Refuting jihadism

guide-to-refuting-jihadism-300x184Western policy-makers and academics have focused in recent years on the need to provide an effective counter-narrative to the global jihadist movement, say two leading analysts. The common threads in radicalization literature suggest a critical element of the counter-narrative should be undermining the theological authenticity of jihadist ideology, Rashad Ali and Hannah Stuart write for Current Trends in Islamist Ideology.

The ideas outlined in their article show the type of arguments that can be used to refute claims made by Islamist militants and extremists, they write, noting that the original report published by the Henry Jackson Society (UK) on which the paper is based received endorsements from Muslim scholars in the UK, former leaders of European jihadist networks, and academics and security experts across Europe.

Jihadists are heretics

Understanding he traditional plurality of views and interpretations of the primary sources of Islamic law is crucial to undermining the legitimacy of jihadist ideology, Ali and Stuart observe:

The purpose is to demonstrate that jihadist claims to represent “authentic Islam” as it is found in the traditional sources and interpretations of Islamic law are false. In fact, as many scholars have argued, the jihadist understanding of Islam and edicts on warfare are actually heterodox innovations. Traditional legal opinions directly refute the jihadist movement’s claim to represent the only acceptable theological approach to these issues just as they challenge the extremist idea that traditional Islam mandates or requires jihadist struggle against modernity. Most important, this helps to undermine the main source of jihadism’s current ideological and religious strength—that is, the extremist claim to be the “true Muslims” who are fighting modernity—and it helps to show that the jihadists are, in fact, heretics.


Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

Democracy ‘losing the global battle of ideas’?

David-ClarkThe tide of global democratic change, which at the start of the new millennium looked like an unstoppable force of nature, has been turned back over the last decade. How serious and prolonged this reversal turns out to be is open to question. What cannot be doubted is the direction of travel, writes David Clark, chair of the UK-based Russia Foundation:

Perhaps the most vivid and significant example of this trend is the sight of a young, imperfect democracy – Ukraine – being brutalised by its large, authoritarian neighbour as the democratic world stands frozen on the sidelines. It isn’t a coincidence that Freedom House began to note the drift away from democracy a year after it downgraded Russia’s ranking from ‘partly free’ to ‘not free’. 

The framework principle for thinking about a strategic response should be democratic internationalism, Clark writes for the FT’s beyondbrics blog:

Liberal democracies should see each other as their most important partners, privileging inter-democracy relations and seeking new and deeper forms of institutional co-operation. Membership of the group should bring economic and political benefits, including preferential trade access, economic support, diplomatic solidarity and collective security guarantees. The goal should be to create within the international community a democratic block strong and successful enough to act as a pole of attraction for emerging nations.

“What Larry Diamond has called the democratic recession has its origins in the loss of confidence and political cohesion that followed the war on terror and the global financial crisis,” Clark contends. “It will continue until the west and like-minded nations around the globe are once again able to prove by example that democracy holds the key to success in the modern world. It is a task of renewal that has barely started.”


Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

Iran prepares for leadership transition?

irankhameneiThough Iran has been broadcasting pictures and videos of top state officials and noted foreign dignitaries visiting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hospital, the health of the man who has held the most powerful post in the Islamic Republic remains unclear, notes Kamran Bokhari, Advisor for Middle Eastern and South Asian Affairs at the STRATFOR Global Intelligence consultancy.  

The unusual public relations management of what has been described as a prostate surgery suggests Tehran may be preparing the nation and the world for a transition to a third supreme leader. Iranian efforts to project an atmosphere of normalcy conceal concerns among players in the Iranian political system that a power vacuum will emerge just as the Islamic republic has reached a geopolitical crossroads.

Any transition comes at the most crucial time in the 35-year history of the Islamic Republic due to unprecedented domestic political shifts underway and, more importantly, due to international events. Pragmatic conservative President Hassan Rouhani’s election in June 2013 elections led to a social, political and economic reform program facing considerable resistance from within the hard-right factions within the clerical and security establishments. The biggest issue between the presidential camp and its opponents is the ongoing process of negotiations with the United States over the Iranian nuclear program. 

A New Supreme Leader

On top of this stressor, uncertainties surrounding Khamenei’s health have shifted Iran’s priorities to the search for a new supreme leader. The unusual manner in which Tehran continues to telegraph Khamenei’s hospitalization to show that all is well — while at the same time psychologically preparing the country and the outside world for the inevitable change — coupled with the (albeit unverified) 2010 release by WikiLeaks of a U.S. diplomatic cable reporting that the supreme leader was suffering from terminal cancer suggests the political establishment in Tehran is preparing for a succession. Khamenei himself would want to prepare a succession before he can no longer carry out his official responsibilities…….

For the hardliners, already deeply unnerved by what they see as an extremely troubling moderate path adopted by Rouhani, it is imperative that the next supreme leader not be sympathetic to the president. From their point of view, Khamenei has given the government far too much leeway. For his part, Rouhani knows that if his opponents get their way in the transition, his troubles promoting his domestic and foreign policy agenda could increase exponentially. 

Iran_Org_Chart simple STRATFORPossible Successors

The country’s elite ideological military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, will no doubt play a key role in who gets to be supreme leader. Likewise, the religious establishment in Qom will definitely have a say in the matter. The revolutionary-era clerics who have long dominated the political establishment are a dying breed, and the Assembly of Experts would not want to appoint someone of advanced age, since this would quickly lead to another succession. 

Stratfor has learned that potential replacements for Khamenei include former judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a cleric close to Khamenei and known for his relative moderate stances. They also include Hassan Khomeini, the oldest grandson of the founder of the republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He is close to the president’s pragmatic conservative camp and the reformists, but pedigree may not compensate for his relatively left-wing leanings and his relatively young age of 42. Finally, they include current judiciary chief Mohammed-Sadegh Larijani, the younger brother of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani who some believe is the preferred candidate of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The key problem that has surrounded the post of the supreme leader since the death of the founder of the republic is the very small pool of potential candidates to choose a replacement from: Most clerics either lack political skills, while those that do have political savvy lack requisite religious credentials. Khamenei was a lesser cleric to the status of ayatollah shortly before assuming the role of supreme leader, though he has demonstrated great political acumen since then. 

Khomeini was unique in that he had solid credentials as a noted religious scholar, but also had solid political credentials given his longtime leadership of the movement that culminated in the overthrow of shah in 1979. Since Khomeini fell out with his designated successor, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, in 1987, no one has had both qualities. Whoever takes over from Khamenei will be no exception to this, even though he will need to be able to manage factional rivalries at one of the most critical junctures in the evolution of the Islamic Republic.


Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

Identity deficit at root of ‘costly Arab delusions’?

arab human rights waslaWith the exception of Tunisia, not a single Arab state was able to maintain the pro-democracy momentum born during the Arab Spring. The reason: they lack a strong national identity, argues Mustapha Tlili, a research scholar at New York University, and the founder and director of the N.Y.U. Center for Dialogues: Islamic World – U.S. – the West.

To overcome this legacy, Arab governments need to develop a new social contract between authority and citizen, through which a distinct national identity and ultimately allegiance will take hold and put these countries on a democratic path, he writes for World Policy:

The task is not easy: to generate a profound sense of citizenship and national identity, a country will have to engage in promoting modern and secular education and economic and social development on behalf of the poor majority of the population. Political systems will need to be restructured through the adoption of secular constitutions guaranteeing the rule of law, checks and balances and periodic fair and free elections. Civil society will need to bolster voices of reason to combat extremists. Arab elites will need to renounce demagoguery and undertake the hard, radical task of self-examination that may lead them to a healthier and more productive approach to politics as the art of the possible. Most important, it will take time for a new class of educated and enlightened citizens to grow in strength and in the belief that liberal secular democracy, as developed over the last 300 years or so in the West, is the best road to prosperity and a peaceful coexistence.

“Consider Europe, where the notion of a nation-state was introduced at Westphalia in 1648,” he observes. “It was not until 300 years later, with the precursors to the European Union, that the peoples of Europe began to imagine themselves as part of a single entity.”


Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

YanukovychLeaks awarded European media prize

M100 Sanssouci Colloquium 2014

YanukovychLeaks reporter Kateryna Kapliuk, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko and YanukovychLeaks reporter Natalie Sedletska

YanukovychLeaks has been honored at the annual meeting of the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project reports.

The members of YanukovychLeaks received a special prize at the international conference, which gathers 100 leading European media figures at Sanssouci Park in Potsdam, Germany, in recognition of the project’s achievement in “exposing the system of corruption” of Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych.

YanukovychLeaks is a collaborative project which works to organize and analyze documents recovered from Yanukovych’s Mezhihirya estate on Feb. 22, just hours after he fled the country. Nearly 200 folders of documents were recovered by volunteer divers after they had been thrown into a lake in an attempt to destroy them. Working together, reporters recovered and dried the documents and began the process of sorting and analyzing them.

After being salvaged, these documents, which detail Yanukovych’s extravagant spending, financial investments, and enemies, were uploaded onto an online database created by OCCRP technical staff where they can be viewed by journalists and citizens worldwide.

YanukovychLeaks reporters Natalie Sedletska and Kateryna Kapliuk attended the Sept. 12 awards gala in the Orangery Palace and accepted the special prize, presented by Christopher Walker, the executive director of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies.

“It’s such a terrific indication of what civil society in Ukraine is doing in terms of supporting accountability, transparency, and efforts to combat corruption that has ripped so terribly into Ukrainian society,” said Walker.


Several leading Polish NGOs were this week awarded state service medals, including the Order of Polonia (Order of Rebirth of Poland), one of Poland’s highest Orders, for their work in Ukraine and further afield.

Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest