THE POST-“CALIPHATE” TERRORISM: A MORE COMPLEX THREAT FOR EUROPE

Author : Mircea Birca | Monday, November 26, 2018
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The release from prison, in London, on October 19, of radical preacher Anjem Choudary, jailed in 2016 for inviting support for Daesh, brought to the attention the persistence of the terrorist risks faced by Europe, but also the fact that those risks became more complex, in the context of the evolution of Daesh and the developing radical Islam across the continent.

Anjem Choudary is considered one of the UK’s most dangerous radicalizers. He has been described as someone who has had a “huge influence on Islamist extremism in this country” by former Met Police terror chief Richard Walton. Choudary was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison for leading an extremist network linked to violent jihadists, including one of the killers of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013. He served half of his sentence and will complete the rest under supervision, with the police preparing up to 25 measures to control him.

According to British legislation, when an offender is released at the midway point of the sentence, the rest is spent in the community “on license.” He will not be free and must comply with a list of conditions. If he breaches them, he risks being recalled to prison. After his release from Belmarsh prison, Choudary will be placed in a probation hostel for six months and must comply with several conditions, including:

  • A ban from preaching at or attending certain mosques
  • He will only be allowed to associate with people who have been approved by the authorities
  • He will be allowed one phone and is banned from using an internet-enabled device without permission
  • Use of the internet will be supervised
  • He will not be able to leave the UK without permission.

At the same time, it was announced Choudary had his assets frozen and was listed on a global record of known terrorists overseen by the United Nations Security Council. The asset-freezing order means he will be under extremely strict financial controls which typically mean the authorities will be alerted if he tries to open a bank account or move money.

In this context, analysts note that, from the lone extremists with no apparent connections to terrorist groups, to fighters aligned with Daesh or al-Qaeda in more than two dozen countries, terrorist threats are more complex than ever. Daesh, in particular, is adapting to setbacks and increasingly using the tools of globalization, including Bitcoin and encrypted communications, to take their fight underground and rally adherents around the world.

Many counterterrorism specialists voiced concern that, in the context of Daesh’s defeat on the ground, reducing the resources for the anti-terror fight could give violent extremists time and space to regroup and rebound, as Daesh did in 2013, emerging from the ashes of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel R. Coats maintains that with the loss of territory, the Daesh threat in 2018 is that the organization will regroup in a long-term insurgency to re-establish itself in the region while giving priority to transnational terror attacks and global interconnection.

Also, in May 2018, in an address in Berlin[1], Andrew Parker, the head of Britain’s domestic spy service, MI5, said that “Europe faces an intense, unrelenting and multidimensional international terrorist threat.”

There are huge numbers of individuals that the security services in various countries are concerned about. From official statistics, the estimated numbers as of 2017 are: in Britain, 23,000-35,000 individuals of concern to security services, 3,000 of which the government is actively concerned about; in France, 17-20,000; in Belgium over 18,000; in Germany, over 24,000; in Spain, 5,000.

In Britain, there were 18 plots foiled from March 2013 to August 31, 2017. This includes 5 from March 2017 to August 2017 alone. In the first part of 2018, there have been 12 terrorist plots foiled.

1. Daesh: transforming itself after losing its “caliphate”

While Daesh lost nearly 98 percent of the territory it seized in 2014 in Iraq and Syria and many of the group’s senior leaders have been killed, American intelligence and military officials warn that the group still has a potent appeal on social media for adherents, from Europe to the Philippines, to carry out attacks wherever they are.

Daesh is also ripe for a comeback in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq and Syria, mainly based on its still considerable financial resources, since the group has proven that it is capable of making money even without controlling a large territory.

A United Nations report released in August 2018 said Daesh has up to 30,000 members distributed roughly equally between Syria and Iraq, and said its global network increasingly poses a threat. The UN report said that despite the group’s defeat in Iraq and most of Syria, it is likely that a reduced “covert version” of Daesh’s “core” will survive in both countries, with significant affiliated supporters in Afghanistan, Libya, Southeast Asia and West Africa.

The UN report noted, “despite the damage to [its] bureaucratic structures…the collective discipline of [Daesh] is intact…and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi remains in authority.” Daesh is transforming itself from a “proto-state” to a traditional “terrorist” network, not unlike al-Qaeda’s metamorphosis after being decimated during the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan.

Sahraa”, “Sahwat” and “Sawlat

While the West tends to view the fight against Daesh in discrete phases, for the jihadis it is a long campaign and has been since the early days of its founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Consequently, Daesh is likely to repeat its strategy of going underground before re-emerging in force, once again able to recapture enough territory for the next stage of its caliphate-building project.

For Daesh, rural insurgency is as important as urban warfare in order to degrade enemies, recruit members, and lay the groundwork for their long-term survival or next return if defeated. Rural insurgency is a strategy that they have long thought about and planned for, and Daesh has prioritized the borderlands where both the Iraqi and Syrian governments have more limited reach, and it is here where the jihadi project is thought to flourish again.

The terrain between Iraq and Syria is comparable both in value and threat to the militant hub existing along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. The area acquired the moniker “AfPak” and began being perceived and treated as a single theater. Concurrently, the “Syraq” space extends deep into Syria and Iraq with favorable sociopolitical conditions for jihadis to endure, entrench, and emerge again. This region is the soft underbelly of both Iraq and Syria, a fact unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

Daesh’s strategy to resume its insurgency from rural areas after the collapse of its “government” is often expressed in three terms used in its Arabic-language publications: “sahraa,” or desert; “sahwat,” or Sunni opponents; and “sawlat,” or hit-and run operations.

“Sahraa” (desert) was mentioned by Daesh since the summer of 2016 as a viable place to launch its post-caliphate insurgency and to inflict damage on government forces in remote areas and on vital highways linking Syria and Jordan to Iraq. Invoking the desert also draws parallels to the last time the organization was deemed defeated in Iraq after 2008.

The term “sahwat” (Sunni opponents)was originally restricted to the tribal Awakening Councils established in western Iraq to fight Daesh’s predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in 2007. The term has since been broadened to include all opponents and collaborators with the opponents coming from Sunni communities.

The “sawlat” (hit-and-run operations) are used by Daesh to show a far-reaching and ceaseless insurgency in rural areas and urban centers, to deter its opponents and to discourage any fledgling state-run governance or security structures in areas it previously controlled.

Together, these three elements shape Daesh’s formula of survival after the caliphate. Even though the group suggested it would withdraw to the desert, future attacks will still focus on urban centers, with rural areas acting as pathways between the two terrains. As the group retreats from its last strongholds, its operations will target new governing structures and Sunni collaborators in order to prevent the establishment of alternatives to Daesh rule that might appeal to local communities in predominantly tribal and rural areas. Hit-and-run attacks would demonstrate that nothing is out of Daesh’s reach, even if its ability to control territory has plummeted.

Daesh has also spoken of the enhanced abilities of its clandestine network to resume a post-caliphate insurgency to exhaust and erode its enemy. This network is led by the “amniyat,” or security units. Even at the height of its strength in 2014, the amniyat continued to operate underground. Such units were typically tasked with clandestine work within local communities, behind enemy lines, and even within the organization itself. Thus, they are the most likely to melt back into the population by virtue of their anonymity, expertise and mobility.

Daesh 2.0: the virtual “caliphate”

Even without territory, Daesh is likely to maintain its powerful and expansive online presence. Its propaganda machines will continue to spin its activities and losses in ways that are favorable to the group. Daesh has already been producing propaganda that paints territorial losses as a fulfillment of prophecies and has moved away from its original focus on “remaining and expanding”. Now, territory is not presented as being important, the important thing to do is continuing to fight, and defeats are portrayed as tests to determine who is a true believer.

Analysts agree that the least predictable are Daesh’s virtual adherents, radicalized online and nursing all kind of grievances, who turn to random acts of violence. Several of the recent attacks were carried out by individuals with little understanding of Daesh’s ideology, deep personal grudges and no direct contact with the group’s hierarchy. But that didn’t prevent Daesh from declaring the perpetrators “soldiers of the Caliphate.” These individuals, radicalized by what they read and hear, pose a continuing danger, especially in societies where high-powered weapons are easy to come by. By definition, they have few if any co-conspirators and they take inspiration from social media sermons and lectures.

Reflecting Daesh’s change in tactical emphasis, its media priorities have been changing, too. In the absence of the torrent of propaganda that once characterized it, the “virtual caliphate” has also been evolving. Its online presence has come to look much more like a “conventional” terrorist group, a shift that raises a far subtler, more insidious range of issues that will likely prove to be more difficult for policymakers to meaningfully address.

This new effort appears to have been left to the organization’s increasingly important legion of online supporters-cum-volunteer media operatives called the munasirun (supporters). While many of them have been around for years, they have increasingly become orators of the caliphate brand. As a result, the distinction between official and unofficial material and operations has begun to blur.

The virtual caliphate has evolved to keep up with its shifting goals, building on the years its operatives spent entrenching its administrative and logistical capabilities online. While Daesh’s overall appeal may be a shadow of what it was in 2015, its ability to inspire and stage attacks and cultivate fledgling clusters of ideologically-aligned militants around the world could well exceed the expectations in the months and years to come.

2. Powerful ideology and tactic – manuals for jihadists

In analyzing the evolution of Daesh and the new threats for Europe, many counterterrorism experts warned that the atrocities and terrorist acts authored or inspired by Daesh are not isolated incidents or committed by rogues that got out of control, but are part of a complex and long-term strategy that aims to transform the whole world into a “caliphate”.

This strategy is illustrated mainly by two books that refer to the ideology and tactics of jihad and have been core teachings to Daesh’s 6,000 European Muslims who travelled to the caliphate. These texts were also been used by al-Qaeda and Nigeria’s militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, to justify and commit atrocities.

Jihad’s jurisprudence

One of the most important jurisprudential works used by Salafi-jihadist terrorist groups in general, and Daesh and its associates in particular, is a 579-page text, “Issues in the Jurisprudence of Jihad” (Mas’ail Fi Fiqh al-Jihad), commonly described as the “bible for jihadists”, or the jihadis’ interpretation of jihad.[2]

Written by one of the key Daesh ideologues, Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir, it seeks to establish a justification for acts of terrorism – such as assassinations, kidnapping, suicide bombings, beheadings, the killing of children, and the enslavement of women for sexual purposes – by employing detailed theological and legal arguments.

From the beginning of the manual, the author creates a division between dar al-Islam (land of Islam) and dar al-kufr (land of unbelief). In the case of Daesh, dar al-Islam has taken the physical form of an Islamic Caliphate, whereas dar al-kufr is anything outside of this land, and therefore “made legitimate for His servants that wage Jihad in His path to shoot the warring infidels, kill them, fight them by every means that may snatch away their souls, drive their spirits from their bodies, cleansing the earth of their filth and removing their scourge from mankind, whatever that means may be.”

The titles of the text’s 20 chapters include “Beheading, decapitation and mutilation”, “Kidnapping warring infidels” and “How to kill spies”. Another chapter, titled “Indiscriminate killing of warring infidels”, opens with an inflammatory message that calls for force to be used against unbelievers: “Kill them, fight them by every means that may snatch away their souls, drive their spirits from their bodies, cleansing the earth of their filth and removing their scourge from mankind, whatever that means may be.”

A separate chapter documents attempts to justify the use of weapons of mass destruction. “The central aim for which we strive – and we do so with all available strength – is the acquisition of weapons, weapons of mass destruction, for there is no escaping the obligation to defend against these defiant perverters of faith and end the aggression of the malodorous filth against Islam and its people.

The manual is also projecting a victimhood narrative and justifying the terror as self-defense. Of the West, the author claims that the Muslim community does “nothing about the fact that [with their superior power] they (Western powers) seek to pervert the Muslim’s faith; to establish their own collective market that is filled to bursting with unbelief, apostasy and the like; to impose their desires upon the Muslims and intervene in the affairs of any people that they intend.”

The book’s author, Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir, is little known, although he has a rich spoken and literary production (days’ worth of online recordings and thousands of pages of text) that had a massive impact on the development of jihadist thought in the last four decades. According to counterterrorism experts, al-Muhajir is a very important personality in the context of modern Islamist terrorism: neither Daesh nor al-Qaeda would be what they are without him.

Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir is an Egyptian national who graduated from the Islamic University in Islamabad and participated in the jihad in Afghanistan and taught at jihadi camps in Kabul. Around 2000, he became al-Qaeda’s foremost scholarly authority. During this time, he met Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, the founder of Daesh’s precursor group al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Muhajir made quite an impression on the young Zarqawi, who tried to make him come to Mesopotamia to head up the scientific and scholarly committee of al-Qaeda. Failing to convince him, he made Muhajir’s two main books, including The Jurisprudence of Blood, core texts at AQI training camps.

The leaderless jihad

Another important work that is considered to inspire the next wave of the jihadist phenomenon is the 1600-page book “The Global Islamic Resistance Call” (Da’wat al-muqawamah al-islamiyyah al-‘alamiyyah), which appeared on the Internet in November 2004. It was written by Abu Musab al-Suri, born Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Setmariam Nasar, a suspected al-Qaeda member, reported to be the mastermind of the 2004 Madrid train bombings as well as the 7/7 London bombings.

Of Syrian origin, Nasar married a European, acquired Spanish citizenship and then moved into the suburbs of Neasden in London. He is considered an organizer and inspirer of the July 2005 London subway attack.His core curriculum was similar to that of many al-Qaeda’s activists: fighter in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and, from 1988, a good friend of Osama bin Laden, even if their opinions diverged in regards to some strategic choices and doctrinal visions. Al-Suri’s current whereabouts are unknown.

Abu Musab al-Suri avoided the title of “cleric,” preferring to call himself “terrorism’s tactician,” interested mainly in the jihad’s political outcome.

According to al-Suri’s thought, the former terrorist groups had failed their mission, since they depended upon a hierarchical and centralized structure. Al-Suri suggested a more innovative model, based on “the individual terrorism” and small operative cells. He also advocates for the potential of “spontaneous” operations, apparently without connections to any centralized structure, a strategy that aims to put the local and international intelligence services in a state of confusion.

Moreover, acting in isolation made the terrorists less vulnerable to the investigators’ inquiries: if a cell was discovered, immediately another was ready to perform uninterrupted. From a propaganda point of view, this kind of attack achieves two results: instigate the fear among the people, but above all encourage other frustrated Muslims to emulate their coreligionist’s initiatives. “The issue of individual jihad,” argued al-Suri, “was a great da’wah success. It had great influence on awakening the spirit of jihad and resistance within the Ummah, and it transformed unknown individuals […] into becoming symbol of a nation.” Al-Suri believed that a looser, decentralized network would present more problems for the West, resulting in “thousands, even hundreds of thousands of Muslims participating in jihad.”

Al-Suri considered that the next stage of jihad, characterized by terrorism created by individuals or small autonomous groups (what he terms ‘leaderless resistance’), will wear down the enemy and prepare the ground for the far more ambitious aim of waging war on ‘open fronts’ … ‘Without confrontation in the field and seizing control of the land, we cannot establish a state, which is the strategic goal of the resistance.’

Another remarkable point of al-Suri’s jihadist military theory is the “Open Front Jihad”: a wide arena (Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria) in which to trap the enemy troops, forcing them to fight in asymmetrical warfare. Only in this way the jihadists can challenge a technologically superior rival: al-Suri claims that it “is not possible for a few jihadi organizations, or for tens or hundreds of mujahedeen and there, to deter this fierce international attack … It is absolutely necessary that the Resistance transforms into a strategic phenomenon … after the pattern of the Palestinian Intifada against the occupation forces, the settlers and their collaborators.”

The strategies derived from al-Suri’s guidelines to win hearts and minds amongst local Muslim communities include: providing services to people, avoiding to be seen as extremists, maintaining strong relationships with communities and other fighting groups, and putting the focus on fighting the government.

3. Influent preachers in Europe and Asia

Besides the ideological “luggage” that European Muslim fighters may bring back from Daesh’s schools, another element of the complex evolution of the post-“caliphate” terrorist threat in Europe is the influence of the so-called “hate preachers”, who in the recent past were instrumental in making people join Daesh in the fight for the caliphate.

Anjem Choudary, recently released from prison in England, his mentor, Omar Bakri, and, in Asia, Zakir Naik[3] are relevant examples, especially since their influence remained significant even if they were sentenced and/or banned from their countries. A worrying result of their activity was announced by MI5 after the Manchester Arena bomb attack in 2017: the British security service said that some 3,000 people in the UK were assessed to have links to violent Islamist extremism, with another 20,000 assessed to have had recent links, a total of 23,000 people, the population of a small town.

Omar Bakri and Anjem Choudary are two of the six Muslim ideologues that were identified, in a research of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, as having shaped the way in which 113 persons made their way into jihadism. In total, 67 per cent of the analyzed cases had links, either directly or via their cell, through other radicalizers, to one or more of the following: Abu Hamza, Abdullah El Feisal, Abu Qatada, Omar Bakri, Hani Al Sibai and Anjem Choudary.

These six profiled ideologues have all emerged as individuals with a noteworthy influence on the movement over the last 30 years. Their teachings and speeches influenced many who have engaged in jihadi activity, whether perpetrating, supporting or abetting violence.

Omar Bakri

Omar Bakri Mohammad came to the UK in 1986 to escape persecution in Saudi Arabia for his support of the Muslim Brotherhood. He led the UK chapter of Hizb ut-Tahrir, before going on to split from the group and create the al-Qaeda-inspired al-Muhajiroun (“The Emigrants”). He has been blamed for the radicalization of a number of young Muslim men, including the killers of the British soldier Lee Rigby hacked to death on the streets of London[4].

A 2013 report entitled “Gateway to Terror” by the Hope Not Hate anti-extremist organization concluded that “al-Muhajiroun members and supporters make up the overwhelming majority of people convicted of Islamist extremist activities in the UK over the last 15 years”. Hope Not Hate also estimated in 2013 that of the 300 to 350 Britons who had travelled to Syria to join the war there, up to 80 had “gone through Muhajiroun channels”.

Al-Muhajiroun was outlawed in 2004, but Bakri would simply set up another group but in a different name. Websites would come and go and his preaches would be posted online. He had briefly gone to Lebanon, to visit family in 2005, giving the Home Office the opportunity to ban him from returning. Bakri’s indefinite leave to remain in the UK was revoked and his demands to return to London on family grounds were denied.

Disciples would visit him in his new home in Tripoli in Lebanon and his preaches, which were posted regularly on social networks and video sharing websites, did not escape the notice of the Lebanese authorities. In 2010, he was sentenced to life in prison in a terrorism case that he claimed to know nothing about, but was subsequently released on bail when witnesses who testified against him withdrew their testimony. In 2014 he wassentenced to six years in prison with hard labor by a Lebanese court for founding a Lebanese affiliate of the Al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front, and of building a training camp for Nusra Front fighters in Lebanon. At the end of 2017, it was announced that Omar Bakri, who is serving his sentence in Roumieh prison, Lebanon, for terrorism offences, has been stabbed in a prison fight between opposing Muslim groups. He suffered injuries to his back and head during the brawl between Shias and Sunnis.

Although Omar Bakri Mohammad is absent from the UK since 2005, his influence persisted, since in 2016 he was named as a sponsor by British jihadists trying to reach Daesh. According to registration documents obtained from the terrorist group in Syria, among the 16 British fighters who completed the form – a 23-question recruitment form before being accepted into the group – several recruits wrote under the “recommended by” question the name “Sheikh Omar Bakri of Lebanon.” Also, fighters from Cardiff named Bakri as their “referee”, including Reyaad Khan, 21, who was killed in September 2015 alongside another fighter in Raqqa, in the first targeted UK drone attack on a British citizen.

In October 2018 it was revealed that Hizb ut-Tahrir, originally led in Britain by Omar Bakri, was using children as young as 13 to peddle books supporting suicide bombing and jihad in Britain.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, which means ‘party of liberation’, was established in Jerusalem in 1953 with the aim of turning countries with a majority Muslim population into an Islamic state. It is outlawed in Pakistan, Russia and most Arab countries, but legal in the UK. The UK branch was founded in 1986 with the help of Omar Bakri Muhammad, later known as the ‘Tottenham Ayatollah’. Hizb ut-Tahrir wants to establish an Islamic state stretching from North Africa to the Philippines and has produced articles promoting martyrdom in Israel.

The group allowed a 13-year-old to sell pamphlets comparing Westerners to animals over their ‘filthy promiscuity’ and urging followers to shun British culture.
At Hizb ut-Tahrir meetings, children as young as ten were seen bowing their heads in prayer and reading from the Koran at meetings,  despite Hizb ut-Tahrir’s claim that only over-16s can ‘engage’ in its work.

Also, a member of the group boasted of having active recruiters at universities including Oxford, University College London and the School of Oriental and African Studies, despite the group being banned from speaking on campuses.

Anjem Choudary

Omar Bakri’s friend and successor, Anjem Choudary was born in Welling, south east London, and had a generally happy childhood. His parents were from Pakistan, but were not particularly devout and he had many non-Muslim friends. Andy, as he was known, won a place at Southampton University to read medicine, but he failed to complete his studies, reportedly because of his fondness for drink, drugs and pretty girls. By his late twenties, Choudary started to show more interest in religion, becoming a regular at the Mosque. His journey to Muslim fundamentalism began when he met Omar Bakri Mohammed at a mosque in Woolwich. He fell completely under Bakri’s spell and they founded the al-Muhajiroun organization.

Anjem Choudary followed Bakri as the network’s figurehead, and for a while he succeeded in maintaining public stances sympathetic to jihadi arguments without being shown to have directly masterminded attacks.

A former lawyer, Choudary had frustrated the security services for decades by treading a careful line to keep his speeches just outside British terror legislation. He argued that he was merely exercising his freedom of speech over his interpretation of the Quran and Islam. However, during the rise of Daesh, after discussing the move with his mentor Omar Bakri Mohammed, Choudary and his followers allegedly pledged allegiance to the group. He did not publicly announce the pledge but sent a series of tweets on the day encouraging Muslims to move to an unspecified “caliphate”.

Over the coming months, Choudary and his co-defendant Mohammed Mizanur Rahman encouraged backing for the so-called Islamic State in a series of talks posted on YouTube. Security sources believed Choudary had links to as many as 500 jihadis who have left Britain to join Daesh in Syria and Iraq. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police also said that Choudary and Rahman have been “recruiters and radicalizers for over 20 years”.

Consequently, in a 2016 trial at the Old Bailey, he was convicted of inviting support for a banned group and sentenced to five years in prison, being released on 19 October, after completing half the sentence.

After his release from prison, Anjem Choudary will be given his own “safe house” and be allowed to claim benefits. The plan, which will cost British the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds, comes amid fears he will form a new pro-terror group with other recently-released extremists and individuals returning from Syria and Iraq. His views remain the same; his status as a martyr, at least in the eyes of his followers, is assured; and his hatred of Britain is more ferocious than before. Observers note that he will emerge as a greater threat than when he was locked up.

Choudary’s silence during his years of imprisonment has done little to diminish his appeal. At Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park his supporters have been gathering in recent weeks, eagerly anticipating his release. In one video posted on the internet, a young follower defends Choudary as a ‘Muslim brother… who has the balls to say stuff’.

Zakir Naik

Another influent Islamic preacher is Indian Zakir Abdul Karim Naik (born 18 October 1965), founder of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and the Peace TV channel through which he reaches 200 million viewers.

A physician by formation, Zakir Naik is considered to be the world’s leading Salafi evangelist, the most influent Salafi ideologue in India and a proponent of modern Islam, especially since his lectures are given in colloquial English and he usually wears a suit and tie.

He is regarded as an exponent of the Salafi ideology, and by some sources as a radical Islamist promoting Wahhabism. His preaching is banned not only in India but also in Bangladesh, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Several researchers have investigated the link between Naik and terrorism and concluded that he might be considered a part of the ideological infrastructure created to feed the so-called “Tempered Jihad”, a Jihad calibrated to advance Islamist political objectives. Although Naik himself emphatically rejects terrorism, his teachings appear to be similar to those of organizations advocating violence, and the Gatestone Institute had stated that he has reportedly inspired many to take to terrorism through his teachings.

Naik is strongly disliked by many members of the Indian ulema for ignoring their authority and stating that anybody can interpret the Koran. Also, conservative Deobandi mullahs have accused Naik of destroying Islam by driving Muslims away from the correct religious authorities.

Naik is noted as recommending the death penalty for homosexuals and for apostasy from the faith, as well as for calling for India to be ruled by Shariah law. According to Naik, Jews “control America” and are the “strongest in enmity to Muslims.” Among those reportedly drawn to Naik’s message are Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-American arrested for planning suicide attacks on the New York subway; Rahil Sheikh, accused of involvement in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings; and Kafeel Ahmed, the Bangalore man fatally injured in a failed suicide attack on Glasgow airport in 2007.

In 2016, during a press conference Naik claimed to be a non-resident Indian, and in 2017, according to the Middle East Monitor, was granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia, but there has been no official confirmation.

Problems arose for the preacher in the summer of 2016, after Bangladeshi authorities said that one of the gunmen responsible for an attack on a cafe in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, which left 22 people dead, had been inspired by him.

Bangladesh responded by banning Peace TV, and in November, India’s counterterrorism agency, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), filed a First Information Report, an official police complaint, against Naik and the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), accusing him of indulging in unlawful activities and promoting religious hatred. The IRF was declared an “unlawful” association under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and Zakir Naik was accused of having incited many persons to take up terror activities, and promoting enmity between different religious groups in India through his public speeches and lectures.

On 18 July 2017, India revoked Naik’s passport following a recommendation from the NIA. On 28 July 2017, the NIA declared Naik an offender and initiated a process to attach his assets.

In October 2018, a special NIA court has ordered the attachment of four properties in Mumbai belonging to Zakir Naik. The court accepted the plea after the NIA submitted that Naik was trying to sell these properties since his funding from various sources has been stopped after the central agency filed a case against him.

Zakir Naik currently resides in Malaysia, where he first came in 2012, settling down for good in 2016 when India began its investigations. He lives in a lakeside condominium in the country’s administrative capital, Putrajaya. From early on, he developed a close relationship with former federal and state officials, as well as religious leaders. This led to him being granted permanent residence in 2012. Among his defenders there is Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, the respected mufti, or religious advisor, of the state of Perlis.

In July 2018, India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) was reportedly looking to extradite Naik, but the preacher is quite popular in Malaysia, a country more than 60 percent Muslim. In July 2018, even Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamad declared that Naik will not be extradited. “As long as he is not creating any problem, we will not deport him because he has been given permanent residency status.”

4. Worrying developments in Europe

The result of the radicalization efforts, combined with the growth of the Muslim communities in Europe is the fact that Islamic extremists, including those on social media and the internet, are becoming less typical and more dangerous.

 

 

Austria

a) In June 2018, the Austrian government announced it would shut down seven mosques and expel sixty imams because of their supposed links to Salafi-jihadists or Turkish regime networks. The decision was based on a 2015 law that banned foreign funding of religious institutions and required Muslim organizations to express a “positive approach towards the society and the state” of Austria.

The Austrian government’s decision followed the widely-reported discovery that Turkish mosques in Austria were being used by the Ankara regime to promote Turkish Islamist ideology and conduct espionage.

b) In another development, in September, Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Bushehri, the Friday prayer leader in Qom, came to Austria to lead Shia rituals for the Arabic lunar month of Moharram, the holiest month in the Shia calendar. Every year, on the 10th of Moharram, Shiite faithful mourn the beheading of the Islamic prophet’s grandson, Hussein, by his rival family members in the battle of Karbala. The procession was held on Mariahilfer Street, in Vienna.

The mourning rituals, considered in some cases to be brutal, have been limited to Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Pakistan, where sizable Shiite populations exist. In recent years, however, Moharram rituals have slowly crept into public places in major European cities, and even parts of the U.S.

Iran supports Moharram demonstrations through its network of umbrella organizations in Europe, which are styled as “religious” or “cultural” centers. As to Ayatollah Bushehri, he is a member of the so-called “Assembly of Experts”, a deliberative body (of which all but one of the members are clerics) to which the Supreme Leader is ostensibly accountable.

According to U.S. government reports, Iranian networks in Austria led by hard-line Shiite clerics and dozens of regime-aligned Islamic centers are also promoting extremist ideology and conducting espionage. It was noted that Austria is the center for Iranian intelligence operations in Europe, with 100 agents from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security reportedly stationed there, who spy on, harass and threaten anti-regime Shiite and Iranian activists.

The Czech Republic

Among the main reasons for the Czechs’ growing opposition to European integration there was the fear that immigrants from Muslim countries do not spontaneously integrate. On the contrary, the perception is that there has been a controlled Islamization of integration, rather than the other way around. The fear among Czechs is that such a trend will lead, within a few decades, to a dangerous demographic shift and ultimate theocratic totality in Europe as in the Middle East.

This fear was expressed by personalities such as Tomio Okamura, the leader of Czech Freedom and Direct democracy party, whose slogan, ahead of the Czech parliamentary elections in 2017, was: “No to Islam. No to terrorists.”

The “controlled Islamization of integration” was also present in a November 2000 document of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation entitled The Strategy for Islamic Cultural Action outside the Islamic World,” which states: “The demographic constituents of western countries… will change and become subject to restructuring into a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. Thereby, western countries will no longer remain that harmonious and monolithic society constituted on the basis of a specific historical, economic, social and cultural lineage…

France

Members of France’s government have also grown suspicious of foreign-funded mosques, and they have considered placing a temporary ban on foreign financing of French mosques. They have also suggested that it may be necessary to ensure that imams should be trained in France, and not in foreign nations. France’s government has also taken further action against the spread of radical Islamic theology. In 2016, the French government closed 20 mosques, stating that their imams were preaching a radical version of Islam. After raiding 200 mosques, they found 324 weapons along with boxes of Daesh propaganda, and 230 Muslims were arrested, suspected of planning terrorist activity.

Germany

In September 2018, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inaugurated the latest mosque in Europe, the Cologne Central Mosque in Germany, coordinated by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB). With a Muslim population of nearly 4.7 million, Germany has the second largest number of immigrants from predominantly Islamic nations. Three million of these are from Turkey. DITIB currently oversees 900 mosques in Germany, all connected to Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs which provides imams for these mosques.

German intelligence is considering putting DITIB under surveillance due to a number of scandals in which the organization has been involved. These include imams spying for the Turkish government and holding a military re-enactment which included Turkish flags and fake guns being given to child martyrs.

By building mosques in Western nations, the Turkish leader seeks to spread Islamic ideology to Europe and the United States. The disturbing aspect of Turkey’s actions is the fact that many of these religious centers promote radical Islamism and, in some cases, spy on the governments of the nations in which they are installed.

The Netherlands and Belgium

Of the new facets of Islamization that keep emerging in Western Europe, an important one is the emergence of Muslim political parties, a development that has occurred recently in the Netherlands.

The main Muslim party in the Netherlands is called Denk (Think). It came into being after two Turkish-born parliamentarians, Tunahan Kuzu and Selçuk Öztürk, were expelled from the Labour (PvdA) faction at the end of 2014. They opposed the integration policy proposed by then PvdA Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher.

In the 2017 parliamentary elections, Denk won three seats of a total 150. Besides Kuzu and Öztürk, the Moroccan Farid Azarkan was also elected. An estimated 1.2 million Muslims live in the Netherlands, of whom 500,000 are Turks and 400,000 are Moroccans. Recent polls indicate that if elections were held now, Denk would increase its number of seats.

Denk participated in the 2018 municipal elections, where it won council seats in 13 out of the 14 municipalities where it had candidates – mainly in larger cities. Several other Muslim parties gained seats in municipal councils, such as in Rotterdam and The Hague.

Belgium is another country where Muslims are politically organized, though on a much smaller scale. The Islam party has two representatives in municipal councils. Its program includes the introduction of Sharia and a 100% Islamic state in Belgium. The party also promotes separation between men and women on public transport. Islam has announced that it will contest 28 municipalities in the October elections.

Spain

At the beginning of October, a “European Muslim forum” was held in Barcelona, where main religious leaders from Europe and Asia discussed, among other topics, the possibility of building a large mosque in the city, where the “European Muslim Forum” has its headquarters.

The episode evoked for local observers a previous situation in 2014, when the local Muslim community leaders were promised a mega-mosque in Barcelona if they support independence from Spain.

The plan was for the Emir of Qatar to purchase and cover all costs to convert a historic bullfighting stadium in Barcelona into the third-largest mosque in the world, after those in Mecca and Medina. The mosque would be accompanied by a towering 300-meter minaret which, if approved, would dominate the Barcelona skyline and overshadow the spectacularly emblematic Sagrada Familia, a Roman Catholic cathedral less than one kilometer away. The five-year project would have been completed sometime around 2020.

Catalonia is home to an estimated 465,000 Muslims, who account for more than 6% of the total Catalan population of 7.5 million. This gives Catalonia the largest Muslim population in Spain. If Catalonia were to achieve independence, it would emerge as the country with the third-largest Muslim population in Western Europe, in percentage terms, just behind France and Belgium, and far ahead of Britain and Germany.

Analysts also noted that Catalonia, which has the largest concentration of radical Islamists in Europe, is already a main center for Salafi-Jihadism on the continent and has the potential to become one of the top incubators for Islamist terrorism in the West. In the context of the Catalan separatist debates, Abdelwahab Houzi, a Salafi jihadist preacher in the Catalan city of Lleida was noted as saying: “Muslims should vote for pro-independence parties, as they need our votes. But what they do not know is that, once they allow us to vote, we will all vote for Islamic parties because we do not believe in left and right. This will make us win local councils and as we begin to accumulate power in the Catalan autonomous region, Islam will begin to be implemented.”

Sweden

Somali-born Swedish activist and debater Mona Walter recently argued that “Islam will dominate in Sweden within 50 years”. She is convinced that the Islamic goal is to take control of the country and the first thing they will do is ask for the Sharia courts, as in the United Kingdom.

Walter also stated that “the Swedes are convinced that the Swedish laws will always be applicable in their country. But ask a British man if 30 years ago he would have thought that Britain would have had legal Sharia courts in 2018. Nobody would have thought it was possible.”

According to Mona Walter, “if Sweden recognizes Sharia tribunals, Muslims will have new demands, such as permission to govern their own enclaves without interference from the Swedish society. The ultimate goal is that Sharia dominates all of Sweden. This is the long-term goal and Islam has a lot of patience. The demography is very clear: in 100 years the game is over”.

Sweden’s Islamic community has gone from numbering in the dozens in the 1930s to hundreds of thousands today, and is becoming one of the fastest-growing in Europe. According to Pew Research University, it is expected to rise further to to 4.5 million (or 31% of the population) by 2050. Compared with Sweden’s current total population of 10 million, this will mean one of the largest proportions of Muslims in Europe. At present, over 25 percent of Swedish citizens are of foreign origin.

The United Kingdom

In a recent report, the Henry Jackson society exposed how the UK used taxpayer funds to support Islamist charities working against British society to the tune of more than six million pounds in 2017 alone.

Among the charities detailed in the report, are several Islamic charities involved in dawa (outreach), such as the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), as well as several charities connected to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, such as the Muslim Charities Forum (MCF) and Islamic Relief.

The British establishment is seen as having embraced the “Islam is peace” narrative. The establishment has even let itself and its police be lectured by radical Islamist organizations and has refused to listen to any dissident voices. Large parts of the British population, therefore, are turning towards anti-establishment or far-right organizations with their frustrations at the rapid Islamization of British society, since they perceive that no other organizations appear willing to have an open discussion on the subject.

***

Terrorism committed by jihadi groups or inspired by jihadi propaganda remains a potent threat. If anything, the future is likely to bring more conflicts that combine transnational terrorism and civil war, more collaboration between jihadis and non-jihadi rebels, and more splintering and diffusion within the jihadi universe.

While mass immigration and growing extremism are more and more worrying all over Europe, another risk is generated by the public’s perception that the authorities are refusing to link the phenomena to the radical Islam. While it’s important to note that many Muslims refuse to subscribe to this, that millions lead unblemished lives in the West and that they are themselves targeted by Islamist extremists, the silence over the specific religious roots of this widespread extremism is contributing to its acceleration.

Many in Europe fail to realize that the rise in Islamist violence might fuel the growth in the far-right or populist right, since many right-wing political movements actually rise as reactionary movements to restore what they see as the correctly ordered state, in response to some source of destabilization. This is another worrying “side-effect” that has to be added to the specific terrorist threat.

 

[1]https://www.mi5.gov.uk/news/director-general-andrew-parker-speech-to-bfv-symposium

[2] Researchers of the Quilliam Foundation managed to acquire a copy of the manual online in 2015, after spotting the Fiqh al-Dima as being used to teach new recruits. Quilliam had it examined by theological experts who argued against its concepts in the detailed report “Tackling Terror: A Response to Takfiri Terrorist Theology”, authored by Dr. Salah Al-Ansari and Dr. Usama Hasan and published in May 2018.

 

[3] A presentation of their cases was made in our previous work “The post- al-Qaeda terrorism: Salafi and Takfiri roots”, February 2013.

[4] A list of the terrorist acts related to al-Muhajiroun is presented in an annex of this work

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