France enforces a strict form of Laicite, which seeks to keep religion out of the public sphere, including out of schools. This policy aims to keep religion from becoming a source of division or tension between people. The ISIS attack over the weekend understandably raises concerns of backlash and reprisals toward the French Muslim population, one of Europe's largest, triggering a cycle of violence that may be difficult to quell.
The horrific attacks in Paris are part of a pattern of increasing social hostilities involving religion that have plagued France. In 2006-07, Pew Research shows that religious hostilities were moderate in France. But in the most recent Pew data from 2013, hostilities were solidly in the high category (see charts).
Between 2007 and 2013, the level of social hostilities involving religion increased by 50% from 3.4 to 5.1. The increase - as shown in the data - is due to several factors including religion-related terrorist violence, violence between religious groups, attempts by some groups to prevent other religious groups from operating, religiously biased assaults and hate crimes, and harassment of women over religious dress.
France enforces a strict form of Laicite, which seeks to keep religion out of the public sphere, including out of schools. This policy aims to keep religion from becoming a source of division or tension between people. The ISIS attack over the weekend understandably raises concerns of backlash and reprisals toward the French Muslim population, one of Europe's largest, triggering a cycle of violence that may be difficult to quell.
One of the potent adversaries of religious freedom is violent extremist jihadism. New research from the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics finds a common ideology communicated through the propaganda of three leading jihadi groups. The following is synthesis taken from the report's summary.
After the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda had approximately 300 militants. ISIS alone now has, at a low estimate, 31,000 fighters across Syria and Iraq. Understanding how ideology has driven this phenomenon is essential to containing and defeating violent extremism. The jihadi ideology preys upon those who are sympathetic to some of its aims. Unless we understand how the ideology relates to wider beliefs, we cannot uproot it.
NOTE: There is a distinct difference between the ideology of Salafi-jihadism and the Islam practiced by the majority of the world's Muslims. The Salafi-jihadi ideology distorts Islamic religious principles to produce a single-minded focus on violent jihad.
Findings from the Study
The research identified five key motivational themes common in the Jihadi propaganda studied:
(1) Group Identity, occurring in 89% of the messaging. The ummah (the global Muslim community) is by far the most dominant aspect of jihadi group identity, with almost twice as many references in the propaganda as any other identity theme, according to the study. The importance of tawhid (monotheism) is revealed in a number of themes throughout the propaganda, in different strands of the ideology: one God, one state, and one ummah.
The importance of honour, and the solidarity of the ummah is also central. The virtue of martyrdom – common to many religions, but here applied deliberately to death in battle – forms a significant part of the value of honour, appearing explicitly in 32% of the propaganda, and implicitly in 68%.
(2) The use of Muslim Scripture or Scholarship is the second most common motivational appeal. Altogether, justifications from the Quran, Hadith or from scholarship appear in 87% of the propaganda. One ISIS statement contained 24 references to the Quran, making up 26 percent of the entire statement. Of these 24 references, 13 different surahs (chapters) were referenced.
While Quranic justifications are usually presented without context, reinforcing the accusation that the groups 'cherry pick' passages that support their case, the ideology makes extensive use of scripture: half of the propaganda references the Quran, with 63 out of the 114 surahs referenced. Hadith justifications are used much less than Quranic justifications, appearing in only 22% of the sample. The accusation that Salafi- jihadi groups pick Hadith that suit their vision may be bolstered by the ways in which they use them: authoritative Hadith are cited with the full details of their origins; the referencing of those of more doubtful provenance is much more vague.
When the groups are criticised for their actions by rival Salafi-jihadi groups or others, the Quran and the Hadith are the first reference points that are used for the rebuttal. Hadith in particular are used in bulk when groups are attacked by other followers of the ideology. Nevertheless, the vaunted Salafi rejection of much Islamic scholarship as 'innovation' (ISIS refers to established scholars as "donkeys of knowledge") is belied by references throughout the propaganda to 45 different scholars from all the major schools of jurisprudence apart from the Hanafi school.
(3) Appeals to right Conduct occur in 82% of the propaganda. This includes extolling the virtues of jihad, seeking the disgrace of enemies, and ending humiliation.
An emphasis on the nobility of jihad runs throughout the propaganda, often presenting it in chivalric terms, with pictures of fighters on horseback, or references to Saladin. Altogether, such references to jihad appear in 71% of the propaganda.
(4) Propaganda related to Value occurred in 80% of the messages. Ideological values, which form the moral basis of the groups' actions, are present in 80% of all the propaganda sources; these include Islamic creedal values in 62%, the values of honour and solidarity with the Muslim community in 68%, and explicit references to the end of days in 42%.
The study concluded that the three violent jihadist groups share fundamentally similar ideologies, challenging the concept that "ISIS is more extreme than al-Qaeda".
(5) And calls to accomplish certain Objectives were present in 66% of messaging.
38% of propaganda included calls for establishing the Caliphate, including the desirability or inevitability of a universal Islamic state. 66% focused on Near or Far Enemies: These are themes that relate to the appropriate targets for jihad. And 34% had calls for the end of a perceived ‘humiliation’ of the global Muslim community.
About the Report
The report - authored by Emman El-Badawy, Milo Comerford and Peter Welby - provides an evidence base for what is already assumed by many, that the ideology of Salafi-jihadism is a vital motivating force for extremist violence, and therefore must be countered in order to curb the threat.
The ideological themes presented above appear throughout the propaganda, with a clear internal logic, although its application is often inconsistent. The themes – whether found explicitly or by implication – form a hierarchy, with the ideological values providing a basis for groups' objectives and ideal conduct, and thus their group identity. The themes come together to form a coherent ideology, representative of Salafi- jihadism.
The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics presents informed analysis on the interaction of religion and conflict globally. The Centre has analysed a cross-section of 114 propaganda sources ranging from April 2013 to summer 2015 from three Salafi-jihadi groups: ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Its aim is to identify precisely what ideology is shared by the three groups, as revealed in their propaganda, in order to inform effective counter-narratives from mainstream Muslims, governments and civil society.
Last week, deadly ISIS-inspired attacks occurred in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, claiming dozens of lives and adding further to already high social hostilities involving religion in the countries.
Recent Pew Research reports have documented worrying trends of increasing religious hostilities involving religion, with religion-related terrorism being a potential trigger in governments imposing greater restrictions on religion or belief more generally. Specifically, Pew found that countries where religion-related terror occurs have, on average, more than double the level of government restrictions on religious freedom as countries where no terror has occurred.
Ironically, research - as in The Price of Freedom Denied - has shown that this cycle of violence leading to general restrictions may have the effect of both lowering religious freedom and increasing violence rather than decreasing it because it may limit the activities of peaceful faith solutions while adding additional grievances by stigmatizing religion.
According to a statistical annex prepared by the University of Maryland for the recently released annual report on terrorism by the U.S. State Department and cited during the report's release (though not included in the report), "the number of terrorist attacks in 2014 increased 35 percent, and total fatalities increased 81 percent compared to 2013, largely due to activity in Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria."
During the special briefing at the release by Tina S. Kaidanow, Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism, stated that "more than 60 percent of all attacks took place in five countries: Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Nigeria. And 78 percent of all fatalities due to terrorist attacks also took place in five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria. The increase in total fatalities was in part a result of certain attacks that were exceptionally lethal. In 2014 there were 20 attacks that killed more than a hundred people, compared to only two such attacks in 2013."
Note, while the State Department cited these statistics compiled by the University of Maryland, they are not a U.S. State Department product and the lack full context found in the larger report. Kaidanow noted in particular that aggregate totals or numbers of attacks are not really a particularly useful metric for measuring the aims of the extremist groups or of our progress in preventing or countering those activities.
State Department Report & 2014 Trends
Comments below are from a special briefing by Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism Tina S. Kaidanow, Washington, DC June 19, 2015
"Despite significant blows to al-Qaida’s leadership, weak or failed governance continued to provide an enabling environment for the emergence of extremist radicalism and violence, notably in Yemen, in Syria, Libya, Nigeria, and Iraq. We’re deeply concerned about the continued evolution of the Islamic State of the Iraq in the Levant, ISIL; the emergence of self-proclaimed ISIL affiliates in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and elsewhere; and tens of thousands of foreign terrorist fighters who are exacerbating the violence in the Middle East, imposing a continued threat to their own home countries.
The ongoing civil war in Syria has been a spur to many of the worldwide terrorism events that we have witnessed. Since the report covers only calendar year 2014, it notes that the overall flow of foreign terrorist fighter travel to Syria was estimated at more than 16,000 foreign terrorist fighters from over 90 countries as of late December, which is a number that exceeds any similar flow of foreign terrorist fighters traveling to other countries in the last 20 years.
Many of the foreign terrorist fighters joined ISIL, which has seized contiguous territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria. Iraqi forces and the Counter-ISIL Coalition have dealt significant blows to ISIL, but it continues to control substantial territory.
As with many other terrorist groups worldwide, ISIL has brutally repressed the communities under its control and used ruthless methods of violence such as beheadings and crucifixions. Uniquely, however, it demonstrates a particular skill in employing new media tools to display its brutality both as a means to shock and to terrorize, but equally to propagandize and to attract new recruits.
Boko Haram shares with ISIL a penchant for the use of these brutal tactics, which include stonings, indiscriminate mass casualty attacks, and systematic oppression of women and girls, including enslavement, torture, and rape.
Though AQ central leadership has indeed been weakened, the organization continues to serve as a focal point of inspiration for a worldwide network of affiliated groups, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, a longstanding threat to Yemen, the region, and the United States; al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM; al-Nusrah Front; and al-Shabaab in East Africa.
We saw a rise in lone offender attacks, including in Ottawa and Quebec in October and Sydney in December of 2014. In many cases, it was difficult to assess whether these attacks were directed or inspired by ISIL or AQ and its affiliates. These attacks may presage a new area in which centralized leadership of a terrorist organization matters less, group identity is more fluid, and violent extremist narratives focus on a wider range of alleged grievances and enemies.
Enhanced border security measures among Western states since 9/11 have increased the difficulty for known or suspected terrorists to travel internationally. Therefore, groups like AQ and ISIL encourage lone actors residing in the West to carry out attacks on their behalf.
ISIL and AQ affiliates, including al-Nusrah Front, continue to use kidnapping for ransom operations, profits from the sales of looted antiquities, and other criminal activities to raise funds for operational purposes. Much of ISIL’s funding, unlike the resources utilized by AQ and AQ-type organizations, do not come from external donations, but was internally gathered in Iraq and Syria. ISIL earned up to several million dollars per month through its various extortion networks, in criminal activity in the territory where it operated, including through oil smuggling. Some progress was made in 2014 in constraining ISIL’s ability to earn money from the sale of smuggled oil as a result of the anti-ISIL coalition airstrikes that were conducted on ISIL-operated oil refineries. But the oil trade was not fully eradicated.
ISIL and AQ were not the only serious threats that confronted the United States and its allies. Iran continued to sponsor terrorist groups around the world, principally through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, the IRGC-QF – Quds. These groups included Lebanese Hizballah, several Iraqi Shia militant groups, Hamas, and the Palestine-Islamic Jihad. Addressing this evolving set of terrorist threats and the need to undertake efforts that span the range from security to rule of law to efficacy of governance and pushing back on terrorist messaging in order to effectively combat the growth of these emerging violent extremist groups requires an expanded approach to our counterterrorism engagement."
The problem of some in society becoming radicalized should be tackled by building relationships with those at risk, including through business and faith communities, writes Brian Grim in a Tony Blair Faith Foundation commentary.*
As Europeans join and return from fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, people from across the world, including world leaders, agree that something must be done urgently.
The January 2015 attacks in Paris, carried out by those with a reported link to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), made this abundantly clear. Beyond policing European streets and coordinating an international response to ISIS, what more should be done?
The answer involves understanding two things: the socio-economic context of ISIS's horrific advance, and the diverse social and personal paths to radicalisation.
According to a Pew Research survey in 2013, in the years running up to the ISIS advance the Iraqi public's chief concern was unemployment. Less than half of those surveyed in Iraq considered conflict between religious groups to be a very large problem, but by contrast, three-quarters of those surveyed considered unemployment to be a "very large problem" for the country. Indeed, the lack of jobs arguably softened the ground for ISIS' sudden advance.
Although research indicates that a poor economy does not cause violent extremism, it contributes to the conditions that terrorists can exploit. Indeed, terrorists know how to use poverty and wealth for their benefit. They recruit suicide bombers from the ranks of the poor and they look to the wealthy for cash because, asobserved in the Yale Review of International Studies, the rich "would rather donate their money than their sons to the cause."
More than that, radical extremists think strategically about business and the economy. The January attacks in Paris targeted two local businesses connected with much bigger industries:Hyper Cacher (the multi-billion dollar Kosher food industry) and Charlie Hebdo (the multi-trillion dollar media industry).
On a larger scale, the 9/11 al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Centre in New York – soaring symbols of development and progress – was not a random choice. In 2004, Osama bin Laden said in a taped speech, "We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Every dollar of al-Qaeda defeated a million dollars [spent by the US], including the loss of a huge number of jobs."
Some studies suggest that radical extremism can play a role during times of global economic downturn, but whether or not this is the case, the foreign policy focus of many of the world's leading economies has without a doubt been on war and peace rather than business.
So, if violent extremists attack businesses and take advantage of a bad economy to sow seeds of religious discord and violence, could better business be part of the response to radical extremism? Yes, but this requires an understanding that the radicalisation process is not only social but also deeply personal.
The "pathway by which one person is radicalised can have a completely different effect on someone else", observes Raffaello Pantucci of London's RUSI think tank. A similar conclusionwas reached by the Paris-based Centre of Prevention of Sectarian Derivatives linked to Islam (CPDSI), which finds that contemporary extremist discourse appeals to those from any background, not just those who are considered socially "at risk".
The whole world would like to see an improvement in the lives and future of those living on the edge or fringes of society, where they feel powerless and isolated – the very conditions that can make them most susceptible to proposals to find power through violence.
Reflecting the views of many, Pope Francis said that "it is urgent that governments throughout the world commit themselves to developing an international framework capable of promoting a market of high impact investments, and thus to combating an economy which excludes and discards." Similarly, British prime minister David Cameron argues, "Social investment can be a great force for social change on the planet. It can help us to build bigger and stronger societies. That power is in our hands. And together we will use it to build a better future for ourselves, for our children and for generations to come."
These are grand statements by world leaders. But how does the rubber meet the road when it comes to countering radicalisation?
The instrumental link between social impact investing and countering radicalisation is person-to-person contact. Social investing that has impact requires personal and business relationships characterised by love and respect, not hate and intolerance. Accordingly, the need is for business people in partnership with faith volunteers to build personal relationships with those at risk of radicalisation. The involvement of interfaith teams (including humanists) is a critical component because countering religious hate can most effectively be done with "love of neighbour" as exemplified in the Good Samaritan (a foreigner with a foreign faith, by the way).
Here, neighbourly love is not an emotion but a practical commitment to help mentor those in need with individualised resources that help them provide for their own needs as well as those of their families and extended families. My Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is currently working with a team from faiths as diverse as Mormons and Muslims, Catholics and Humanists, Anglicans and Agnostics, to develop a toolkit for volunteers to use in a personalised way with the at-risk people they mentor. The toolkit will have resources that can be customised as needed to address six themes of a balanced life: education, health, employment, productivity and stewardship, household finances, and spiritual strength.
The mentors will also be tasked with helping to identify sustainable investments that help promote integration and economic development in communities where people at risk of radicalisation live. The projects should adhere to several important criteria: (1) a high probability of a successful business venture; (2) applicability of the business model to other situations; (3) representation of different faith traditions; and (4) promoting productive collaboration between religious minorities and other segments of society.
When love of neighbour is accompanied by empowering social investment, integration and interfaith appreciation result. In the end, all this is good for business because, as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby appositely notes, good business is about good relationships. This applies to neighbourhoods in cities and communities throughout Europe, as well as suffering populations in northern Iraq.
For ways to get involved with this initiative, contact the author who will be speaking on 3 February 2015 at the School of Management and Social Sciences, St. Mary's University, Twickenham, London (see details).
* The views expressed by this author remain solely their own and are not to be taken as the view of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
This commentary was first published on 2 February 2015 by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
Talk of the U.S. pivot to Asia has been overshadowed by the rise of new perpetrators of terror. Al Qaeda has been eclipsed by a new brand of jihadist groups such as the 'Islamic State’ seeking to build a Caliphate across the Middle East and Boko Haram doing the same in western Africa. New data show the extent of the violence being inflicted by such groups.
While most deaths occur in a hand full of countries, the specter of Lone-wolf attacks, as the one unfolding in Sydney shows, affect countries far outside the region. With recent "Lone Wolf" attacks in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., the terror is brought very close to home.
New research carried out by the BBC World Service, BBC Monitoring, and the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) produced a global snapshot of this rising tide of terror by recording all the reported deaths that were caused by jihadist groups and networks during the month of November 2014.
The study found that jihadists killed 5,042 people in 664 attacks during the month. The Islamic State conflict in Syria and Iraq accounted for the largest share of deaths, though attacks in 12 other countries claimed thousands as well. This includes nearly 800 deaths in Nigeria and another 800 in Afghanistan, plus hundreds in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan.
In light of the apparent lack of success in combatting the rise of global terror using hard power alone, and the economic consequences of the deteriorating situation of religious freedom worldwide, a new editorial argues that positively encouraging countries to protect international religious freedom ideals will bear more fruit than using the default tool - a hammer.
Religion is not the main cause of conflict today, according to the latest research report from the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.
The report, Five Key Questions Answered on the Link between Peace and Religion, provides a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between peace and religion.The study found that the answer to the first question is "No": Is religion the main cause of conflict in the world today?
While religion has evidently been a cause of many conflicts throughout history, it is by no means the only reason for conflict. Surveying the state of 35 armed conflicts from 2013, religious elements did not play a role in 14, or 40%.
It is notable that religion did not stand as a single cause in any conflict; however 14% of conflicts did have religion and/or the establishment of an Islamic state as driving causes. Religion was only one of three or more reasons for 67% of the conflicts where religion featured as a factor to the conflict.
Nevertheless, global peace as measured by the Global Peace Index (GPI) has been steadily deteriorating over the last seven years; with 111 countries deteriorating and 51 improving. One of the main reasons for the global decline in peace has been increased terrorist activity, which has been driven by high profile Islamic terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State (IS), Boko Haram and Al-Qaida. Both the scale and the intensity of terrorism has substantially increased. In 2011, 13 countries recorded more than 50 deaths from terrorist activity; by 2013 the number had jumped to 24 countries.
The graph represents the causes of conflict for the 35 armed conflicts in 2013. Of the 35 conflicts in 2013, 86% had more than one cause. Nearly two-thirds of conflicts in 2013 had among their main cause opposition to a particular government, or opposition to the economic, ideological, political or social system of a state.
Identity was a feature in most conflicts in 2013, with 21 conflicts involving clashes of identity as a main cause of conflict. When analyzing the motivation for these conflicts the desire for identity and self-government was a part of 60 per cent of the conflicts. While religious elements may have a significant impact, there are many other motivators of armed conflict.
There are many difficulties in simplistically determining what the causes of a conflict are. Conflicts with religious elements are not necessarily primarily driven by religious objectives or identification. In many instances armed groups focused more on overthrowing the government or eroding government power and use religion as a rallying cry in religious societies. It has been argued that religion is rarely a foundational cause for conflict. It “does not ordinarily lead to violence”, but it is generally only “when religion becomes fused with violent expressions of social tensions, personal pride, and movements for political change.”
When parties to a conflict are divided on religious adherence, the conflict often becomes framed as religious even though the parties have originally fought over other issues. As the majority of people in the world adhere to some religious beliefs it is unsurprising that many conflicts are interpreted as having a religious element. It thus does not always follow that religion is the cause for conflict.
Religion-related terrorists are active in more than one-in-three countries (37%) today, more than any time since 2006, according to Pew Research.
With recent "Lone Wolf" attacks in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., the terror is coming closer to home.
Common to the lone wolf scenario is a lack of social integration, including meaningful work and self-reliance. A new initiative from the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is attempting to address this (more below).
U.S. (New York)
On Oct. 23, 2014, a self-radicalized Muslim convert, Zale H. Thompson, attacked a group of New York police officers with a hatchet, leaving one critically injured. Officials are calling it a terrorist attack. Thompson converted to Islam two years ago.
John Miller, NYPD’s deputy counterterrorism chief, told reporters that Thompson was self-directed in his actions with no affiliations to any particular group.
Thompson was unemployed, and police say his parents described him as a depressed recluse spending his time online. His recent Internet activity shows that he searched for beheadings, al Qaeda, ISIS and al Shabaab, indicating that Thompson had been planning an attack for some time.
On Oct. 22, 2014, a gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau (originally Michael Joseph Hall), went on a shooting spree in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. The gunmen killed a reservist guard in front of the National War Memorial, and then proceed to the Parliament Hill. Because of the shootings, all government employees were not allowed to enter or leave their buildings throughout the interprovincial National Capital Region. Following the attack there has been some opposing reports regarding potential ISIS inspired attacks in Canada.
Preceding this shooting, Martin Couture-Rouleau – a French-Canadian who converted to Islam in 2013 – deliberately struck two Canadian soldiers with his car on Oct. 20, 2014 killing one. It is believed that Couture-Rouleau’s attack was an act of terrorism tied to Canada’s involvement in the conflict in the Middle East. Both Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau had documented psychological problems and were heavy drug users. And, there is some speculation that an association is being forced to push through new anti-terrorism legislation in the country.
While there is debate whether the two killers actually had ties to or were in fact motivated by terrorist leanings, there are documented cases of attempted terrorist attacks in Canada or Canadians traveling to the Middle East to join militant groups. Fen Osler Hampson, director of the global security and politics program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, points to some recurring characteristics common to Canadian Islamists.
Compared to their counterparts in other Western countries, they are more likely to be socially marginalized, often unemployed, and act alone. Many are converts. Overall, Mr. Hampson notes however that, "In Canada, Muslims are much better integrated in society and they are much more upwardly mobile for the most part," and, "They've adopted the identity of being Canadian and being tolerant."
ISIS & the U.K.
Threat expert, Will Geddes of security and counter terrorism firm International Corporate Protection, warned that an Islamic State terror attack on soldiers in their barracks in Britain is not a matter of if, but when.
Geddes conservatively estimates three attacks, with the possibility of more. ISIS terrorist cells have reportedly been discovered, carrying out surveillance on for barracks across the country. Four British men have been charged with allegedly carrying out “hostile reconnaissance” of a police station and army barracks in west London.
Mr. Geddes warns that the second threat is a high likelihood of a “loan wolf” terror attack. Unlike the large concerted attacks carried out by Al Qaeda, the threat from ISIS “is a much more low-level, under the radar, visceral type of terrorism, often involving just one or two lone wolves operating alone.”
A lone wolf may be one of two types of Islamic extremist, those who wanted to join ISS in Syria but were unable to, like Ottawa gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, whose passport had been confiscated by authorities, and those who had been to the Middle East but returned to make with plans to attack in Britain. Mr. Geddes stresses that such an attack is especially dangerous due to the unpredictable nature of a person acting alone.
Self-Reliance Life Skills: An Antidote?
The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is working with leading interfaith groups, business schools and educational institutions to develop a "Self-Reliance Curriculum."
Obtaining self-reliance life skills is a pressing need among many vulnerable communities who are susceptible to radicalization, such as Muslims in the UK. For instance, the killing on the afternoon of 22 May 2013 of a British Army soldier, Fusilier Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, has reopened the debate about those who carry out acts of violence in the name of Islamist fundamentalism. Experts give their opinions on how society and the authorities should react to this incident and what could be done to combat radicalization in the UK. The debate continues as the Birmingham City Council is investigating 25 schools about claims of takeovers by Islamist extremists.
The project will make available to interfaith training teams* a curriculum of self-reliance that could be taught to members of vulnerable communities by interfaith teams beginning in the UK and then taken globally.
The curriculum would promote self-reliance as a way of life and help people make a conscious, active effort to provide for their own needs and those of their families. The program would follow the six themes for a balanced life:
* Interfaith training teams will be composed of volunteers from local business as well as faith communities - having both is a unique and an essential component of the program in that involving people with real business know-how together with people of diverse faiths and beliefs helps give real alternatives to radical narratives that grow under conditions of isolation and desperation.
One girl recounts how she and her friend were given to a IS man 40 years their senior as a “gift.” They were lucky to escape, but only after being starved and beaten.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are not so lucky, and remain captives of IS with reports of rape and sexual abuse of detained women and children.
The group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS) has carried out ethnic cleansing on a historic scale in northern Iraq, according to a recent report by Amnesty International. According to the report, ethnic and religious minorities – Assyrian Christians, Turkmen Shi’a, Shabak Shi’a, Yezidis, Kakai and Sabean Mandaeans – are under threat of death if they do not convert to Islam. There have been allegations that many of the women and girls who have been abducted by IS fighters, notably girls in their teens and early 20s, have been subjected to rape or sexual abuse, forced to marry fighters, or sold into sexual slavery.
At the same time, a handful of women from the West are reported to have freely moved to IS-controlled areas (see secret video of an IS-controlled street). Their stories add to the claims of legitimacy by the IS leaders. On the video, one French woman caught on video talking to her mother in France, explains, “I don’t want to come back, Mama, because I’m happy here. Everything you see on TV is fake, I swear to you, it’s not true. Do you understand? They exaggerate everything on TV.”
A new analysis of data by the Weekly Number shows that the denial of religious freedom contributes to gender inequality throughout the world. Extremist ideologies such as IS represent the complete loss of religious freedom, and when respect for a diversity of religious beliefs and practices disappears, gender inequality is often a result.
Gender Inequality Higher When Restrictions on Religious Freedom Are Higher
Religious minorities are especially vulnerable when the right to freedom of religion or belief, as recognized by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, is not protected. IS justifies its rampant disregard for life by citing ideological superiority. Hiding behind this claim, IS justifies ethnic cleansing by killing Yazidi men and boys, and calling the women and girls “pagans,” selling them into slavery if they refuse to convert.
Any solutions will need to address issues such as religious freedom, because religious freedom is not only tied to gender equality but also to more stable economies. Religious intolerance affects women’s ability to engage in and contribute to the economy.
IS demonstrates the extreme instability that accompanies absolute religious intolerance. An already destabilized region is made even more so, leaving ancient minority faiths displaced and on the verge of being wiped out.
PRESS RELEASE: The coupling of religious freedom & business provides solutions to the world's pressing socio-economic problems. Weekly Number author and Religious Freedom & Business Foundation President Brian Grim is discussing these solutions at major events across the world:
Threats linked to the militant Islamist al-Shabaab group have forced the evacuation of scores of tourists from parts of the Kenyan coast. And the effects are not short-lived. Tour operators Thomson and First Choice cancelled all flights to the coastal city of Mombasa until October, reports the BBC.
These evacuations occurred as two bombs killed more than 10 people and wounded 70 others on Friday at a market in the capital, Nairobi. President Uhuru Kenyatta, downplayed the tourism warnings from the U.S. and Britain, saying that terrorism is a problem affecting many countries and not uniquely a Kenyan problem.
Data, however, indicate that religious hostilities in Kenya have moved into the very high category, much higher than the norm in the world (see chart). According to Pew Research, social hostilities involving religion entered the very high category in 2011 and continue to rise.
Indeed, the Pew Research Center observes that, rather than being an isolated event, such terrorist attacks are part of Kenya’s sharp rise in religious hostilities.The latest episodes follow an al-Shabaab attack on an upscale Nairobi shopping mall in Sept. 2013.
Religious hostilities impact tourism in numerous countries, including in Egypt. Religious hostilities and restrictions create climates that can drive away local and foreign investment, undermine sustainable development, and disrupt huge sectors of economies. Such has occurred in the ongoing cycle of religious regulations and hostilities in Egypt. Perhaps most significant for future economic growth, the instability associated with high and rising religious restrictions and hostilities can influence young entrepreneurs to take their talents elsewhere.
JOIN A DISCUSSION on how religious freedom enables business to be more productive. This webinar will review research and provide information about this relationship while offering concrete ways for the business community to collaborate with government and non-governmental organizations in promoting respect for freedom of religion or belief.
The webinar will be co-hosted by the UN Global Compact's Business for Peace platform together with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RF&BF). It will explain how businesses can effectively incorporate religious freedom in their strategic business plans for the benefit of their stakeholders, their employees, and society and also highlight the positive contributions to peace these actions can have in the workplace, marketplace, and local communities. Finally, the webinar will also introduce a range of global initiatives that businesses and other stakeholders are welcome to join. REGISTER
Of the six rising religious hostilities impacting the world today, harassment of women over religious dress increased more than fourfold between 2007 and 2012, according to a new Pew Research study.
The other five types of social hostilities involving religion each increased twofold during the same time period. These include: abuse of religious minorities, violent enforcement of religious norms, mob violence related to religion, religion-related terrorist violence, and sectarian conflict.
1. Harassment of Women Over Religious Dress
The new Pew Research Center study finds that harassment of women over religious dress occurred in nearly a third of countries in 2012 (32%), up from a quarter in 2011 (25%) and less than one-in-ten (7%) as of mid-2007.
In China, for instance, a Han Chinese man accosted a Uighur Muslim girl in Henan province and lifted her veil in November 2012. In response, violent protests broke out as hundreds of Uighurs demonstrated against the incident. And in Moldova, two men attacked a Muslim woman in the capital city of Chisinau, calling her a “terrorist” and tearing her headscarf.
A recent increase in school bullying in the New York City school is reported to include students pulling off Muslim headscarves. And recently in Niagara, NY, several 16-year-old girls are facing charges for assaulting a 17-year-old Muslim girl wearing as headscarf leaving a mosque.
Sometimes such harassment coincides with legislative attempts to limit religious dress. In Quebec, Canada, the Parti Quebecois government proposed a ban on religious clothing for public employees including at schools, hospitals and courthouses. The "Charter of Values,” if adopted, would prohibit public servants from wearing hijabs, kippas, turbans or large crucifixes. The proposal has reportedly triggered aggression against Muslim women wearing such headscarves.
2. Abuse of Religious Minorities
The notable increase in social hostilities involving religion documented by Pew Research is attributable to a variety of factors, including widespread abuse of religious minorities for acts perceived as offensive or threatening to the majority faith. Incidents of abuse targeting religious minorities were reported in 47% of countries in 2012, up from 38% in 2011 and 24% in the baseline year of the study. In Libya, for instance, two worshippers were killed in an attack on a Coptic Orthodox church in the city of Misrata in December 2012. This was the “first attack [in Libya] specifically targeting a church since the 2011 revolution,” according to the U.S. Department of State.
In some countries, violence toward religious minorities intensified from the levels reported in previous years. In Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, for example, monks attacked Muslim and Christian places of worship, including reportedly attacking a mosque in the town of Dambulla in April 2012 and forcibly occupying a Seventh-day Adventist church in the town of Deniyaya and converting it into a Buddhist temple in August 2012. And in Muslim-majority Egypt, attacks on Coptic Orthodox Christian churches and Christian-owned businesses were on the rise well before the acceleration in attacks that took place following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 (which falls outside the date range studied in this analysis). For instance, in August 2012, in the village of Dahshur, a dispute between a Christian and a Muslim led to one death and more than a dozen injuries. Several Christian homes and businesses were destroyed and nearly all Christian families fled the village.
3. Violent Enforcement of Religious Norms
The Pew Research study finds that the share of countries where violence, or the threat of violence, was used to compel people to adhere to religious norms also increased in 2012. Such actions occurred in 39% of countries, up from 33% in 2011 and 18% as of mid-2007. In Vietnam, for instance, the managing council of the government-recognized Cao Dai religion, a syncretistic religious movement that originated in Vietnam in the 20th century, orchestrated an assault on followers of an unsanctioned Cao Dai group in September 2012, injuring six. The head of the Cao Dai managing council said the reason for the assault was that the followers of the unsanctioned group were not worshipping according to the dictates of the council.
In addition to new instances of violence, efforts to enforce religious norms intensified in other countries. In India, members of a Hindu nationalist organization, Hindu Jagarana Vedike, enforced a morality code, including an attack on young men and women for allegedly drinking and dancing at a birthday party in the state of Karnataka in July.
And in parts of Somalia under the control of the Islamic militant group al-Shabab, the group continued to ban cinemas, music, smoking, shaving beards and other behavior it views as “un-Islamic.” The group reportedly beheaded a 24-year-old man in Barawa in November 2012 after accusing him of converting to Christianity.
4. Mob Violence
Mob violence related to religion occurred in a quarter of countries in 2012 (25%), up from 18% in 2011 and 12% as of mid-2007, according to the study. In May 2012, for instance, a Muslim mob in Kenya attacked and killed two pastors who were visiting a Christian who had converted from Islam.
Mob violence also escalated in Indonesia, as Muslim groups targeted houses of worship, religious schools and homes of other Muslims they deemed “unorthodox,” according to the U.S. Department of State. In August 2012, for instance, some 500 Sunni hard-liners attacked a Shia community in the city of Sampang, killing two people, burning dozens of homes and displacing hundreds of people.
And in Nigeria, hundreds of Muslim youths attacked and burned Christian businesses and places of worship in November 2012 after a Christian was accused of blasphemy. Four Christians were killed.
5. Religion-related Terror
Religion-related terrorist violence occurred in about a fifth of countries in 2012 (20%), roughly the same share as in 2011 (19%) but up markedly from 2007 (9%), the study's baseline year.
Incidents include the March 2012 killing of a rabbi and three Jewish children by an Islamist extremist at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.
In the United States, an August 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin left six worshippers dead and three others wounded.
In some countries where there had previously been religion-related terrorist attacks, these attacks escalated. The widely covered 2013 al-Shabab attack on a Nairobi mall (which falls outside the date range studied in this analysis), for instance, was part of a steady increase in religion-related terrorism in Kenya. In July and November 2012, militants attacked churches near the Kenya-Somalia border with grenades and gunfire, leaving more than a dozen dead and more than 50 wounded.
6. Sectarian Conflict
The new study finds that the share of countries experiencing sectarian violence rose last year, continuing a trend noted in the previous report in this Pew Research series. Sectarian violence was reported in nearly one-fifth of the world’s countries in 2012 (18%), up from 15% in 2011 and 8% as of mid-2007.
In China, for example, sectarian tensions escalated into violence in October 2012 when Tibetan Buddhist monks led an attack against Hui Muslims at a site where a new mosque was being built in Gansu province.
Ongoing sectarian violence also continued unabated in some countries in 2012. In Burma (Myanmar), for instance, communal violence between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists has resulted in hundreds of deaths and displaced more than 100,000 people from their homes.
In Syria, the ongoing civil war has fallen partly along sectarian lines, leaving tens of thousands dead and displacing millions in recent years.
And in Iraq, sectarian strife between Sunni and Shia Muslims continued, and attacks of some kind continued to occur on an almost daily basis.
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Statistics on religious freedom - Brian J. Grim