In November 2017, YouTube adopted a policy prohibiting content from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki. YouTube’s decision is a positive step, but more must be done to eliminate radicalizing extremist ideologies from the Internet. There is no shortage of extremist actors and ideologues online. At a minimum, content from individuals with links to violent extremist actors should be removed from online platforms.
Terrorist and extremist groups use encrypted application Telegram to recruit new members, fundraise, incite to violence, and even coordinate terrorist activity. Telegram’s messaging application has both public-facing and private components. This flexible interface enables extremists to do everything from self-promotion, brand development and propaganda dissemination, to secret plotting of attacks outside detection or interference from law enforcement.
According to Iraqi reports, ISIS has executed hundreds of Muslim women and their relatives for refusing to marry ISIS fighters. ISIS has brutal disregard for women within its territorial control. Firsthand accounts indicate that ISIS repeatedly abuses and mistreats women in its territory, enslaving and molesting non-Muslim women and girls, and abusing and restricting the movements of Muslim women and girls.
Qatar supported and harbored international terrorist organizations and individuals. The hydrocarbon-rich Gulf country sends direct financial and material support to internationally-designated terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Nusra Front, and knowingly permits internationally-designated or wanted terrorist leaders and financiers to operate within its borders.
ISIS is the most notable of the many extremist groups that have weaponized social media and messaging platforms—such as Twitter and Facebook—as well as encrypted messaging applications like Telegram and WhatsApp—to recruit, incite violence, and plot attacks. Social media companies, meanwhile, have for years failed to either acknowledge the severity of the problem of online extremism or to incorporate preventive safeguards onto their platforms.
On March 22, 2017, terrorist assailant Khalid Masood killed five people and wounded 50 more during a vehicle and stabbing attack in London. The following day, a similar attack was thwarted in Antwerp, Belgium. Similar ISIS-claimed attacks in Nice, Ohio, and Berlin each involved armed assailants using cars and trucks as weapons, charging at pedestrians in crowded civilian areas.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the country’s first supreme leader, is one of the most influential shapers of radical Islamic thought in the modern era. Khomeini’s Islamist, populist agenda—dubbed “Khomeinism” by scholar Ervand Abrahamian—has radicalized and guided Shiite Islamists both inside and outside Iran.
Extremists have weaponized social media and other Internet platforms to recruit, incite, and propagandize. Unfortunately, industry reaction to terrorists’ misuse of Internet platforms has often been reactive, inconsistent, and piecemeal. CEP has worked to outline and compare Internet and technology companies’ approaches to extremist content as it may appear on social media, messaging applications, websites, blogs, and video-hosting websites, among other platforms.
Since 2014, ISIS has demonized, threatened and persecuted religious minorities. This report explores the ideological justifications for ISIS’s violent campaign to target—and ultimately eliminate—other religious communities.
Qutbism is an Islamist ideology that advocates violent jihad to establish governance according to sharia (Islamic law). It is believed to be the foundational ideology of today’s most dangerous violent Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and ISIS. Qutbism synthesizes the ideas of Sayyid Qutb, Hassan al-Banna, and Abul Ala Maududi, among other Islamic theologians.
How do terrorists select their targets? The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has analyzed attacks carried out by al-Qaeda and ISIS operatives in the United States, Europe, and Australia. CEP’s report—Terror Targets in the West: Where and Why—explores the ideological and tactical rationale for selecting targets to attack.
Thousands of people from Europe and North America have left their homes to fight alongside al-Qaeda and ISIS. Others have stayed behind to carry out attacks in France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries in the name of extremist ideologies. CEP’s Extremist Hubs resource examines a list of the neighborhoods, cities, and states that Western news outlets, mayors, and other government officials have labeled as “hotbeds of extremism” or “extremism hubs.”
Terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda have for years relied on foreign recruits and lone-wolf supporters to bolster their ranks. Jamal Ahjjaj, an imam at As-Soennah Mosque in The Hague, told the Washington Post that converts are “the most vulnerable because they do not yet fully understand Islam.” The imam noted that “sometimes there are people — the wrong people — waiting outside the mosque to greet them...”
As the progenitor of the modern Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood has had a profound influence on the belief system that fuels al-Qaeda and ISIS. These groups share ideological underpinnings based on the writings of the late Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb…
The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) compiles summary reports on today’s most influential propagandists and recruiters. Since our launch in 2014, CEP has tracked terrorist recruiters and propagandists operating on behalf of ISIS and al-Qaeda. CEP’s Digital Disruption project highlights the systemic problem of online recruitment by...
U.S.-born al-Qaeda extremist Anwar al-Awlaki has for years served as a radicalizing figure for U.S. and European extremists. On September 30, 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki was targeted and killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. Nonetheless, his lectures online have continued to inspire Westerners to terror, both before and after his death...
In early May 2016, an ISIS court charged a young Syrian man with the “crime” of engaging in gay sex. In front of a crowd numbering in the hundreds in Manbij, Syria, ISIS fighters threw the young man from the top of a building as punishment for his so-called “crime.” This is but one case of how ISIS exploits pre-existing religious and social biases against gay people among the populations under its control in order to justify their persecution.
Since the end of World War II, extremist groups have carried out numerous acts of violence in Europe in the pursuit of political and religious objectives. The policy responses from European governments to these terrorist acts have too often been weak, ad hoc, and have failed to deter future attacks or dismantle terrorist networks...
The rapid adoption of state-of-the-art communication tools—with an emphasis on Internet-based applications—has been critical to the organization, expansion, and success of terrorist networks. Terror groups use modern communication technology in myriad ways, from fundraising, radicalization, and recruitment, to issuing threats, inciting violence, and planning attacks. While Osama bin Laden used fax machines and satellite phones in the 1990s, the early 2000s saw a boom...
Fiction: ISIS-fighters celebrate and embrace new recruits.
Fact: Local ISIS militants treat new foreign fighters as amateurs, or worse, spies. Most of the newcomers are given undesirable tasks, such as removing dead bodies from the streets. In a December 2014 letter, one French foreign fighter wrote to his family, “I also help clean weapons and transport dead bodies from the front. Winter’s arrived here. It’s begun to get really hard.” ISIS fighters are often wary of newcomers’ commitment to the cause, and may test the newcomers’ knowledge of Islam...
This publication is a compilation of four different essays that focus on radicalization in Libya. The essays assess the current on-the-ground situation. They identify and analyze patterns and trends as well as specific local and regional developments. The goal is to provide a comprehensive overview of radicalization in post-Qaddafi Libya and the extent to which the situation may be contributing to regional and international instability.
Islamic radicalism has grown progressively in Azerbaijan since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The country is now home to a significant community of Salafists who follow a particularly puritanical interpretation of Islam. Sectarian divisions have also become more distinct, as support for radical Shia ideologies and the creation of an Islamic republic similar to Iran has become increasingly popular. This report analyzes these recent developments and how the state works to promote religious freedom, moderation, and tolerance.
At the end of 2010, Tunisia witnessed the beginning of the Arab Spring, and the country soon commenced its transition to democracy. Tunisia’s strong civil society, tradition of reformed Islam, history of “Islamic secularism,” smaller population, and high literacy rates make for a promising future. This report discusses how Tunisia works towards a democratic future in the face of radicalization and terrorism as well as socio-economic problems that spawned the Arab Spring.