A recent report in Malaysia's The Star illuminates the universality of today's fight against Islamic radicalism.
Entitled "Young Men the Easy Target for Recruitment," the report outlines how moderately-minded youth in Southeast Asia have been drawn to violent jihad—primarily with the al-Qaida-linked terror organization, Jemaah Islamiyya (JI). The methods for this recruitment are strikingly similar to those witnessed in the U.S. during the past few years. Among the pathways Islamist militants have taken to extremism are radical mosques, the Internet, and prison.
According to the The Star, mainstream "Levis Bermuda short"-wearing young men who come from moderate Muslim roots, "where religion is a way of life to live out good values," are experiencing a "dramatic twist" to extremism after being exposed to "radical preachers who typically are charismatic and persuasive."
As authorities crack down on mosques and madrassas, and imprison radical clerics and teachers, "the militants have…turned to cyber space to recruit new members via Facebook or their own websites." This has proven quite effective, and is propagated to a much larger audience than more conventional "in-person" recruitment and "education."
Additionally, police efforts to quell the growth of jihadist groups in Southeast Asia by imprisoning known militants and radical clerics, has had the unintended consequence of radicalizing a new generation in prison.
As The Star report explains:
"Senior militants jailed for their involvement in terrorism are believed to wield tremendous influence in jail. They draw fellow inmates to their cause by teaching them how to read the Quran and eventually end up radicalising [sic.] and recruiting them."
Authorities have witnessed similar patterns in the U.S., in which "flag-waving and apple pie-eating" American-Muslims are drawn to jihad against the West after being indoctrinated by radical jihadist forums, extremist Muslim inmates, and persuasive preachers; the last of which the NYPD's Radicalization in the West report classified as "Spiritual Sanctioners."
In one prominent example, Northern Virginia-based imam, Ali al-Timimi, provided the religious justification to a group known as the "Virginia Paintball Jihad Network" to take up arms against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Al-Timimi is now serving a life sentence for his role with the network.
More recently, yet another group of Northern Virginia youth—dubbed the "Zamzam 5"—attempted to wage jihad against American troops in Af-Pak after supposedly being recruited online by a senior regional leader of al-Qaida living half a world away. Evidence also suggests that the group's frequent exposure to the radical ideology being taught at the ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America) Center in Alexandria, VA may have played a role in their decision to fly to Pakistan in an attempt to fight Americans. In June, the young men were convicted in a Pakistani court of terror-related offenses and sentenced to 10-year terms.
As we have seen here in the States, even prison cells cannot inhibit the spread of radical, violent Islamic teaching. A number of prominent terror plots and "sanctioners" can trace their histories to American prisons, including:
Jose Padilla—suspected of plotting to detonate a dirty bomb and convicted of conspiracy to murder people overseas and of providing material support to terrorists;
Kevin James—creator of the Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh (JIS) cell, which recruited other inmates to plot attacks against military and Jewish targets in and around Los Angeles;
The Bronx Synagogue/Stewart Air National Guard Base(Newburgh, NY) Plot—four black Muslim men, some of whom are said to have converted to Islam while in prison, arrested for attempting to blow up 2 Riverdale synagogues, and to shoot down military airplanes taking off from the upstate-NY Air Guard Base.
In 2009, the Islam in Europe blog brought to light the extent to which radical Islamic indoctrination is taking place in French prisons as well—further driving home the point that the jihadist ideology is spreading rapidly, and globally.