English posts only

The sicherheitspolitik blog is based in Germany and publishes 90% of its content in German. As there are a number of posts in English, we offer this page http://www.sicherheitspolitik-blog.de/english/ that leaves (most) of the German content out. For a full list of posts featured on this blog (incl. the English content) check our home page.

Terrorism and Jihad: A Less Biased Debate Would Benefit Us

by Philipp Holtmann

A short while ago, an interested reader inquired about one of my articles on the topic of jihad and terrorism. I am thankful for the inspiring question. The reader asked me to clarify why there seems to be no difference between terrorism and jihad nowadays, and why this boundary has disappeared in debates by many people in the social media and in other places. more...

The Controversy of Blasphemy in Egypt

by Hakim Khatib

What’s that again? Blasphemy law?

An Egyptian court sentenced the Islamic scholar and theologian Islam Al-Buhairi to one year in prison for blasphemy. Al-Buhairi was accused of insulting Islam in his TV show “With Islam Al-Buhairi” on “Al-Qahira wa Al-Nas” channel. Al-Buhairi questioned the “Islamic heritage”, which angered the Al-Azhar scholarship.

Confused to say luckily or sadly, this sentence against Al-Buhairi was softened from five years to one year. Al-Buhairi’s lawyer Jamil Saad told AFP: „Islam Al-Buhairi didn’t insult religions because the pillars of Islam are the Quran, Allah and the Day of Judgment and he didn’t come close to these circles at all.“

Engaged in a demonstration of Egyptian liberal intellectuals against the conviction of Al-Buhairi, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Nasr said: “Blasphemy is a fascist law. It is a legacy of the Spanish inquisition courts.”

But what did Al-Buhairi really do? more...

What is that Syrian about the Syrian war?

By Hakim Khatib 

After five years of the Syrian war, we can recognize “four” conflicting parties on the ground – Assad, ISIS, rebel groups and the Kurds. Each one of these conflicting parties has regional and international backers, who ironically do not agree with each other about whom they are fighting for or against. The Syrian regime is backed by Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias. ISIS is backed by the flood of global Jihadists from all over the world. Rebel groups are backed by Gulf States, Turkey, Jordan and the US. The Kurds are supported by the US. While in the media, we always say “the Syrian conflict, crisis or war”, I wonder what makes this war that much Syrian. It is rather a war on the land of Syria, in which more than 50% of Syria’s population have been displaced, over 220 thousand have been killed, and many more have been injured or imprisoned. According to Amnesty international, more than 12.8 million Syrian people are in “urgent need of humanitarian assistance”. In addition to this humanitarian catastrophe, most of the Syrian land and infrastructure have been destroyed. So what is that Syrian about the Syrian “war”? more...

The Refugee Crisis and Our Connected Histories of Colonialism and Empire

This is the first article in our series on refugees. For more information on the series, please click here.

by Gurminder K Bhambra, University of Warwick

Attempts to address the current crisis often seek to make distinctions between ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’ and between refugees / migrants and citizens. But, I suggest, these distinctions are part of the problem. Part of the solution is to rethink our histories of ‘national states’ – and the rights and claims they enable – through a ‘connected sociologies’ approach that acknowledges the shared histories that bring states and colonies together.

The crisis – or tragedy – currently playing out on, and within, the borders of Europe cannot have escaped anyone’s attention. Especially not after pictures of the body of the 3 year old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, circulated around the world. Equally shocking, although in a different way, were the images of refugees being taken, without their knowledge, to camps on trains in Hungary. The crisis is not new, but is newly gaining traction within European news media and wider political and public opinion. It is confused with ongoing debates on immigration, the free movement of people within the EU, and the nature of our obligations within international refugee law. While these are distinct issues, they are also, as I will go on to suggest in conclusion, profoundly connected through our shared histories of colonialism and neo-colonialism. more...

The Struggle Over Ideological Power in the Middle East

by Hakim Khatib

Using religious frameworks in political contestation and mobilisation processes has become more eminent in recent decades spiralling an intricate debate on the conceptualisation and implementation of such references in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region The contradiction, it is argued, mainly lies in the compromising nature of politics and the relatively dogmatic nature of religion. Accentuated by inaccurate media coverage and primordial analytical frameworks, it has become tempting to see religion as responsible for conflicts and underachievement in the MENA region.

In the conventional sense, Islamic movements are often held responsible for incorporating religion in political processes. However, this is not always true as the nondemocratic states in the MENA region and elsewhere in the Muslim majority world had constantly attempted to control ideological power – Islamic religion and its organizations in this case – before Islamic movements even came to exist in the form we know today. The power struggle among political, yet conflicting actors over ideological power emerges from ideology’s distinctive form of social organization to legitimatize specific forms of authority and to solve contradictions in society. more...

Returning from the ‘IS’ – Experiences from the counseling service HAYAT-Germany

Von Julia Berczyk

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Teil XX unserer Serie zum „Islamischen Staat“
Persons traveling to participate in foreign conflicts by no means constitute a new phenomenon that is intrinsically tied to the ‘Islamic State’ (‘IS’). However, law enforcement agencies all over the world increasingly focus on foreign fighters travelling to Syria and Iraq due to a considerable rise in their number as well as the perceived threat they pose upon their return. Currently, around 650 German residents and citizens have travelled to the region to support jihadist groups such as the ‘IS’.

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Im Netz gegen Dschihadismus: Prävention mittels sozialer Medien

Von Patrick Möller

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Teil XIX unserer Serie zum „Islamischen Staat“
In dem Maße wie islamistische und dschihadistische Netzwerke die sozialen Medien zur Verbreitung ihrer Ideologie nutzen, bieten diese auch die Chance zur Prävention. Dies kann gleichwohl zum Spagat werden, wie im Folgenden anhand von Beispielen dargelegt wird.

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Muslim Critique of IS Ideology

Von Hazim Fouad

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Teil XVIII unserer Serie zum „Islamischen Staat“
The burning of the Jordan pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh created a worldwide outcry, which was noticeably vocal in the Islamic world. Not only were we able to see people taken to the streets, we could also witness an utter condemnation of this act by prominent religious institutions like al-Azhar. Moreover, even before this terrific event the so called Islamic State (IS) has been criticized on various occasions by prominent Muslim scholars. The common trope these statements share is that despite its name, IS does not represent “true Islam”. The most prominent document in this regard surely is the open letter, which was addressed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed “caliph” of IS, signed by 174 prominent Muslim figures and spokespersons from all over the world and which has been translated into multiple languages. The Facebook group that formed around this letter has currently reached over 100.000 likes and has developed into a hub for people from all over the world, who oppose IS ideology from a Muslim perspective. Although there has been some media coverage mentioning the publication of the letter, its actual contents have not been discussed very much in detail so far. So what does the document actually say? Let’s have a closer look:

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How to deal with ISIS? Lessons Learned from Afghanistan

Von Thomas Müller

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Teil XVII unserer Serie zum „Islamischen Staat“
Obama is often criticized for not allowing “boots on the ground” against ISIS. But lessons learned from Afghanistan show that there are no simple military solutions to political problems. Achieving a sustainable success will not be possible without a long term political commitment to the region.

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Why the Islamic State’s „caliphate“ is not sustainable

Von Yassin Musharbash

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Teil IX unserer Serie zum „Islamischen Staat“
Last November, the media organisation of the „Islamic State“ (IS) published a video, the sole purpose of which was to prove that the „caliphate“ which the IS has established in June 2014 was in fact a proper state. The video highlighted a host of institutions in order to drive home the claim of real statehood, including examples like a working judiciary, a prison administration, a schooling system, and so on. At one point in the video, the IS claimed that it was also financially independent and had apt resources at its disposal, namely oil and gas.

However, while it is true that the IS controls a number of oil and gas fields in Syria as well as in Iraq, we have by now enough evidence to be rather sure that the economic base of the „caliphate“ is by no means sustainable.

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Islamic State and Boko Haram: A burgeoning partnership?

By Yan St-Pierre

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Part VI of our series on ISIS

In 2014, two insurgency organisations stood out by their expansion, success and brutality: The Islamic State (IS) and Boko Haram (BH). The former emerged from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and became a major actor in the Middle East, its influence reaching beyond the borders of its self-proclaimed “caliphate”, while the latter spread its violence throughout north-eastern Nigeria, spilling over into Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Because of their still growing success, many wonder about a possible partnership between IS and BH. To this I answer that there is a connection, but no partnership. Currently, any evidence suggesting a partnership is circumstantial at best.

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ISIS vs. al-Qaeda: The struggle for the soul of the jihadist movement

By Guido Steinberg

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Part V of our series on ISIS
Since 2003, several organizations in the Arab world swore allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaida and became part of what was been called “al-Qaeda’s affiliate network”. The emergence of al-Qaeda groups in Saudi Arabia 2003, Iraq 2004, Algeria 2007 and Yemen 2009 convinced many supporters and enemies that there was a truly global network of jihadist groups at work, commanded and controlled by the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.

However, the reality was a lot more complicated. Far from being subordinate to Osama Bin Laden and Aiman al-Zawahiri, these organizations were not willing to submit to al-Qaeda command and control. Their relationship with “al-Qaeda central” was rather an alliance between independent partners of different strength. Although the al-Qaeda leadership sometimes influenced decisions taken by the regional groupings, there are numerous examples of “affiliates” ignoring its advice even regarding strategic issues.

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Perceptions of IS by the global jihadist movement

By Andreas Armborst

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Part IV of our series on ISIS
One element within US counter-terrorism strategies is “reducing terrorist group cohesion”, as the think tank RAND recommends in one of its reports. The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (CTC) puts these recommendations into actions. Reports like ”Cracks in the Foundation” or ”Dysfunction and Decline” vividly depict the internal disagreement and disunity between al-Qaeda central (AQ) and its regional affiliates, most of all AQ in Iraq (AQI). Albeit these reports are drafted by pundits and certainly provide meaningful and often rare insights into the inner life of the global jihadi movement, they also serve another purpose: to deliberately amplify the very same trend they describe: disunity.

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ISIS‘ Politics of Sex

By Mathieu Guidere

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Part III of our series on ISIS
In the late summer of 2014, the international community watched helplessly as ISIS unleashed widespread serious human rights violations against civilians across Syria and Iraq. Of note, were the different forms of sexual abuse initially directed against women from the Yazidi community of Sinjar, but rapidly expanded to women from many regions and backgrounds. Far from being attributable to isolated incidents or to the behavior of a few individuals, the abuses were, and continue to be, part of the “sexual politics” implemented by ISIS in all “wilayas” (regions) under its control and endorsed by its military hierarchy. The abuses represent a clear example of the use of rape as a weapon of war, based on the “theology of sexuality” in a war zone. Fatwas and theological arguments inspired by the medieval practices of historical Muslim armies provide the justification for the policies and practices. more...

Belgian Fighters In Syria and Iraq

By Pieter Van Ostaeyen

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Part II of our series on ISIS
On Thursday January 15, only a week after the bloody attacks in Paris by the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibali, Belgium was on high alert. In a raid carried out by police and security forces in the small village of Verviers, two alleged terrorists were shot dead, a third suspect was arrested. The action was part of a larger operation carried out throughout the country to prevent imminent attacks by a group of Islamists, some of whom were directly tied to the war in Syria and Iraq. In the days that followed it became clear that the prevented attacks probably were aimed at a high ranking police official. The terror threat level was subsequently raised to level three, indicating that the threat of attacks was imminent. What makes Belgium such a hub for Jihadis? more...