian-war-crimes/7374152 )) This does not obviate the need to bring to justice fighters and commanders of other factions, above all of the more brutal Islamist and jihadist groups. Yet given the fact that it is still above all the Asad forces that have “shredded the laws of warfare”,(( https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/06/24/syrian-refugees-help-nab-suspected-war-criminals-europe )) a failure to prosecute government personnel means a heavily lopsided judicial treatment of the Syrian quagmire.

Thus, while the activation of the substantive provisions of the Völkerstrafgesetzbuch constitutes a step forward compared with the prosecution under the blanket terms of counter-terrorism legislation that punishes a formal status rather than actual offences committed, bringing justice to bear on the perpetrators of international crimes in Syria remains fraught with difficulties.

Politics and Prejudice: Countering Islamophobia in the 2016 Presidential Race

If the last two elections are any indication, candidates in the 2016 presidential race may be tempted to engage in Muslim-bashing – playing off national security anxieties and fostering racial and religious animus – to win the vote. But anti-Muslim bigotry comes at a high cost to American Muslims, to America’s international stature, and increasingly, to the political careers of those who fuel it.
It was not long ago that American Muslim children watched leaders “accuse” President Obama of being a Muslim, as if there is something inherently wrong with the world’s second largest religion or its 1.5 billion adherents.
Since then, a number of U.S. elected officials continue to contribute to the prevailing climate of intolerance and discrimination confronting American Muslims.

Muslim charity to put ‘Allah is great’ posters on buses to portray Islam in a positive light

Hundreds of British buses will carry adverts praising Allah as part of a campaign launched by the country’s biggest Muslim charity to help victims of Syria’s civil war. Islamic Relief hopes the posters, which bear the words “Subhan Allah”, meaning “Glory be to God” in Arabic, will portray Islam and international aid in a positive light.

Buses will carry the advertisements in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester and Bradford. These cities have large Muslim populations and the charity hopes it will encourage people to donate generously ahead of the start of Ramadan on 7 June.

Imran Madden, the UK director of Islamic Relief, said: “In a sense this could be called a climate change campaign because we want to change the negative climate around international aid and around the Muslim community in this country.

“International aid has helped halve the number of people living in extreme poverty in the past 15 years, and British Muslims are an incredibly generous community who give over £100 million to international aid charities in Ramadan.”

The new campaign will appear on buses from 23 May on 640 buses around the country. The adverts will have a special resonance in London as the city elected its first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, on Thursday – despite a Conservative campaign, which repeatedly accused him of having connections to extremists.

More American than apple pie, Muslims have been migrating to the US for centuries

Muslims have been coming to the US for centuries, but you wouldn’t know it by the intense debates that continue to surround the movement of Muslims across international borders.

Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have called for the US to effectively ban Syrian refugees from entering the country. The South Carolina Senate passed a bill that would require all refugees to register with the state, subjecting themselves to surveillance. On social media, the hashtag #StopIslam trended internationally in the hours after the Mar. 22 terrorist attack in Brussels.

Together, these reactions contribute to the idea that Muslim migration to the US is somehow distinct from America’s history as a “nation of immigrants.” Columnist Mark Nuckols summarized the sentiment when he wrote in Townhall about “problematic immigrants” to the US.

The “most problematic,” he writes, are Muslims from the Middle East and Africa. “This most recent wave of immigrants are often more resistant to easy assimilation and more reluctant to accept this country as truly their own,” he says.

In truth, Muslims have been part of this country since before the thirteen original colonies even declared their independence and became a nation. The examples below offer a glimpse of the long history of their migration and contributions to the US.

Muslims were among the first to explore the “New World”

A circular map in black and white lines

In his book Meadows of Gold, published around 950 CE, Muslim geographer Al-Musudi described the experiences of Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad, a Muslim explorer who he claims sailed across the Atlantic in 889 CE. This reconstruction of a world map from Meadows of Gold depicts a world before Europeans arrived in the Americas.

Individuals like Christopher Columbus are often recognized as among the first to “discover” the Americas (despite, of course, the long presence of the indigenous).

But those explorations would not have been possible without Muslims.

Historian Leslie Brout Jr. notes in his book The African Experience in Spanish America: 1502 to the Present Day that many Muslim men accompanied European travelers clamoring to “discover” the Americas in the 1500s. Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Hernán Cortés, Pánfilo de Narváez, Pedro de Alvarado, Francisco de Montejo, and other conquistadors all brought Muslims with them to aid in their early expeditions in the Western Hemisphere.

For example, a Muslim man named Estevanico was sold into slavery in the 1520s and brought to the Americas to aid Spain’s exploration of present-day Florida. Although he was a slave until his death, Brout writes that Estevanico became famous for completing an eight-year journey on foot from Florida to Mexico City.

The labor of enslaved Muslims helped build the United States

As historian Sylviane A. Diouf writes in her book Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, Muslim men, women, and children were among the first people taken by force from their homes in West Africa in the Atlantic slave trade.

It’s estimated that between 10 and 15 percent of all Africans forced into bondage in the United States were Muslims. These individuals, many of whom were among the most educated and renowned in their homelands, were forced to work as slaves in the Americas. Several of them published narratives about their time in captivity.

A framed portrait of an elderly man on one side; a stately oil painting on the other

Left: Omar Ibn Sayyid, a Muslim slave in the United States, published his autobiography in 1831. Right: The first known portrait of an African man by a British portraitist was completed shortly after Job Ben Solomon’s arrival in London in 1733.

Omar Ibn Sayyid, for example, was taken from his home in present day Senegal and forced into slavery in South Carolina around the year 1770. In 1831 he published his autobiography in Arabic, which was later translated into English.

Sayyid’s autobiography reveals in his own words his experiences being taken from his home, his life under slavery in the United States and his devotion to Islam. Today, a mosque in Fayetteville, North Carolina is named in his honor.

In his book Muslims in America, historian Edward Curtis describes the experience of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, who became known as Job Ben Solomon after he was taken from West Africa in 1731 and sold into slavery to a tobacco farmer in Annapolis, Maryland.

Solomon was able to escape slavery after less than three years of bondage. He could read and write in Arabic, so he wrote a letter to his father with the hopes that he might send money to ransom his freedom. His father never received the letter. However, the letter did finds its way to the hands of James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, who had it translated into English.

Oglethorpe was so impressed with Solomon that he purchased the freedom bond himself.

Slavery ends, Muslim influence continues

Historian Edward Curtis writes in his book Muslims in America that Alexander Russell Webb used Islam in America to “promote Islam as a religion that expressed some of America’s most deeply held values, especially those of rationality, human equality, broadmindedness, and acceptance of religious diversity.”

Muslims played important roles in securing a Northern victory in the United States Civil War and bringing about the end of slavery. Curtis’s Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History explains that nearly 300 people with Muslim last names fought in the Civil War.

Several became officers, including Moses Osman, a captain in the 104th Illinois Infantry. After being subjected to slavery in Turkey, Russia, and the US when he was forced to serve a European traveler who crossed the Atlantic, Mohammed Ali ben Said fought in the Civil War from 1863 to 1865 and earned the rank of sergeant in the Union Army. After his emancipation, Said went on to travel the world before settling in Alabama. He  published his autobiography in 1873 before passing away in 1882.

While emancipation allowed former Muslim slaves to practice their religion more freely, they were not the only ones who practiced Islam in the US after the Civil War.

Alexander Russell Webb, born in 1846, was a middle class white Protestant who converted to Islam in 1887 after traveling the world in his capacity as the US Consul to the Philippines. When he returned to the US in 1893, he started a newspaper called “The Moslem World,” published a book called Islam in America and was selected to be a representative of Islam at the Chicago World Fair.

Nativism and exclusionary immigration laws took hold in the early 1900s, but Muslims lived all over the country

Mother Mosque in Iowa, white building with green roof

By the 1930s, Muslims established mosques in Maine, North Dakota, Michigan, Indiana and Iowa. The Mother Mosque of America, built in 1934 by Lebanese and Syrian immigrants and their ancestors in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, remains the oldest surviving mosque in the US.

Credit: RifeIdeas/CC BY-SA 3.0

With the turn of the 20th century came the rise of anti-immigrant feelings among Americans. Nevertheless, Muslim American communities continued to grow. In North Dakota, for example, Syrian and Lebanese Muslim immigrants worked as farmers in the Great Plains.

As part of the New Deal, the Works Progress Administration interviewed Mike Abdullah, a Syrian native, about life in North Dakota. Abdullah and his fellow community members in North Dakota were practicing Muslims whose experiences mirrored those of many farmers who worked the land in the American heartland from the 1900s through the middle of the century.

The Dillingham Commission formed in 1907 out of growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the US. The “Dictionary of Races or Peoples,” included in the 41-volume report that the Commission published in 1911, tried to legitimize ideas about racial difference, which were often intertwined with religion. The Commission’s report helped create laws that curtailed immigration from countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Southern and Eastern Europe.

Credit: University of California Libraries via archive.org

Muslims lived and worked across the US. Historian Vivek Bald writes in Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian Americans that Muslims labored not only as farmers but also as industrial and service workers. They immersed themselves in Creole, African American and Puerto Rican neighborhoods in New Orleans, Detroit, Baltimore and New York City. The growth of these diverse communities continued despite the passing of laws that didn’t bode well for Muslims hoping to come to the US.

The Immigration Act of 1917 barred immigration from Asia, and the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 introduced numerical quotas that restricted the entry of immigrants according to their country of origin. Many countries with sizeable Muslim populations received low quotas and Muslims from Asian countries were excluded outright.

The Hart-Cellar Act of 1965 eventually eliminated national origins quotas and made it easier for Muslims — at least those who were skilled and professional workers — to migrate to the US. This landmark legislation was just part of the continuation of Muslim migration to the US — not the beginning.

Dutch terrorism-expert Peter Knoope: “A large part of the world hates us”

The Dutch antiterrorism-expert Peter Knoope searches for the motives of terrorists and warns the West. “A large part of the world hates us. What we think is progress, they find neocolonial.”

The Dutch specialist in international relations Peter Knoope warns the West: we force our way of thinking about history upon the rest of the world. And this is going terribly wrong. “We have no idea of what is developing. The anger, the dissatisfaction, the anti-Western sentiments.”

“We still think we need to democratize, and that our secular progress-thought still holds any relevance in a word were the majority of people are anti-Western. This disconcerts me,” Peter Knoope says. Until last year he was the director of the International Center for Counterterrorism (ICCT), we he is now an associate fellow. Additionally, he is a senior visiting fellow at Clingendael. the Dutch Instituut for International Relations, and travels around the world. It is utmost cynicism. I fly to Myanmar, to Mauritania, to South Africa, I’m hyper mobility itself. Someone who is stuck in Syria or Iraq is not welcome in Europe. This angers people.”

Barbaric violence

During one of those diplomatic travels he heard a remark, as a a red tread through a lot of conversations: “The majority of people here are anti-Western.” It came from a Frenchman he met in Niger. Knoope thought: the implication of what is said here, is tremendous. He repeated the sentence once more. Those words, in a random African country: “The majority of people here are anti-Western.” They stick, they hang as a sword of Damocles above our European heads. “Because it is not only like that in Niger, but also in Nigeria and also in Chad, and in Cameroon, in the of whole Sub-Saharan Africa, and also in large parts of Asia.”

Another incident. In the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria he read a pamphlet, meant for the citizens of the South-African Republic: “China is pleased that the hundred-year long humiliation of the European barbaric dominance has finally come to an end.”

Knoope: “We have no idea of what is developing. The anger, the dissatisfaction, the anti-Western sentiments. Beneath the small group of people that is mobilized by IS and that will actually take a step toward the use of barbaric violence, exists a sea of people that can understand well why those people do it.” Knoope wants to deal with the foundation of terrorism; this he finds more important that to merely battle the phenomenon.

Terrorists’ motivation

It has been long overdue that we allowed ourselves to ask the question of what the motivations of terrorists are. It was politically incorrect to ask this question in the years after 9/11,” Knoope says. Between 2001 and 2007 that question would even make you suspect. “People believed that to would demand understanding for the perpetrators.”

He sees a change in the American war-rhetoric. The big turn came in 2011. “Thas had to do with the combination of the Arabic spring and the death of Osama bin Laden. The Arabic Sping brought a sense of hope. Just as the idea that Al-Qaeda did not play a role in it, That it was not a religiously motivated but a civil uprising. With that the demise of Al-Qaeda was proclaimed. A space developed to as the question of the motivation of terrorists. The America president Barack Obama has, inspired by Hillary Clinton, further built upon this agenda. He allocated money for it and initiated programs.”

But in the meantime the bombardments on Syria continue. Knoop: “The Pentagon has an own agenda and an own dynamic that is hard to control. While we know that to depose leaders is strategically unwise. A terrorist organization is like a pyramid. If you take away the top, other more aggressive people will replace them. Take a look at Abubakar Shekau, who succeeded Mohammed Yusuf as leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria. It is strategically more wise to take away the public support, to break away the foundation. But for the military it is a difficult message that their machinery does not lead for the full hundred percent to the result they hope to reach with it.”

What binds 5 billion people? 

The worldwide character of Al-Qaeda and IS is new. “The globalization, that started with Christoffel Columbus, has intensified itself enormously the past twenty years. The global character of terrorism was never before seen, and is not comparable with other waves,” Knoope says. It is just like a water bed. You push it don’t at one side and it comes up on the other side. This much we have learned the past few years.

But to break away the foundation, how to do that? Knoope: “The first step is to try to understand why people resist. Otherwise you cannot present an alternative. The IS has a force of attraction in China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the in the Central Asian republics, until Russia, the Middle East and North and West Africa. You could go on. What is the undercurrent here? What binds those people with the shared idea that “we have something to fight against”? As long as we don’t understand that, as long as we keep throwing bombs on it and answer the phenomenon with violence, we will not solve the question.

Pretentious view on history

A better insight into what history means for the other is a good start, he believes. Because the seed of the danger is already in our pretentious view of history. “Our Western society, with her whole modernistic view on life, is afflicted with a belief in the future. The whole idea of modernization is about the manufacturability of the future: the world will become better, the world will change, our economy will grow. But for many people in this world time is something totally different. For a large part of the population of the world the world is not about tomorrow but about yesterday: want we have gone trough, what happened in the past to me, my culture, and my ancestors. Those hundreds of years of history are the baggage on everyone’s backs. The future is a fantasy.” And this is were the problem lies. “Western modernism has the inclination to deny that view of history. And this is the cause of a tremendous short circuit.”

“A group of more than five billion people rejects that idea of modernization. They say: “What you are here for to tell us, is not our future but your future.”” Because of that short circuit youths are incited to go on a search for alternatives. Knoope: “Then appears the tradition and the history and the “true” interpretation of the Islam, and then arises a group that says: “We offer an alternative, we offer you a home in which you can live that is based on the past, in our own rich history, and that offers a kind of togetherness that runs from Indonesia until Morocco. Feel at home.” And in the meanwhile our conviction that the modern society will lead to a worldwide secularity, and to a growing market and scientific knowledge, is viewed by large parts of the world as a neocolonial agenda. The modernists have never intended it that way, but if you ask the people in Africa, they say: “This is your newest way to look at us and tell us that we are not in order.” And because the parting of ways with religion is part of the modernization plans, this causes resistance and also causes for the religious component to emerge in an even stronger way.”

So does something exist such as fundamentalist secularism? For sure, Knoope says. “It’s fanatic. People who are part of ISAF (the international peace coalition in Afghanistan) tell me without shame that people in Afghanistan are 2000 years behind. I ask then: behind what? They mean behind our modern, secular, scientific view of the future, to which according to modern thought the population of the whole world shall have to submit.

Postcolonial disappointment

The problem if modernization started, according to Knoope, with the liberation theology after the postcolonial period, that started around 1960. A lot of the people in the colonies were disillusioned: the liberation had not brought what they had expected. “The postcolonial promise of improvement – we are now going to build up our own countries, we will make something beautiful – is turned over to postcolonial rage. If you ask an average youth in North Nigeria what democracy has brought, he’ll answer: “Nothing. A corrupt police officer and a life endangering army. That is our democracy. Thank you, dear Europeans.” The democracy that was installed in large parts of our former colonies did not bring the people anything. But we keep on telling them that democracy is the wonder drug.”

What concerns Knoope most is in many of those countries the traditional systems that existed had worked. “If one stole a cow, they went under the tree and spoke with each other. Conflict was dealt with amongst the people themselves. But the traditional way of conflict resolution was supplanted by a Western system of judges and lawyers. That Western system does not function over there at all. Prisons are full of people who have never seen a judge or lawyer. The old system of justice was completely destroyed and replaced by what the West implemented under the banner of democratization, human rights and “international law.” But in their daily practice people see that it has only brought misery. And then Al-Qaeda comes by, or IS or one of those groups, and they say: “Democracy? What is that for? What has it brought you?” Those groups demand a place for themselves in politics. There are of course masses of people that have huge problems with the reprehensible and brutal violence of the terror groups, but they do understand.

Is there, then, a peaceful solution? “As a first step we must realize that we cannot anymore force our modernity upon our former colonies,” Knoope says. “We must muster the humility that modernity is not attractive enough for everyone to embrace. After that you cannot but search in non-Western society for their own solutions for justice and good governance. Look at what the tradition brings to the table, and how they then become enriched with new elements. Looking back is also immensely important. They people must from within their own history and tradition give form to their contemporary society. Their uniqueness is in their history, not in ours. We think that – after the liberation movements and the independence – colonialism is already decades old an fully over. We left it behind, but the people that it happened to have not. In their collective conscience and history it is an important part of their identity.”

History of humiliation

It is important to realize that a lot of people that joined Boko Haram and IS really view us as the enemy, Knoope stresses. “We are not in order, that is their serious conviction. They are convinced that westerners try to marginalize Muslims, to humiliate and lower them, and that we allow them no fair, no rightful position in the world. We kill them in the Middle East, Chechnya, and Bosnia, we have them tortured in Guantanamo Bay. As soon as a Muslim crosses our border, he is picked out and humiliated. And now waves of Muslims enter Europe from Syria and Iraq. Then you know how it goes.” In this way the history of humiliation is fed. We must also consider this with regards to the influx of refugees.

Knoope takes a big lesson from history: Generational solidarity plays a much more important role with us then we realize. The anger of people about what was done to their parents, is many times bigger that the anger the parents themselves have felt about what was done to them. That anger travels over the generations. What you are is for a large part influenced by solidarity with your parents. That should not be damaged, because then people are touched in their fundamental values. That can be explosive material.

 

Source: www.knack.be

Interviewer: Anna Luyter

Interview: Peter Knoope

Translated from Dutch by: Jeroen Vlug

 

For more information about Peter Knoope see: http://www.clingendael.nl/person/peter-knoope?lang=en

 

To read the full interview in its original Dutch follow this link: http://www.knack.be/nieuws/wereld/terrorisme-expert-knoope-een-groot-deel-van-de-wereld-haat-ons/article-normal-624191.html

 

 

France on edge day after 2nd terror attack in 6 months

A day after a man was decapitated at a gas factory in France’s second terror attack in six months, residents questioned whether the nation is doing enough to stop terrorists.

“It feels that these attacks are now happening back to back,” said Ilan Cohn, 21, a student in Paris. “I am afraid that there will be more and more, just recently Charlie Hebdo and now this?

Yaccine Salhi, 35, a man once placed on a “radicalization list” drove his truck into a U.S.-owned gas factory in the southeastern French city Lyon on Friday, triggering an explosion as his boss’ severed head was found at the entrance, authorities said.

Two people were injured in the explosion of gas canisters. “Islamist terrorism has again struck France,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. He warned Saturday that France faces even more attacks.

Officials told the Associated Press and AFP on Saturday that Salhi took a selfie with the slain victim and sent the image to at least one recipient.

French security forces had been on high alert since Islamic extremist gunmen targeted the Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January, setting off several days of attacks in the city that left 20 people dead.

“These were the actions of a few isolated men but what if it’s not the case next time — we could have a mass attack by an organized network of fundamentalists,” Cohn said. “That’s really scary. It doesn’t feel like the authorities are able to prevent anything.”

Salhi — who remained in custody Saturday along with his wife and sister — was known to intelligence services but had not been actively monitored by security officers since 2008.

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No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack at U.S.-based Air Products’ factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier. It happened the same day as Islamic State-claimed attacks at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait and a beach resort in Tunisia. Overall, at least 66 people died across the three countries.

Several hundred people gathered in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier on Saturday to remember slain businessman Herve Cornara, 54, and denounce the violence, the Associated Press reported. Cornara was the manager of a transportation company in the region that had employed Salhi since March.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Salhi is believed to have been under the influence of the extreme Salafist branch of Islam that calls for the faithful to return to the religion’s roots. Arabic inscriptions were found scrawled on the victim and Islamic flags were discovered at the plant.

“Now we are not safe at all. If everything was under strict surveillance, we wouldn’t have this in France,” said Madeline Siloe, 33, a health coach from the French capital. “It doesn’t seem to me that there is a serious surveillance, that anyone is watching.”

But analysts say France has doubled its efforts to counter terrorism since the attack onCharlie Hebdo in January, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Since then, thousands of extra police and military forces have been posted at “sensitive sites,” such as tourist attractions and transport hubs, around the country. The parliament passed a sweeping surveillance bill this week giving vast powers to intelligence services. Opponents of the controversial legislation say it grants powers with little oversight and is broader than the much-maligned U.S. Patriot Act.

“It would be inaccurate to say that the French government hasn’t done enough to counter the terrorist threat in recent months and years,” said Benoît Gomis, an international security and terrorism expert at think tank Chatham House.

“If anything some of what has been put in place might have gone too far in terms of creating opportunity costs, grievances, and infringing on privacy and other civil liberties,” Gomis said. “It will never be possible to stop every single terrorist attack.”

About 1,700 French citizens are believe to be involved in “jihadist networks” as of last month. France also has one of the highest numbers of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq per capita in Europe, Gomis said.

Any measures to tackle the problem could be ineffective if France ignores the context in which people are attracted to radical causes, he added.

“More needs to be done to address some of the conducive factors to extremism of all sorts in France, especially on the social and political fronts,” Gomis said. “The government needs to ensure that this terrorist attack does not serve as a pretext to victimize the Muslim population, create tensions between communities or spread disproportionate levels of fear about terrorism.”

The number of terrorist attacks worldwide increased 35% last year. More than 78% of all terror-related fatalities took place in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, according to the U.S. Bureau of Counterterrorism. With France on high alert and bracing itself for what comes next, Paris resident Siloe says fear is not the answer.

“I am not afraid but I am worried, if said I am afraid it would mean they have won,” she said. “I think we have to be extremely vigilant and keep in mind what happened. We mustn’t forget about it tomorrow.”