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Jihad in cyberspace

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Below the radar screen of Western intelligence and security services, there is a global re-education process on the Internet to proselytize on the true meaning of an Islamic state. This "cyberwar" is transforming the political landscape of the Middle East. It is a slow, stealthy but massive campaign.

Salafist ideologues are reinventing Islam, firing the imagination of Internet-savvy Muslim youth from Morocco to Mindanao and from Sweden to Spain. Mohamed Atta trained his 9/11 teams face-to-face. The successor generation now meets in an Open University of Jihad on the worldwide Web.

We can no longer measure success as we did before 9/11. The death of a leader, even of Osama bin Laden, makes no difference at all. Violence is only the tip of a huge, previously uncharted iceberg.

What increasingly looks like a looming disaster in Iraq is already multiplying jihadi cyberwarriors. Britain's homegrown terrorists are organized, trained and controlled directly from Pakistan or via Pakistan networks in the U.K. and the rest of Europe. MI5's Joint Terrorism Analysis Center has concluded the Internet is the key to the intelligence conundrum.

More important than the recipes for homemade bombs -- e.g., hair dye mixed with nail polish remover detonated by the flash mechanism on a throwaway camera -- are the Web sites hosted by university servers, which direct them. MI5 keeps close tabs on 1,000 known extremists, tying up some 6,000 agency personnel. But what about those who conceal their thinking, or confine their traffic to the doctrine of jihad?

Liberal intellectuals on college campuses -- the majority of the faculty in almost all universities -- dismiss the now irrefutable evidence of the link between Islamism, radicalization and terrorism.

Counterterrorism cannot be conducted effectively without full knowledge of the process of jihad radicalization on the worldwide Web. Whether this process started with the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca or Iran's Shiite revolution, or before, is immaterial. Today, co-option on the 'Net is where it's at. Those not computer literate in Arabic and English cannot begin to understand a multi-dimensional global groundswell of jihadi revenge.

A surprisingly high percentage of 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation Muslims in slums around France's major cities, as well as an estimated 20 percent of Britain's l.8 million Muslims and Germany's 2.2 million Turks navigate the global web.

When the computer jihadis refer to Western and/or Arab "tyrants," they mean anyone who stands in the way of the Sharia.

Stephen Ulph, the founding editor of Jane's "Terrorism and Security Monitor" and "Islamic Affairs Analyst," majored in Oriental Studies at Cambridge University, where he studied Middle Eastern languages and majored in Arabic and Arabic literature. A senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, he is a frequent visitor to the Middle East where he is plugged in to a wide network of specialists in jihadi cyberwarfare.

Ulph has studied the phenomenon and poses several key questions:

  • What are the electronic jihad's points of weakness?
  • How does a sympathizer become a foot soldier?
  • Where are the weak points in this extremist ideology?
  • How should Western counterterrorist agents exploit these weaknesses?

For starters, these jihadis are constantly reassuring each other what they are doing is right, indicating in some cases self-doubt about their electronic endeavors.

Ulph's view of the jihadi curriculum:

  • Undermine the present cultural order;
  • Undermine the current Islamic order;
  • Instill the duty of jihad;
  • Maintain morale and the moral highground.

By building an alternative sub-order in cyberspace, jihadis are undermining received ideas and beliefs behind the backs of traditional leaders who are not cyber-conscious. They describe their mission as putting the "J" back into Islam.

These jihadis are undermining the present cultural order by emphasizing:

  • The false premise of democracy;
  • Secularism vs. Islam;
  • -- The contamination from pluralism.

Other themes stressed in the worldwide Jihadi Web:

Secularism contradicts Islam;

  • The inevitability of the clash of civilizations;
  • A call for global Islamic resistance;
  • How the Caliphate was destroyed.

Undermining the current Islamic order are:

  • The illegitimacy of Muslim regimes;
  • The illegitimacy of Muslim state systems;
  • The illegitimacy of Muslim political conduct;
  • The illegitimacy of Muslim establishment scholars

Jihadi Arabic books now posted on the jihadi's worldwide web:

  • Call for Global Islamic Resistance;
  • On the Disbelief of the Saudi State
  • International Law: A Contradiction to Islamic Law;
  • New World Order to Replace New World Disorder
  • Redrawing the Map of History;
  • Instilling the Duty of Jihad;
  • Jihad is the Forgotten Obligation;
  • Jihad is an Individual Duty;
  • Jihad is a Physical Struggle;
  • Jihad has Ultimate Priority;
  • -ihad the Missing Obligation;
  • Jihad: The Pinnacle of Islam;
  • Legal Ruling on Jihad;
  • On Jihad and Parental Permission;
  • Essay regarding the basic rule of the blood, wealth and honor of the disbelievers;
  • Rulings and Types of Jihad;
  • 39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad;
  • Preparing for Jihad in God's Path.

On maintaining the authority of jihad, they list the following:

  • Upholding doctrinal authority;
  • Countering criticism;
  • Maintaining morale and the moral high ground;
  • Despite the scholars, we will decapitate and burn our prisoners;
  • Doubts & questions about jihad in the Arabian Peninsula.

For those whose assignment is to fight the ideological war in cyberspace,

Stephen Ulph recommends:

  • The management of savagery;

-- "The Ikhwan Project": Create centers of research on the political dimension of the Islamic movement; find the weak spot or spots to create points of tension; read the jihadis' polemics; read the jihadis self-analysis; questions and doubts on the mujahideen and their operations; obligation to understand the weak spots in their self-criticism.

Ulph also stresses the importance of mapping the terrain by:

  • Identifying the legal points of controversy and weakness;
  • Identifying points of jihadi prestige;
  • Identifying potential competitive and anti-jihadist trends;
  • Constructing counter programs.

A possible look at future trends emerges in Yemen where all new sites are jihadi.

Almost all forgoing activity is Sunni inspired. Shiite contributions in cyberwarfare are "negligible," says Ulph.

The mosque is receding as a place of subversion as jihadi Imams are now fully aware they are under counterterrorist observation. The virtual jihad Mosque has taken its place.

Moderate Muslim regimes dismiss the danger because they are the majority. Ulph believes this is wrong-headed and can only be said by those who are not computer literate and rely on intel and security chiefs who are not computer literate either. These, in turn, rely on subordinates for their cyber skills. But those who acquire ether proficiency quickly transit over to the private sector where the take home pay is infinitely better than, say, in the Egyptian intel service.

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