By Hakim Khatib

Radicalisation is a phenomenon that has been striking not only in parts of Asia and Africa but also in the heart of Europe. While the number of Muslims in Germany is estimated by 4,7 millions (5,8%), 70% of the almost 900,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in recent years are believed to be Muslims. It is undeniable that there is discrimination in Germany, and it is equally undeniable that more on issues of integration and conflict prevention should be done. Thus, could effective integration processes prevent radicalisation of the Muslim youth in Europe?

by Alexander Quint

As part of her tour of Africa, German chancellor Angela Merkel recently (Tuesday, 11 October 2016) visited the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, which is also home to the headquarters of the African Union. During a joint press conference with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Merkel urged the Ethiopian government to open up politics and halt violent behaviour by police in response to peaceful demonstrations.

Since early August, over a hundred civilian protesters have reportedly been killed by security forces in Ethiopia’s Amhara and Oromiya regions as well as in Addis Ababa. These crackdowns on generally peaceful demonstrations follow the same pattern as the violently repressed protests that started in October 2015 and which lasted several months. Human Rights Watch estimates that overall, more than 500 people have been killed since then, in addition to tens of thousands of arrests. Last year, the protests took place almost exclusively in Oromiya. Now they have also spread to Amhara. The regions are inhabited mostly by ethnic groups of the same name. Both Amhara and Oromo are citing dissatisfaction with the government’s track record of economic, social and security policies, saying that they are discriminated against and left in a general state of disadvantage by Desalegn’s predominantly Tigrayan regime.

by Fabien Merz

Since 2013, the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) has warned of a heightened threat emanating from jihadi terrorism in Switzerland. According to FIS’s assessment, the threat has continuously risen since then and reached a new high in 2016. This is a new situation for a country that has, since the two attacks conducted by Palestinian groups targeting an El Al airplane in Kloten in 1969 and the bombing of a Swissair machine in 1970, remained largely unscathed by terrorism. This has remained true even in the decade after 9/11 when a wave of jihadi terrorism inspired and often directed by al-Qaeda struck urban centers in Europe and elsewhere on multiple occasions.1

A few reasons are usually named why Switzerland has been less affected by jihadist terrorism than other European countries. Most notably, its foreign policy informed by neutrality that made Switzerland less likely to become a deliberate target of jihadi groups as well as the country’s low levels of domestic radicalization. Indeed, a study conducted by ETH Zürich in 2013 found that Switzerland has been less touched by jihadist radicalization than other European countries. This, the study argued, was due to a number of factors. Firstly, the absence of “infecting clusters”, i.e. a jihadist mosque or a network of committed jihadists operating on its soil. Secondly, Switzerland’s ability to provide a good degree of social, economic and cultural integration to most Muslims living in Switzerland. Thirdly, the fact that 80-90% of the Swiss Muslim population trace their roots back to the Balkans and Turkey and that they often practice a tolerant and apolitical form of Islam thereby makes them more impermeable to radicalization. Finally, Swiss neutrality and the foreign policy resulting from it also plays a role by not giving any reasons of resentment to most Swiss Muslims.

  1.  However, Swiss citizens have been killed or kidnapped by various terrorist groups abroad.

By Hakim Khatib

It is estimated that a number between 27,000 and 31,000 foreign fighters have been flocking to Iraq and Syria since the breakout of the war in 2011.

An updated assessment of the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq shows that there is a significant increase in the number of foreign fighters travelling to Syria. Data provided by the Soufan Group in 2014 estimated that the identifiable number of foreign fighters is approximately 12,000 from 81 countries. It was also believed that the number of foreign Jihadists coming form Western countries does not exceed 3000: “Around 2,500 are from Western countries, including most members of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand”, according to Soufan’s initial report on Foreign Fighters in Syria. Now the number exceeds 27,000 foreign fighters from at least 86 countries.

by Erika Brady

The UK’s Counter-Terrorism strategy, known as CONTEST, is recognized as one of the most successful soft-focus strategies in the world, with an intended emphasis on community support and what have become known as ‘Prevent’ (or counter-extremism) measures. In all, there are four limbs to CONTEST: PREVENT, PROTECT, PURSUE and PREPARE. While there is much crossover between these areas, for example policing activities take place in all four limbs, each one has a specific focus with its own intrinsic goals. This article intends to provide an overview of CONTEST, and to explore the challenges of evaluating counter-terrorism strategies in general. In doing so, I intend to show that while robust and independent evaluation of CONTEST has not been undertaken from a quantitative approach, some level of evaluation has taken place and can be taken into consideration when moving forward with future analysis of the strategy.

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.

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?

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”?

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.

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.

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’.

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.

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:

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.

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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