Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Virtual Caliphate: Islamic Extremists and their Websites

There is a growing awareness that Islamic extremists around the world see the internet as an important tool for radicalising and recruiting new generations of terrorists. The British government has responded to this by criminalising ‘the glorification of terror’ in the 2006 Terrorism Act with specific reference to the distribution of pro-terrorist publications online. As this report shows, however, British extremists have now adapted to the government’s measures and have found new ways to use the internet to spread hatred and promote violence.

This report has found evidence that:
* British extremists have set up several websites in order to distribute material justifying terrorist acts. Among these are texts and audio lectures by preachers imprisoned or deported for inciting violence and racial hatred.

* The same websites are being used to circulate texts and videos produced by members of al-Qaeda and other extremist Islamic groups. In addition, the websites distribute extreme Wahhabi and Salafi interpretations of Islam.

* The same websites are openly used by British extremists to organise public meetings and publicise their events. In addition, they use websites to distribute PDF leaflets and plan recruitment strategies.

* The websites also distribute messages from individuals imprisoned on terrorism-related offences.

Many of these activities are in clear breach of the 2006 Terrorism Act which criminalises the making of or circulation of any statement which “glorifies the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of such acts or offences” of terrorism.

The government appears to be either unaware of the material being circulated on the internet or believes that it does not warrant prosecution.

This report lays out the range of extremist material produced and circulated by UK-based extremists online and shows how and why the government’s failure to prosecute those who run and contribute to such websites puts the British public at risk of further terrorist attacks. Read more (pdf file)
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