Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Does the freedom of the internet limit or realize the Islamic terrorist cause?

In the long run, if the Caliphate and Sharia are to rule the world, the internet will presumably have to be destroyed. In the short term, the Jihad can't live without it.

How messed up or empowered can the Jihad become by using the internet, with all the freedom it provides for fostering our desires, including the many desires we didn't know we had until we do? No doubt it depends on how those who fight to destroy the Jihad use this same freedom. Kathy Shaidle reviews some of the possibilities in her latest: Islam in America Series: Internet Jihad | / | Homeland Security
During the Islamic terror attack in Mumbai, India last year, tech-savvy terrorists used BlackBerries and Google Earth satellite-imaging to plan and carry out their atrocities.

Once again, the West's enemies were employing 21st century technology to spread its dangerous 8th century ideology.
The web's international reach means that online jihad has no boundaries, making it even harder to police. A recent study by the UK's Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC), called "Virtual Caliphate," revealed that British Muslim radicals are using Internet tools for recruitment, training and propaganda.

Particularly revealing was the revelation that well-known spokesman Asghar Bukhari of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, a regular media guest and "moderate" Muslim, was using Facebook to "openly glorify terrorism" and post anti-semitic screeds.

Other experts warn of Hezbollah's use of Israeli soldiers' Facebook account information as a source of intelligence, and a possible way to trick soldier's into meeting a Facebook "friend" in person who turns out to be a Hezbollah terrorist.

Meanwhile, a pro-Israel Facebook group page called "I Wonder How Quickly I Can Find 1,000,000 People Who Support Israel," was hacked and defaced by a pro-Hizballah group calling itself "Lebanese Shee'a Hackers."

Because Facebook is so ubiquitous, it has actually been used by investigators to track down jihadists. Earlier this month, the FBI looking for a group of Somali immigrants to who left Minneapolis to join an overseas terrorist group were tracked down through their Facebook pages.

As one expert told, sites like Facebook can help spread radicalism, but that shouldn't "overshadow all the ways it has helped to stop radicalism. The benefits far outweigh the risks, and we are doing all we can to [mitigate] the risks."
Lynch also points out that debates between radical Muslim members on online forums and chat rooms can actually "undermine moral or turn into open dissent, to the dismay of movement leaders." ("Plus," Lynch adds, video download sites "often feature ads for pornography (...) while you're waiting... I'll leave it to you to decide whether that's a glitch or a feature for the jihadists downloading their bin Laden videos.")

Perhaps to get around these and other drawbacks, Hamas actually tried to start their own version of last fall.

The site, called AqsaTube, came complete with a ripped off version of the American site's famous red logo. But instead of the cute cat clips and stealth campaign videos you'll find on YouTube, however, AqsaTube was "devoted entirely to propaganda and incitement," according to the Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (IITIC).
Israeli journalist Amir Mizroch noticed the troubling fact that AqsaTube was generating revenue by selling ad space through Google's ubiquitous AdSense program - including ads for Israeli companies. He confronted Google via email and a few days later, Google removed its ads from the Hamas site.

Then, after Mizroch's story eventually appeared in the Jerusalem Post and was picked up by other news outlets, AqsaTube website, then reappeared online looking very different indeed, its violent videos (and its stolen YouTube logo) nowhere to be seen.

Yet for every site that is pulled down by its service provider, many other Muslim terrorist websites remain online. In fact, those same websites and chatrooms were rife with speculation that the FBI had been behind the AqsaWeb takedown, when the real culprit was one curious Israeli blogger and his subsequent newspaper story.

Terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere "don't exist without the Web and the Net," explained Naval Postgraduate School professor John Arquilla in Technology Review. "A networked insurgency doesn't have anything like a traditional leadership. Most of the leadership they get is by going on websites, where they share information very quickly" - especially, it should be emphasized, among populations in which illiteracy is rampant.
John Arquilla has a particularly interesting suggestion. He told Technology Today that since the United States is,

"...spending so much on military affairs, maybe some of that should be directed towards technologies that will break our opponents' communications. In World War II, there was an investment in creating the first high-performance computers, for that very purpose. Today, it may be an investment in creating the most effective quantum computing or figuring out how to structure the vast ocean of data that masks the movements of al-Qaeda on the Net and the Web. We need a new Bletchley Park [the country house where the German WWII codes were broken], if we're going to win this war."

I tend to doubt that we can hope to shut up the Jihadis by keeping on top of all their communications. I would put more faith in tactics that seek constantly to engage those conversations, to expose, measure, and challenge their primitive ideology with the pornographic and other realities of our modern world that the orthodox, violent Jihad wishes to destroy because it has no real hope of understanding or integrating in orthodox Islamic terms. When we try to measure or test what people really believe or desire about our shared modern reality, we will find out how many ostensibly orthodox Muslims really believe in Jihad now and how many will find excuses to take from or side with the un-believer. And then we will have real information to further justify and focus our tactics of engagement, to expose and turn and fight. Winners force choices on opponents so as to remake reality. War is seemingly chaos that winners find ways to inflect and channel and shape; they don't simply try to control reality or insist it conforms to pre-established models and justifications.

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