The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism
“The Nature of Extremism and the Future of Terrorism”
Riyadh, May 21st, 2017 at the Intercontinental Hotel
The Toxic Nature of Extremism Has Quickly Spread Across the World
King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies opened The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism under the sponsorship of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition
HRH Prince Turki: “Terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. In fact, extremists have defamed true Islam and have no religious grounds to stand on.”
Ashton Carter: “The Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition has a legitimacy that no western country can have. They will be the best option to address directly the claims by extremists of a connection to “true Islam” and counter that narrative.”
The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism, under the sponsorship of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, was opened by HRH Prince Turki Alfaisal with the theme of “The Nature of Extremism and the Future of Terrorism."
“Terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. In fact, extremists have defamed true Islam and have no religious grounds to stand on,” Prince Turki said. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken the lead in the fight against terrorism and this forum will serve to understand the roots of extremism so that we can counter it with one voice,” he said.
Dr. HodaAl-Helaissi, member of the Shoura Council, held the opening discussion with HRH Prince Turki Alfaisal, former US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and former Foreign Minister of Italy Franco Frattini.
The panel focused on the need for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to take the lead in the fight against extremism and terrorism, and praised the establishment of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) as a very positive step in that direction. The Kingdom possesses subject matter expertise in the areas of ideology, communications, counter terrorism financing and military operations and the world must use this expertise to eradicate the disease of terrorism.
“The ideology of Islam has nothing to do with this war, these extremists are criminals trafficking in oil, arms, drugs and migrants,” Mr. Frattini said. “To defeat this ideology, we must further integrate our intelligence capabilities worldwide and the IMCTC is exactly a step in that direction. IMCTC must expand its scope and membership to ensure success,” he said.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a very important partner to the United States in stopping the spread of extremism and counter forces in the region that support terrorism,” Secretary Carter said. “We must use our partners in the region to enable local forces to defeat ISIS on the ground and develop political and economic solutions as quickly as possible,” he said.
In closing, Secretary Carter was asked about his views on the IMCTC and its ability to develop a strong coalition in the region.
“The Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition has a legitimacy that no western country can have. They will be the best option to address directly the claims by extremists of a connection to “true Islam” and counter that narrative,” he said. “The IMCTC can, and will, lead the way in ideology, economic and political rebuilding and develop initiatives that will create a secure environment for people to thrive,” he concluded.
The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism with this year's theme of “The Nature of Extremism and the Future of Terrorism” is part of the high-level, event-packed week, coinciding with President Donald Trump’s historical visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Daesh terrorist organization is "lost and dissipating" and the Saudi approach to fighting terrorism is a model that everyone should support and participate in
The participants in the first panel of the Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism, entitled "Daesh 2.0 and The Future of Terrorism," stressed that the organization is calling for the terrorists to disappear and dissipate. They praised the integrated intellectual, media, social and military approach adopted by Saudi Arabia.
The speakers pointed out that the elimination of the organization is not only through military operations, but must include all intellectual, media and social aspects, as well as cracking down on the sources of terrorist financing. The causes of terrorism and extremism are not only religious, but may also be the result of personal, social and political causes, especially since the organization of the terrorist's preacher exploits the youth's resentment of the existing situation. The speakers explained that wars and civil conflicts are also one of the causes of terrorism and extremism, as well as the fact that terrorism does not originate only from Islamic countries, but from non-Muslim countries, which requires the countries of the world to unite mechanisms of dealing with shared visions and exchange of intelligence to overcome the scourge of terrorism. Participants also stressed that the fight against terrorism must not only focus on the Sunni terrorist groups, but also the Shiite terrorist groups that terrorize the innocent and disseminate the spirit of sectarianism and hatred.
Mr. Martin Chulov, Middle East Correspondent for the British newspaper The Guardian, co-chaired the first panel discussion, with Sir John Jenkins, Executive Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies - Middle East, Bahrain, and Mr. Richard Barrett, Senior Advisor, and the former commander of the International Counterterrorism Operations Group (MI6), and former commander of the United Nations Monitoring and Monitoring Group for Al-Qaida and the Taliban, and Dr. Abdullah bin Khalid Al-Saud, Assistant Professor at Naif Arab University for Security Sciences - Riyadh, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Dr. William McCants, director of US relations with the Muslim world at the Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, United States.
The participants reviewed the history and roots of the establishment of the terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria, as well as the poisonous and extremist ideas it disseminates in the minds of young people, and the terrible defeats that the organization is currently undergoing and its loss of control over most of the lands in its possession. They stressed the need to develop an integrated future vision for how to deal with the terrorist organization in the wake of its defeat, wherein its members would hide, find ways of trying to regain control, attempt financial reorganization, and commit terrorist acts to try to prove that it still exists.
Richard Barrett pointed out that the response of the world to the scourge of terrorism should be simple, and that the role of the media should be enhanced in explaining the complex aspects of the problem to the general public and that the military response is only good in a more comprehensive and integrated framework. He added that the studies confirm that "any person acting as a terrorist has psychological, social, political and economic motivations", and stressed that there is a need to know who is behind terrorism and supports it.
Barrett pointed out that 75% of the terrorists have previous criminal records, and that extremism and terrorism need intellectual and religious confrontation, not only military. He also called for more bilateral security cooperation between countries, not just political cooperation, as well as to join the broader alliances and have a stronger and unified general strategy. Thousands of foreign fighters have joined Daesh, returned to their countries, and have become a current or future threat to the West in Europe and the United States, noting that some countries have succeeded in penetrating terrorist groups, calling for the need to share intelligence among countries to counter terrorism.
Sir John Jenkins said that Iraq was in dire need of a strong state and government, pointing out that the Arab peoples are looking for social justice and fair governments that provide basic services capable of easing the suffering from civil and sectarian wars.
"The world has to think about what will happen on the ground after the military confrontation with Daesh," said Dr. William McCants. "This group organizes itself economically well, ignites the imagination of young people and attracts them, and they control a patch of Syria, Libya and Sinai. Al Qaeda is now a terrorist organization worldwide and represents a major threat to the policies of states and a grave threat to the United States and Europe. The foreign fighters in Daesh have become like a snowball in expansion, and if the organization does not launch operations duing this Ramadan, it will be a sign that their power has diminished.”
McCants added: "The organization has recently lost some of its territory and its fighters, and this must be exploited by the security forces, and the international coalition must support investment in the local infrastructure, as well as the drying up of sources of terrorism and external financing. I think it is necessary to train and rehabilitate terrorists returning to their countries, in order to return them to being good citizens and reintegrate them into society. And from my point of view, the civil wars are the main cause of terrorism in the world."
Dr. Abdullah bin Khalid Al-Saud stressed that the influence of the Daesh organization in Syria and Iraq has diminished, and that it is conducting external operations to prove its capabilities and achieve false victories to relieve the pressure on it internally. "Some people are trying to exploit popular discontent in some Middle Eastern countries, with instability and chaos in some countries, and there are some returnees to the kingdom from terrorists, I think they will be good citizens," he said.
Radicalization is not an Online Problem but is a major Offline Issue with our Youth
The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism, under the sponsorship of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, tackles the issue of Online Radicalization and Offline Terrorism
Professor Neumann: “Very few people in Europe get radicalized over the internet. It is a means to getting their message out but recruitment happens offline with someone they grew up with and have known most of their lives.”
The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism, under the sponsorship of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, held an extremely valuable panel to discuss the online terrorist propaganda and the offline factors that lead to recruitment and radicalization.
“Very few people in Europe get radicalized over the internet. It is a means to getting their message out, but recruitment happens offline with someone they grew up with and have known most of their lives,” Professor Neumann said. “As an example, most terrorists radicalized from Norway not only came from the same city but the same street where they grew up and went to school together,” he said.
Panel members were Professor Peter Neumann, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; Dr. Shiraz Maher, Kings College London; George Salama, Head of Policy & Government Relations for Twitter MENA and Sumaya Fatani, Researcher at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.
The panel focused on the need to address not only online efforts for radicalization and recruitment but the offline factors that enable terrorist to recruit. The internet has let Daesh build its brand. The videos are of high production value and show strength, success, comradery and heroes fighting for a cause. But, the role of the internet is changing. In 2014, most recruitment was done on Facebook and Twitter, now they have migrated to the darker side of the internet - private messaging service like Telegram, Viber and WhatsApp. These platforms are much more private and create intimacy with young people.
“Twitter recently announced they suspended over 600,000 accounts of terrorists on our platform. We are working with government and non-government to be transparent in the closing of accounts. But, there is no technology that can solve this problem.,” Mr. Salama said. “To counter violent extremism, we must start at the foundation, by giving our children a sense of belonging and community. This starts with parents and schools so they are not attracted to online and offline propaganda,” he said.
In closing, the overwhelming sentiment of the panel is that the offline recruiting, in our communities by people we know, must be addressed. “Daesh has developed propaganda strategically targeted at women, both online and offline, giving them a feeling of inclusion as they may feel like outcasts in society. Face to face recruitment gives them a sense of duty and obligation,” said Sumaya Fatani.
The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism with this year’s theme of “The Nature of Extremism and the Future of Terrorism” is part of the high-level, event-packed week, coinciding with President Donald Trump’s historical visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Crime and Terror have come Together to create a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry
The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism, under the sponsorship of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, tackles the issue of Crime and its Relationship to Terror
Mr. Rajan: “Criminals in Europe are very involved in terror. Almost 70% of foreign fighters from Germany are known to law enforcement for criminal activates not related to extremism.”
The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism, under the sponsorship of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, conducted a panel on the ties between terrorism and criminal activities.
“Criminals in Europe are very involved in terror. Almost 70% of foreign fighters from Germany are known to law enforcement for criminal activates not related to extremism,” Mr. Rajan said. “Prisons are where criminals and terrorists meet and radicalization takes place,” he said.
Panel members were Professor Joseph Mifsud, Director London Academy of Diplomacy; Katherine Bauer, US Department of the Treasury; Michael Hurley, 9/11 Commission; Dr. Khalid Al Khalifa, Isa Cultural Center – Manama and Rajan Basra, Research Fellow at Kings College London.
The panel provided great insights into the relationship between terrorist activities and criminal organizations. The nexus is a very close one as both terrorist and criminals profit and fund their efforts through illegal methods.
“Petty crimes can be seen in the background of all people conducting terrorist activities in the West,” Mr. Hurley said. “These individuals are already subjects of interest to law enforcement but the connection between crime and terrorism is often overlooked,” he said.
The panel was very concerned about the relationship between prisons and radicalization. Without developing programs and treatment within the prison system they will continue to be hotbeds for extremists and terrorist recruitment.
In closing they discussed the world-wide connection of organized criminal activity and the financing of terror. Ms. Bauer said, “Criminal activity in one country may be financing terrorism in other countries. We must not overlook even petty crimes as they can lead to bigger terrorist activities in other areas of the world.”
Daesh is Blunt and Populist and We are too Politically Correct
The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism, under the sponsorship of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, discusses how best to confront terrorism in the MENA region
Mr. Koteich: “The Islamic world looks like Europe of 1945 and we need a cultural Marshal Plan to rebuild our region.”
The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism, under the sponsorship of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, has an open discussion on confronting terrorism.
“The Islamic world looks like Europe of 1945 and we need a cultural Marshal Plan to rebuild our region,” Mr. Koteich said. “The alliance between terrorists and extremists is very fragile and we must use all our powers to stop terrorism by reducing violent extremism,” he said.
The panel discussed, in detail, the conflict in Yemen as an example of the regional picture. So much focus has been given to Daesh that many have forgotten Al Qaeda and it is using this time to rebuild and establish itself in ungoverned areas throughout the region. Yemen provides this sort of environment and it has allowed Al Qaeda to flourish. It has been only through the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and its coalition partners, that we have seen a reduction in the recruitment of Al Qaeda in Yemen. In the face of a military defeat Al Qaeda now has turned to a new tactic of addressing grassroots problem in society and helping communities as a cover for its terrorist activities.
“The problem with Al Qaeda in Yemen is people are accepting them and not confronting them,” Dr. Elisabeth Kendal, Senior Fellow, University of Oxford said. “My research shows that over 56% of tweets analyzed in Yemen were about Al Qaeda working in community development and making positive change in Yemen,” she said.
The panel emphasized that this tactic is gaining support in communities not only in Yemen but in many of the ungoverned areas in some states. Without committed and strong governments, and non-governmental organizations, involvement to strengthen communities, terrorist will always mange to gain a foothold in the MENA region.
“Failing states in the MENA region provide a hotbed for terrorist recruitment and activities. We must have regional leadership from countries, like the Kingdom Saudi Arabia, to help support the governments throughout the region if we are to create stability.” Dr. Jack Caravelli, Senior Advisor Global Resource Partnership said.
Panel members were Nadim Koteich, Journalist; Dr. Elisabeth Kendell, Senior Fellow, University of Oxford, Dr. Jack Caravelli, Senior Advisor Global Resource Partnership and Dr. Yahya Abu-Mughayid, Special Representative Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care.
Dr. Ridwan Elsayyed: The Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition is the most important achievement in the fight against terrorism in recent years
Dr. Ridwan Elsayyed, Professor of Islamic Studies at the Lebanese University, said in a closing speech at The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism, that the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition led by Saudi Arabia is the most important achievement in the fight against terrorism in recent years, especially since any country cannot confront terrorism alone, making it a necessity. He said: "I expect that the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition will have tangible positive results in the medium and long term in the intellectual, social, and media fields, as well the drying up of terrorist and military financing sources.”
He stressed that the Islamic world is in dire need of restoring the state to stability and restoring the tranquillity of the Islamic religion, as well as strengthening the bonds of work and relations with other countries and adopting a comprehensive reform program involving religious and social institutions, states and governments, indicating that the stability of countries and religious reform are very important. He points out that terrorism is an Industry; there are states that sponsor it, and it needs expertise in security, military, and intelligence.
Dr. Ridwan Elsayyid also pointed out that the extremists are more hostile to Sunni Muslims than their hostility to the West and Shiites because they seek to hijack the legitimacy of the religion of the Sunnis and the community. He explained that everyone stands against terrorism because the extremists have a special project that does not match with any other state or project.
This forum is under the sponsorship of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC).
IMCTC was announced in December 2015 by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defence of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The IMCTC is a 41-nation alliance of willing partner countries united in the fight against terror. IMCTC will provide a platform for countries to propose, debate, and facilitate collaboration among member and supporting nations for the execution of initiatives in four domains – Ideology, Communications, Counter Terrorism (CT) Financing and Military. The IMCTC will develop, collect, store, and disseminate a wide range of information on CT programs and best practices undertaken by member countries and international organizations.
King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies