Tag Archives: ISIL

Blasts in Brussels

On Tuesday, terrorists killed at least 34 people in attacks on the Belgian capital of Brussels and responsibility was claimed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).


According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ISIL or ISIS once had 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria. From these, some 5,000 were believed to be young people of immigrant descent from European Union countries.  Belgium, in its counterterrorism measures like other European Union countries, has also made it difficult for the terrorists to move in and outside the country easily. It seems, that young people of immigrant descent which were previously fleeing to Iraq and Syria to join ISIL, have now started targeting their countries of residence because of these strict measures. So in a way the strategy of not letting these immigrants join ISIL is counterproductive and a dilemma. Because, if they join ISIL in Iraq and Syria they will become more powerful to defeat there and if they couldn’t join, they’ll carry attacks like these. This carnage poses a serious question; that what led to these attacks?

On a philosophical level, there are two things which have made these attacks possible. One is Europe’s inability to integrate Muslim immigrants and other is ‘Globalized Islam’.

After World War II when there was a shortage of labor in the European market, Muslim countries provided manual labor to Europe through agreements which gave birth to the establishment of the Muslim communities in Europe. These immigrants neither abandoned their homelands nor integrated into European society completely. Ultimately these immigrants and their following generations faced social exclusion and hindrance in accessing better education and better employment opportunities.


There is a gap between the Muslim youth of immigrant descent and European society as well as between the Muslim community and their youth. These youth when faces problems in integration and understanding cultural and social differences need to talk to the representative of the Muslim communities that is their local Imam, but in many cases these Imams who are obtained from different Muslim countries, lack an understanding and interest in Western society and necessary knowledge of its history. When young Muslims consult them on everyday problems such participating in Jihad, drinking alcohol, partying, or having a girlfriend, they can’t guide them because of the language barrier and their own confusions.


Europe’s failure to integrate immigrants forces Muslim youth, which might have different skin color, Islamic names, and backgrounds, to grow up with a non-European and non-Western identity. In this state of identity crisis, translocality pushes them to adopt a transnational identity. And a proof to this is ISIL varied complexion. Studies have shown that ISIL fighters vary in terms of origin, class, culture and education.


Social exclusion segregates European Muslim youth of immigrant descent from European societies and globalized Islam, which has become deterritorialized and deculturalized, segregates them from Muslim societies of their ancestors. They face an identity crisis in European societies because of Europe’s inability to integrate them, and they face an identity crisis in their ancestors’ Muslim societies because of globalized Islam which distorts their familial, cultural and national identity. This leaves them in search for a new identity. Because dissociation from both emigrated and immigrated societies makes it hard for them to live in a state of permanent identity crisis.

The author is an independent researcher and political analyst. He has authored On Kashmir and Terrorism and can be reached at @imrankhushaal and imrankhushaalraja@gmail.com

ISIL in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan

This debate on the presence of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Indian subcontinent is heated up.  Last year India caught some youth waving ISIL’s flags in Srinagar, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where anti-Indian Kashmiri were agitating against the Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. This year, Pakistan has arrested more than one hundred different suspects on the basis of their allegiance to ISIL from different cities of the country. Whereas in Bangladesh, ISIL has already taken the responsibility of several terrorist attacks. So the question is, are Indian, Pakistani and Bengali ‘Muslim’ joining ISIL ranks?


A study, Who Becomes a Terrorist? Poverty, education, and the origins of Political Violence, published in 2011, by Alexander Lee, in World Politics, International Relations’ journal, tries to find the answer of this question. Who becomes a terrorist? How terrorism is related to poverty and education and how non-violent politics turns into violent one.

Generally, it is considered that poverty and lack of education lead toward terrorism and more poor and illiterate people become terrorists. If this is the case Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, who have nearly half of their population below poverty line, are in real trouble. But despite all the rhetoric about poverty and terrorism of government officials and public figures social sciences’ research has shown that this is not the case.

If you take “terrorism” as a skill, a mean to gain a political aim, like Alexander Lee, you might note that extremely poor and illiterate people don’t have necessary resources to learn it. This skill cost many and time to learn, which the poor don’t have any. And if you take terrorism as one shape of politics, you might note that, people who cannot afford mainstream politics go for “terrorist politics” the violent politics.

Lee has taken the partition of Bengal (1907) as a case study, where many Bengali nationalists started the political resistance against the British decision of partition. He noted that those who were relatively poor and poorly educated started taking part in violent politics. They would plant a bomb, rob a local landlord and do some other publicity gaining act.

Non-violent politics requires more resources than the violent politics. People who go mainstream, have resources to learn mainstream politics as a skill, but People who opt for terrorism, have least resources, as terrorism doesn’t require more resources to adopt it as a skill. Education plays an important role, but maybe after a qualitative point. As Alexander Lee has noted that among those Bengalis who were involved in violent politics and were also involved in daicoties, those who passed their B.A degree left daicoties and robberies.

So if we take terrorism as kind of politics, we could say, failure to take part in mainstream politics can push one to take part in violent politics. Or failure in gaining what one seeks important to gain through non-violent politics can lead to violent politics. Another example from the colonial India where Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah adopted the non-violent politics, because they were sure that their aim which initially was not of throwing the British out of the Indian subcontinent is achievable through it. Whereas many Muslim, Hindu and Sikh socialists adopted the violent politics because they were sure that their aim of “purna swaraj” “the Complete Independence” cannot be achieved without violence, notably, Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru, and Sukhdev Thapar.

Currently, Bangladesh is taking hard measures to deal with Jamaat-i-Islami, but fail to deal with extremism. Extremists have killed a number of bloggers and social activists in Bangladesh. Also, a considerable number of attacks were claimed by ISIL in Bangladesh. India was under attack in the last week when its Airbase at Pathankot got a hit from the terrorists after Mumbai and many other attacks. Pakistan has lost more than 60,000 people in the war against terror and still at losing.

Talking from the state’s point of view, India and Pakistan are really strong nuclear states and both have huge militaries for their defence. Bangladesh is not nuclear capable nor has a larger army as compared to India and Pakistan but still have a better defence system as compared to the countries where ISIL currently operating. Talking from political perspective Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are the countries where taking part in the mainstream politics costs numerous resources which people with limited wealth and poor education cannot afford. The situation such as this can push a number of Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani extremist minds to adopt terrorism as mean to fight whatever they want.

Writer is pursuing his MPhil at Iqra University Islamabad and blogs at Kashmirica.wordpress.com go say hello @imrankhushaal

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ISIL or the Taliban; who is more lethal?

In this video on TEST TUBE, Trace Dominguez tells us who is a greater threat, ISIL or the Taliban. According to Vocative’s data of killings of both groups he suggests that the Taliban are the greater threat than Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or ISIS.



If lethality is the ability to kill and just kill than the Taliban are more lethal than the newly emerged ISIL because according to the data, the Taliban are killing, on an average more than 2000 people per month whereas ISIL is way behind and is killing only 200 people per month. If it is about size of the organization even then the Taliban are double in number according to Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) report. And have currently more than 60,000 fighters whereas ISIL, according to CIA’s report, has only 30,000 fighters.

So it’s not only the size of the organization nor the number of killings it is committing in a particular time which decides its lethality but other things also.

In their research, “The Nature of the Beast: Organizational Structures and the Lethality of Terrorist Attacks” Victor Asal and Karl Rethemeyer , assistant professors at Albany State University of New York, tried to answer this question that why are some terrorist organizations so much more deadly than others?

They selected 395 clearly identified terrorist organizations operating throughout the world from 1998 to 2005 for their study and found that 335 out of 395 total, didn’t kill more than ten people and only sixty-eight have killed ten or more people during that period. Indeed, only twenty-eight have killed more than 100 people.

So the question what made these 28 organizations more lethal than others, why they killed so many people, what build their ability to kill more people than others?

Victor Asal and Karl Rethemeyer came up with six hypothesis to find out what enhance the lethality of these organizations.

Hypothesis 1: Holding all else constant: The most lethal terrorist organizations are those motivated by both religion and ethnonationalism. Religiously-motivated organizations are the second most lethal, followed by those motivated by ethnonationalism, followed by all other ideologies.

Hypothesis 2: Organizations with larger memberships are likely to be more lethal.

Hypothesis 3: Organizations with state support are likely to be more lethal.

Hypothesis 4: Older organizations are likely to be more lethal.

Hypothesis 5: Organizations with extensive direct ties to other terrorist organizations are likely to be more lethal.

Hypothesis 6: Organizations that control territory are likely to be more lethal.

Researchers argue that ideology of any organization makes it more or less lethal. They argue that regardless of novelty or oldness, there are two characteristics of an ideology which make it more or less deadly. These are; the ideology’s audience and the ideology’s capacity to clearly and cleanly define an “other.” Religious ideology has the divine audience so they are more deadly because they seek to impress a supernatural audience. Whereas non-religious ideologies, such as leftists, socialists or Marxists, have the earthly audience so they are less lethal. The ideology’s capacity to define “other” is important because when a group defines others it become easy for it to target them.

In their findings, they stated that organizations with strong religious and ethnic components may be the most lethal. A supernatural audience is a driver of organizational lethality, but the confluence of the audience and othering and othering alone cannot be conclusively linked to higher levels of lethality. Organizational age appears to have no effect on lethality, and democracy has no measurable effect on lethality. State sponsorship tends to make organizations more likely to kill, but state sponsorship does not tend to increase the number of people killed by an organization. Control of territory is generally associated with higher levels of killing.

In their conclusion, they stated that we believe the answer is that (1) large organizations, (2) organizations that address supernatural audiences through religious ideologies, (3) organizations with religious-ethnonationalist ideologies – ideologies that define another and play to the supernatural, (4) organizations that build and maintain extensive alliance connections with peers, and (5) organizations that maintain control over territory are the primary actors in this story.

So the Taliban are more lethal because they are a combination of religious and ethnonational ideology.  They are bigger in size and they had the power to capture and govern the territory and they still have territorial control. They build extensive alliances and had enjoyed a connection with Al-Qaeda which boosted their lethality.

Writer is pursuing his MPhil at Iqra University Islamabad and blogs at Kashmirica.wordpress.com go say hello @imrankhushaal

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Method to madness

If you think anyone can go and join a terrorist organization, you are wrong. You are as wrong as I was when I was worried about a friend who proved to be an admirer of militancy and guerrilla warfare. In his college days, he was a friend to a Mujahid in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. I never took his crave to go and fight a battle, seriously but his Mujahid friend did. And he never let him get close to his organization, weapons or anything ‘militant’ he had. Years after, the same old crazy guy spotted his Jihadi friend somewhere in the Middle East and tried to contact him. I was worried about him and maybe I have mentioned my worry somewhere in some article. I was worried that he may fall prey to ISIL or some other terrorist organization but after reading this research, I am a bit relieved.


This research; “The recruiter’s dilemma: Signalling and rebel recruitment tactics” by Thomas Hegghammer of Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) published in 2012 in the Journal of Peace Research, made me understand that my ‘once friend’ has very little chances to succeed in joining a terrorist organization. How do terrorists recruit? Thomas Hegghammer in order to answer this, say; we know much about the profiles and pathways of recruits, but little about the strategies and tactics of recruiters. He presents an analytical framework that conceptualizes recruitment as a trust game between recruiter and recruit. He argues that the central logic shaping recruiter tactics is the search for cost-discriminating signs of trustworthiness, that is, signs that are too costly for mimics to fake, but affordable for the genuinely trustworthy recruit.

He argues; Terrorist recruiters face a primary trust dilemma in the uncertainty over the quality of recruits. They need people who are trust worthy, which means a combination of at least three qualities: willingness to fight, loyalty and vigilance. But according to different jihadi manuals, there must be some more qualities in a recruit. For example, the so-called Manchester Manual listed 14 desirable qualities in a prospective member: Islam, ideological commitment, maturity, willingness to sacrifice, obedience, ability to keep secrets and conceal information, good health, patience, tranquillity, intelligence, prudence, truthfulness, ability to observe and ability to conceal oneself. Another manual, entitled A Course in the Art of Recruitment (al-Qa‘idi, 2008), advised recruiters to choose old friends or relatives who are not particularly religious and to avoid very pious people and certain types of professionals.

But these qualities, he says, cannot easily be seen but the signs in a terrorist recruit are notable. Recruiters observe, identify and evaluate these signs before probing and induction.

Researcher applies the framework to the case of ‘al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula’ (QAP), and finds that QAP’s recruiters didn’t pay attention to a recruit’s tribal origin or social class. But they paid great attention to ethnicity. In 260’s sample, there were no South Asians and only 12 non-Saudi Arabs. South Asians and non-Saudi Arabs, who together make up about a quarter of residents in Saudi Arabia, are thus underrepresented.  He argues, that, it is fair to assume, then, that QAP did not trust non-Arabs and were less likely to trust non-Saudi Arabs than Saudis. Asian, African or Western features would thus have been a strong negative cue, while very dark- or light-skinned Arab features would have been a moderately negative one.

These preferences probably had both a rational and an irrational component. It would be easier to check the background of a Saudi than a foreigner and easier to communicate with anArab than a non-Arab. The low income and status of Asians in Saudi Arabia would have made them more susceptible to bribes and vulnerable to blackmail. At the same time, prejudice toward Asians and Africans is very widespread in the Kingdom, and the international jihadi movement has historically been characterized by a certain Arab chauvinism.

Apparently this seems true about Taliban’s where majority is from tribal Afghanistan or Pakistan and speaks Pushto (correct me, if am wrong) but recruiters have used different methods to recruit new terrorist. Al-Qaeda preferred veteran jihadists who had been on the battleground in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia or somewhere else, whereas Taliban has depended on Madrassa students as well. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has recruited terrorists from all over the world but surprisingly even they did not rely on the internet for the recruitment.


Writer is pursuing his MPhil at Iqra University Islamabad and blogs at Kashmirica.wordpress.com go say hello @imrankhushaal

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Is terrorism transforming Kashmir?

By: Imran Khushal

Before going to analyze, is terrorism transforming Kashmir, or otherwise, let us see what was the latest ‘’untransformed status of Kashmir’’. All most everyone knows that it is divided and disputed between two nuclear states, India, and Pakistan, but not many people are aware of China’s occupation, which is another nuclear state. So it is a part of the land, (for the contesters), surrounded by three nuclear states and, being contested, mainly between India and Pakistan. India wants to annexed the remaining part of it, namely, Azad Kashmir, or as they call it, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, or PoK, whereas Pakistan wants to liberate the rest of Kashmir, namely Jammu and Kashmir, as they call it, Indian Occupied Kashmir, or IoK, not to leave it independent but to annexed the whole sum. And this is perhaps the dumbest strategy for expansion of any of nuclear states so far. It’s not that nuclear states are always the wiser states, but they have capabilities to foresee future and plan in advance. Many of these plans fail when implemented, but still they plan. In Kashmir’s case, we see no planning on either end to cope with the upcoming or already came, challenges. They wanted and fought on the piece of land and ignored everything else, and they are again ignoring everything else. The only thing for these two states is “territorial Expansion”. And no matter what they pay for it, they want it.


Terrorism for individuals is terrorism, but for states, it is a mean of fighting the war to weak and deteriorate other states, and to gain relative power on them, for example, the United States’ war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, was clearly terrorism, but it gave them what they wanted. Terrorists for individuals are evil and immoral but for states they are strategic assets and force multiplier, for example, Osama bin Laden was a terrorist, but he enjoyed protection as an asset and force multiplier.

This tool and the mean of fighting the war and destabilizing the enemy were never abandoned in Kashmir neither by India nor Pakistan. These strategic assets and force multiplier are still there and could be activated on one single command, if not already had been activated. This reality coupled with a new reality that many Kashmiri students from south Kashmir has joined Hizbul Mujahideen, a militant organization which altered the theme of Kashmir insurgency of 1989 from “Sovereign Kashmir” to “Pakistani Kashmir” and replaced Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) as the top most guerilla organization of Kashmir, opens a new window to foresee Kashmir’s future from a global perspective.

Globalization has made migration an organic aspect of today’s world and there are tens of thousands of Kashmiri migrants in Europe as well as in the Middle East. Global Terrorism offers the solution to all evil including Kashmir and Palestine issue, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Qaeda challenge Gulf Regimes’ which are clearly exploiting these migrant workers. Frustration at work and turmoil at home can lead many of them to join these terrorist organizations and maybe many has already joined them. As they have fled from Europe to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria they could join it in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Kashmir.

As in August 2014, Kashmiri Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told Media that “a Kashmir youth has reportedly joined powerful Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from Australia”. And as it was reported in the Nation Pakistan, that “The revelation by Chief Minister came after Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) flags became the common sight during anti-Israel and anti-India demonstrations and clashes in Old City and Civil Lines of Srinagar since July 11, this year”. Also, in July 2015 as First Post India, reported that according to an Indian defense analyst, Alok Bansal, “No doubt, it (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a major concern in terms of the country’s internal security. The IS jihadists have already announced a war in future from the soil of Khorasan that includes India. For the IS, their ultimate battle for global jihad will be on this land of Khorasan. They have also talked about Kashmir. The unfurling of IS flags will give a boost to the radicalization in Kashmir valley, as more number of educated youth are joining militancy.”

So, as it is clear from these developments that Kashmir, which already had seen militancy and is fueling militancy at the moment could also see flocks of Kashmiri migrants coming home and joining militant organizations. Which will clearly transform its realities and most probably convert it into next battleground. As Pakistan and India are nuclear states and will avoid head to head collision, Kashmir would serve as proxy war ground.

This upcoming disaster is posing a threat to the political stakeholders in the region and abroad. To the socio-political and economic institutions of the region and development on democratic front no matter how tiny that is. This threat requires clear actions from all the stakeholders. Muzaffarabad and Srinagar should come up with more jobs and employment opportunities, (even if they can’t). Social and political activists should play their role in youth counseling and democratizing their thoughts. Political parties should participate in the electoral process and bring democratic reforms within themselves to accommodate youth and give them a sense of belonging and positivity. Writers should write about harms of militancy and terrorism and try to convey their message to the masses that why terrorism doesn’t work.

Writer is pursuing his MPhil at Iqra University Islamabad, blogs at Kashmirica.wordpress.com and can be followed @imrankhushaal

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