Olivier Roy: Religion and the state: unintended effects of anti-radicalisation policies

Thoughtful  commentary:

In most European countries, violent radicalisation is usually understood as a consequence of religious radicalisation.

Consequently, policies for countering or preventing radicalism assume that the key is to regulate the practice of Islam, in particular, either by promoting moderate or liberal interpretations of it or by pushing for secularisation in order to reduce faith to the private sphere.

The issue I would like to raise here is not so much whether such a policy stigmatises Muslims, rather whether such a policy is relevant.

First, from a purely statistical point of view, the link between religious and violent radicalisation is very weak. There have been some hundreds of terrorists in Western Europe in the last 25 years, while we can conclude that the number of believers in ‘fundamentalist’ Muslim schools of thought are in the hundreds of thousands if we consider the percentage of mosques defined as ‘Salafist’ or ‘Tablighi’ by the authorities (in France fewer than 300 out of a total of more than 2,000).

Moreover, if we look at the profile of the actual terrorists (people who committed deadly attacks in Europe during the last 25 years), few of them have belonged to a fundamentalist faith community or regularly attended a mosque considered fundamentalist.

More specifically, if we take into consideration the terrorist attacks perpetrated since the Bataclan attack in 2015 in Paris, we are confronted with lone wolves who have never been part of a fundamentalist network. That is not to say that these radicals have nothing to do with Islam: they consider themselves Muslims; they hope to become martyrs and go to paradise; they claim to avenge the sufferings of the Muslim Ummah. But they have almost never been trained for years in a fundamentalist theological school.

Nevertheless, in all countries involved in counter radicalisation efforts, the dominant doctrine has been to target religious practices, and, as I will demonstrate, this is not confined to Islam.

Secularisation vs liberalisation

This policy has been developed with two apparently opposed strategies. One promotes the reformation of Islam or the adoption of liberal forms of the religion, the other the extension of secularism. The apparent contradiction between the two approaches (the first acknowledging that religion has its place in social life and public space, the other confining religion to the private sphere) led to tensions between the so-called French model (laïcité) and the so called Anglo-Saxon model of multiculturalism. In fact, they both imply a reshaping of the traditional relationship between state and religion.

The first issue is how to define ‘religious radicalisation’? To do this you need a concept of ‘religious moderation’; but what is a ‘moderate religion’? The dominant religions in Europe are ‘revealed’ religions that believe in a transcendent God, creator and lawmaker. In this sense, the Abrahamic religions are not ‘moderate’ because they believe in an absolute truth and consider that the word of God is above human laws, even if the faithful citizen is supposed to obey and respect the laws of the state.

In any case, the debate is shifting from ‘truth’ to values, from ‘moderate’ to ‘liberal’: religions are requested to accept women and LGBTIQ+ rights, and this, of course, does not only apply to Islam. Should this move to promote liberal values go as far as to pressure the Catholic Church to have female priests, and ultra-orthodox Jews to adopt co-education in the yeshiva?

In addition, aside from its objectives, the simple move from the states to promote ‘good’ religion is upsetting the trend that has characterised the democratisation process since the 18th century: separation of church and state.

What remains of the mixing of both are just symbolic remnants (like the position of the British queen as head of the Anglican Church, for example). For the state, to interfere with religion means to ignore the separation principle and to run up against another pillar of the state of law: human rights. Freedom of religion is a human right and ensures the believer that the state will not interfere with faith and theology, even if it can limit some religious practices in the public space.

Far from ensuring religious freedom, any state intervention in the religious field will, on the contrary, contribute to the politicisation of the practice of religion and eviscerate the autonomy of religion, leading to a new form of state secularisation.

The French state steps in

Nevertheless, French policy is not shy about imposing secularisation on Islam. And this policy is popular in the country. But there is a side effect that is rarely perceived. The policy is more than an anti-Islam or Islamophobic stance: it is an anti-religious one. And the Catholic Church is feeling this cold wind, especially at a time when the scandal of paedophilia has undermined its prestige in society, with the trials of priests and cardinals widely covered by the media, and the pope being forced to acknowledge the issue.

A string of laws, from the 2004 act banning ‘religious signs’ in schools to the law against ‘separatism’ approved by the French parliament this February, have been passed to fight ‘Islamism’ or ‘Islamist separatism’. Explicitly, they target religious practices across the board: all religious symbols are banned from schools; any kind of home schooling (practised by Catholics or progressive supporters of alternative education, but not by Muslims) is severely restricted; and associations that receive public funding are supposed to sign a ‘charter of republican values’ that bans any gender segregated activities or rejection of gay rights.

Curbing religious practices to undermine radicalisation simply does not work. On the contrary, it contributes to a process of strict secularisation of the religious space, targeting first of all mainstream, ordinary believers who are the best bulwark against any kind of radicalisation.

Source: Religion and the state: unintended effects of anti-radicalisation policies

Sappani: Politicians should be guided by victims of terrorism, not their killers

Of note, some valid points regarding political considerations:

Four Muslim names spanning three generations slain by an act of terror in London, Ont., now also belong to those we memorialize on the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism this June 23. Sixteen years since it was first enacted, the list of victims continues to grow longer. Surprisingly, this is happening in one of the safest countries in the world, despite Air India Flight 182’s bombing in 1985 and the 2014 attack on Parliament Hill.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement on this occasion takes note of the horrific events in 1985, yet the measure of actions taken to confront extremism remains a project of politics, not national security.

The 1985 terrorist attack on Air India, killing 280 Canadian citizens, should have catalyzed the creation of a top-tier security system. The attack constituted the biggest aviation terror event until 9/11, and today, 38 years after the tragedy and more than a decade after the John Major report, Canada still seems incapable of confronting extremism.

Hard questions have to be asked.  What has been learned since 1985? Do security professionals have the mandate to do their jobs, or do politics prevail over the security of Canadians?

A 2018 CSIS report explicitly described Sikh radicalism, Islamic radicalism, and far-right fanaticism, as among the top five terror threats to Canada. The report created an uproar in certain segments of the Indo-Canadian diaspora, resulting in it being watered down – not due to new facts or errors, but under political pressure from vote banks decrying discrimination. Indeed, Canadian politicians interfering with national security reports is the natural product of decades of growing identity politics.

Despite the Air India bombing, the Canadian terrorists behind the attack continue to be hailed as heroes at parades in Canada, widely attended by elected Canadian representatives. Canadian politicians also happily attend events glorifying the banned LTTE terrorist group pandering for votes in Tamil communities.

Identity-based vote banks play a significant role in partisan politics. Politicians prioritize their own ambitions over the values of our nation and at the expense of fallen victims, elevating these brokers of extremist ideologies. A select few of our national leaders refuse to compromise on these values, like Bob Rae during the 2006 Liberal leadership race. Yet they too, often, learn the hard lessons of the extent to which extremist agendas dominate Canadian politics.

At times, pandering to diverging extremes produces dark comedy. All of Canada’s national leaders rightfully condemned Islamophobia after the London terror attack, while contradicting themselves by refusing to condemn the naked Islamophobia of Quebec’s Bill C-21.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is a case in point. In delivering a thundering speech – in English – on Canada as a “racist country,” he failed to deliver the same sentiment – in French – to the Quebec legislature. He is unfortunately also known for his controversies in describing Khalistani separatism.

The Conservatives are also experiencing their own issues, having rejected MP Derek Sloan for associating with far-right extremists. One can also point to Alberta MP Garnett Genuis, who is the party’s self-appointed champion of Punjab – read: Khalistan – independence.

Even today, the majority of politicians in Greater Vancouver and Toronto will not openly condemn banned terrorist organizations in Canada, fearing reprisals from extremist vote banks. Extremists groups have learned to exploit membership-driven nomination processes, even as our security agencies fail to confront these metastasizing threats.

On this 16th National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism, it is not the victims whose memory are guiding our national debate, but the agendas of the extremists who killed them. The victims themselves are often immigrants, from the Air India bombing to our murdered Muslim family, leaving one us to wonder why these murders slip so easily from national memory.

In elections to come, politicians would be wise to discover courage in going beyond the platitudes of unprincipled pandering and explicitly refuse to platform extremism. It would be refreshing to see Canadian leaders whose political outreach is more informed by terrorism’s victims, than those who celebrate their murderers.

Source: Politicians should be guided by victims of terrorism, not their killers

Equivocating over the existence of rightwing extremism will cost Australia dearly

Given Canadian debates over how to “label” different forms of extremism, interesting take on Australia’s shift towards more neutral but yet clear terminology:

Last week Australia’s spy boss sent ripples through the national security community with the announcement that Asio will shift from using “rightwing extremism” and “Islamic extremism” to using “ideological extremism” and “religious extremism”. In his second annual threat assessment, director general Mike Burgess told a Canberra audience that “words matter”, and the old words were no longer fit for purpose.

Words do matter. Burgess’ words in his first public address in 2020 which took aim at the extreme right wing, were lightning bolts in Australia’s post-Christchurch discourse. The organisation’s disclosure that 30-40% of its caseload was associated with these issues gave invaluable context to a public debate that was severely lacking.

While the quick pivot away from these terms took many by surprise, it has not happened in a vacuum. The change is similar to one undertaken by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in 2020. Far from signalling the diminishing resolve of the country, Canada took the bold step of listing the Proud Boys on its terror register in February. Likewise, the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence published an unclassified memo dated 1 March 2021 which contained similar rhetorical shifts throughout. The memo, which warns more “racially motivated extremist attacks” will “almost certainly” take place in 2021, was in the process of being released to the public when a gunman shot and killed eight Asian Americans in Atlanta.

Following this year’s address, Burgess told Guardian Australia that political pressure did not factor in the organisation’s decision process. But as the director general acknowledges, the organisation doesn’t control or seek to control the way Australia’s leaders in politics and the media discuss these issues and this is where rhetoric plays its most important role.

Source: Equivocating over the existence of rightwing extremism will cost Australia dearly

Are We Ready for a Novel Narrated by a Terrorist? – The Daily Beast

Similar but different to The Reluctant Fundamentalist:

Would you read a book in which the protagonist is a radicalized terrorist?

This is the premise of Khalil, a novel by Algerian-born, France-based author Yasmina Khadra. When it was first published in France in 2018, there was a certain reticence towards the book. “Frankly, what interest is there in finding yourself in the mind of one of the perpetrators of the attacks of November 13, 2015 in Paris?” a cultural critic in French newspaper Libération bluntly queried. “Khadra’s new novel provokes an impulse to retreat: don’t want to read it, don’t want to check it out.”

And yet, the reviewer concluded just as firmly: “Such prejudices show that the author was right to write his book.”

The desire to dismiss rather than deconstruct dangerous figures is, in a way, its own danger. Their unfathomable and unconscionable actions shape our anarchic society; avoidance doesn’t eradicate their presence or power. Nor does an engagement with their narrative validate what they do. Confronting our malaise around these figures helps identify how the past has metastasized into the present moment.

New Zealand: Ethnic affairs ministry might have averted mosque shootings – group

Bit of a stretch IMO but certainly having a minister, even a junior one, helps raise issues:

The head of the country’s Federation of Multicultural Councils said having a Ministry of Ethnic Affairs in place before now might have helped avert last year’s mosque shootings.

A number of initiatives have been confirmed as part of the Royal Commission report into the mosque shootings, released on Tuesday.

One of them is that a Ministry for Ethnic Communities will be created.

NZ Federation of Multicultural Councils president Pancha Narayanan said they had wanted such a ministry for a long time but he was grateful it would now happen.

“I don’t know how to express the emotions with this. We have been asking for this since our inception in 1989 and I’m grateful this country has heard [us] but I’m sorry that we had to lose so many lives before.

“Maybe this is a way of redeeming ourselves and saying ‘thank you’ to those people who have lost their lives.”

Narayanan said having a Ministry of Ethnic Communities in place might have led to a different outcome.

“For one, we at least would have had a very strong advocate for … example, the Muslim community has been raising this issue – these concerns and their fears, and a ministry would have to have been responsible, they would have talked to various ministers and politicians directly.”

He said such a ministry would have also had a lot of insight into the SIS and other agencies, plus stronger policy-making recommendations, while “leaving the mahi on the ground to the communities”.

Narayanan said the Office of Ethnic Communities did a marvellous job but a ministry had “greater clout”.

The Office of Ethnic Communities was the government’s principal advisor on ethnic diversity in New Zealand. It provided information, advice and services to ethnic communities, and administered funds to support community development and social cohesion.

Narayanan said a ministry would have to built from the ground-up based on the values of the Treaty of Waitangi, and recognising tangata whenua as a first-nation people.

He hoped it would be set up quickly, but with the right foundations that looked upon New Zealand as a flourishing society because of its diversity.

He added that the culture of New Zealand was changing due to the hard work of communities, but he hoped to see this time around that New Zealand became a truly Treaty-based multi-cultural society.

“We don’t differentiate whether they’re from Europe or Asia – we just want the policies and the legislation to be inclusive.

“Let’s not lose sight of the potential this ministry has to reset things.”

The report made 44 recommendations which the government has agreed in principle to implement, including a new agency with responsibility for strategic issues around intelligence and security.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said while nothing could have stopped the attack, there were still failings at a high level. “And for that I apologise.”

Source: Ethnic affairs ministry might have averted mosque shootings – group

‘Institutionally racist’: NZ security agencies were Islamophobic and ignored right-wing threat – Muslim group

Of note. Valid and necessary of course to await the inquiry’s final report:

New Zealand’s security agencies were “institutionally racist and Islamophobic” and ignored the rising threat of right-wing extremism because it was instead focused on Muslim terrorism, a Kiwi Islamic organisation says.

The Federation of the Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) yesterday publicly released its submission to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15 terror attacks.

It investigated how the New Zealand Intelligence Community [NZIC] didn’t foresee the threat of right-wing extremism despite rising attacks overseas and the Muslim community here feeling increasingly unsafe.

“We asked for help. We knew we were vulnerable to such an attack. We did not know who, when, what, where or how. But we knew,” the report said.

A team of researchers pored over a decade of media reports, speeches in Parliament, public addresses, online forums among other sources to establish how the threat had been ignored.

It concluded security organisations were institutionally racist, Islamophobic, incorrect and misled the public.

“We are not trying to generate any hate, we are just trying to give the facts as we see them. The problem is much deeper than that,” said Abdur Razzaq Khan, who chaired the federation’s submission to the Royal Commission.

The federation said Muslim communities were left “defenceless” because of “systemic failures” of diversity at the security organisations which failed to properly engage with Muslim communities.

The report pointed to numerous examples of the director-general of security Rebecca Kitteridge wrongly framed terrorism as a “Muslim issue” rather than seeing the community as potential victims.

Their submission included a speech from Kitteridge in 2016 at Victoria University where she said New Zealanders “can walk the streets free from fear” of events like Paris, Brussels, Ottawa, London and Sydney which were all perpetrated by Islamic radicals.

She did not mention the events of Oslo, Quebec, Pittsburg or Macerata which were orchestrated by right-wing extremists.

It was not until mid-2018 that agencies began assessing the threat of right-wing extremists, the report said.

But Khan said they did not blame any individual for the “failings”, or say that the NZIC was staffed by white supremacists or individuals with anti-Muslim bias.

“This is not the fault of any individual – this is the culture of Islamophobia.”

The NZSIS was extremely capable and if they had focused on finding right-wing extremism, they would have found the Christchurch terrorist.

“This rat would have easily been identified if they were looking – but they weren’t looking.

“They are very good, they searched out those Muslims who were searching out objectionable material and they prosecuted.”

The federation also found the Christchurch mosque attacks terrorist would never have been able to obtain a firearm if proper procedures were followed because two of his referees did not meet police criteria.

In order to avoid a terror attack happening again, the federation recommended criminalising hate crimes, denying right-wing extremism, establishing a Ministry of Super Diversity, improving how media portray Muslims, and better training for the police and security agencies.

The New Zealand Intelligence Community said it could not respond to specific claims until the Royal Commission’s report was released on December 8. The 800-page report has been presented to the Government.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she wanted the public to see the report before “launching into the discussion” on whether New Zealand’s security agencies had failed.

Source: ‘Institutionally racist’: NZ security agencies were Islamophobic and ignored right-wing threat – Muslim group

Glavin: On the death of Samuel Paty – Shouldn’t freedom of religion mean freedom from religion too?

Two articles responding to the reaction in many Muslim countries to French President Macron’s comments following the beheading of Samuel Paty, starting with Terry Glavin’s pointing out the hypocrisy of those who criticize Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate in the West while being silent on Chinese repression and arguably genocidal policies against the Uighurs:

Samuel Paty was a quiet 47-year-old middle-school civics teacher at the Collège du Bois d’Aulne, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in the suburbs of Paris. He would walk to and from school from his second-floor apartment in nearby Eragny, where he lived alone with his five-year-old son. After class, he liked to play tennis. By all accounts passionately devoted to teaching, Samuel Paty was otherwise a man of temperate disposition, well-regarded by his students and by his colleagues.

That was just three weeks ago. Now, Paty’s name is coming up in blood-curdling slogans shouted in the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and in arguments and imbecilities erupting in Ankara, Riyadh, Islamabad and Tehran. Ambassadors have been summoned. Diplomats have been recalled. Tuesday this week was officially International Religious Freedom Day. If there was anything worth observing about it, it’s that religious freedom must mean freedom from religion, too, or it means nothing at all.

Source: Glavin: On the death of Samuel Paty – Shouldn’t freedom of religion mean freedom from religion too?

More temperate commentary by Konrad Yakabuski along similar lines:

The beheading this month of a middle-school teacher by an 18-year-old Islamic extremist, upset that his victim had shown caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed to his students, was a crime so horrific that it shocked even France’s most-hardened anti-terrorism experts.

In a country permanently on high alert since a wave of terrorist attacks took the lives of hundreds of French civilians in 2015, the gruesome decapitation of teacher Samuel Paty was unanimously condemned by French politicians as an assault on the Republic itself.

“Samuel Paty was killed because the Islamists want our future and because they know that, with heroes like him, they will never have it,” President Emmanuel Macron declared at an Oct. 21 ceremony in honour of the slain teacher held outside the Sorbonne. “We will defend the freedom you taught and raise up secularism. We will not renounce caricatures, or sketches, even if others step back. We will offer all the chances that the Republic owes to its youth without discrimination.”

The caricatures that Mr. Paty had shown his adolescent students, as part of a lesson on freedom of expression, were the same ones that had led to an attack on the offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in 2015. That attack left 12 people dead and sparked the global “Je suis Charlie” movement in support of free speech. But Mr. Macron’s defence of the freedom of the press earned him nasty epithets throughout the Muslim world and exposed once again the clash in values between France’s secularist majority and its growing Muslim minority.

French police have rounded up dozens of suspected accomplices to the attack on Mr. Paty by a Chechen refugee who had been alerted to the teacher’s actions by French Muslims who denounced it on social media. Mr. Macron and hardline Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin have vowed further crackdowns on imams accused of promoting Islamic “separation” within France.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led the foreign charge against Mr. Macron with weekend diatribes questioning the French President’s mental health and accusing him of “leading a campaign of hate” against Muslims akin to the pre-Second World War treatment of European Jews. On Monday, Mr. Erdogan joined growing calls for a boycott of French products. Anti-Macron protests erupted in several majority-Muslim countries.

While other Western leaders expressed solidarity with Mr. Macron in the wake of Mr. Paty’s killing, it took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 10 days to even acknowledge the incident – and only after the Bloc Québécois brought forward a House of Commons motion condemning the attack “on freedom of expression” in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northeast of Paris.

Questioned by journalists on Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau did condemn Mr. Paty’s killing, but declined to express his solidarity with Mr. Macron. “I’m going to take the opportunity to talk to world leaders, community leaders, leaders of the Muslim community here in Canada, to understand their worries, their concerns, to listen and to work to reduce these tensions,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Unfortunately for Mr. Trudeau, there is no middle ground in this debate. If he does not stand with Mr. Macron to defend freedom of expression, he automatically stands with Mr. Erdogan as an apologist for Muslim extremists. A listening tour will not cut it.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne also failed the grade with a Monday tweet in which he expressed “solidarity with our French friends.” He referred to “Turkey’s recent comments” as being “totally unacceptable” but did not rebuke Mr. Erdogan personally. He promised to “defend freedom of expression with respect.”

There is no other way to interpret Mr. Champagne’s tweet except as a repudiation of Mr. Paty and Charlie Hebdo. The caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammed were anything but respectful. That was their whole point. No religion is off limits to satirists. And thank God for that.

The right to freedom of speech is meaningless if it is subject to conditions such as “respect.” The Constitution protects freedom of speech precisely because speech that is meaningful is often controversial. It is up to the courts to determine what constitutes hate speech under Section 319 of the Criminal Code. But the bar is set mercifully high. Democracy depends on it.

This is the second time in as many weeks that Mr. Trudeau’s government chose to trample on the Charter in the name of political correctness. After a University of Ottawa professor was suspended for using the n-word as part of an educational online lecture, Mr. Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland made banal pronouncements about fighting systemic racism rather than standing up for academic freedom. It was a facile cop-out on their part.

“We will not give in, ever,” Mr. Macron tweeted on Sunday, in French, English and Arabic. “We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and [we] defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values.”

Canadians should stand with Mr. Macron, even if their government will not.

Source: Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-canadians-should-stand-with-macron-even-if-trudeau-wont/

A Teacher, His Killer and the Failure of French Integration

Good in-depth background:

They could have easily shared the same classroom — the immigrant teenager and the veteran teacher known for his commitment to instilling the nation’s ideals, in a relationship that had turned waves of newcomers into French citizens.

But Abdoullakh Anzorov, 18, who grew up in France from age 6 and was the product of its public schools, rejected those principles in a horrific crime that shocked and enraged France. Offended by cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad shown in a class on free speech given by the teacher, Samuel Paty, 47, the teenager beheaded him a week ago with a long knife before being gunned down by the police.

France has paid national homage to Mr. Paty because the killing was seen as an attack on the very foundation — the teacher, the public school — of French citizenship. In the anger sweeping the nation, French leaders have promised to redouble their defense of a public educational system that plays an essential role in shaping national identity.

The killing has underscored the increasing challenges to that system as France grows more racially and ethnically diverse. Two or three generations of newcomers have now struggled to integrate into French society, the political establishment agrees.

But the nation, broadly, has balked at the suggestion from critics, many in the Muslim community, that France’s model of integration, including its schools, needs an update or an overhaul.

President Emmanuel Macron’s emphatic defense of the caricatures has also led to ripples overseas. Several Muslim nations, including Kuwait and Qatar, have begun boycotting French goods in protest. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey questioned Mr. Macron’s mental health in a speech, prompting France to recall its ambassador to Turkey.

Mr. Anzorov was the latest product of France’s public schools to turn against their ideals: Two brothers who went to public schools in 2015 attacked Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine that published — and republished last month — caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Jean-Pierre Obin, a former senior national education official, said that public schools played a leading role in “the cultural assimilation and political integration” of immigrant children who “were turned into good little French” and no longer felt “Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or Polish.” Other institutions that also played this role — the Catholic church, unions and political parties — have been weakened, leaving only the schools, he said.

“Today, public schools can’t fully do this,” Mr. Obin said. “But I don’t see another model — especially the Anglo-Saxon model of multiculturalism, which I don’t think is more successful.”

The French model ran into obstacles when the immigrants were no longer European, white or Roman Catholic. Today about 10 percent of France’s population is believed to be Muslim.

The push to assimilate risks engendering a form of xenophobia in the broader population, said Hakim El Karoui, a senior fellow at the Paris-based think tank Institut Montaigne.

“The message is: ‘We don’t want your otherness because we want you to be like us,’” he said.

The children who fail to assimilate — and often end up lost, feeling that they belong to neither France nor their ancestral countries — embody the doubt “that our model is not the right one,” Mr. El Karoui said, a possibility that the French “obviously find unbearable.”

It was in schools that immigrant children learned not only proper French, but also how to politely address teachers as “Madame” or “Monsieur.” They also absorbed notions like secularism in a country where, much like in the United States, ideals form the basis of nationhood.

At least on paper, Mr. Anzorov seemed a good candidate to fit into French society. A Russian of Chechen descent, he arrived in Paris when he was 6 and entered a public primary school. When he was about 10, his family moved to Évreux, a city in an economically depressed area about 55 miles west of Paris and home to about 50 Chechen families, according to Chechens living in the city.

The Chechens largely kept to themselves in Madeleine, a poor neighborhood with other immigrants, who are mostly from former French colonies and whose integration is often complicated by France’s colonial legacy. 

Mr. Anzorov attended a middle school called Collège Pablo Neruda that, hewing to the national curriculum, also offered civics lessons on secularism and freedom of expression. He lived in a rent-subsidized, five-story apartment building with his family, with a direct view of the local jail.

“He always passed in front of my place when going home,” said Ruslan Ibragimov, 49, a Chechen who arrived in Évreux 18 years ago. “He was always alone, with his backpack. Even when he would see me from afar, he’d come over to greet me. He never talked much.”

Never much interested in his studies, Mr. Anzorov was passionate about mixed-martial arts, said a 26-year-old Chechen who also practices the sport. When he was 16 in 2018, Mr. Anzorov lived for a while in Toulouse, where he had an uncle.

There, he joined a sports club that had a Chechen coach and a good reputation among athletes, the 26-year-old said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he said he feared reprisals against Chechens.

“His goal was to fight in the U.F.C.,” the 26-year-old said, referring to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a top promoter of mixed martial arts.

Located in a public facility, the club was investigated by the local authorities because some members prayed in the locker room and asked women to cover their arms and legs, according to the French news media.

In a country guided by strict secularism, such actions are a violation of French law and regarded as signs of radicalization by the authorities — and they have led to many sports clubs being placed under surveillance.

But it was not known what, if any, influence the club exerted on Mr. Anzorov, who had not been on any terrorism watch list.

Unsuccessful in Toulouse, Mr. Anzorov came back to Évreux. His father, who specialized in setting up security for construction sites and other businesses, was encouraging his son to join him, Mr. Ibragimov said. The father had recently bought his son a car, he added.

“But he couldn’t drive it yet because he still hadn’t gotten his driver’s license,” Mr. Ibragimov said.

It was only in recent months that the teenager had shown signs of radicalization, said the special antiterrorism prosecutor, Jean-François Ricard. Mr. Anzorov’s transformation appeared to have played out online, according to an analysis by the French news website Mediapart of a Twitter account that he created in June and that was deleted last week after his death.

His posts on Twitter attacked a wide range of targets — from Jews to Christians to the rulers of Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Paty was teaching history and civics at a middle school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a middle-class Paris suburb, at the time of the attack.

“He is the kind of teacher who leaves his mark, by his gentleness and open-mindedness,” said Maeva Latil, 21, who joined a tribute in front of the Jacques-Prévert middle school, in a small village south of Paris, where Mr. Paty taught between 2011 and 2018.

In history classes, he used contemporary examples — from Pink Floyd songs to a book on racism by a soccer player — to make his teaching resonate with his students, said Aurélie Davoust, 43, a former literature teacher at Jacques-Prévert.

“With him, there was really this aspect: You don’t study history to talk about dead things, you study history to become a citizen,” she said.

Mr. Paty was a strong believer in laïcité, the strict secularism that separates religion from the state in France. Ms. Davoust recalled Mr. Paty once asking a young girl wearing a cross around her neck in school to take it off.

“Our democracy was established against the Catholic Church and the monarchy, and laïcité is the way that democracy was organized in France,” said Dominique Schnapper, a sociologist and president of the Council of the Wise, a group created by the government in 2018 to reinforce laïcité in public schools.

In a class on freedom of expression — including the right to say blasphemous things about all religions — Mr. Paty used caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus and rabbis to teach, former students said.

After his transfer a few years ago to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in a Paris suburb with a more diverse population, he appeared to adjust his approach. When showing caricatures, he began telling students who might be offended that they could leave the classroom or look away.

At the new school, students said he showed mostly caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that had been published by Charlie Hebdo. One of the two shown this month was titled “A star is born” and depicted Muhammad fully nude. That upset many Muslim students and their parents, according to the local chapter of PEEP, a national parents association.

Mr. Paty said he was surprised by the backlash and apologized to students, said Talia, a 13-year-old student who was present at the lecture.

“He told us that he’s a teacher, that this class is part of his program, that France is a secular country and so is our school,” said Talia, who asked that she be identified by her first name only given the sensitivity of the situation.

One angry father complained about the teacher in videos he uploaded on social media. Enraged, Mr. Anzorov, the Chechen teenager, traveled all the way from Évreux to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, nearly 60 miles, to kill Mr. Paty.

“Did he never have committed teachers? Or did he have them and he didn’t hear them?” Ms. Schnapper, the president of the Council of the Wise, said of Mr. Anzorov’s years in France’s public schools. “We’ll never know. But it’s a sign of failure.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/26/world/europe/france-beheading-teacher.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Islamic State: Giant library of group’s online propaganda discovered

Highlights the degree of sophistication and resources:
One of the largest collections of online material belonging to the group calling itself Islamic State has been discovered by researchers at the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD).
The digital library contains more than 90,000 items and has an estimated 10,000 unique visitors a month.
Experts say it provides a way to continually replenish extremist content on the net.
But taking it down is difficult because the data is not stored in one place.
And despite counter-terrorism authorities in Britain and the US having been alerted to this growing repository, it continues to grow.

‘Better terrorist’

The discovery came after the death of the prominent IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in October 2019.
At the time, many social media posts supporting the organisation contained a short link.
It led researchers to documents and videos in nine different languages.
They included details of attacks, including those on Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017, in London on 7 July 2005 and in the US on 11 September 2001.
“[There’s] everything you need to know to plan and carry out an attack,” said ISD deputy director Moustafa Ayad, who discovered the archive.
“Things that teach you how to be a better terrorist essentially.”
The ISD named the library the Caliphate Cache.
For months the institute’s researchers have studied how it evolves, how it is being administered and who is visiting it.
The data is spread across a decentralised system, rather than a single computer server.
Anyone can share the content across the web, via servers based at multiple locations.
And this hampers any effort to take it offline.
But as long as the Caliphate Cache remains live, it aids IS by providing a means to continuously seed out content.

Pop singer

The material is added to social-media comments pages and spread via bot accounts.
Another technique has been to target Twitter accounts linked to celebrities and athletes.
For example, IS hijacked an account belonging to a fan of the pop singer Justin Bieber and used it to promote material from the cache.
In another case, the group managed to fool the English rugby team’s account into following one of its own by masquerading as a supporter.
“They understand how not just to game platforms, they understand the power of the content that is contained within the Caliphate Cache,” Mr Ayad said.

Runaway brides

Not all the cache’s content is violent.
Visitors also encounter philosophies of IS, religious texts and propagandised versions of what an IS lifestyle looks like.
The researchers say this includes material runaway brides such as Shamima Begum would have seen.
Most of those drawn to the Caliphate Cache are 18- to 24-year-old males in the Arab world, with 40% of the traffic coming from social media, largely via YouTube.

Extremist groups

The ISD has also discovered the Caliphate Cache is not unique.
There are smaller repositories belonging to other extremist groups, many of which are also using decentralised platforms.
“The attraction for jihadists of these platforms is that the developers of these decentralised platforms have no way of acting against content that is stored on user-operated servers or content that’s shared across a dispersed network of users, ” BBC Monitoring senior jihadi specialist Mina Al-Lami said.
“It’s really all about privacy, freedom and encryption.
“That’s what attracts jihadists.”
The researchers have alerted the US Attorney’s Office for Eastern District of New York, which prosecutes counter-terrorism cases, as well as the Met Police.
The authorities in New York have not commented.
But the Met acknowledged receiving the referral and said it was being assessed by specialist officers.

Source: Islamic State: Giant library of group’s online propaganda discovered

UK must restore ISIL bride Shamima Begun’s citizenship

Echoes of previous debates regarding citizenship revocation under C-24, repealed by the Liberal government. Challenge, of course, remains in successfully prosecuting those involved in ISIS.

And of course, given that those involved in ISIS range from immigrants, second generation and “old-stock” citizens, revocation has a broader impact than just immigrants and their children.

Moreover, there is a risk of viewing those involved in ISIS only as victims, without any agency or responsibility:

ISIL bride Shamima Begum, whose British citizenship was revoked in 2019 on national security grounds, can return to the UK from Syria to plead her case to restore her citizenship, according to a UK court. The Court of Appeal ruled on July 16 that Begum had been denied a fair hearing because she could not properly defend herself from Syria. The verdict means that the UK government is now required to find a way to coordinate the return of Begum, who is currently being held in Camp Roj, a refugee camp in northern Syria.

This case could set a precedent for Canada and the rest of the Western world.

At the age of 15, Begum travelled to Syria to marry a Dutch jihadi who had converted to Islam and joined ISIL. After four years with ISIL, Begum, nine months pregnant, revealed her identity to war correspondent Anthony Loyd. “I am a sister from London,” she told him. “I’m a Bethnal Green girl…I’m scared that this baby is going to get sick in this camp…That’s why I really want to get back to Britain, because I know it will get taken care of, health-wise at least.”

By then, Begum’s two other children had died in ISIL territories, reportedly due to malnutrition. Loyd’s story appeared on the front page of The Times and created a social media storm.

In under a week, the UK government stripped Begum of her citizenship. While the Geneva Conventions prohibit making citizens stateless, the government justified taking away citizenship by pointing out that Begum’s mother is Bangladeshi, which means Begum might be eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship. However, in May 2019, the Bangladeshi foreign minister, Abul-Kalam Abdul-Momen, stated that Begum has “nothing to do” with Bangladesh and would be denied entry, and if she did find her way there she would face capital punishment due to zero-tolerance policies for terrorist activities. “The British government is responsible for her,” he said. Three weeks after her citizenship was revoked, Begum’s baby died of a respiratory infection. She continues to be effectively stateless.

Loyd described Begum as emotionless and awkward, with no discernible sympathy. Begum revealed she was not disturbed by the sight of decapitated heads of fighters in a trash can in Raqqa, by other atrocities or by the torture and murder of Western journalists by ISIL. After hearing this, anyone would see Begum as someone who does not deserve empathy. Scholar Lisa Downing has argued that it should not matter how we feel about Begum. Even so, if Begum’s intention has been to return, why has she not at least pretended to be remorseful?

Begum’s statements are precisely what I would anticipate from an indoctrinated child, spending years living within the reach of ISIL’s extreme propaganda machine. Her demeanour and lack of emotion and remorse may be a response to emotional trauma. We don’t know the full story because she has not undergone a proper evaluation with a trauma specialist. Begum’s lack of emotion matches that of many born-again insurgents whom I have interviewed.

In my fieldwork, an ex-combatant with Jundallah, an insurgent group in Iran, told me about the first time he was assigned to execute a hostage to prove his devotion to the cause. “The man was weltering around, fighting for his life, screaming.” It took multiple bullets to kill the prisoner, not the single shot he had imagined. “It killed me inside…After that experience, nothing fazes me anymore…I am dead inside.” The reality of what it means to fight for the cause shook him, and he eventually escaped to Turkey to help with a disillusionment, deradicalization and disengagement initiative. He explained that many foreign recruits want to prove themselves, to be considered insiders. They take their assignments seriously and cling strongly to the ideology to remove any remnant of hesitation, doubt or guilt.

Putting aside Begum’s lack of penitence, the first question should never have been “Where are her parents from?” but rather “What is the right thing to do?” It was much easier to strip her of citizenship and reframe the discussion in the media than to ask the hard question: Why do men and women join extremist organizations? Western-born members often have the opportunity to enjoy comfortable, middle-class lives, with the chance to advance in admired, conventional careers. Instead, they choose terrorism and commit heinous acts of violence against their fellow citizens, often at the price of their own lives. We need to rewind and ask what went wrong.

During my 2018 fieldwork, I met Jabbar, a 32-year-old barbershop owner in Paris. While he disdained acts of terror, he told me that he understood why people join extremist groups. When he was younger, with no job, and “constantly getting harassed by everyone on every occasion,” he internalized vast challenges with his identity and harboured a deep sense of alienation. He was accepted neither in France nor in Algeria, where his parents emigrated from. To be accepted as French, “you have to change your hair, switch your name to Pierre, eat pork, drink wine, and in the end, they still call you a cosmopolitan Muslim.” He was also ridiculed in Algeria and was not considered a true Algerian because of his accent and clothing. He asserted that was why second-generation youths feel alienated and excluded.

Begum’s case is an example of how citizenship, along with other rights often taken for granted by the majority, is variable and portrayed as a privilege for those whose parents or grandparents are immigrants.

In a story that made headlines recently, a sales manager named Mohamed Amghar described being coerced to change his name to Antoine, a traditional French name, at work. He is suing his former firm for 440,000 euros and filing a discrimination complaint. He was pressured into using the name on business cards, conference badges, plane tickets and even performance awards. “If people like me, who did what was necessary to get good jobs, to get training, to live as citizens, are besmirched and denied our rights, where are we going?” Amghar said. “I only have one name, I only have one nationality,” he added. “My name is Mohamed, and I am French.” The systemic nature of micro-aggressions, discrimination, racism and xenophobia has been documented throughout most of Western Europe, the United States and Canada. This narrative was common across my fieldwork and may be applicable for young recruits who have gone on to conduct terrorist activities, recruited by a group that claimed to finally accept them in all aspects of their being.

As part of Western governments’ obligations to fix their counterterrorism strategies, Western countries need to create an effective response for returnees. Begum’s case is an example of how citizenship, along with other rights often taken for granted by the majority, is variable and portrayed as a privilege for those whose parents or grandparents are immigrants. Insurgent groups appeal to this notion. An ISIS magazine  stated, “They never will consider you an equal to the white man,” and claimed you will always be considered second-class citizens. Efforts have continued to “other” Begum for her mother’s immigrant status. All the while, politicians have riled up the public, framing her case as a decision about whether to “welcome back a terrorist.”

I am not saying Begum shouldn’t be held accountable. I firmly believe that she should be subject to criminal prosecution, if appropriate, along with rehabilitation. As I have argued before, bringing back returnees may provide the opportunity to enhance counterterrorism intelligence by drawing upon them as a resource on extremist recruitment and radicalization strategies. Perhaps even more importantly, bringing back returnees would allow the UK and other Western nations to uphold human rights by pursuing justice through the judicial system and by providing the appropriate rehabilitation. Instead, we are seeing an acceleration and cultivation of separate justice for separate peoples. Consider this: Would Begum have lost her citizenship if her parents were from Leeds?

Revoking citizenship based on parents’ immigration status sidesteps the ethical obligations that states have toward their citizens and alienates second-generation immigrants, deepening prejudices they are already well accustomed to experiencing. The UK has the opportunity to change its course and set an example for Canada and the rest of the world. Begum should have a fair trial in the only country where she has ever held citizenship.

Western nations should reconsider their stance on repatriation despite the challenges involved. They should bring home their citizens to demonstrate their commitment to justice for all and prevent the secondary effects of the cycle of alienation, isolation and othering that leads to extremism in the first place. This is part of any proper justice system and could reduce radicalization in youth in the long run. It could foster belonging, which is something the politics of fear cannot do. Western nations must look upstream and deconstruct the systems and policies in place that are riddled with micro-aggressions, structural xenophobia and outright racism to reconstruct an inclusive society that would eliminate the breeding ground for radicalization that currently exists.

Source: UK must restore ISIL bride Shamima Begun’s citizenship