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Europe can survive ISIS without electing nutjobs (EurActiv)

27.07.2016

By James Crisp | EurActiv.com

Terrorism is not new to Europe, despite the recent Islamic State inspired attacks that have rocked France and Germany, Alexander Ritzmann has said. The terror and radicalisation expert said it was vital that the outrages did not lead to policy decisions confusing migration with terrorism ahead of crunch elections in Germany and France next year.

Alexander Ritzmann is Senior Advisor to the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. He chairs the Communication and Narratives Working Group at the European Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network and teaches on terrorism at Potsdam University. Ritzmann was a member of the Berlin State Parliament, overseeing the state police and intelligence agency. He spoke to EurActiv.com News Editor James Crisp yesterday (26 July) after the terrorist attacks in Nice, Würzburg, and Ansbach but before the attack in Rouen (26 July).

Could the recent attacks in Germany have an impact on the country’s asylum policy?

There is a perception that the attacks are linked to the welcoming of refugees to Germany.  But it is the job of policymakers and the media to help the population understand the difference.  If there are 500,000 Syrian refugees and one of them stabs someone that is not something that policy should be dealing with. It is a crime and it should be investigated by the police. And, by the way, the average Syrian refugee commits fewer crimes than the average German citizen.

There is of course the potential for radicalisation and for sectarian violence. The refugees bring the conflict with them. Right now everyone is focused on settling and surviving but I am absolutely sure the conflict in Syria will come back to people. Already, they do not trust other Syrian refugees, they will ask where they come from, for example. When you talk to them, they could have family and friends who have been tortured or murdered by someone in the next room belonging to the same group. We work with Syrians on overcoming these sectarian divisions.

There’s also potential for radicalisation in the future if the government doesn’t work with the right institutions. There are some very conservative organisations in Germany with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, people who would rather build parallel societies than integrate. But the government wants to work with organisations, even if those are mentioned in domestic intelligence reports as having Muslim Brotherhood ties, being part of political Islam. And these organisations can become partly government funded, which can lead to uncomfortable headlines in the future. Weiterlesen …

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Interviews regarding the attacks in Germany on BBC news and Sky News, 25/7/2016

BBC Ritzmann

Germany harbors 300 Hamas, 950 Hezbollah members and activists

Some 300 Hamas members and supporters – as well as 950 Hezbollah activists and members – are operating in Germany, the country’s domestic intelligence agency said in its annual federal report, the same numbers as were listed in its 2013 and 2014 reports.

The Jerusalem Post’s examination of the 317-page intelligence report, which was released on Tuesday, revealed the Islamic terrorists were on the radar screen of the country’s intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

“The followers of Islamist- terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah striving for the abolition of the Jewish State of Israel are focused on their regions of origin, which is where they commit most of their terrorist acts of violence,” the report stated.

Europe has long been a platform for Hezbollah members to launch terrorist attacks against Israelis and European Jews. Hezbollah operatives blew up an Israeli tour bus in the Black Sea resort of Burgas, Bulgaria, on July 18, 2012, killing five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver.

The EU included Hezbollah’s so-called military wing on its terrorism list in 2013, but Hezbollah’s political operation remains a legal organization in Europe. The US, Canada, the Arab League, and the Netherlands proscribed all of Hezbollah’s organization to be a terrorist militia.

…..

The number of pro-Israel protesters ranged from 260 to 500. Hadas-Handelsman said it is a “disgrace” that for the last 20 years in Germany, agitating publicly against Jews and Israel is allowed.

The intelligence report noted that a German court in 2015 rejected the claim by the Lebanon Orphan Children Project that it is not involved in terrorist activities.

The alleged charity was outlawed in 2014, and has renamed itself “Colors for Orphans.”

The Lebanon Orphan Children’s Project was founded in 1997, and transferred donations to the al-Shahid (“The Martyr”) Association in Lebanon. Al-Shahid was “disguised as a humanitarian organization” and “promotes violence and terrorism in the Middle East using donations collected in Germany and elsewhere,” according to a 2009 European Foundation for Democracy report by Middle East expert Alexander Ritzmann.

The donations to Lebanon Orphan Children’s Project aided the families of suicide bombers who murdered Israelis.

The report also estimated the number of Islamic extremists could be as high as 10,000 in the Federal Republic. Radical Islamists likely have infiltrated the flow of refugees entering Germany, the report noted.

EU PUTS SCHOOLS AT CENTER OF COUNTER-RADICALISATION

By Teri Schultz,

 

Full article can be found here.

„A member of the RAN’s counter-narrative working group, Alexander Ritzmann of the European Foundation for Democracy, also emphasises the issue of credibility and trust, which he says is as important as the content of the message being conveyed.

Ritzmann says for those trying to prevent radicalisation, having a former member of the organisation deliver that information is infinitely more effective than hoping an official can make policy sound exciting or relevant to a youth who’s already been conditioned to reject perspectives of the state. Ritzmann encourages seeking out this kind of intermediary to make any alternate narrative palatable to disaffected youngsters.

“So, someone who says ‘I went to Syria, it’s not like they say [it is]- they’re lying to you, they’re killing Muslims, it’s a corrupt organisation. It’s not a big adventure where you can be a hero defending your faith,’” Ritzmann suggests.

“And this is what some of the defectors are saying. And this is then somewhat a credible messenger, but the government is not credible at all if you look at the target group of vulnerable youth.”

That said, the internet has been traditionally the best recruiting tool radical groups have had, an inexpensive way to reach virtually every teen and to exploit any potential weakness, easily tracked due to careless sharing of personal information on social media. Avramopoulos calls it the “most important battleground” in the counter-radicalisation fight, where youth find the “poison” of online extremism.

The radical recruiters can also often find examples of, for example, Islamophobia to help convince a target youth that his or her community is being discriminated against. The European Commission has also worked to get large internet service providers to help get rid of hate speech of all kinds.

Facebook and Twitter are among those who recently signed a voluntary pledge to take down such remarks within 24 hours of being notified of them. A new element of this practice will see internet providers create a database of this deleted “terrorist content” for law enforcement to use for research and evidence.

But experts like Alexander Ritzmann warn that to believe the internet is the main  source of radicalisation would be a mistake. Ritzmann says personal connections  are still the main driver, that youth are being radicalised in living rooms more than chat rooms.“

Quote in „Financial Times“ on the Orlando shooting

Mateen a lone gunman, investigators believe Orlando gunman fits recent pattern of unpredictable jihadi attacks on US soil

June 13, 2016

by: Geoff Dyer in Washington, Tom Burgis in London and Jim Brunsden in Brussels

„Alexander Ritzmann, senior policy adviser at the European Foundation of Democracy, says that it is becoming ever more difficult to determine the border line between an attack directed by Isis and one where the attacker associates with Isis. The question, he says, is whether Isis recruits “lone wolves” or whether they recruit themselves. “Giving it the brand of the Islamic State makes you very famous compared with just being whatever crazy shooter,” he notes. “It draws attention to you, makes your deed bigger.

Countering propaganda with reality (IP-Internationale Politik)

In this article, published in the German Council on Foreign Relations’ IP magazine, Alexander Ritzmann argues that exposing the downright falsehoods of the propaganda of the so-called“Islamic State” (IS) through targeted counter narratives will obstruct their recruiting efforts.
One of the reasons IS has been able to attract a record number of foreign fighters in the past years is the group’s deployment of sophisticated online propaganda, Ritzmann claims. In particular, the existence of a supposed “caliphate”, an Islamist utopia, is being exploited to lure young Muslim men and women.
The author identifies additional key-narratives in the propaganda, constituting the group’s attraction with regardto the radicalisation process. These range fromalleged attacks against Islam as such and Sunni Muslims in particular, to the promise of salvation and an idyllic family life within a full functioning welfare state. A jihadi-cool youth action culture appeals to adventurous adolescents.
With regard to the increasing availability of information on the realities of life in the “caliphate” that contradict IS’s depictions of Islamist utopia, Ritzmann suggests utilizing that information in order to debunk pointedly the prevailing narratives. He calls attention to the disillusionment and criticism of former IS fighters or supporters, ranging from the brutality deployed against hostages and civilians, the tedious and difficult daily life to the corruption of senior leaders.
The delivery of counter-narratives by individuals who have been directly affected by IS is deemed most effective. An online database making such content easily available to anyone countering IS propaganda, be it family members of vulnerable youth, NGOs, media or governments, could significantly counter the recruitment efforts of the “Islamic State”, Ritzmann argues.

Hezbollah – banning and negotiating are not contradictions

In this article, published in the German daily Der Tagesspiegel, I advocate for putting Hezbollah as a whole on the EU terrorist list due to its proven record as a terrorist organisation and the fact that all decisions, political or military/terrorism related, are being made in its leadership Shura Council. Since Hezbollah is also a significant political actor in Lebanon, unofficial negotiations can still take place and the ban could be adjusted in case Hezbollah would stop its terrorist activities.

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