Rapping for the Holy War?
Islamists in the
A twenty-four-year-old Lebanese man is currently being charged with planning explosions on trains in
Religious fanaticism as a youth trend? Not completely off the mark: some martyrdom videos are accompanied by a soundtrack of ragga music and religious extremists now present themselves in classic gangster-rap poses. The video "Dirty Kuffar" (non-believer), for instance, conjures up a curious image: a man dances and sings to a ragga beat, masked with a keffiyeh, the Arab headscarf, and points a pistol at the viewer.
Hip hop jihad
The rap is a call to arms in the holy war. The track is accompanied by war footage from the
Islam expert Jochen Müller is researching Muslim youth culture. These videos are particularly aimed at young people with a strong sense of injustice, he says: "These young people constitute a protest movement. After a long development process they are ready and prepared to take action against the supposed enemy, including militant action."
Police and government are concerned
Müller is familiar with the propaganda, now also appearing in the form of pop music, but emphasizes that when, for instance, a rapper compares himself to Osama Bin Laden, this is not always about fundamentalist convictions but mostly about provocation and shock effects, he says. Sometimes, however, there is more to it than this.
One of these "martyrdom videos" promises: "There will be a wave of martyrdom operations. Your countries will be bombarded. You will experience daily suffering in this world and ever worse in the afterlife! My one wish is that I could come back to life and do the same thing again. And again, and again, till people finally come to their senses and realise that it is better not to pick a fight with the Muslims."
"Muslim Boys" and hip hop poses
The manner in which these young men pose for the camera has little to do with Islamic custom, more to do with rap posturing and inner-city lifestyles, and in London there are strange overlaps to be seen. An infamous South London street gang is known as the "Muslim Boys" and social workers report that young men who till recently had dealt drugs and led a "gangster" lifestyle have suddenly left for Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban.
Neil Gerrard is the MP for the
It is exactly these young people the extremists are trying to attract. There have already been serious problems in prisons, Gerrard says, where people locked up for wholly un-political offences come into contact with extremists.
There are several reasons why Islamism might beckon to youths who feel disenfranchised: it rejects western society radically and militantly, offers a clear orientation and promises a sense of community. Are ghetto culture and Islamism being fused?
The Islam expert Jochen Müller warns against over-exaggerating the danger: "I would prefer to say that aspects of street culture, including that of the much-studied 'ghettos', are borrowing an attitude from Islam. Only a few develop from this to become militant. Fundamental, however, is that Islamism in all its various branches is a protest movement."
Matthias Becker © Deutsche Welle / Qantara.de 2008
Translated from the German by Steph Morris Source: http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php?pwcn=741_5&wc_c=476&wc_id=1064
In its report on recent developments in Islamist terrorism, the US Senate Committee for Homeland Security warns about Al Qaeda's sophisticated recruitment methods. For the first time, it mentions the possibility that
Bild vergrössern The Internet as a weapon of terror: two men react with dismay to see how the group Jaish Ansar as Sunnah spreads its message of terror on the Internet | It was only recently that the United States Department of Homeland Security issued various controversial recommendations for regulating the language used when discussing Islamism. Critics complained that the recommended avoidance of terms such as "Jihadist" or "holy warrior" was unrealistic. Above all these new language guidelines reflected concerns about the radicalization of American Muslims, whom it was clearly important not to anger any more than necessary with blanket terrorism-related accusations. The
This is witnessed in a report published by the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs with the title "Violent Islamist extremism, the internet, and the home-grown terrorist threat". It deals above all with one subject: Al-Qaida's increasingly refined recruitment techniques, which now seem to have born fruit among US Muslims. Anyone detecting the usual Bush-administration, republican attitude to security here would be wrong.
The internet as a weapon
The current head of the Committee on Homeland Security is in fact the first Democrat to hold the post, and an Afro-American to boot. And it hardly seems a coincidence that the report begins with the sensational case of the black American Muslim, Kevin Lamar James. A few years ago James formed a Jihadist cell in a Californian prison with other Afro-Americans and planned attacks on government officials and American-Jewish establishments.
The fact that the conspirators took example from Bin Laden is used in the senate report as a perfect example for the success of Al-Qaida's new recruitment techniques. The internet is seen as having developed into a crucial tool which may even soon make training camps obsolete, such as existed in
According to this model, after a so-called "pre-radicalization" phase comes the gradual "self-identification" with radical Islamism. While this may occur in isolation on an individual level, the next stage, direct "indoctrination", is usually a result of contact with Jihadists. The authors identify the passage to active terrorism as the climax of radicalization, accompanied by the readiness to die as a martyr; this is described as "Jihadization", a term the Homeland Security Department was still seeking to ban from public discourse a few months ago.
Increasing use of the English language
Many of the Al-Qaida recruitment techniques described in the report as new have in fact been typical practice for years. These include the mobilization of young people via radical Islamist rap songs. Recently the terrorists have discovered how to slip into Islamic internet forums and use them as recruitment sites instead of mosques, which are increasingly tightly observed by the authorities. This has made surveillance harder, as has the rapid increase in websites associated with the Jihadists which, as soon as they are closed down, resurface again at new addresses.
A noticeable new trend creating untold problems for the
Even more disturbing is the fact that his comrade, Ayman al-Zawahiri, recently appealed to all of what he calls the "oppressed", in other words to non-Muslims too, to join Al-Qaida in their war against the USA and its allies. The terror network is thus openly seeking to appropriate that left-wing strand of anti-Americanism which, in the name of Islamism, it has always borrowed from.
Joseph Croitoru, © Qantara 2008
Translated from the German by Steph Morris