Thursday, August 16, 2007

A report long overdue

A prescient report by New York's finest takes a good hard look at the process of radicalization - the slow indoctrination of a person into a state of mind where from the person can be subverted to perform acts that seem delusional to the general public but seem perfectly natural for the perpetrator - OK, what am I blathering about? In a quick sentence - how jihadists are born, bred and perform their telling tales.
It is a compelling report and has been written after a lot of research. The whole report is out there in pdf form (if you wish to peruse), but the gist of it remains in the executive summary.

Andy Warhol, ‘Statue of Liberty’, synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen on canvas, 72 X 72 in, 1986

In my view, reports like these are a wake up call to ethnically diverse cities like New York City. Effective programs aimed at implementing some of the recommendations would help hedge the city against home grown attacks like the ones that shook the London underground recently. It has often been stated that one of the reasons why this might have happened in the town of the Big Ben was that the people in power did not realize the extreme forces of radicalization that was sweeping across large parts of urban class that was largely disenfranchised from the general populace (of course, being demographically of a single ethnicity and economically weaker fomented the cause even further).

An assessment of the various reported models of radicalization leads to the conclusionthat the radicalization process is composed of four distinct phases:

- Stage 1: Pre-Radicalization (point of origin for individuals before they begin this progression. It is their life situation before they were exposed to and adopted jihadi-Salafi Islam as their own ideology.)

- Stage 2: Self-Identification (begin to explore Salafi Islam, gradually gravitate away from their old identity and begin to associate themselves with like-minded individuals and adopt this ideology as their own.)

- Stage 3: Indoctrination (wholly adopts jihadi-Salafi ideology and concludes, without question, that the conditions and circumstances exist where action is required to support and further the cause.)

- Stage 4: Jihadization (participate in jihad and self-designate themselves as holy warriors or mujahedeen. Ultimately, the group will begin operational planning for the jihad or a terrorist attack.)

The one new factor that this report aims to show is the rise of the internet as a coalescing factor that melds motivations from like minded groups/individuals helping lead them to faster approval of their subversive agendas using a combination of online forums, blogs, wikis, youtube and instant messaging.

Europe’s failure to integrate the 2nd and 3rd generation of its immigrants into society, both economically and socially, has left many young Muslims torn between the secular West and their religious heritage. This inner conflict makes them especially vulnerable to extremism—the radical views, philosophy, and rhetoric that is highly advertised and becoming more and more fashionable among young Muslims in the West.

It is funny when the tools that are credited most in democratization and people’s power are ironically the same that seem to be used to quell. The report also goes to say that radicalization could also be fomented through membership of individuals in voluntary organizations, groups and causes. I am pretty sure that the NYPD would start to put their surveillance hats onto activities of groups that tend towards the altruistic (and I am sure that they are not going to take the time to weed out the subversive from the ones with good intention) leading to a slow burn of freedoms that are currently enjoyed and taken for granted by the public. Melding a modicum of introspection while rushing out the door to obey stated directives could be advice that the finest could dearly use in this particular situation.

The following words are chilling...

The Internet is a driver and enabler for the process of radicalization:

- In the Self-Identification phase, the Internet provides the wandering mind of the conflicted young Muslim or potential convert with direct access to unfiltered radical and extremist ideology.

- It also serves as an anonymous virtual meeting place a place where virtual groups of like-minded and conflicted individuals can meet, form virtual relationships and discuss and share the jihadi-Salafi message they have encountered.

- During the Indoctrination phase, when individuals adopt this virulent ideology, they begin interpreting the world from this newly-formed context.

- In the Jihadization phase, when an individual commits to jihad, the Internet serves as an enabler providing broad access to an array of information on targets, their vulnerabilities and the design of weapons.

Julian Schnabel, ‘Some bullfighters get closer to the horns II’, oil, plates and bondo on wood, 108 X 94 in, 1982

Whatever way you stir it, a report like this is indeed a wake up call to the enforcement agencies that will help us better integrate irrational outliers better into the largely integrated civil system currently in vogue. In not having attacks like what shakes London every six months (and we really do not want any more – daily dose of imagery from the Mid-East is enough for anyone to put down the dogs of war), some amount of credit should go to the open nature of the American civil society, laws and its institutions.

Update: After trudging through quite some pages of the report, it is becoming a little obvious that the brush used to paint this picture seeems to liberally assume banal practices of vast members of this denomination with an air of suspicion and deigns to color them in somewhat of an unfair light. Will be interesting to see how this plays out nationally.


Tree said...

Sunil, any plans to see the Poussette-Dart show at the Guggenheim?

Sunil said...

I did not have any, as I did not know, but now that you bought it up the prospect seems enticing. I would love to see the works in person as the paintings are very compelling and still make for 'proper' abstraction...