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Tanglewood vs Versailles: of gardens and explanations

Friday, August 11th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — critiquing the star diagram, celebrating the insights of Peter Neumann and team on violent radicalization ]
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I seem to remember that my grandmother’s house and garden was named Tanglewood — and certainly, the palace and gardens of Louis XVI are known simply as Versailles!

French ornamental gardens represent one way to go about life, and English wild ramblings quite another — personally, I prefer the English way.

So..

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To be honest, I find this diagram all too neat and well-mown…

People, after all, have grievances, ideas, and needs, and are the ones who resort to violence — and indeed, grievances are ideas, and sometimes born of needs. I could go on — but a five-pointed star with kinetic arrows folded into a graphically beautiful sort of Moebius arrangement is elegant and perhaps overly simple?

Compare that gorgeous, tidy star with Will McCants‘ paragraphs:

The disappoint stems from the desire to attribute the jihadist phenomenon to a single cause rather than to several causes that work in tandem to produce it. To my mind, the most salient are these: a religious heritage that lauds fighting abroad to establish states and to protect one’s fellow Muslims; ultraconservative religious ideas and networks exploited by militant recruiters; peer pressure (if you know someone involved, you’re more likely to get involved); fear of religious persecution; poor governance (not type of government); youth unemployment or underemployment in large cities; and civil war. All of these factors are more at play in the Arab world now than at any other time in recent memory, which is fueling a jihadist resurgence around the world.

If anyone elevates one of those factors above the others to diagnose the problem, you can be certain the resulting prescription will not work. It may even backfire, leading to more jihadist recruitment, not less.

That’s more to my taste.

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None of which is to denigrate Peter Neumann‘s contributions to our understanding of violent radicalization — see for instance his subtle and compelling “Myths and Reality” presentation:

Michael Kenney on al-Muhajiroun

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

{ by Charles Cameron — including the curious case of the Covenant of Security ]
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Michael Kenney, on the recommendation of John Horgan:

Lots of reports in the media about London Bridge attacker Khuram Butt’s “membership” in al-Muhajiroun, but this is not how network activists understand membership in al-Muhajrioun. For them it is about “intellectual affiliation,” gaining the ideological and practical knowledge they need to be competent activists. ALM is full of rotating recruits. These people come in, get exposed to the network’s ideas, radicalize to different degrees, and then often leave after a certain period of involvement, typically lasting months or years. Some leave b/c they don’t accept ALM’s interpretation of the Covenant of Security, which forbids attacks in UK, as long as their lives and livelihoods are protected. Butt may have believed that the Covenant no longer applied to him in the UK, allowing him to engage in violence in his home country. This is not ALM’s position on the Covenant, though activists emphasize this is each individual’s decision.

Here’s a description of the Covenant of Security, from a long-ago Daniel Pipes piece about the Covenant and al-Muhajiroun, titled Does a “Covenant of Security” Protect the United Kingdom?:

According to Sifaoui, it has long been recognised by the British Islamists, by the British government and by UK intelligence agencies, that as long as Britain guarantees a degree of freedom to the likes of Hassan Butt [a loudmouth pro-terrorist Islamist], the terrorist strikes will continue to be planned within the borders of the UK but will not occur here. Ironically, then, the presence of vocal and active Islamist terrorist sympathisers in the UK actually makes British people safer, while the full brunt of British-based terrorist plotting is suffered by people in other countries.

Michael Kenney, more:

To learn more about al-Muhajiroun, please see my JCR article with @steve_coulthart and Dom Wright, Structure and Performance in a Violent Extremist Network:

This study combines network science and ethnography to explore how al-Muhajiroun, a banned Islamist network, continued its high-risk activism despite being targeted for disruption by British authorities. We analyze news reports, interviews, and field notes using social network analysis and qualitative content analysis to test hypotheses pertaining to network structure and performance. Our analysis suggests that the activist network’s structural properties had important implications for its performance during three separate time periods. What began as a centralized, scale-free-like, small-world network centered on a charismatic leader evolved into a more decentralized “small-world-like” network featuring clusters of local activists connected through multiple bridges. This structure allowed the activist network to engage in contentious politics even as its environment became increasingly hostile. We conclude by discussing the implications of al-Muhajiroun’s small-world solution for scholars and policy makers.

Hearts and minds connected

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — shd be obvious, but useful to know in the battle for hearts and minds, buddhism! ]
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Hearts and minds, hearts and brains — tell me, heart, are minds and brains the same?

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Sources:

  • The National, Pat Kane: To stop terror we must look into the hearts of Jihadis
  • Lion’s Roar, Buddhist researchers find actual link between heart, mind

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