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<nettime> confused euro muslims (via b. sterling)
geert on Wed, 11 Aug 2004 03:11:06 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> confused euro muslims (via b. sterling)

excellent comment of bruce: "The Net is a tool for globalization.  
EVERYBODY's globalization. We're undergoing a Clash of Globalizations."


"The Internet provides confused young Muslims in Europe with a virtual
community. Those who cannot adapt to their new homes discover on the
Internet a responsive and compassionate forum.

“The Internet stands in for the idea of the ummah, the mythologized
Muslim community,” Marc Sageman, the psychiatrist and former C.I.A.
officer, said. “The Internet makes this ideal community concrete,
because one can interact with it.” He compares this virtual ummah to
romantic conceptions of nationhood, which inspire people not only to love
their country but to die for it.

“The Internet is the key issue,” Gilles Kepel, a prominent Arabist and
a professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques, in Paris, told me
recently. “It erases the frontiers between the dar al-Islam and the dar
al-Kufr. It allows the propagation of a universal norm, with an Internet
Sharia and fatwa system.”

Kepel was speaking of the Islamic legal code, which is administered by the
clergy. Now one doesn’t have to be in Saudi Arabia or Egypt to live
under the rule of Islamic law.

“Anyone can seek a ruling from his favorite sheikh in Mecca,” Kepel
said. “In the old days, one sought a fatwa from the sheikh who had the
best knowledge. Now it is sought from the one with the best Web site.”

To a large extent, Kepel argues, the Internet has replaced the Arabic
satellite channels as a conduit of information and communication. “One
can say that this war against the West started on television,” he said,
“but, for instance, with the decapitation of the poor hostages in Iraq
and Saudi Arabia, those images were propagated via Webcams and the
Internet. A jihadi subculture has been created that didn’t exist before

Because the Internet is anonymous, Islamist dissidents are less
susceptible to government pressure. “There is no signature,” Kepel
said. “To some of us who have been trained as classicists, the
cyber-world appears very much like the time before Gutenberg. Copyists
used to add their own notes into a text, so you never know who was the
real author.”

Gabriel Weimann, a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace,
has been monitoring terrorist Web sites for seven years.

“When we started, there were only twelve sites,” he told me. “Now
there are more than four thousand.”

Every known terrorist group maintains more than one Web site, and often
the sites are in different languages. “You can download music, videos,
donate money, receive training,” Weimann said. “It’s a virtual
training camp.”

There are two online magazines associated with Al Qaeda, Sawt al-Jihad
(Voice of Jihad) and Muaskar al-Battar (Camp al-Battar), which feature
how-to articles on kidnapping, poisoning, and murdering hostages.

Specific targets, such as the Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta, or
FedWire, the money-clearing system operated by the Federal Reserve Board,
are openly discussed. “We do see a rising focus on the U.S.,” Weimann
told me. “But some of this talk may be fake—a scare campaign.”

One of the sites has been linked directly to terrorist acts. An editor of
Sawt al-Jihad, Issa bin Saad al-Oshan, died in a gun battle with Saudi
police on July 21st, during a raid on a villa in Riyadh, where the head of
Paul M. Johnson, Jr., the American hostage, was discovered in the freezer.

The importance of the Internet in the case of Madrid is disputed among
experts. “Yes, the Internet has created a virtual ummah,” Olivier Roy,
an expert on political Islam at the French Centre National de la Recherche
Scientifique, wrote to me recently. “The Web sites seem to attract the
lonely Muslim cybernaut, who does remain in a virtual world. But
Madrid’s bombers used the Internet as a tool of communication. Their
leaders had personal links with other Al Qaeda members, not virtual

Thomas Hegghammer, the Norwegian investigator, divides the jihadi Internet
community into three categories.

“First, you have the message boards,” he explained in a recent e-mail.
“There you find the political and religious discussions among the
sympathizers and potential recruits. The most important message boards for
Al Qaeda sympathizers are Al Qal’ah (The Fortress), Al Sahat (The
Fields), and Al Islah (Reform).”

These boards, Hegghammer wrote, provide links to the “information
hubs,” where new radical-Islamist texts, declarations, and recordings
are posted.

“You often find these among the ‘communities’ at Yahoo, Lycos, and
so on,” Hegghammer continued. “There are many such sites, but the main
one is Global Islamic Media.”

It was at this site that Hegghammer discovered the “Jihadi Iraq”
document. “Finally, you have the ‘mother sites,’ which are run by
people who get their material directly from the ideologues or operatives.
They must not be confused with the myriad amateur sites (usually in
English) set up by random sympathizers or bored kids.”

Hegghammer pointed to several key sites associated with Al Qaeda,
including Al Faruq (He Who Distinguishes Truth from Falsehood) and Markaz
al-Dirasat wal-Buhuth al-Islamiyyah (Center for Islamic Study and

“Al Faruq is difficult to place geographically and organizationally, but
it seems closer to the Afghanistan-based elements of Al Qaeda,”
Hegghammer wrote. Markaz al-Dirasat concentrates on Saudi Arabia. These
sites move continuously, Hegghammer wrote, sometimes several times a day,
to avoid being hacked by intelligence agencies or freelance Internet

One of Al Qaeda’s first sites, Al Neda, was operating until July, 2002,
when it was captured by an American who operates pornography sites. The
Internet jihadis now cover themselves by stealing unguarded server space.
Jihad videos have recently been discovered on servers belonging to George
Washington University and the Arkansas Department of Highways and

Last March, in Pakistan, Jamal Ismail, a reporter for Abu Dhabi TV, showed
me how he monitors the Al Faruq site. Each day, he receives an e-mail with
a link, which leads him to the new address. Like several other jihadi
sites, the Al Faruq site announces itself with a white stallion racing
across the screen, which is the Al Qaeda logo.

“Every few days, it announces a new name, but it is the same Web site
with a new look,” he told me. “It concentrates on Iraq, Saudi Arabia,
and Afghanistan.”

In mid-July, I asked Ismail via e-mail if there was any discussion of the
upcoming American Presidential election; the Department of Homeland
Security had just announced contingency plans to postpone the election in
the event that Al Qaeda attempts to disrupt it. “There is no new article
like the Spanish one, but we are all expecting people to talk about it,”
Ismail said. Sageman said that he had seen “vague statements along the
lines of ‘We’ll do to the U.S. the same as we did to Spain,’” but
nothing specific or authoritative.

I went to Yahoo Groups and typed in “jihad.” There were a hundred and
ninety-two chat groups registered under that category. With my
Arabic-speaking assistant, Nidal Daraiseh, I checked out qal3ah.net, which
had 7,939 members.

On March 12th, the day after the train bombings, a message titled “The
Goals of Al Qaeda in Attacking Madrid” had been posted by a writer
calling himself Gallant Warrior. Echoing a theme that is frequently
repeated on these sites, the writer noted that by carrying out its threat
to Spain, Al Qaeda proved that its words were matched by actions: “Al
Qaeda has sent a message to the crusading people: do not think that death
and fear are only for the weak Muslims. . . . Aznar, the American tail,
has lost. And great fear has spread among the people of the countries in
alliance with America. They will all be vanquished. Thank God for letting
us live this long to see the jihad battalions in Europe. If anyone had
predicted this three years ago, one would have said he was dreaming.”

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