Monday, May 12, 2008

Internet Jihad

Internet Map
Charting the pathway to radicalization?
(Image from Wikipedia)

One of the students in my Islamism class is looking into the role that the internet plays in spreading radical Islam, so this issue has been on my mind lately.

I therefore noted what Philip Bobbitt writes concerning this point in his recent book, Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008):
E-mail is heavily relied upon by market state terrorist groups, using cybercafes and discarding e-mail accounts after only a single use to avoid detection. Doctrine and strategy are debated through online discussion groups and chat rooms. A Saudi interior ministry spokesman estimated that the Internet is responsible for 80 percent of the recruitment of youths for the jihad.[116] Photographs are shared -- the Abu Ghraib prison pictures were instantaneously provided worldwide -- and responsibility for attacks may be claimed. Most of all, perhaps, the diverse rage of many hundreds of thousands is channeled rather than dissipated. Often overlooked is the participatory dimension of the Web: it's not just that the Internet allows remote leaders to reach thousands or hundreds of thousands of otherwise inaccessible persons, it's that it allows these alienated, often isolated people to speak back, to receive encouragement and reassurance as they separate themselves from society. "Islamists view themselves as fighting a global war to create or restore the big Islamic nation without borders or nationalism, and the Internet is the best tool for building their virtual ummah."[117] (pp. 56-57)
The important factor here is "not just that the Internet allows remote leaders to reach thousands or hundreds of thousands of otherwise inaccessible persons, it's that it allows these alienated, often isolated people to speak back, to receive encouragement and reassurance as they separate themselves from society." In other words, the internet does not serve simply as a medium of communication; it serves as a means of radicalization. It contributes to the creation of an Islamist identity among multitudes of young, alienated Muslims by encouraging their radicalization and a sense of belonging to a powerful, global movement destined to conquer the world.

Each of us who uses the internet has discovered this fact, namely, that it enables us to 'find ourselves' in ways that we previously could not, for we locate communities of like-minded individuals and 'radicalize' one another by obsessing upon issues that have grabbed us.

Not that every internet user gets trapped in a Mobius loop of increasing radicalization till utterly enclosed within the Klein bottle of an alternate universe of discourse . . . but some do.


[116] Abdul-Rahman al-Hadlaq, supervisor of the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry's Good Counsel Committee, quoted in Asharq al-Aswat (2 May 2007), cited in "
Saudis Claim Internet Responsible for 80 percent of Jihadi Recruitment," Terrorism Focus 4, no. 13 (8 May 2007).

[117] Reuven Paz, quoted in Corine Hegland, "
Global Jihad," National Journal 36, no. 19 (2004), 1402.

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At 10:19 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

It seems an awful lot do. I have been on many sites where a posse is dispatched with every dissenting comment, which is often mine. I thought I was engaged in an argument, then there would come the accusations, mostly about something I had not said, and the insults and faulty logic would follow. Quite different than the "rap sessions" I use to be engaged in my youth.

Before I began to read blogs, I discovered the nature of blogging communities and how they are linked. I was doing a paper on ethics in computing and chose blogs. During my research, I discovered those maps showing how separate some clusters of links were.

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

It's definitely a problem, Hathor, that so many people don't know how to argue without resorting to personal attacks or emotional retorts.

Even worse are the trolls and related internet entities whose only aim is to disrupt.

I've looked at a few Muslim discussion sites, though I've not studied how internet groups work, and I've noticed how much peer pressue such sites exhibit -- plus a tendency toward 'prooftexting' by appeal to the Qur'an and hadith in an effort to defend radicalism.

I suppose that this isn't surprising.

When did you do your research?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:40 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I started in the summer of 2005. I chose the subjects because I had started to read blogs and found that even within the few I read. Everyone seemed so damned sure about everything. There was an effort by Instapundit and friends to create the new media and I was suspicious.
Due to health reasons, I dropped the course and finished the next spring semester.
Even though I had been online for two years I had never read a blog, until a friend started to write one in 2005.

I wonder do I seem so sure about everything now:)

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I've noticed that I've grown more sure of my own views from having posted on them repeatedly, but I try to express myself carefully enough to allow for the possibility that I might be wrong so that if I am wrong, I won't be so terribly embarrassed.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And then you get the occasional admitted fool like JK who knows he is more than likely wrong and in so knowing depends on others to either correct him or obliterate him.

Of course on this site at least, I expect the "in media res" way.

Obliterating does not seem like the Christian way to go about such things.


At 5:37 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

We Christians only try to obliterate the sin, not the sinner . . . but in your case, JK, I see no distinction.

Just Kidding, JK...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:31 PM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

do all of us count as "obsessive" readers, etc. I never thought about what battle you might be leading us into!!!

At 4:26 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You're all obsessive readers, but not of my blog, so don't obsessively read too much into my musings.

Unless you do happen to be obsessed with the blog Gypsy Scholar, in which case, send all financial contributions to my bank account, and I will reveal to you my secret internetical aims, which are most profound, deeply satisfying, and carefully calibrated to correspond to the extent of your input...

Jeffery Hodges

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