The Internet, too, plays an increasing role in recruitment as an easy, cheap, and anonymous networking tool, as seen in the dedicated efforts of many Islamic terrorist groups to produce slick multimedia presentations. Neumann’s report states that online forums, videos, and sermons normalize extremist ideology and serve as an echo chamber amplifying a long list of Islamic grievances.
But even the list of those grievances is subject to change, he observes. While terrorist groups continue to reinforce the overarching jihadist narrative of Islam under attack by Western forces of occupation and globalization, recently the themes that support the grand narrative have shifted. In recent years the primary source of attention has been the presence of allied troops in Iraq, but that has changed recently with renewed focus on Afghanistan and the recent conflict in Gaza. In terms of recruitment, these changing themes have the power of connecting recruits to distant conflicts and framing events to promote escalating confrontation locally.
These findings of shifting trends in jihadist recruitment coincide with new changes in UK government policy. Where the government had previously embraced and funded many extremist but nominally non-violent organizations, in the hopes of countering terrorist activity, a new program dubbed “Contest 2″ is redefining these relationships.
As reported on the BBC’s Panorama program last Monday, “Muslim First, British Second,” the government is backing away from groups that promote extremist ideology and serve as “conveyor belts” to terrorist groups. A draft of this new strategy obtained by the Telegraph outlines five ideological points that will mark an organization as “extremist”:
- They advocate a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries.
- They promote Sharia law.
- They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.
- They argue that Islam bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah.
- They fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.
These policy changes come none too soon as Channel 4 just reported that UK Somalis that have trained in al-Shabaab terrorist camps are now returning home and pose a new domestic terror threat. That report stated that at least one 21-year-old individual from Ealing launched a successful suicide attack in Somali. As I noted here at PJ Media back in December, this is a rapidly growing problem in the U.S. as well.
This awakening by UK government officials as to the problem of non-violent extremists fueling jihadist recruitment should be noted by U.S. officials. Despite the recent announcement that the FBI was distancing itself from known Muslim Brotherhood front groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Obama administration continues to embrace Saudi-backed extremists, such as the appearance of Islamic Society of North America president Ingrid Mattson as a prayer leader at the Obama inaugural prayer service. Mattson’s participation was despite her organization being named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism finance trial.
What the Brits have learned is that such associations with Islamic radicals have not served to better engage the Muslim community, but rather have empowered the extremists and effectively shut out moderate leaders. Thus, the UK experience with shifting trends in jihadist recruitment and the changes in government policy are developments that deserve immediate notice on this side of the Atlantic.