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Ed Webb

What Went Wrong With France's Deradicalization Program? - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • When Vallat returned to France in 1994, he began visiting a Salafi mosque his GIA friends had recommended. Salafism, an ultraconservative, fundamentalist strain of Islam that aspires to emulate the Prophet Mohammed and return to the religion’s supposed original ways, has been known to breed jihadists. At the mosque, he was told that modern-day Islam was a domesticated product of colonization, and that true Islam was that of combatants, of sacrifice, of blood. Anyone opposing the jihadists must be annihilated, he was told. He read the Koran and began learning Arabic.
  • he began visiting a Salafi mosque his GIA friends had recommended. Salafism, an ultraconservative, fundamentalist strain of Islam that aspires to emulate the Prophet Mohammed and return to the religion’s supposed original ways, has been known to breed jihadists. At the mosque, he was told that modern-day Islam was a domesticated product of colonization, and that true Islam was that of combatants, of sacrifice, of blood. Anyone opposing the jihadists must be annihilated
  • After a few months, the residents were eating non-halal food. Residents also received a rigorous training in French nationalism: They were asked to wear uniforms and sing La Marseillaise, France’s national anthem, each morning.But deradicalization is a murky, unsettled science. A debate soon broke out among experts over how best to implement the program. Could radicalized youth be “cured” psychologically? Or was radicalization a structural problem, caused by inequality and segregation? What, for that matter, did it even mean to be radicalized?
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  • Reading Machiavelli and Rousseau gave him a new political idea—what he later referred to as the “gift of humanism,” where the potential for human goodness is regarded as a more important force than anything divine.  “I started to understand that all humans … can make a choice to believe in God,” Vallat, now 45, told me when we met at a sun-soaked café in central Lyon. “We can decide what we want, and the majority of our choices can be made to benefit us here on earth. Really, it shocked me.”
  • Though Vallat comes from an older generation of jihad, he insisted that radicalization remains much the same today. And the problem is worsening: some 350 “Islamic terrorists” currently sit in French prisons; another 5,800 are under police surveillance, and an additional 17,000 have been classified as a potential threat
  • The plan was to open an experimental “Center for Prevention, Integration, and Citizenship.” Radicalized men and women who’d been flagged by local prefectures for exhibiting withdrawn behavior were invited to voluntarily enter a program to “develop critical minds and appropriate citizenship and republican values,” according to its charter. If it went well, the government would open 12 more centers—one in each of France’s 13 districts.
  • Residents, who were aged between 18 and 30 and came from all over France, received lessons in French history, philosophy, literature, media, and religion, all with the goal of teaching them to “muscle their intellectual immune systems,” as Gerald Bronner, a French sociologist who worked at the center in Pontourny, put it. They also participated in daily therapy, art, and music classes. Group conversations centered on democracy, religion and laïcité, the French concept dating back to 1905 that calls for the separation of religion from politics.
  • Working as a junior al-Qaeda operative, he prepared to return to Bosnia as an arms dealer and die for Allah “like the Americans in Normandy.” But on August 29th, 1995, just a month after a bomb exploded inside a Paris metro killing eight and injuring 100, French authorities raided the cell and arrested Vallat. They were so surprised to find a French native that his mother was asked to confirm that he was not an undocumented Algerian.
  • Part of the difficulty, though, is in creating a program that avoids falsely categorizing Muslims who are conservative but not radicalized. While French intelligence monitors mosques, neighborhoods, and online activities, often there’s no way to tell if someone has fully committed to jihad until it’s too late.
  • “Radicalization” is subjective; it’s not like being ill or suffering from addiction. The idea that someone can possess the “wrong” radical ideology presumes there’s some “right” corpus of values. The CIPDR claimed to be addressing this problem by using the term “disengagement” instead of deradicalization. “Deradicalization means that we are going to withdraw the beliefs of a spirit,” Bronner wrote in an email. “This is not really the objective of the center; everyone has the right to believe what he wants. Rather, we want to help these radicalized young people make a declaration of mental independence to better control certain processes of deceptive reasoning such as conspiracy theories.”
  • “It’s a stupid idea to take young people from their homes. The problem is you need to re-socialize these people, not make them a bourgeois model.”
  • to Boukhobza, the “full-frontal” approach of “flag raising in the morning, courses in secularism, etc.,” was too aggressively nationalistic. “They’ve built a program in total opposition to the particular mental universe of the individuals. I don’t think it’s the right solution. Rather, they should propose not a counter-truth but something that can coexist.”
  • Is someone who rejects principles of laïcité inherently radical, even if they aren’t violent?
  • Even Vallat, still a practicing Muslim with a wife and daughter, doesn’t have an answer. “There always remains something of the pathway created from radicalization,” he wrote me later over email. “For example, I never go into a protected place without immediately imagining how to take it by storm. When I see a group of soldiers or policemen on the street, I cannot help but think how I’d neutralize them. I know today I will never do it, but this regard (or “outlook”) persists.”
Ed Webb

Egypt's Morsi Need Only Apply Law In Conflicts With Jihadists - Al-Monitor: the Pulse o... - 0 views

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    I used to chat to the author of this piece a lot in the 1990s: very well informed on all the Egyptian Islamist currents.
Ed Webb

Our revolution has been stolen, say Libya's jihadists | Reuters - 0 views

  • One effect of hostile reactions at home and abroad has been that some Islamist groups, part of a patchwork of militias which fill a vacuum left by Gaddafi, have made a tactical retreat from view, in some declaring their brigades to have disbanded.
  • Islamist fighters in Derna make clear they will seek redress for grievances, many with little to do with religion, some dating to colonial times, others rooted in a sense that victory in the fight against Gaddafi they began years ago has been "stolen" by his former henchmen and stooges of the West
  • "The state is making up this conspiracy. The state deliberately ignores the fact that there is an Islamic renaissance," said Dirbi, whose brother was among more that 1,200 Islamist inmates machine-gunned by guards in a Tripoli prison in 1996."I want to see Gaddafi's men on trial, not being rewarded and honored,"
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  • The town's radical reputation has lately been burnished by the presence of several former Guantanamo prisoners, including Sufyan bin Qumo, who heads the Ansar al-Shariah Islamist group blamed by the American for the U.S. embassy attack.
  • Some jihadists are already preparing for what they see is an inevitable showdown with those who seek to turn Libya into an "apostate" nation. They can see no compromise with an infidel West bent on changing Libya's Islamic identity.
  • For the Islamist groups, which are part of a Salafi movement whose members try to model their lives on the early followers of the Prophet Mohammad, the legitimacy of the newborn Libyan state is highly questionable."It's the revolution that made the state and some of the opportunists who did not participate in the revolution or shed any blood for the revolution are the ones who are forcing their orders on us," Azouz said.
  • "The solution is to draft an Islamic constitution ... and set up Sharia courts so that people can trust that this state is a true Islamic state,"
  • "In Libya it's only been a year and the idea of democracy and political parties is difficult for people to absorb. The people have not responded to this imported, packaged democracy. We don't accept it. We have a religion that needs to be taken into account," said Azouz, an English teacher who belongs to one of Derna's most prominent families.
  • The deep streak of radicalism in eastern Libya that fed on the neglect of towns such as Derna during the Gaddafi era is still strong these days. Many jihadists say the country's new rulers are favoring Tripoli just as the former dictator did.
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    Complicated dynamics
Ed Webb

Here's the Movie That Egyptians Just Stormed the U.S. Embassy Over - Max Fisher - The A... - 0 views

  • protesters in Cairo are gathered at the U.S. embassy compound, where some have scaled the walls and pulled down the American flag
  • protesting an American film that insults Prophet Mohammed
  • The movie is called Mohammed Nabi al-Muslimin, or Mohammed, Prophet of the Muslims. If you've never heard of it, that's because the few clips circulating online are dubbed in Arabic. The above clip, which is allegedly from the film (I haven't been able to confirm this) is one of the only in English. That's also because it's allegedly produced by Florida Pastor Terry Jones (yes, the asshole who burnt the Koran despite Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' pleas) and two Egyptians living in the U.S., according to Egyptian press accounts. The Egyptians are allegedly Coptic, the Christian minority that makes up about a tenth of Egypt
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  • some members of Egypt's sometimes-raucous, often rumor-heavy media have been playing highly offensive clips from the highly offensive film, stressing its U.S. and Coptic connections
  • an American-Coptic plot
  • it appears to compare Mohammed to a goat and Muslims, according to one translation, to "child-lovers."
  • The movie, like Terry Jones himself and his earlier Koran-burning stunt, have received attention far beyond their reach, which would be modest if not for obsessively outraged media. And yet, here the movie is, not just offending apparently significant numbers of people, but producing real-world damage. That damage is apparently limited to one American flag (CNN at one point reported that it had been torn, rumors continue to circulate that it was burned) and presumably the evenings of the U.S. embassy staff, but the U.S.-Egypt relationship is tense enough, and Muslim-Coptic mistrust has already produced scant but horrifying violence against the Christian minority. That doesn't mean this incident will become anything more than a bizarre moment of cross-cultural misunderstanding (the protesters seem to assume that, as in Egypt, movies must secure the state's approval), but that it could go so far is yet another reminder of the tensions jsut beneath the surface in Egypt.
Ed Webb

Salafist Nour Party visits Sinai to combat 'religious extremism' - Politics - Egypt - A... - 1 views

  • The group will hold a series of meetings urging Sinai citizens to stand by the army in combating the “Takfiri” mentality, referring to supremacist Islamist groups in the region.
Ed Webb

Insight: Mimicking al Qaeda, militant threat grows in Sinai | Reuters - 0 views

  • Diplomats and analysts say there is no evidence as yet of formal links between al Qaeda and the Sinai militants - made up of Bedouin aggrieved at their treatment by Cairo, Egyptians who escaped prisons during last year's uprising against Hosni Mubarak, and Palestinians from neighboring Gaza.
  • They blend a toxic mix of smuggling, gun-running and human trafficking with the "takfiri" ideology of al Qaeda - which declares all Muslims who do not follow their purist, Salafist interpretation of Islam as "kafirs" - infidels. Crime and religion are soldered by ferocious opposition to Israel.
  • "Our ammo is over and we don't know where we are."
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  • "What brought this ideology is the marginalization," says one resident. "If someone can't earn a living, he thinks the alternative is to be strict in worship."
  • Mubarak built up tourist resorts in South Sinai that locals say mostly benefited Egyptians from the Nile Valley, and tried to impose an Egyptian administrative structure on North Sinai which undermined the authority of local Bedouin tribal elders.
  • "They ran away in all directions and nobody knows where they went,"
  • In every village, three or four youths have disappeared to join the militants, sometimes inspired by al Qaeda propaganda over the Internet, and sometimes by preachers in local mosques.
  • North Sinai is in some ways similar to the tribal areas of Pakistan, where al Qaeda has dug deep roots. Both have been neglected by central government; both lie in the middle of wider political conflicts.And the authority of tribal leaders in both has been diminished as money - from crime, Gulf remittances and state patronage - filtered into other hands - making it easier for militants to promote unity in Islam over tribal loyalty.
  • the rise of these new Bedouin fundamentalists," said Yaari. "They are destroying the old tribal structures. They allow marriages between rival tribes and force women to wear the veil. This never happened before
  • Already, according to one Arab diplomat in Islamabad, Egyptian members of al Qaeda have begun to move back from Pakistan to take advantage of political changes at home.
  • "Al Qaeda is more interested in using Palestine as a tag for its global fight rather than have an actual base in Gaza or the West Bank," said one diplomat. "They believe a Palestinian group would have a more nationalist outlook."
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