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Problems of the fight against religious extremist organizations on the Internet

Friday, April 1, 2011 - 11:04

Today there are a significant number of sites of religious-extremist orientation on the Internet. They pose a threat to countries in Central, Eastern and South-East Asia and the Middle East, because they are agitating for an armed struggle against religious dissent, call for the overthrow of secular regimes and the establishment of theocratic states.
Modern religious-extremist organizations pay much attention to the work in the Internet space. Evidences of this are frequent requests of various radical groups and movements through the websites of extremists. Web pages became the "news centers" for the militia leaders, terrorists, insurgents, religious radicals. "The global web", thus became one of the mouthpieces of extremists in the information war.
Sites with such orientation are created not only by the well-established organization, but by many small groups, that try to assert themselves, to attract supporters and funding. Typically, these resources are projected at a fairly professional level, using a large amount of visual information in conjunction with some articles on the theological-political themes. A large number of photos, audio and video files are there to facilitate the perception of information for the visitors. There are services such as voting, banners of similar internet-pages, links to books and materials on topics of interest in the network. Organizers of such sites do not spare money for their registration, graphic design and technical equipment, which indicates the high attention to the work in the space of the Internet paid by extremists all over the world.
According to a well-known expert on religion Kadyr Malikov, the agitation on the Internet by extremist religious organizations leads to the fact that people, visiting the sites of these structures, are imbued with the ideas propounded there, download the necessary information, a video and then share them with their friends and mates. As a result, people become carriers of extremist ideology; they look for like-minded people and make “Jamias”. At the same territory several such groups may operate, each of them works independently. Thus, a decentralized movement with a similar ideology and methods is formed. Separate groups start committing acts of terrorism and try to fight the secular regimes. After the detection and destruction of one cell, others continue to act because each of them operates independently and has no information about others. All movements are very difficult to destroy because there is no clear leader, and the structure is not hierarchical.
The activities of this decentralized movement were mentioned in the report of the experts of the Bureau of Constitutional Security of Germany in 2007. They tied the preparation of terrorist acts in Germany with Internet propaganda of the “Islamic Jihad”, whose existence as a unified organization was questioned by the German experts. One can hardly assume that the "Palestinian Jihad", the "Islamic Jihad Union" and other similar structures exist as an organization with a common center of decision making. Otherwise, they would have been able to collect all the forces at one place on the globe and make a revolution, create their own state and move further this way.
In the CIS space the fight against the Internet sites with the agitation of religious extremist organizations is active in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Russia, that developed a System for Operative Investigative Activities (SORM). It uses the method of stream copying of network traffic for later use of this information by the special services without the control of the court and prosecutors. In 2000 it was introduced at the legislative level that all internet-providers were obliged to install the SORM sets. Then there was information about supplying of this equipment to Kyrgyzstan.
In spite of these measures, the practice showed that the fight against extremism on the Internet didn’t lead to achieving the necessary level of security of national interests. Security services in their own countries have the opportunity through the internet-providers to identify the customer of an extremist website and to begin investigation against him. But this is only possible in respect of people carrying out the registration of web pages on the national domain.
The analysis of the addresses of religious and extremist sites on the Internet shows that most of them are located on the domain "com", belonging to one of the corporations in the USA. A significant number of terrorist and extremist organizations, forbidden in the territory of CIS countries, are legally valid in most Western countries. This makes it impossible to prosecute citizens that register extremist websites abroad and filling them with information.
In such case the CIS countries may have recourse only to the blocking of unwanted content with the help of the provider at the junction of the national network with the world one. The approximate number of blocked web pages in the CIS can be judged by the work of the Information Center of the CSTO, which restricted access to 600 sites with terrorist orientation and about 2 thousand sites aimed at inciting national and religious hatred for the period 2009 – 2010. The figures are impressive, but a normal user can easily find the web page that is interesting for him. He is free to enter the sites of the most famous extremist organizations in the world: the IMU, the Turkish religious radicals, Caucasian separatists and terrorists, Hizb ut-Tahrir and many others.
We have to admit that the security services can not cope with the volume of work in the Internet space. This is despite the assistance of the courts and prosecutors who annually make independent decisions about blocking dozens of sites in accordance with citizens’ claims.
The effect of the fight against religious extremist organizations on the Internet is declining due to widespread use of Internet search engines. Thus, if an undesirable site is blocked by any country, its leaders will be able to register another site with a different name but with the same content. As a result the search engine will display both sites, one of which will work without any restrictions.
Except the promotion of the ideology of radical extremist organizations through the sites, video and audio files that are posted on social services in the Internet are also dangerous. Such networks as "youtube", "twitter" and "facebook" provide all comers, including extremists, with the possibility of placing any information to the public. It’s even more difficult for security services to block specific material because all the information on the web sites is grouped, and on the social services each video and audio clips should be blocked separately, which requires more time, special equipment and human resources.
The reliable protection of the CIS from propaganda of extremist religious organizations requires financial expenses. In this regard, it is necessary to create a common information center, which will be financed by all member countries of the Commonwealth in accordance with their economic possibilities, or they should strengthen the exchange of information among countries on this issue. This problem is particularly topical for countries with weak economics that cannot afford large financial investments in the defense against the ideology of extremist religious currents in the Internet, but where the threat of seizure of power by religious radicals is the strongest.
For a society with a predominantly Muslim population the forming of harmonious relationships of power and religion is an important prerequisite for the conservation of national harmony and integrity of the state, as well as the main condition to prevent religious extremism. Feature of our region is that Islam is not just religion here but also an integral part of world-outlook and national culture of indigenous peoples. Every year, this factor in Central Asia increases its influence on the ongoing socio-political and social processes.
Today the relationship of power and religion is characterized by the presence of different interests. The State certainly would like to influence the religious sphere. But this is not an easy task and this problem cannot be solved by the command method. The lack of efficient coordination of interests negatively affects the situation. The most radical representatives of the believer's community are convinced of the correctness of their approach to life and can not afford to make concessions to the authorities. This category of citizens is the primarily “consumers” of information products on the Internet created by the radical and extremist organizations. Such situation in our countries makes not the military actions, but the state measures aimed at combating religious extremism and the expansion of its theoretical foundations more relevant.

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