COUNTER-TERRORISM POLICIES FUELING ISLAMOPHOBIA

MASS SURVELLAINCE OF MUSLIMS HELPS FIGHT TERROR.

Instead of exploiting terrorists attacks in the West by making the case for bulk data surveillance, intelligence agencies ought to instead explain for themselves how and why they were not able to uncover any trace of the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015 or the series of coordinated attacks across Paris in November 2015 that led to the killings of 130 innocent civilians let alone for example, the scale of Salah Abdeslam’s network and his ability to avoid capture for six months after the attack.

What is the point of spending billions on a multi-layered, cumbersome intelligence apparatus, hacking email accounts, tapping cell phones or drowning oneself in secret information if we have to be caught at-footed every time with a surprise attack (zero knowledge of the respective networks that carried out both the Paris and Brussels mass attacks), all the while sowing resentment through discriminatory levels of surveillance and harassment among its Muslim citizens?

In fact, what is the point of being able to “read ISIS communiqués when the government ignores the socioeconomic, ethno-cultural and urban subcultural background” of what’s happening within the local communities? (Source: A message from Molenbeek: ‘We are not terrorists’ by Aleksandra Eriksson, 19 November 2015, Aljazeera.com)

From the swift collapse of the Iraqi security forces to the rise of ISIS to the Russians beginning their full-scale bombing campaign in Syria, what is the point of having hundreds of thousands of analysts and intelligence operatives spending close to US$70 billion annually on counter intelligence when it runs counter to gathering intelligence and the West is caught o guard when these so-called trigger events take place?

Therefore, mass surveillance has not proven to help thus far, and the case against it grows stronger every time there is an unexpected attack on civilians.

WE SHOULD THEN TACKLE RADICALISATION BY SPYING ON MOSQUES.

Over in the UK as well as in America, the abject failure of the Prevent strategy, if it can actually be called a strategy – has increasingly become a pathway to stigmatising all young Muslims. (Source: What to do when the book police arrive: read on, AL Kennedy, 7 August 2016, The Guardian), sowing the seeds of mistrust and fear of Muslims and Islam by the British government.

Similar to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s disastrous CVE programme, functionally tailored to police Muslim Americans, “Prevent” (read “country-wide spying on Muslims and state-backed Islamophobia”) is yet another valid example of misguided intelligence. Why isn’t anyone honest enough to point out the intelligence apparatus ought to stop confusing religiosity for extremism and radicalisation does not take place in mosques?

Worse still, planting informants at mosques and schools and spying on Muslims en masse has never worked in the past and there is no evidence to support it will work in the future. Instead, the principal source of brainwashing and recruitment is the hard-to-govern internet, an area Western governments need to find a way to master.

In France, Xavier Bertrand, a former French labor and health minister, said in a parliamentary statement in late November 2015: “The focus should not be on mosques, but on countering radical websites. “It’s Imam Google. That’s where they go, not to the mosque”.

Mosques are places where people of faith go to hear hopeful messages in good times as well as in periods of adversity. Therefore if the real intention is to develop a containment strategy of extremism thinking, the mosque actually serves as an indispensable source.

In fact, in nine out of 10 cases if not more, individuals with Muslim names that have participated in acts of terror are not known to visit mosques bringing into question the lopsided rationale of intelligence gathering at mosques.

“If you listen to anti-terror judges, they will tell you that radicalisation takes place outside of mosques. It happens in jails or clandestine circles or via the internet”. (Source: Activists decry mosque closures in France by Anealla Safdar, 3 December 2015, Aljazeera.com)

Writing for the Independent, Joshua Stewart sums it up:

Prison is where this experience can be connected and ne tuned into a “higher purpose.” For the recruiter, vulnerable people and gang members are ideal recruits – they are people who may require protection when inside or validation that their lives can have purpose – and that the state has always been “against them”. The dangling of religion and ideology forms what we might call a “tangible legitimiser” of past and future behaviours. (Source: What we do know about the Paris Orly attacker should concern us – terrorism doesn’t always start where we think, Joshua Stewart, 20 March 2017, The Independent)

BUT SPYING ON MUSLIMS HELPS COMBAT TERROR.

For more than six years after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a secretive police-spying program targeted New York and New Jersey Muslims solely because of their faith. But after the program was exposed in a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by The Associated Press, an NYPD officer was forced to admit that all that spying had been for naught.

In a sworn deposition submitted to the court as part of a lawsuit, the chief of the NYPD Intelligence Division, Lt. Paul Galati, conceded that the mass NYPD surveillance of Muslims had yielded exactly zero leads into criminal or terrorist activity. (Source: American Mosques Are Actually A Great Deterrent Against Violent Extremism, Christopher Mathias, 21 June 2016, Huffington Post)

Although right-wing groups or white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan or Aryan Brotherhood account for the vast majority of the violence ordinary Americans face today, the US government has developed the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programme to counter terrorism among Arab- and Muslim-American community exclusively, a segment that accounts for less than 5 percent of all acts of violence since September 2001 while curiously, nothing similar exists for white supremacist or self-professed Christians or other groups prone to gun violence. Why?

WHY ARE MUSLIMS AGAINST SELF-SURVEILLANCE?

Why do politicians push for more “self-surveillance” among Muslims but do not ask Christian churches to police themselves for the actions of white supremacists especially given more civilians have been killed by right-wing white Christian violence in the West than by Muslims (including the abhorrent massacre in Orlando in June 2016)?

Even the New York Times reported in 2015 that since Sept. 11, 2001, almost twice as many people have died at the hands of white supremacists, anti-government fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims.

As UNC Professor Charles Kurzman and Duke Professor David Schanzer explained last June [2015] in the New York Times, Islam- inspired terror attacks “accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.” Meanwhile, “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities. (Source: You Are More Than 7 Times As Likely To Be Killed By A Right-Wing Extremist Than By Muslim Terrorists by Ian Millhiser, 30 November 2015, Think Progress)

As a regrettable example once every couple of days, there is a news report of some disaffected “white person emptying his gun chamber at a movie theater, clinic, school or church, yet no one proposes to lock down white neighborhoods or close American borders to white men” (Source: Trump, Cruz ideas are just plain stupid, Leonard Pitts Jr., 25 March 2016, Miami Herald) because of it but lo and behold, when a shooting is caused by an individual with a Muslim name, the rules change. Why?

Americans are seven times more likely to be killed by a right-wing, violent extremist than by a Muslim violent extremist, and many, many times more likely to be killed by gun violence than violent extremism generally. And yet, the government doesn’t seem concerned with either gun violence or violent extremism arising from non-Muslim communities. (Source: Is Islam Responsible For The Orlando Nightclub Shooting?, 14 July 2016, Todd Green, Huffington Post)

BUT PEOPLE WITH MUSLIM NAMES WHO COMMIT TERRORIST ATTACKS IN THE NAME OF ISLAM ARE ALL RELIGIOUS.

If you were to examine the profile of every single self-professed Muslim “lone-wolf ”, that has committed an act of violence in the last decade, you will notice how these acts are perpetrated by radicalised people made vulnerable themselves by mental health issues or petty crimes (the classic “crime-terror” nexus), individuals who have been promised redemption by online extremist clerics and religious zealots in jail.

To restore a sense of significance in their lives, they are led to feel a greater sense of purpose foolishly thinking an act of terrorism will win them a ticket into eternal rewards in the afterlife. A scam does not get any bigger than this.

In the words of Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer with extensive experience with Mideast extremist organizations: “Those who truly crave religious immersion would go to Al-Azhar in Cairo”, referring to the thousand-year-old seat of learning for Sharia and Qur’anic studies.

“If martyrdom is seen as the highest religious calling, then a reasonable expectation would be that the people with the most knowledge about Islamic law (Sharia) would desire to carry out these operations with greater frequency but those with the most religious knowledge within the organization itself are the least likely to volunteer to be suicide bombers”. (Source: ‘Islam for Dummies’: IS recruits have poor grasp of faith, By Aya Batrawy, Paisley Dodds and Lori Hinnant, Aug 15, 2016, Associated Press)

According to most scholars and terrorism experts who study terrorism, religion is not a motivating factor for terrorists. In fact, most militants are religiously illiterate. Marc Sageman, a former CIA analyst and psychiatrist is on record saying very few terrorists know and understand the Qur’an or other Islamic texts and traditions. They may not be uneducated but their engagement with Islam is shallow and uninformed. (Source: Is Islam Responsible For The Orlando Nightclub Shooting?, 14 July 2016, Todd Green, Huffington Post)

In fact, an AP analysis of thousands of leaked ISIS documents in 2016 revealed most of its recruits from its earliest days came with only the most basic knowledge of Islam. A little more than 3,000 of these documents included the recruit’s knowledge of Sharia, the system that interprets into law verses from the Qur’an and “Hadith” (the narrated sayings and actions of Muhammad [PBUH] . . . According to the documents, 70 per cent of recruits were listed as having just “basic” knowledge of Sharia – the lowest possible choice. Around 24 per cent were categorized as having an “intermediate” knowledge, with just five per cent considered advanced students of Islam. Five recruits were listed as having memorized the Qur’an . . . ISIS’ most notorious new supporters appear to have an equally tenuous link with religion. Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel, who killed 85 people by plowing a truck into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, France, was described by family and neighbors as indifferent to religion, volatile and prone to drinking sprees, with a bent for salsa dancing and a reported male lover. (Source: Islam for Dummies’: IS recruits have poor grasp of faith by Aya Batrawy, Paisley Dodds and Lori Hinnant, Aug. 15, 2016, Associated Press)

WHAT ABOUT MUSLIM REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS. THEY ARE ATTACKING THE WEST.

In a candid article on right-wing violence, the author raises at least five important points worth remembering:

(1) To date, no ISIS member or Syrian refugee has ever bombed or planned to bomb a black church or home;

(2) Nor have they [Muslims] walked into a Bible Study in the basement of a black church and unleashed a hail of bullets;

(3) Neither are [Muslims] at fault for the continuing epidemic of unarmed black men, women, boys, and girls murdered by police officers in the streets of America;

(4) They [Muslims] have not turned our communities into militarized zones;

(5) Nor have black people mysteriously died in their prisons.

(Source: American Terrorist by Michael W Waters on 25 November 2015, Huffington Post)

WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT MUSLIMS WHO ARE GETTING RADICALISED FURTHER.

We are often told endlessly about how terrorism radicalises Muslims. What is not as often pointed out is that terrorism radicalises all sorts of people in all sorts of ways. Individuals with Muslim names who commit acts of terror, and non-Muslim citizens of the West who overreact in ways, ultimately detrimental to everyone else around them, as the May & June 2017 attacks in Portland, USA and Finsbury Park, UK, among others illustrate.

In Portland, USA a 53-year-old U.S. Army veteran Rick Best and 23-year-old recent university graduate Taliesin Myrddin Namkai- Meche were both murdered, while 21-year-old poet Micah David-Cole Fletcher was severely injured, by a knife-wielding white supremacist Jeremy Joseph Christian, when the three of them tried to prevent him from harassing a Muslim woman in a headscarf on their commuter train in Portland, Oregon in late May 2017.

At the Finsbury Park Mosque, UK an elderly Muslim man was purposefully struck and killed by a van driver Darren Osborne, following late night prayers in Ramadan in late June 2017. Worse still, Richard Gear Evans son of the owner of the Van hire company, Stobart Group, later said: “It’s a shame they don’t hire out tanks”, illustrating the culture of hatred towards Muslims.  Nonetheless, are white Britons en masse or ordinary white Americans asked to condemn these heinous acts just as Muslims are perpetually asked to condemn Islamist acts of violence? Just as equally important, is the question being asked: Who radicalised these persons?

Given the typical draconian measures every time there is a terrorist attack, which in turn often encourage racism and the disproportional media coverage of attacks by lone-wolves with Muslim names who commit acts of violence in the name of Islam, governments in the West are responsible for planting the seeds for radicalisation and essentially helping extremists recruit by fueling the narrative that the West is anti- Islam and anti-Muslim. Social exclusion and the idea to isolate the Muslim community is the root cause of radicalisation (Source: I’ve studied radicalisation – and Islamophobia often plants the seed, Sarah Lyons-Padilla, 13 June 2016, The Guardian)

 “The counterterrorism apparatus is the key element in disadvantaging Muslims. We should talk about people being attacked on buses or refused service in shops, but what stands behind all that is government counterterrorism policy”. (Source: Muslims face ‘worsening environment of hate’ in UK by Simon Hooper, 18 November 2015, Aljzeera.com quoting David Miller, a professor of sociology at the University of Bath on government counter- terrorism policies that were the “backbone” of Islamophobia in the UK)

Citing an example of a failed anti-terror legislative strategy in Australia: Almost 60 pieces of legislation dealing with terrorism have been passed since 2002 . . .There is no evidence that the vast array of powers that police security agencies and government lawyers have had since 2002 in Australia have stopped a terrorist attack. There is certainly no evidence that the latest proposals will do any such thing – if anything, as noted above, they are an invitation to radicalise. (Source: Welcome to authoritarian Australia, where more anti-terror laws won’t keep us safe by Greg Barns on 13 October 2015, The Guardian)

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