Tuesday, October 25, 2011

CTTA: Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis Special Issue

The International Conference on Commu-nity Engagement (ICCE) was organized by the International Centre for Political Vio-lence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), a specialist centre of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nan-yang Technological University in Singa-pore. The conference was held in Singa-pore on the 21st and 22nd of September

Insights on Community Engagement
Muhammad Haniff Hassan and Zulkifli Mohamed Sultan
This article provides insights from the International Conference on Community Engagement (ICCE) held in Singapore on 21-22 September 2011. The ICCE is Singapore’s signature event to mark the 10th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks. The full report on the conference will be released in December 2011.
Inside this issue:
Insights on Community Engagement

Community Fights Terrorism
Tackling Online Extremism through Counter Ideology and Community Engagement
About Us
Events and Publications
October 2011
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2011 and was attended by more than 200 delegates from all over the world with more than 20 internationally renowned speakers on the issue of community engagement.
The conference is meant to be a platform to discuss the key points of effec-tive community engagement. The ICCE has the following objectives: (1) Draw from global best practices on community en-
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister, Teo Chee Hean, who gave the opening remarks at the ICCE 2011 is given a token of appreciation by RSIS Dean Barry Desker. (Inset) 250 delegates from more than a dozen countries participated in this landmark conference. Photo Credits: ICPVTR
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gagement practices to create a working model, (2) Pro-vide a better understanding of the processes and the necessity for community engagement, (3) Create guide-lines that will assist governments to put in place commu-nity engagement efforts in their home countries, (4) Pro-vide a crucial network for governments and institutions that are presently involved in the process of community engagement.
Countering ideological radicalism has been the main focus of global counterterrorism efforts and has yielded some success in recent years. Leaders need to create more initiatives that will mobilize communities against extremism and forge national resilience. Com-munity engagement is an important part of counter-extremism strategy. There is a need for more platforms to heighten the awareness on community engagement initiatives, exchange views and increase knowledge and understanding to enhance the effectiveness of such ini-tiatives.
Based on views from the ICCE, there are two levels of community engagement. The first level is en-gagement on issues related to extremism and terrorism with the understanding that it should involve three im-portant parties- the government, the intelligentsia/academia, and the community. The government, as the party primarily responsible for national security, plays an important role in promoting understanding and aware-ness of the problem through briefings and public educa-tion. The academic community’s role is to research on the problem, help to educate the public and offer sound policy recommendations to the government. The com-munity needs to be informed of the issues and be con-sulted for any engagement program to be successful.
The second level is to get the community in-volved as an important partner to counter extremism and terrorism at all levels. To achieve this, diverse and multi-faceted approaches are required to have an in-depth understanding of the different segments and tar-get groups in a community and have a calibrated com-munity engagement program. The Singapore cluster
model, which involves the grassroots, education institu-tions, businesses and other sectors, is an example of effective community engagement. In Singapore, com-munity engagement is geared more towards community-based initiatives and the role of the government is more on facilitation and support. To put it directly, community engagement initiatives should be “community-focused” and not “community-targeted.”
There are social and ideological aspects of community engagement in the context of countering extremist beliefs. The social aspect requires the building of trust between communities as that will contribute to national resilience. On the ideological aspect, the radical and extremist beliefs, which promote division and hostil-ity between Muslims and non-Muslims, needs to be ad-dressed. It should be noted that radical/extremist ideol-ogy thrives when there is antagonism and mistrust be-tween Muslims and non-Muslims.
Community engagement initiatives can be car-ried out in two domains- the real world and the virtual world or the Internet. While the value of direct and face-to-face interactions cannot be discounted, the impor-tance of the virtual world for community engagement is now widely recognized. The use of virtual platforms to counter radical/extremist ideologies is gaining ground. An example would be the Al-Sakinah program of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The program involves a group of Islamic scholars who use the Internet to spread mod-erate Islamic ideology and refute suspicious matters offered by extremists who adopt deviant ideologies. The success of this program provides insight on the impor-tance of active engagement with the radicals who use online platforms.
Community engagement programs to counter extremist ideology should be focused on three groups. First, engagement programs should reach out to the Muslim community. Engagement on the topic of radicali-zation and religious extremism in the community is an essential part of conveying Islam with utmost clarity and preserving the rights of Muslim and their organizations. They must be empowered with knowledge that will im-
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munize them from any extremists’ ideologies. Commu-nity engagement will also equip them with skills and tools to enable them to play part against extremist ideol-ogy. Second are the non-violent extremists that are ex-posed to violence and the violent ones that are out there but who remain unknown. It is equally important to look at those who did not join radical movements but still re-tain extremist beliefs. We need to persuade and bring them back to the right path. Third are the non-Muslims. It is important for community engagement programs to ensure that non-Muslims do not have a wrong under-standing and perception of Islam. Mainstream non-Muslims must also be called upon to speak up against extremists and radicals to prevent them from jeopardiz-ing relations amongst all community members.
It is important for communities, whether they are public or private, to work together and create a synergy that will address extremism in the long run. Terrorism may occur in the most cohesive society, but extremist messages are less likely to gain support in this environ-ment. Similarly, a society in which extremism is likely to be reduced is where people have the confidence to build relationships with each other and enhance social cohe-sion.
Effective community engagement requires a commitment to develop and mobilize organizational re-sources necessary to support such initiatives. Among other considerations, hard and strenuous work on this issue should be taken into account the diversity that ex-ists in community involvement. Regardless, it is hoped that the observations and insights based on practicality will be tested, refined and that would eventually lead to a better understanding of how one should prepare for the optimal involvement of community engagement in combating radical and extremist ideologies.
The ICPVTR Terrorism Database – Global Pathfinder - is a one-stop repository for information on the current and emerging terrorist threat. The database focuses on terror-ism and political violence in the Asia-Pacific region – com-prising of Southeast Asia, North Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and Oceania.
Global Pathfinder is an integrated database containing comprehensive profiles of terrorist groups, key terrorist personalities, terrorist and counterterrorist incidents as well as terrorist training camps . It also contains specific details and analyses of significant terrorist attacks in the form of terrorist attack profiles.
In addition to providing the latest information on terrorist attacks and pronouncements, Global Pathfinder also in-cludes over a hundred terrorist training manuals, counter-terrorism legislations and conventions, analytical papers on terrorist ideologies, commentaries on terrorist trends and patterns, transcripts of landmark cases, interviews with terrorists as well as photographs from different con-flict zones across the world. Further, Global Pathfinder also has a huge collection of jihadi websites, the contents of which are routinely translated and analyzed by our ana-lysts. This analysis helps develop an understanding of the developments in the ideological spectrum and trajectory of the terrorist threat, in both in tactical as well as strategic space.
For further inquiries please email Ms. Elena Ho Wei Ling at iselwho@ntu.edu.sg
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Community Fights Terrorism
Professor Rohan Gunaratna
It is important that governments work with the community to raise awareness on the threat of terrorism and radicalization. Robust community engagement efforts help build an environment where extremist ideologies are less likely to thrive and makes for a more resilient society.
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capability of terrorist and extremist groups to reach out to vulnerable seg-ments of communities. In the absence of a counter narrative, communities are increasingly vulnerable to terrorist and extremist ideologies. It spreads like a virus which enables terrorists to recruit sympathizers, supporters and members. There are also reports that terrorist groups have infiltrated legal organiza-tions. In the guise of operating under the cover of human rights, humanitarian, social, cultural, political, and community organizations, terrorists are able to reach out to the public and impart their ideology.
It is paramount for a government to work together with community leaders to raise awareness on the threat of ter-rorism and radicalization. More often than not, governments do not under-stand the importance of community en-gagement or they lack the will to invest resources in such initiatives. Govern-ment leaders must realize that it is im-portant for them to work with grassroots and local organizations to protect the community from harm which can come from ideological extremism taking root and manifesting into violence, including terrorism. The support of the community is essential to proactively counter ex-tremist ideologies and detect signs of radicalization. It is also necessary to ori-ent the community to proactively detect indicators of a terrorist attack. These indicators are activities pertaining to propaganda, recruitment, funding, pro-
With the spread of extremist ideology and terrorist methodology through the internet and other platforms of communi-cation, community engagement and ter-rorist rehabilitation have emerged as vital pillars in counterterrorism. It is criti-cal to explore a population-centric coun-terterrorism strategy as opposed to tradi-tional strategies. Governments must take into consideration the individual, the family, the community, and the society it seeks to win over. By preventing, rather than reacting to extremism, government has much more to gain. Through prob-lem-solving, engaging and building part-nerships with the community, law en-forcement and intelligence agencies can share the responsibility of fighting terror-ism with the public.
The Context
The community is the most criti-cal resource base for a terrorist organi-zation. To prevent terrorists from exploit-ing the community, governments would need to create platforms and strategies to identify and engage a community’s vulnerable segments. Community en-gagement is a community-centered ap-proach that aims to preserve, protect and advance the collective interests and vision of all stakeholders and partners. A collective vision that benefits communi-ties and government can be achieved by raising awareness on each others’ inter-ests and concerns.
The advent of the Internet has exponentially increased the capacity and
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curement, safe house, transport, communication, travel, training, multiple identities, surveillance, reconnais-sance, rehearsal, and attack. These indicators are best detected by members of the community and frontline officers. However, threat detection is contingent on ori-entation to the threat, focused alertness and vigilance. The probability of detecting a terrorist attack is in-creased if both the government and the community work together on looking out for the pre-attack indicators.
Current community engagement initiatives should go beyond crime and terrorism prevention. Such efforts should move a step further and also promote moderation, toleration, and coexistence. Because terror-ism was not considered a significant threat until after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, many countries did not rely on community support as part of counterterrorism efforts. Community engagement pro-grams have slowly emerged in the post 9/11 environ-ment to counter terrorism, especially the threat of home-grown terrorism and self-radicalization. In many coun-tries, community engagement strategies to counter ex-tremism are significantly drawn from police-community
relations, especially those related to mobilizing the com-munity against crime. In the United Kingdom, the Muslim Contact Unit (MCU) at New Scotland Yard was the in-spiration for most programs in the West. Singapore’s Community Engagement Program (CEP), is widely re-garded as influential and a “trend-setter” for other coun-tries to emulate. The New York Police Department (NYPD) has a Community Affairs Division but it was poorly funded and there was little success in engaging the Muslim community.
Countering Extremism and Building Social Resil-ience
There is a need to explain to both the govern-ment and the community why community engagement is central to counter extremism. To raise public aware-ness, there is a need to explain the impact of terrorism and its support mechanisms. Law enforcement should play a direct role in educating the public and must work directly with the government and other stakeholders. For example, the NYPD and the Internal Security Depart-ment (ISD) in Singapore were involved in informing the public about the process of radicalization. These are all integral to building social resilience. Awareness of an
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At the ICCE 2011 (From L-R) Singapore DPM Teo Chee Hean, ICPVTR Head Professor Rohan Gunaratna, and Mr. Pranev Gupte, listening to Mr. Sadruddin Hashwani talk about the devastating attacks on the Islamabad Marriot Hotel in Pakistan. Mr. Hashwani is the Head of the Hashoo Group, which owns the Marriot franchise in Pakistan. As a response to the bombings, the Hashoo Group set up a fund that catered to the needs of the families of the victims.
The response of the Hashoo Group is targeted towards building and reinforcing social resilience. Through community engagement activities such as this, the business sector helps build an environment where extremist ideologies are less likely to thrive. Photo Credit: ICPVTR
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issue empowers people not to be susceptible to the message espoused by terrorist groups even if the mes-sage has ethnic or religious undertones.
Many law enforcement authorities, academics, scholars, including Muslim clerics, are now reaching out to the public to educate them about the ideological threat we are faced with today. They seek to explain the difference between extremist and mainstream ideology as well as draw the line between political and religious ideology and hate-filled extremist narrative. Such initia-tives have enabled the general public, especially the vulnerable youth population, to know the difference be-tween deviant and heretical thinking versus mainstream discourse.
Aside from religion, terrorist ideologues also exploit issues on ethnicity so they could harness ethnic sentiments to recruit or raise funds for their cause. In cases where ethno-political ideology was the driver, it is necessary to promote values of moderation, tolerance, and coexistence. Leaders and the elite of ethnic com-munities should work with others to resolve differences that are likely to emerge from time to time. In the spirit of amicable resolution of disputes and building bridges of friendship through reconciliation, harmony centers can be created and managed at local, metropolitan, provin-cial and federal level.
It is necessary to make use multiple platforms for public awareness and education programs. This can be achieved with the use of mass media to educate and train media personnel, revamp school curricula and train teachers, deliver talks at workplaces, youth organiza-tions, grassroots organizations and other venues. As vote driven politicians are also susceptible to playing the ethnic and religious card, it is important for them to be aware and account for their actions and statements.
In countries where community engagement ef-forts have seen success, members of the community themselves have realized the need for them to partici-pate and have an active role. They began to report sus-picious activities to the authorities. Anyone who sought
to divide communities and disrupt harmony by dissemi-nating hate-filled propaganda, recruit, raise fund, pro-cure supplies, organize safe houses, or train were brought to the attention of the authorities. Some mem-bers of the community went out of their way to organize meetings with members of other communities to build greater understanding. Such meetings reduced and re-moved suspicion of each other and paved the way for friendships. In the event of a terrorist attack, they did not perceive a community responsible for the attack but blamed a few individuals who were obviously misguided. While ethnic and religious sympathies will remain, those enlightened were driven to protect and take care of the community at risk. The terrorist intent was not merely to attack and destroy a target but trigger ethnic and reli-gious riots. The members of the community are aware of this. If members of the community were not educated, the resultant rioting would gravely hurt the social fabric of any society. The community members who were aware of terrorist attempts to disrupt ethnic and religious harmony prevented such incidents by demonstrating national unity.
Dr. Arabinda Acharya
Associate Editor
Diane Russel Junio
For inclusion in the mailing list please email your name and the name of your organization with the subject “CTTA subscription” to Miss Diane Russel Junio at the following address: isdiane@ntu.edu.sg
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Tackling Online Extremism through Counter Ideology and Community Engagement
Nur Azlin Mohamed Yasin
Online extremism is the terrorists’ use of the synthetic world of cyber space to expand on their activities and dissemination of ideology that have already existed offline, in reality. It represents a gold mine of information that should be used to our advantage especially in our online and offline counter ideology and community engagement communication strategy in this protracted battle of the hearts and minds.
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commentaries and videos framed to up-hold the terrorist agenda. Pictures with short and powerful slogans that speak directly to its audience are also shown. Further, the terrorist communication strategy is complemented with a product naturally endowed with characteristics that call for action – real grievances and international issues that are manipulated to present a state of repression inflicted upon a particular group by another par-ticular group of people deemed as the enemy. Such an ideology presents a threatened group survival that calls for defense and action from members of the perceived repressed group. This is one of the many accumulative factors that have allowed the LTTE to garner funds from Tamils away from Sri Lanka, and the Al Qaeda to gather Muslim recruits from non-conflict areas such as Singa-pore and the United Kingdom.
Individuals trapped into believing the terrorist ideology have been reported to contribute greatly to terrorist groups. While some sympathizers and support-ers as proclaimed by the media, become self-radicalized and victims of online radicalization such as in the cases of American Major Abu Nidal and Singa-porean Abdul Basheer Abdul Kader, some stayed away from direct terrorist activities and expanded on the indoctri-nation efforts instead. The latter activity is equally perilous and is observed in the effective, improved and expanded dis-
Online incitation of hatred and intoler-ance for different groups in the society, and online promotion of the use of vio-lence and terrorism to complement one’s ill sentiments on the “other” group is a cause for concern for governments and the security sector. This is especially so with the presence of terrorist groups be-hind these cyber activities and the sprouting of online radicalization cases across the globe. Terrorist ideologies are spreading beyond geographical bounda-ries, allowing a global expansion of the terrorist network. This allows for the per-petuation of the terrorist struggle and continuation of fundraising activities de-spite the weakening of the terrorist groups’ physical capacity caused by the hard approach implemented in several countries. Examples of terrorist groups and individuals who have used or are using the internet to reap these benefits are the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Al Qaeda (AQ), Jemaah Islami-yah (JI), Hutaree, Aryan Nations and Anders Behring Breivik.
Terrorists’ Use of the Internet
The terrorist ideology and propa-ganda disseminated online are driven by powerful advertising tactics that have the potential to lure supporters and sympa-thizers both intellectually and emotion-ally. These tactics include the portrayal of the terrorist ideology and teachings of operational terrorism tactics in several different forms such as in news updates,
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semination of the terrorist ideology and propaganda in a myriad of online facilities namely in individual blogs, fo-rums and social networking systems. Such observation suggests an unyielding spread of the venomous terrorist ideology, increasing possibility of future radicalization cases.
Taking Advantage of the Gold Mine of Information
However, despite the threats posed by online extremism, banning or restricting it remains futile and counter-productive. The immense space in the World Wide Web allows blocked online sites to maintain and improve its presence in new URLs. Blocking a website would be used against the authorities and interpreted as evidence of the repression of the particular group that terrorists claim to represent by the authorities. Also, ob-servations show online platform as a reflection of offline reality which provides authorities with a gold mine of information on real ideological and operational develop-ments of terrorist groups and the perception and support of the public for them.
First, content of offline extremist propaganda materials are similar to that posted online. For instance, in Indonesia and Pakistan, content of terrorist propa-ganda seen online are also effectively spread through sale of terrorist publications and gatherings on the ground. Second, offline terrorist activities such as fund-raising and new operational tactics used are revealed online. Fundraising results and updates of Jemaah Islamiyah are religiously updated in the Bahasa Indone-sia Islamist extremist online sites. Developments and tactics of LTTE recruitment and training were posted on Tamil extremist sites. Last but not least, ideological clashes and debates among terrorists and its supporters can be detected online, giving analysts insights on the weaknesses within the terrorist group and its structure. Such debates can especially be found in the Arabic and the Bahasa Indonesia Islamist extremist sites. These observations suggest that rather than eliminating the terrorists’ and their supporters’ presence from the inter-net and risk pushing them into operating underground in
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Screenshots from extremist websites showing how the Internet is being used to support terrorist ideologies and for propaganda and fund-raising activities. Image Source: Terrorism Informatics Team, ICPVTR
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real life setting, the online platform should be used intel-ligently to our advantage. One way is to gather informa-tion for better intelligence and counter ideological ef-forts. The latter should then be exposed and dissemi-nated through engagement with the society as a whole through both extremist and mainstream online and off-line mediums.
Counter Ideology and Community Engagement as Communication Package
Looming threats of online and offline extremism and the dissemination of the terrorist ideology present us with the clear understanding that apart from physical violence and fear, terrorism also poses us with yet an-other long term challenge – the battle of the hearts and minds. The importance of counter ideology and correct-ing the terrorists’ worldview as tactics to triumph in this battle is undeniable. However, such assiduous efforts would be in vain if it was not communicated and pack-aged to reach out to the public at large. This signifies the importance of both counter ideology and community engagement as a communication package or strategy in this battle we are in. This strategy like any other good advertising or communication strategy needs to use all communication mediums used by the target audience. In this case, whether or not our target audience is online or offline, mediums from these two entities should be used. Ultimately, individuals who dwell in cyber space exist in reality too.
Counter ideological works which contain up-dates on addressing both real and perceived grievances have to be exposed in both online sites and offline com-munication mediums. This is the first step that would create awareness of such perspectives and understand-ing in the target audience. The next complementary step is community engagement. The aim of this step is to persuade and convince the target audience to reject the terrorist ideology. This requires a two-way communica-tion and interactive way of engaging with the target audi-ence. Online, this could be done through social media such as Facebook and in Islamist extremist sites. An example of such efforts is seen in the works of Saudi Arabia through its program, Al-Sakinah which involves
clerics debating and counseling extremist individuals in forums. Offline, such engagements should include semi-nars, public discussions, conferences and workshops catered to the different levels of the society, from stu-dents to the working adults, employed individuals to ones who are less educated. The purpose of community engagement is to provide an open platform for discus-sion between the public and experts in this area. Clash of views such as that on international policies should not be frowned upon and should be anticipated. However, one message should be made to resonate in all – that violence and hatred is not a solution and is hypocritical to our quest for peace and harmony. Actions that should precipitate from this message are the proactive role that every individual would have to play in his or her own private and public spheres – the rejection of the terrorist ideology; vigilance in the reporting of suspicious behav-iors; the continuous spread of the message of peace.
The CTTA: Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis is now open for contributions from researchers and practitioners in the field of terrorism research, secu-rity, and other related fields.
Topical areas of interest are terrorism and political violence, terrorism and organized crime, homeland security, religion and violence, internal conflicts and terrorism, and all other areas of security broadly de-fined.
Article length could be anywhere between 800 to 1500 words. Submissions must be made before the 15th of every month for editing purposes and for inclusion in the next month’s edition.
Electronic copies of the articles (MS Word format) may be submitted to the editors at the following address: isdiane@ntu.edu.sg
Nanyang Technological University
Block S4, Level B4, Nanyang Avenue,
Singapore 639798
Phone: +65 6316 8925
Fax: +65 6791 1941
Website: www.pvtr.org
The International Centre for Political Violence and
Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) is a specialist centre
within the S. Rajaratnam School of International
Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University,
ICPVTR conducts research, training, and outreach
programs aimed at reducing the threat of politically
motivated violence and at mitigating its effects on the
international system. The Centre seeks to integrate
academic theory with practical knowledge, which is
essential for a complete and comprehensive
understanding of threats from politically-motivated
The Centre is staffed by academic specialists, religious
scholars, as well as personnel from the law
enforcement, military and intelligence agencies, among
others. The Centre is culturally and linguistically
diverse, comprising of functional and regional analysts
as well as Muslim religious scholars from Asia, the
Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America.
Events and Publications
Ethnic Identity and National
Conflict in China
(Palgrave Macmillan 22 June
2010) by Dr. Rohan Gunaratna,
Dr. Arabinda Acharya
and Mr. Wang Pengxin
Targeting Terrorist Financing:
International Cooperation
and New Regimes
(Routledge 2009) by Dr.
Arabinda Acharya
Watch this space for upcoming events at
Terrorist Rehabilitation:
The US Experience in Iraq
(CRC Press Taylor and
Francis Group, 2011) by
Dr. Ami Angell and
Dr. Rohan Gunaratna
Pakistan: Terrorism Ground
Zero (Reaktion Books, 2011)
by Dr. Rohan Gunaratna and
Mr. Khuram Iqbal
International Aviation and
Terrorism: Evolving Threats,
Evolving Security
(Routledge 2009)
by Dr. John Harrison

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