Terror on the Internet
by Stephen Schwartz
What do we do about terrorist incitement on the internet? I have noted on several occasions that the main enemies of democracy and pluralistic Islam -- al-Qaida, the ultra-Wahhabi clerics of Saudi Arabia, and jihadists in Pakistan -- seem to have far surpassed the antiterror forces in use of this versatile and effective form of media. Those of us who have studied terrorist sites and video products are struck by how much more sophisticated and impressive they are, in their presentation, when compared with U.S. government and other outreach efforts.
British prime minister Tony Blair, as an element of his new, "changing-the-rules" approach to abating terror, has declared that his government will draw up "a list... of specific extremist websites," with which "active engagement... will be a trigger for the Home Secretary to consider the deportation of any foreign national." To certain Americans the notion is abhorrent, to others debatable, and to still others, necessary and overdue.
Some hold to an interpretation of freedom of expression based on maximum indulgence of the inciters of and recruiters for terrorist atrocities as a libertarian principle. Others who object to suppression of terrorist websites in the U.S. include those who question whether action against extremist sites will actually curtail radical Islamist conspiracies, since sites can be mirrored from anywhere in the world, and some who value the sites as evidentiary assets in tracking terror.
I have tended to subscribe to the latter theory; my book The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and Its Role in Terrorism was based in great part on internet research. But that was a product of the first phase of the Wahhabi war against the world, when research seemed more important than preventive and preemptive action against the threat of bloodshed.
Today I agree with the approach of Prime Minister Blair. We who work to combat Islamist terror have developed networks of informants to keep us aware of the enemy's rhetoric, such as hardly existed four years ago, and it now appears more urgent to shut down the use and abuse of the internet to carry out the destruction of human life, than to let them flourish for monitoring purposes.
A specific example has come to my attention, involving a site maintained in the U.S., and served by a U.S. corporation. The site is http://www.kr-hcy.com/ -- a hate board, the full title of which is Haq Char Yaar (RadhiALLAHu Anhum) Media Services: Unzipping SHIAs and Qadyanis. The Haq Char Yar (HCY) site has been analyzed by personnel working with the Center for Islamic Pluralism, of which I am executive director.
HCY advocates violence against Shia Muslims, in English and in the Urdu language (spoken in Pakistan), and reflects the ideology of Sipah-e-Sahaba (Guardians of the Prophet's Companions), banned in Pakistan as a terrorist entity (see U.S. State Department commentary here). This is a crucial matter because Pakistan is, after Iraq, the second worst location for Muslim-on-Muslim bloodshed, with Shias under constant attack by Wahhabi extremists. Sipah-e-Sahaba has been responsible for many brutal acts, including numerous murders.
The tone of HCY is unambiguous. Its discourse characterizes Shia Muslims in bigoted terms, telling Sunnis,
The site declares that Shias are not Muslims, employing the anti-Shia idiom common in Saudi-financed hate literature:
Here, as I have repeatedly argued elsewhere, is the ideology that leads directly to the mass killings pursued in Iraq by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other al-Qaida terrorists.
This repellent and dangerous website comprises a chatroom, and offers hateful books and fatwas in English against Shias [www.kr-hcy.com/askimam/index.shtml]. The literature made available includes an infamous Saudi-sponsored pamphlet by Saeed Ismaeel, The Difference Between the Shiites and the Majority of Muslim Scholars, printed by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), an official Saudi state organ and financial accomplice of al-Qaida, and distributed by its office in Alexandria, Va. The WAMY office in Alexandria was founded and directed by none other than Abdullah bin Laden, a brother of Osama! The Saeed Ismaeel screed, which asserts the Wahhabi lie that Shia Islam is the product of a Jewish conspiracy, is unfortunately widely distributed in Islamic schools as well as in American state and federal prisons.
The Haq Char Yar site is registered to a postal boxholder in Chicago, Ill. [see here] and hosted by Hostway Corporation, headquartered in Chicago [see here]. It is probable that Hostway had no idea what it was placing on the net, but how long can such obliviousness be expected to go on? Will the U.S. follow Blair's lead and shut down sites that incite murder? How else can the crimes of Zarqawi and his imitators in Iraq be countered, if those who organize and carry them out are allowed to utilize electronic resources in the democracies to carry out their bloody work?