During the Cold War, the CIA had armed and supported several mujahedeen groups to conduct raids against the Soviet forces camped in Afghanistan. During this period Osama bin laden and his teacher Abdullah Azzam went to Afghanistan creating the Sijjil Al Quadea, intending for it to be a rest house for all the Arab fighters arriving to join the Mujahedeen. During the First Gulf war in 1990, he pleaded with the Saudi Royal family to let him and his Afghan fighters be the vanguard in protecting the holy sites of Mecca and Medina along with protecting the Royal family from possible Iraqi aggression. His offer was rejected by the officials and he did not take lightly to the coming of the American forces in Saudi Arabia. In 1991, due to his vocal opposition, he was exiled and bin Laden moved to Sudan with the official permission of the Sudanese government. There he partnered with Ayman al Zawahiri taking credit for ousting the US troops stationed there. In 1996, he was expelled from Sudan due to pressure on the government from US and Saudi Arabian rulers. He finally returned to Tora Bora, a cave complex hewn into the Hindu Kush Mountains from where he finally was able to take strict control of the Taliban government and began imposing its strict nontolerant version of Islam. These incidents created the formation of modern terrorism and the infamous Al-Quaeda.
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The key elements of the Al Qaeda ideology are laid in the 1996 Declaration of Jihad written and signed by Osama bin Laden. It called for the expulsion of Jews and Christians from the Arab peninsula, calling upon the global Muslim populace to join him in his jihad. He pretends to care about the death of Muslims in places like Kashmir, Assam, Burma, and Chechnya trying to stir the passion in people. He says that the occupation of Saudi Arabia poses a threat to the Muslim world like a volcano, ready to erupt. Thus we observe from his writings, that the key elements of the Al-Quaeda ideology are the adherence to the strictest version of Islamic practice, targeting the Judeo-Christian alliance, calling any Muslim who refuses to join his jihad as a traitor, and most importantly to end the occupation of the holy places of Islam like the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia.
There are many ways how an individual is radicalized and the FBI has analyzed several of its aspects. We believe that the individual’s need to feel belonged in a group along with the desire to stay in control plays an important role in pushing people to radicalize to violence. Also, bin-Laden’s way of misquoting the Quranic verses and his highlighting the economic plight that the Arab youth felt made pathways into the minds of the people helping them on the path of radicalization. Also, the various psychological stress factors like frustration, anxiety, and traumatic past experiences force people to radicalize as these groups offer the pretense of comfort and solace to those troubled individuals.
Given this complex historical background and the immense capabilities they possess to influence and radicalize the populace, the police officers should first learn about the various methods of influencing practiced by these groups. Also, a deep character analysis has to be made on the top leaders of the international al-Quaeda with efforts being made to identify the vulnerable section of youth practicing Islam and give them proper social and economic opportunities so that they do not feel left out. Care has to be taken while dealing with them as a small misstep would mean undoing the whole program. Also, the police officers must be able to identify and apprehend the radicals in their locality along with the ability to distinguish facts from fiction. A counter-movement must be taken by the law enforcement along with the local imams to de-radicalize the youth. The police officers must also read up on the history of both al-Quaeda and ISIS along with being familiar with their modus operandi and operational history so that if such a scenario arises in their precinct, they should be able to respond to such threat in an effective manner.
In the Indian context, it has been observed that we are one of the nations that are highly affected by terrorism which has created severe problems for the law enforcement authorities and the government. India is a huge nation, home to people belonging to various socio-ethnic backgrounds. The homegrown variant of terrorism that we face mostly in the states of Kashmir and the various Maoist influenced areas of Chattisgarh and Telangana amongst others have proved deadly not only to the members of the armed forces who are stationed there but also has destroyed the livelihood of the local people by destabilizing their livelihood methods, not letting proper infrastructural development take place and also hampering the education of children and young adults. Most often, the reason these people turn to extremist positions is that their vulnerability is often targeted by groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, turning them into radical extremists.
A three-step deradicalization program based within the community to identify and rehabilitate the people who have been pursuing extremist propaganda would be the first course of action as it would show that there are other methods than punishment while dealing with extremism and also the members of the vulnerable to such extremist thoughts should be given the chance to understand the true meaning behind the scriptures.
A proper rehabilitation program to reintegrate the people convicted of terrorism back into society by provided by the state when they are incarcerated in lieu of their crimes, so as not to breed hatred amongst them.
Asking the local imams and national level Islamic religious leaders to condemn extremism equivocally and providing them with the required resources they need to help in the religious reeducation of the convicted terrorists.
Along with these, there can be other specific community targeted programs respective to each local area that the local District Magistrate, Judge, and Superintendent/ Commissioner of Police should decide in accordance with the wishes of the representatives of the affected communities based on empirical data collected through talks, interviews, and surveys to benefit theses groups in the long run so that the youth from these communities are not attracted towards religiously extremist ideas.
This reveals that to combat terrorism one must recognize them as humans who have strayed from the path but sometimes severe crimes cannot be forgiven. It must be understood that the rank and file of these groups are seeking company amongst people whom they think as fellow compatriots. This makes us realize that terrorism is a global phenomenon, which to combat effectively must be combated both with force and de-escalation.
By Pranjal Ray