The internet can be a highly effective channel to counter Jihadism
With a globally coordinated effort, however, the internet can be a highly effective channel to serve another important purpose. That is to activate Muslim intellectuals and moderate clerics across the world to produce and disseminate widely a counter-narrative to the violent ideology of jihadism. While some intellectuals and scholars, generally located in western societies, have written books and articles to counter the hate doctrine of the extremists, much more needs to be done within Muslim societies to counter narrow interpretations by radical clerics of Quranic texts and hadiths. This should now happen, much of it preferably in Arabic, Urdu and Pashto.
Importantly, Islam's compatibility with the ideas of democracy and the nation-state needs to be established in the minds of young Muslims. Major Nidal Hasan's case is a worrying one. Here was an American Muslim who had willingly sworn to defend his country by joining the army; yet, when it came to being actually deployed to fight he told himself, allegedly with guidance from a radical cleric on the internet, that his allegiance was to the Ummah and not to his country. He not only declined to fight other Muslims, he killed 13 soldiers who had similarly vowed to defend the nation. -- Gautam Adhikari
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Ummah And The Nation
By Gautam Adhikari
22 December 2009
WASHINGTON: The threat of home-grown Islamist terror is a new source of anxiety for Americans. The David Headley aka Daud Gilani case, Major Nidal Hasan's rampage in Fort Hood, Texas, the mysterious affair of five would-be terrorists from Northern Virginia - across the river Potomac from the national capital - who were arrested in Pakistan and a few other cases, have left security analysts scratching their heads.
The pilots of the 9/11 aircraft in 2001 had come from outside the United States. Nidal Hasan and the five lads from Virginia were all born in the United States and are American citizens. At a recent conference in a think tank here, Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy expressed grave concern over the phenomenon. Terrorist activities among immigrant minorities, he pointed out, had hitherto been more Europe's problem than America's. Clearly, that 's no longer true.
Irshad Manji of New York University - a brave woman who has written the daring book The Trouble with Islam Today - said on television the other night that the vast majority of America's 1.8 million Muslims were well integrated in American society. But a fringe, consisting almost entirely of young men, had been influenced by extremist propaganda, not so much from fiery clerics in mosques as is generally supposed but from incendiary matter posted on internet sites. She said such sites only highlighted the rage of Muslims around the world against those powers, chiefly the US, which were killing Muslims in wars, without mentioning the fact that an overwhelming majority of Muslim killings were being carried out by other Muslims.
Columnist Tom Friedman, who has a penchant for coining pithy labels and phrases, calls the global web war a "virtual Afghanistan". Whether we are there or not, we are all involved in Afghanistan now, potentially in the case of most of us, in reality for jihadi recruiters and planners wherever they might be operating. Add to that the global reach of today's cellphones. As we know well from a year ago in Mumbai, and as now documented brilliantly by Fareed Zakaria for HBO television, the Pakistan-based controllers of the 10 assassins used cellphones with terrifying efficacy.
So, combating global terrorism is becoming that much more challenging with the advances and reach of communications technology. The same technology, however, can help anyone who can use it with matching skill to unearth terrorist plots and recruitment drives.
Funding for terrorism is helped to an extent by the clandestine drugs trade in Pakistan-Afghanistan. But a lot of money flows into terrorist coffers from so-called charity set-ups in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and some Gulf nations. In a number of cases, especially in the case of Pakistan, the funds flow has a connection with shadowy intelligence operatives who want to keep the fires burning, because low intensity conflict by jihadis has long helped khaki Rawalpindi achieve its objectives.
After all, the Pakistani military, while ready to fight the Pakistani Taliban which is wreaking havoc in the country, is unwilling to move against the Afghan Taliban also based in Pakistan. The strategy has a clear objective - that of keeping future control of Afghanistan in Pakistan-friendly hands after the Americans have left. Yet, to the distress of the US and NATO forces who want to crush them, the Afghan Taliban are sheltering al-Qaeda leaders and exercising control over swathes of Afghan territory. Tracing any funds flow through Pakistan, in the circumstances, will remain hard.
Importantly, Islam's compatibility with the ideas of democracy and the nation-state needs to be established in the minds of young Muslims. Major Nidal Hasan's case is a worrying one. Here was an American Muslim who had willingly sworn to defend his country by joining the army; yet, when it came to being actually deployed to fight he told himself, allegedly with guidance from a radical cleric on the internet, that his allegiance was to the Ummah and not to his country. He not only declined to fight other Muslims, he killed 13 soldiers who had similarly vowed to defend the nation.
To the best of my knowledge, no Indian soldier has ever wrestled with such a dilemma. Most of our wars over the past six decades have been against an Islamic nation; Muslim soldiers have fought bravely for India, some have been highly decorated. Perhaps living in a democracy and accepting a national counter-narrative to radical religiosity helps us see things differently from the likes of Major Hasan.
The writer is a former executive editor of The Times of India.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi