Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The war on terror extends to cyberspace | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Paul Johnson reappeared after his kidnapping in Riyadh by al Qaeda, in June 2004, on the internet: his decapitated head was displayed on the worldwide web for all to see, evidence that technology has bee appropriated by terrorists. This heinous crime strengthened the kingdom’s resolve to fight homegrown extremism. These terrorist groups and their followers publish horrific pictures of their latest victims on a number of websites that are widely popular with the youth in the United Arab Emirates , Egypt , Saudi Arabia , and other Arab countries.

Terrorism has become intimately connected to the internet, now the preferred method for propagating fundamentalist ideology and celebrating violence. Terrorists kill and immediately afterwards, online, extremists justify their crimes, encourage more destruction and recruit the foot soldiers that will carry it out. The worldwide web has become the preferred forum for terrorists because it is easy to use, cheap, unsupervised, and far from the eyes and ears of government censors. An international debate is currently underway to address the need to track down the individuals responsible for these websites and punish them for propagating extremist thoughts and instigating violence. This discussion has gather momentum in the recent months, especially as recent events have showed that in order to eradicate terrorism the world needs to combat the ideologies behind it.

In the aftermath of the London bombings, observers have noted that the main culprit behind the brainwashing of young Muslim minds is the internet and not school. In this information age, young people are internet savvy and risk believing what they read on terrorist websites and following extremist groups. Those unaware of the intricacies of cyberspace might be surprised to know that fundamentalist ideologies are also propagated in chat rooms where users discuss art, sport, and social issues. Many terrorist sympathizers administer forums that are popular with a large number of youth to whom it peddles its deviant views.

These are the groups that call for murdering Shiaas, fighting Sunnis, exterminating Crusaders, and killing whoever opposes their ideologies. Most of these websites are based in the Arab World, yet no legal action has been taken, so far, to stop them, despite the problems they continue to cause.

If every country were to become concerned about what is written from its territories then this will go a long way to limit the damages and the expected clash between different segments of society who lived in harmony, before the age of the internet. The extremist ideology and the language of hate propagated on the worldwide web are unprecedented in their viciousness. It is unacceptable that Arab governments who are able to supervise these websites have not reacted to the spread of fundamentalist though in cyberspace. This is due to regional governments not realizing that extremism is caused by the media, including the internet, especially as a number of websites feature religious slogans that far from the teachings of Islam or its ethics, as al Qaeda continues to do.