Aimen Dean on “How to win”


in Bombs and rockets, Politics, Psychology, Security

As Labib al-Nahhas, a senior and moderate voice within the Syrian Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, put it: ‘Ths Islamic State’s extremist ideology can be defeated only through a home-grown Sunni alternative — with the term “moderate” defined not by CIA handlers but by Syrians themselves.

Moderate imams — whether in the community or visiting prisons — are not going to impress young men already halfway to jihad. Islamic academics and theologians cannot alone formulate counter-messaging against al-Qaeda and ISIS. They don’t understand what makes these groups tick.

To make an impact, to chip away at the certainty which binds such groups, requires us to recruit respected Salafi fundamentalists, men whose ideological outlook is close to that of the terror groups but who eschew their violence. Men who have already travelled that route and then seen a better way can be precious allies. They can help detect and disrupt radicalization; they can help rehabilitate those either tempted by or convicted or conspiracies. But they have to be credible, and their work can only flourish in a society where tolerance and diversity are championed. A rise in hate crimes; a resurgence of the far right on both sides of the Atlantic; a sense that police don’t afford equal protection to all; discrimination in the workplace — these are just a few of the factors that will undercut any efforts to counter radicalization. There’s a great danger that in Europe, maybe even in the United States, too, Islamist and right-wing extremists will feed off each other in a vicious cycle.

Dean, Aimen with Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank. Nine Lives: My time as the West’s top spy inside al-Qaeda. 2018. p. 398

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

anon January 3, 2019 at 7:47 pm

Can you imagine proposing this plan to the American people as a candidate?

anon January 3, 2019 at 7:50 pm

saying that many Americans have the same delusions as the terrorists… and that non-violent but fundamentalist imams are part of the solution…

R.K. January 4, 2019 at 1:45 pm

It certainly doesn’t feed any Rambo / Jack Bauer fantasies that America and more broadly Western democracies can win by being powerful and violent

. July 18, 2019 at 3:25 pm

However, Western Islam is undergoing a little-noticed transformation. As our special report this week sets out, a natural process of adaptation and assimilation is doing more than any government to tame the threat posed by Islamic extremism. The first generation of Muslim workers who migrated to the West, starting in the 1950s, did not know how long they would stay; their religious practices directed by foreign-trained imams were tied to those of their countries of origin. The second generation felt alienated, caught between their parents’ foreign culture and societies whose institutions they found hard to penetrate. Frustrated and belonging nowhere, a few radicals turned to violent jihad.

. July 31, 2019 at 6:15 pm
. January 28, 2020 at 1:26 pm

How to rehabilitate a terrorist

Usman Khan, the London Bridge attacker, had been convicted before. Can jihadists be reformed?

. June 19, 2020 at 10:48 pm

Crossing Divides: The bomb maker turned peacemaker
By Rebecca Henschke and Endang Nurdin
BBC World Service

“I am an expert bomb maker. I can make bombs in just five minutes.”

Ali Fauzi was a key member of Jemaah Islamiyah, a militant group with links to al-Qaeda, which was responsible for Indonesia’s worst attack – the 2002 Bali bombing that killed more than 200 people.

“My brothers carried out the Bali bombing. It was huge bomb in the heart of the island’s tourist district.”

The group went on to carry out a string of bombings in Indonesia. They were deadly attacks on major hotels and Western embassies. The seemingly sleepy village of Tenggulun in Lamongan, East Java was the group’s base camp.

Now Ali Fauzi’s mission is very different. He works to help former jihadis leave a life of violence and to stop new recruits from joining the next wave of militant groups in South East Asia.

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