By P.K.Balachandran/Daily Express
Colombo, May 8: Islamic radicalization has been on the upsurge for a considerable period of time now, mainly because of the unceasing atrocities committed by the US-led Western alliance in several Islamic countries including Libya, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Afghanistan.
However, like militaristic Western hegemony, Islamic radicalization has also become a major problem for the world. Several countries, both within and outside the Muslim world, have been subjected to its depredations. Like the non-Muslim countries, Muslim countries too have devised methods to tackle the scourge.
Like many other countries, Saudi Arabia too has been a victim of terrorism. Islamic radicals have been indulging in terror regularly since 1962, trying to overthrow the ruling Saud dynasty. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have been in the forefront of this violent movement.
To counter these forces, the Saudi government has adopted a two pronged approach says Dr.Abdullah Ansary in a paper published by the Middle East Policy Council.
The first prong is ruthless action against those who commit terrorist acts (on April 23, 2019, 37 terrorists were executed). The second prong is re-education and re-indoctrination of detainees, the pool of supporters and fellow travellers.
The goal of the latter is to encourage prisoners to renounce their radical ideology by providing them with psychological and sociological counseling and by engaging them in intensive religious dialogue. It is estimated that only 10% of terror-related prisoners are hardcore with entrenched deviant beliefs. The rest are followers and sympathizers, who can be remoolded.
The committee which is entrusted with such rehabilitation has four sub-committees: religious, psychosocial, security and media. Members of these subcommittees are stationed throughout various districts in the Kingdom.
The Psychological and Social Subcommittee includes more than 30 psychiatrists and psychologists. “They also continue to monitor the detainee and evaluate his progress during his interview with the Religious Subcommittee members, and help him understand himself and the restiveness in his personality in order to facilitate his return to appropriate thinking and behavior,” Ansary says.
“They also assess the detainee’s financial and psychological needs in order to alleviate psychological pressure, gain the confidence of his family, and provide decent care for him and his family after his release, “ he adds.
After release, the subcommittee assists them further with healthcare needs and employment. The subcommittee also provides them the opportunity to finish their education while incarcerated, Dr.Ansary says.
“The Religious Subcommittee is composed of more than 160 Muslim clerics, scholars and university professors. The counselors engage the prisoners in conversations about their views on several subjects, such as assisting and aiding non-Muslims, the takfir doctrine, judgment according to man-made laws (as opposed to divine law), jihad in Iraq, suicide operations and martyrs, the excommunication of governments and societies (and its gravity), and expelling the polytheists from the Arabian Peninsula,” the author adds.
The goal is to correct prisoners’ flawed understanding of these concepts based on Shariah texts from the Quran and Sunnah and from the work of religious scholars, in order to enhance their understanding of these sensitive topics, Dr.Ansary explains.
On the role of the Security Subcommittee he says it undertakes risk assessments, makes release recommendations and monitors arrangements after the release. The Media Subcommittee supports the Religious Subcommittee with the educational materials used in their program.
In June 2004, the Saudi Council issued a fatwa condemning acts of terrorism, stating that these acts disrupt the security of the country, shed innocent blood, terrorize peaceful people and destroy property. The fatwa called upon citizens and residents to provide authorities with information regarding those who plan or prepare to carry out terrorist acts.”
“In addition, during its sixteenth session, held January 5-10, 2002, the Islamic Fiqh Council of the Muslim World League in Mecca stressed the fact that extremism, violence and terrorism have no connection whatsoever with Islam. Furthermore, in a direct warning against fighting abroad in the name of jihad, the Saudi mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz Aal Al-Sheikh, issued a fatwa on October 1, 2007, prohibiting Saudi youth from traveling abroad to engage in jihad,” Dr.Ansary points out.
The Ministry of Education has conducted an audit of school textbooks and curricula to ensure that teachers do not espouse intolerance and extremism. The government has a program in place to continue to remove any element that is radical and inconsistent with traditional Islam.
Saudi Public TV and other sponsored channels broadcast a five-part series titled “Jihad Experiences, the Deceit,” which featured terrorists’ confessions and repentant terrorists’ testimonies of how al-Qaeda organized, trained and recruited.
Saudi cyber-crime law imposes a maximum of ten years imprisonment and/or a fine of a maximum of 5 million Saudi riyals ($1.3 million) for anyone who creates a website for a terrorist organization over the Internet or on any computer device, propagates it to facilitate communication with the leaders of these organizations, promotes the organizations’ radical views, or propagates information on how to make explosives.
To ensure that charitable donations are actually used for the purposes designated and not for radical and extremist activities, it has issued numerous decrees and created new institutions designed to “tighten the noose” on Islamic charities and control their work, Dr.Ansary said.
Maldives was accused of encouraging Islamic radicalism when Abdullah Yameen was President. But the then police spokesperson Ahmad Shifan told this writer that all mosques in Maldives were moderated by the Maldivian government, and that each and every public preaching by mosques were carried out under the government’s direct supervision.
“However we believe in rehabilitation and re-integration rather than punishment and isolation. We work on Syria returnees and other terror suspects to convert them to the moderate Maldivian form of Islam.And this has yielded results,” he said, pointing out that after 2012, there had been no Islamic terror attacks.
Pakistan has so far lost 70,000 civilians in terror attacks. Its Prime Minister Imran Khan last week laid the foundation stone of a Sufi university. The al-Qadir University will combine Sufist Islam and spiritualism with science, and re-instill creativity among Muslims now stifled by dogma. The Imran government is trying to modernize the courses taught in the 32,000 Madrassahs with 2.5 million students, by introducing science.
In Turkey the “Imam Hatip” schools are part of the State’s “social engineering.” They are designed to produce ‘enlightened’ religious functionaries and foster an understanding of Islam that is compatible with the needs of a modern State.
“Diyanet” is the State religious organization which controls the country’s mosques. The Diyanet also dictates what is preached in the mosques. Turkish President Erdogan is a supporter of Turkey’s brand of secularism called laiklik. Religious thinkers, ulema and Sufi Shaikhs have not been empowered. The Shariah is not a source of legislation. Religious thought has no significant influence in politics. Government retains its monopoly over religious education and outreach. Religious congregations called Cemaats are tightly controlled.
But taking into account the fact that the Turkish people are innately conservative, Erdogan’s s government endorses conservative values, such as teetotalism and female veiling.
Indonesia, another Muslim-majority country, also has State control of religion. But whether the direction is towards liberalism or conservatism has been dependent on the nature of the regime.
President Suharto began as a secular ruler but when he became politically weak he resorted to using conservative Islam to retain control over the population. Later during weak regimes, conservatism came to the fore and intolerance became the order of the day.
The government-controlled religious body, the Indonesian Council of Islamic Scholars (MUI), has taken the conservative side of the spectrum and adopted a militant attitude towards heterodoxy. Mystical sects, the Ahmadiya minority and the Shi`as were reviled. It is against liberal interpretations of Islam, secularism, and the very idea of religious pluralism.
In Sri Lanka, Islamic terrorism raised its head with the April 21, 2019 Easter Sunday bombings in which 253 persons died. It is now discovered that radicalization had taken place in the small all-Muslim town of Katthankudy in its Madrassahs, as well as homes of the highly educated and wealthy elite in cosmopolitan Colombo.
Need For Cyber Law
Dr.Rohan Gunaratna, a pre-eminent Sri Lankan expert on West Asian terrorism, has called upon the Lankan government to enact a Cyber Law which will criminalize both posting and keeping extremist content on-line. A co-author of “The Three Pillars of Radicalization” published the Oxford University Press in 2019, Dr.Gunaratna urges government to make criminally liable, both the person who posts extremist material and the service provider who keeps the content.
Author of the international best seller “Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror (University of Columbia Press), who is currently Professor of Security Studies at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Dr.Gunaratna says that the “government should also set up, in the Security Forces, a Cyber Force to counter on-line extremist content and create an internet referral unit where the public can report extremist content.”
Writing in a local daily, Dishan Joseph informs that a survey by the International Journal on Cyber Warfare found that there were 50 million tweets globally by eight million users with the keywords, ISIS and ISIL. There are 46,000 suspected Twitter accounts (from Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia) that post tweets supporting the Islamic State (IS).
He also calls for a “Harmony Act” on the lines of the one in Singapore, which will criminalize hate speech, especially incitement to violence. Given the fact some Sri Lankans had gone overseas as students only to get radicalized, Gunaratna says that Sri Lankans should not be permitted to study in certain schools and universities in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen which produce radical preachers.
He urges the government to draw up a Black List of radical preachers and ban their entry into Sri Lanka. At the same time, government should criminalize the sale and distribution of radical books and publications.
Foreign religious preachers should be given a visa only after getting clearance from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Intelligence agencies, he adds. Further, anyone allowed to preach in Sri Lanka should have a two-year (but renewable) permit.