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Newsblog: 11-17 June

17/06/2011

By ICSR research intern Joana Cook

Welcome to the ICSR Newsblog of the week. This new blog will summarise important or predominant headlines on stories related to radicalisation, extremism and other significant events of the week, with a focus on the UK and Middle East.

The Middle East

The biggest news story of the week is arguably the appointment of the new al Qaeda leadership, Sheikh Dr Abu-Muhammad Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s former second in command who is currently thought to be hiding along the Pakistani-Afghan border. Al-Zawahiri has called for a continuation of jihad against the U.S. and Israel, among others. While analysts and experts around the world predict what this will mean for the future of al Qaeda, al Qaeda challenges the death of Bin Laden as the end of their organisation.

The future of Yemen continues to remain unclear. This week the city of Huta was attacked by al- Qaeda gunmen who killed two policeman. The US has also stated it is setting up a secret base in the region to target al Qaeda in a move seen as ‘preparing for the worst’ in the near-failed state. Officials worry the growing power vacuum in Yemen will be exploited by al Qaeda, who appears to be taking a stronger hold in the area.

Syria has been a particular hot spot in this week’s news. A mass influx of refugeesfrom the Idlib province have fled to Turkey after violent government crackdown’s on numerous cities. With over 1,500 civilians now killed in Syria, Ban Ki-moon has again called for Syrian President Assad to ‘engage in inclusive dialogue and to take bold measures before it’s too late.’

The deal between Fatah and Hamas is still alive despite numerous problems. After holding talks this week in Cairo, it is expected that the two groups will announce a new unity government next week and also discuss an agreement made on the release of prisoners, though they have not yet agreed on a Palestinian Prime Minister.

From the Israeli side comes a different perspective. Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Foreign Minister, threatened this week that Israel will renounce past agreements, such as the Oslo Accords, if Palestinians continue to push forward with a declaration of independent statehood this September. He claimed that the unilateral move would be a violation of all agreements signed in the past 18 years and cancel any Israeli obligation in those agreements.

A unique piece of the week analyses the growing risk of the radicalisation of women in some Pakistani madrassas, which are attended by over a quarter million women. The article claims these women tend to be more educated and affluent than most male-attended madrassas, as they are considered an ideal environment for unwed women to go as they are considered both respectable and safe-spaces from engaging in relationships outside of marriage. The story is a good example of unique niche populations in radicalisation around the world.

The UK

It’s been another busy week in the UK media for stories of radicalisation and extremism. This is due in part to the recently unveiled Prevent strategy, the UK’s new approach to counterterrorism and the flurry of media responses still analysing what this will translate to on the ground.

The Guardian has published a number of articles and responses to its heavy coverage of the Prevent strategy. An interesting commentary by Unmesh Dasai, who leads the Prevent agenda for the Newham Council, states that we must focus on building communities resilient to extremist activities and highlight our commonalities rather than differences to combat extremism in the UK. He also highlights the importance of attacking the roots of extremist ideology and ensuring British values and a ‘multicultural cohesive identity’ are constantly put into practice.

Another hot topic of the Prevent strategy has been its focus identifying potential extremists on UK campuses. One article by the Editor-in-Chief of Ceasefire Magazine argues that by limiting open discussions of extremism on campus, universities don’t allow a productive forum to challenge extremist ideas and instead risk becoming a part of the problem rather than solution. It has also been revealed that a major UK university has been filming students on campus in an attempt to single out potential extremists in an apparent controversial new form of policing.

Numerous Muslim groups in the UK, such as the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) will challenge ethnic profiling of their community they stated this week. With a rise in Islamophobic attacks in the UK, these groups worry that many of these crimes go unreported specifically as anti-Islam attacks, compared to more prominently reported anti-Semitic attacks.

The English Defense League (EDL) has been quite active this week. Last weekend they held rallies in Dewsbury and Maidenhead that were attended by 400 – 500 people, they claimed. The rally covered topics such as former Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik who gave a controversial speech about Muslims ‘taking over’ Britain. The rally was peaceful, though there was a large police presence on hand as well as counter-protestors from the Muslim Defence League.

The EDL also released three new articles this week highlighting challenging the definition of a ‘moderate Muslim,’ claiming that we should instead be looking for reformist Muslims to help integrate Muslims into UK society. They feature a lawyer, Mr. Gavin Boby, who has offered to work pro-bono for those wishing to campaign against the proliferation of mosques in the UK and finally discussing the arrest of their leader Tommy Robinson for the Blackburn demonstration. Robinson’s charges have not been clarified.

That’s just a quick look at some of the major stories of the week. Please keep an eye on the ICSR’s latest news, reports and FREEradicals blog for a more in-depth analysis of these and other events.