TIME United Kingdom

British Anti-Terror Cops Hunt 3 Teen Girls Feared Bound for Syria

The girls, aged 15 to 17, flew to Istanbul Tuesday

U.K. counterterror officials were urgently searching for three teenage schoolgirls they feared had run away from home to travel to Syria, police said Friday.

The girls, all good friends aged 15 to 17, boarded a Turkish Airlines flight at London’s Gatwick Airport at 12:40 p.m. (7:45 a.m. ET) Tuesday and arrived in Istanbul later that evening, police said in a statement. Thousands of wannabe ISIS rebels have crossed into Syria through Turkey since the civil war there started four years ago.

The girls were last seen at their homes at 8 a.m. (3 a.m. ET) that morning, where they made plausible excuses to their families as…
TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Hollywood’s diversity problem goes beyond “Selma.” Asian and Latino stories and faces are missing.

By Jose Antonio Vargas and Janet Yang in the Los Angeles Times

2. Shifting the narrative away from religion is key to defeating ISIS.

By Dean Obeidallah in the Daily Beast

3. Innovation alone won’t fix social problems.

By Amanda Moore McBride and Eric Mlyn in the Chronicle of Higher Education

4. When the Ebola epidemic closed schools in Sierra Leone, radio stepped in to fill the void.

By Linda Poon at National Public Radio

5. The racial wealth gap we hardly talk about? Retirement.

By Jonnelle Marte in the Washington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Terrorism

What the War on Terrorism Can Learn from the War on Gangs

A member loyal to ISIS waves a flag in Raqqa, Syria June 29, 2014
Reuters A member loyal to ISIS waves a flag in Raqqa, Syria June 29, 2014

Dangerous street gangs and violent extremist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria both depend on recruiting disaffected youths with the promise of a sense of belonging.

Because of those similarities, community leaders involved in the effort to fight extremism—many of whom gathered in Washington this week for the White House’s summit on the topic—are drawing lessons from the nation’s decades-old fight against gang violence.

After cities failed to arrest their way out of the problem of gang violence, law enforcement agencies such as the Los Angeles Police Department began taking a different approach. By engaging in “community policing” and shifting the focus from making arrests to building relationships, officers across the country learned to fight crime by finding allies in the community.

Paired with community outreach, devoting resources to educational and economic opportunities and, sometimes a little luck, the efforts worked in some communities. In Los Angeles, for example, the total number of homicides in 2012 was nearly half the number of gang homicides the city faced in 1992.

“You can’t declare war on gangs, you can’t declare war on this ideology,” says Michael Downing, the deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department’s counter terrorism and special operations bureau. “But what you can do is develop a balance.”

Los Angeles is one of three cities chosen by the federal government to host pilot programs to counter terrorist groups. The L.A. program, which Downing says is based on prevention, intervention and interdiction, draws inspiration from anti-gang models, as do the other pilot programs.

Outside of law enforcement, though, the stakes are just as high, if not greater. One of the key factors in countering extremism is keeping it from happening in the first place through prevention. “We’ve got a lot of disengaged youth,” says Steve Weine, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago who researches anti-extremism. “They’re just ripe for being picked-off by recruiters.”

A major criticism of the White House summit from members of the Muslim community, who have found themselves at the center of this discussion due to the savvy recruitment techniques of groups such as ISIS, is that these tactics will end up being a new excuse for law enforcement communities to target people based on their faith.

“We’re in very dangerous territory when law enforcement agencies are leading the effort,” says Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security project. “I don’t think anyone is arguing to take away community outreach, but it’s got to be community outreach that’s open where the hand of trust isn’t accompanied by the hand behind the back that is taking down intelligence information.”

Weine says one of the best lessons the efforts to counter violent extremism can learn from the efforts to stop gang violence is that it takes a person with credibility and trust within a community to really get through.

“You need to be able to identify people who can reach down deep into pockets where these young people who are more isolated, more susceptible to radicalization and recruitment are,” says Weine.

The Chicago-based anti-gang violence effort Cure Violence, formely known as Ceasefire, is a good model of this approach. But the most important aspect of its efforts is trust. “It’s not just someone who looks like you or shares the same language, or is part of the same church or mosque or synagogue,” says Dr. Gary Slutkin, the founder and Executive Director of Cure Violence. “You can’t fool people into thinking you’re not associated with law enforcement.”

That level of trust is why Cure Violence boasts its success rates in parts of Chicago and cities across the globe, including in parts of Honduras, Iraq, and Kenya. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which presented at the White House Summit,is working in the private-sector agencies to engage former extremists—from gang members to white supremacists—to foster one-on-one interactions between those seeking out terror groups and those who have stepped away from that environment.

Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who also works on the Los Angeles program, has helped develop a model that helps community leaders focus on providing healthy alternatives and outlets for people who may feel cast out or may be at risk of feeling that way, while also working with people who may be on the path to extremism. It too, draws from efforts used to fight gangs, but Al-Marayati notes there are some major differences between those at risk of joining a gang and those in the Muslim community who could be lured into joining an extremist group.

For one, though the threat of ISIS brought the Muslim community to the center of the conversation on extremism, in the United States it’s not the only potential cause of terrorism. Experts note that there is also a threat of militia movements, such as the men behind the Oklahoma City attack, or those based on other ideologies, such as the anti-abortion beliefs of the man behind the Atlanta Olympics bombing.

“You know where gangs are and where they’re going and who they’re recruiting,” said Al-Marayati. “In this case it’s an amorphous issue. It’s tougher to pinpoint when there’s going to be a problem.”

TIME Australia

Former Gitmo Inmate ‘Relieved’ After Terrorism Conviction Quashed

Former Australian Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks, right, in Sydney on February 19, 2015
Saeed Khan—AFP/Getty Images Former Australian Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks in Sydney on February 19, 2015

U.S. court says Australian David Hicks did not commit a war crime

Australian David Hicks announced relief after a U.S. court overturned his terrorism conviction Wednesday.

The court declared that the former Guantanamo Bay inmate did not commit a war crime, therefore his conviction was not eligible to be heard in a military court, reports the BBC.

“It’s a relief because it’s over,” Hicks said in a Sydney news conference.

Hicks, 39, pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of providing material support to terrorism. In 2000, Hicks trained with Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan and participated in an attack against Indian forces. In 2001, the Northern Alliance captured Hicks in Afghanistan, where he met Osama bin Laden and enrolled in Al-Qaeda training camps, the BBC reported.

In a rare move, the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review overturned his conviction in a unanimous ruling. Under new rules, providing material support for terrorism no longer qualifies as a war crime for events prior to 2006.

Hicks was sentenced to seven years in Guantanamo Bay, but after pleading guilty, he was allowed to return to Australia after nine months. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said, “Let’s not forget whatever the legalities… he was up to no good on his own admission.”

[BBC]

TIME National Security

Obama Calls for International Unity in Fight Against Terror, Extremism

"We come from different countries and different cultures & different faiths… [but] we are all in the same boat" Obama said Thursday.

President Obama echoed Wednesday’s call for unity in the global fight against violent extremism in his final speech before a White House summit tackling the issue.

After two days of talks with community leaders from across the U.S., the State Department on Thursday hosted a group of high-level international leaders as a part of the Countering Violent Extremism Summit. During his speech, Obama again called on leaders to dispute extremist ideology that claims the West is at war with Islam.

“The notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie and all of us—regardless of our faith—have a responsibility to reject it,” Obama said.

In the wake of terror attacks in Paris and Egypt, and ongoing battles against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, the summit has largely focused on extremist activities related to the Muslim community. The focus on Muslims has drawn ire from both conservatives—who say the administration hasn’t gone far enough to call out terrorism carried out through the faith—and American Muslims, who say the counter violence efforts being proposed will lead to further targeting and discrimination.

Obama on Thursday acknowledged that the targets of ISIS and al-Qaeda propaganda are largely members of the Muslim community and the terror organizations claim they are driven by Islam. He said that that countries had a responsibility, however, to lift up the voices of millions of Muslims around the world who actually represent the faith, and frankly, are just like everyone else. “A lot of the bad is absorbed,” Obama said. “Not enough of the good.”

Obama also said by confronting religious conflict, political, economic, and educational issues—all of which he said terrorists exploit in their efforts to recruit—countries can counter extremist messaging in a meaningful way.

The summit and gathering of international leaders piggybacks off of a call to action against extremism Obama made in September before the United Nations Security Council.

Read next: Obama Urges Americans to Keep Calm in Fight Against Violent Extremism

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME White House

Obama Urges Americans to Keep Calm in Fight Against Violent Extremism

President Obama urged Americans to use a calm and steady approach to countering the violent extremism that spawns groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

In a speech on the second day of a White House summit, Obama said the best antidote to the harsh ideology peddled by ISIS is making sure that everyone feels like they have a rightful place in society.

“If extremists are peddling this notion that Western countries are hostile to Muslims, we need to show them that we are accepting of all folks,” Obama said.

To that end, Obama took pains to avoid characterizing violent extremism as solely a byproduct of Islam, noting that “no religion is responsible for violence and terrorism.” The summit was criticized by some conservatives for not focusing more on Islamic fundamentalism, but Obama argued that would only embolden groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.

“Al-Qaeda, [ISIS] and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy,” he said. “They try to portray themselves as religious leaders and holy warriors in defense of Islam … They propagate the notion that America — and the West generally — is at war with Islam. That’s how they recruit.”

“We are not at war with Islam,” he said during the speech. “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

The second day of the three-day summit featured community leaders from Boston, Minneapolis and Los Angeles, all of which are hosting government-led initiatives to counter extremism. A small group of activists also showed up across the street to protest “Islamophobia” and argue that Muslims are being unfairly targeted by these measures.

TIME conflict

Boko Haram Is Hardly a New Phenomenon in Nigeria

Nigerian local hunters 'vigilantes' to fight against Boko Haram
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images A local hunter armed with a gun is seen on a pick up truck in Yola city of Adamawa State in Nigeria before he moves to the border region between Nigeria and Cameroon to support the Nigerian army in fighting with Boko Haram militants on Dec. 06, 2014.

The surprise is it’s in formal rebellion against western education its members never received

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

The raging Boko Haram terrorist campaign poses the most potent existential threat to Nigeria since the country emerged out of civil war in 1970. Almost daily, insurgents fired up by a strange concoction of Islamist ideology and ascetic inclinations rampage through villages in the Nigerian northeast, killing, burning, and maiming. The Nigerian army’s law-and-order approach is foundering, and the insurgency waxes stronger, spreading to new territories within Nigeria and in the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

How did it come to this, and how can one situate Boko Haram in a longer historical tapestry of religious revivalism, societal convulsion, social marginality, and colonialism in this region of Nigeria? To understand Boko Haram, one must detour to precolonial and colonial histories of Northern Nigeria and locate the coextensive influences of pre-colonial Islamism and British colonial education policy.

An Ironic Product of Western Educational Lag

Translated from Hausa, Boko Haram means Western education is forbidden. The name references the opposition of the group to Western education and other artifacts of Western modernity. To understand this theological rejection of Western education, one must probe how the sociological currents that produced Boko Haram are ironically rooted in a history of Western education, or lack thereof, in Northern Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria became a British Protectorate in 1900 and colonial control was consolidated between then and 1907. Wary of alienating Muslim elites whom the colonizers were cultivating as allies in their rule, British colonial authorities decreed a ban on Christian missionary activities in the Muslim emirates, cutting off these regions from the missionary educational enterprise, the major instrument for the spread of Western education in much of colonial Nigeria and Africa.

The spread of Western education in the emirates was further hampered by another factor: the widespread suspicion that Western education was a carrier of un-Islamic ideas. Some emirs told Frederick Lugard, the first British governor of Northern Nigeria, that they didn’t want missionary educators in their domains because they feared that the missionaries would try to convert their Muslim subjects to Christianity.

This attitude was tempered over time by a realization on the part of some of the colony’s aristocrats and regular colonial subjects that secular education was important to socioeconomic mobility in colonial society. But colonial authorities ignored this attitudinal shift and did not build many schools in Northern Nigeria because of a racist ideology that questioned the value of liberal (as opposed to vocational) Western education for African “natives.” Specifically, British colonial officials in the North believed that liberal education would corrupt Northern Nigerians, turning them into agitators for rights in colonial society like it had purportedly done to the indigenous intelligentsia of Southern Nigeria. The British despised members of this embryonic indigenous elite with a passion and described them in colonial sources in derogatory terms as confused, troublesome, undignified black Englishmen wannabes. Frederick Lugard and other colonial officials were determined that the Northern, Muslim-majority half of the country would not be afflicted with this dangerous virus of educational modernization.

The foundation of the educational lag in the Muslim-majority states of postcolonial Northern Nigeria was thus laid by colonial policy, which was founded on the theory that a rapid expansion of Western education would damage the minds of benighted “native” Muslims and turn them against colonization.

This foundational problem has been compounded over the years by the inattention of postcolonial governments in the northeastern and northwestern states to education and, more recently, by a resurgence of negative attitudes to Western education, itself a product of the influx into Northern Nigeria of global Islamist ideologies denouncing or devaluing secular education as a source of societal moral degeneration, a contention eerily reminiscent of the claims of old Islamic revival movements in the region who similarly lashed out at colonial modernity and boko, or secular Western education.

The product of this Western educational lag in the northeast is the vast army of youths who, lacking credentialed Western education, are marginal in Nigeria’s secular economy and are thus available for Boko Haram to mobilize with temporal and spiritual promises of relevance.

Homegrown Islamist Dissidence

In addition to the British inattention to Western education in the Muslim majority areas of colonial Northern Nigeria, the Muslim rulers of these regions, inheritors of centuries old Islamic traditions and descendants of Muslim reformers of the early nineteenth century Sokoto Caliphate, feared that Western education would undermine their authority, dishonor the legacy of this history of Muslim revival, and spread practices offensive to widely held beliefs about Muslim piety.

A similar invocation of a romanticized Muslim past and nostalgia for prior Muslim dissidence has become part of Boko Haram’s rhetorical repertoire. In a recent video, the group showed archive footage of a battle between British soldiers of conquest and forces of the Sokoto Caliphate at the turn of the 20th century, suggesting that Boko Haram propagandists equate their struggle with the earlier struggle of the Sokoto Caliphate against British colonialism and its secular institutions.

Boko Haram has often invoked the Islamic Umma and caliphate founded by the Fulani jihad of Othman dan Fodio in the first decade of the nineteenth century in Hausaland as a model for its ambitions. Moreover, the group seems to have adopted the military tactics of the Jihadists of old. Like the Fulani jihadists, Boko Haram would march into a community in two columns. One would wait in the rear of the community while the other would attack from the front. Panicky villagers seeking escape would be slaughtered or captured by the rear column. This was a tactic that had been perfected by the Fulani jihadists as they raided non-Muslim communities for slaves and treasure throughout the nineteenth century.

Boko Haram belongs in a long line of Islamic insurgencies in the area. In the Sokoto caliphate, there were the Digawa, the Salihawa, the Isawa, and other sects with diverse doctrines considered heretical by the mainstream Sunni Umma. The Isawa in particular ran egregiously afoul of the existing theological consensus of the caliphate by recognizing the messianic status of Jesus and integrating that belief into their Muslim devotions.

Like Boko Haram, these groups criticized the existing Islamic order of the nineteenth century, isolated themselves, and espoused doctrines unfamiliar to the normative Sunni theologies of the caliphate. Unlike Boko Haram they were small, largely non-violent, and fizzled out over time.

In colonial times (1900-1960), some of the pre-colonial Islamic insurgent groups persisted, some coalescing into movements resistant to both the British and the emirate system of traditional and religious leadership. The Mahdist movement, an apocalyptic sect built around the idea of a coming messiah (or the Mahdi) and an end-of-time showdown between him and the forces of oppression, emerged as a fulcrum of opposition to the British colonial conquest in the first decade of the twentieth century. The British crushed the last of these major Mahdist uprisings in the village of Satiru in February 1906 and the surviving Mahdists fled to safety in different directions — to Kano, Yola, and as far as modern Sudan.

The British continued to sporadically face smaller incarnations of earlier Islamist revolts in the period of colonial rule. Some of these movements began to articulate a clear message against Christians (Nasara), a category represented in their expedient theology by the British colonialists, and against modernity, represented by British systems of rule, colonial technologies, Western education, and Muslims who adopted them.

Confronted by a changing world marked by the erosion of traditional ways of life and by a dizzying cocktail of modern goods and practices that they associated with Christian British colonizers, some Muslims responded by adopting a new form of piety designed to provoke divine solutions to what they saw as a Christian modernist invasion. Subsequent Islamist insurgent groups in Northern Nigeria have sustained this angst against modernity (zamani), which is perceived as a threat to the vision of a just, moral Islamic society. The resentment is often extended to Christians who purportedly embody this modernity, and to Muslims who allegedly imitate it or allow it to infect their Muslim devotion.

There is thus a long precedent for homegrown Islamic dissidence in Northern Nigeria. The most recognizable postcolonial manifestation of this history of insurgent Islamic revival, especially in the northeast, is the Y’antatsine movement, an Islamist Luddite sect that flourished intermittently in the northwest and northeast between 1980 and 1985. Like Boko Haram, the group isolated itself, received both persecution and patronage from some politically powerful Muslims, and then turned violent when clashes between its members and mainstream Muslims became frequent and its alternative Islamic community, or Tsangaya, was attacked by the secular authorities of the state.

Yet Boko Haram differs in several respects from Y’antatsine. The latter was a largely urban movement with easily identifiable neighborhoods such as Yan Awaki in Kano and Bulunkutu in Maiduguri. Conversely, Boko Haram is now largely a rural insurgency, although it has a presence in both rural and urban areas. Yantatsine was numerically much smaller than Boko Haram.

Y’antatsine was not a radical territorial movement intent on capturing, holding, and governing territory as part of an imagined theocratic state or caliphate; Boko Haram is. Boko Haram boasts of its allegiance and connections to global networks of jihad and Islamism, which it references in solidarity in its videos. Y’antatsine was a wholly homegrown Islamist movement with no known connections to foreign Islamist currents.

The two parallel histories of colonial educational policy and Islamic dissidence constitute the premise upon which understandings of Boko Haram’s ideology and rampage should be constructed. Yet, this historical connection alone cannot explain Boko Haram, for the group is both connected to and removed from this history. Its theological corpus is more expansive and its methods for realizing its goals more violent than previous insurgencies.

Moses E. Ochonu is Associate Professor of African History at Vanderbilt University. His most recent books are “Colonialism by Proxy: Hausa Imperial Agents and Middle Belt Consciousness in Nigeria” (2014), and “Africa in Fragments: Essays on Nigeria, Africa, and Global Africanity” (2014).

TIME Crime

Grand Jury Indicts Suspect in Chapel Hill Shootings

Craig Stephen Hicks, is seen in court in Chapel Hill on Feb. 11 2015
Chuck Liddy—AP Craig Stephen Hicks, from his first appearance in court in Chapel Hill on Feb. 11 2015

The deaths of the three Muslims sparked outrage over perceived media religious and racial biases

A North Carolina grand jury on Monday indicted Craig Hicks, the man accused of shooting three Muslim students in their apartment, on three counts of murder.

The indictment, first reported by WRAL and WTVD television channels, accuses the 46-year-old Chapel Hill resident of killing University of North Carolina dental student Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her 19-year-old sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in what police have said was a crime sparked by a row over a parking space.

Friends and family have called for the killings to be classified as a hate crime, which would demand a more severe sentence. Investigators say they do not have enough evidence to support that claim.

Hicks described himself as an avowed atheist, and the New York Times reports that last month he criticized religion in a Facebook post, saying, “Praying is pointless, useless, narcissistic, arrogant, and lazy; just like the imaginary god you pray to.”

The murders triggered public outrage over perceived religious and racial injustices as the hashtags #muslimlivesmatter and #chapelhillshooting trended on Twitter. Some users have called for the media to brand Hicks a terrorist, suggesting that he would have been if he was a Muslim.

Hicks will remain in jail without bond and is next scheduled to appear in court on March 4.

[WRAL News]

TIME White House

White House Prepares for Summit on Countering Violent Extremism

Barack Obama, Tim Cook
Jeff Chiu—AP President Barack Obama speaks at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection in Stanford, Calif., Feb. 13, 2015.

The summit comes in the wake of fresh attacks across the globe.

The White House will host a long-awaited summit on countering the behavior that leads marginalized groups and individuals to join terrorist groups starting Tuesday on the heels of another wave of violent attacks in Egypt and Denmark.

The White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism will span three days, with both domestic and international stakeholders coming together to discuss ongoing efforts to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria and other terrorist groups.

The final date of the summit was announced in January, not long after the attack against a satirical newspaper and a Jewish deli in Paris brought renewed attention to the threat of terror. White House officials say while the efforts to stop ISIS and other groups will be discussed, the summit will focus on the root causes of extremism like socioeconomic and political exclusion.

White House officials said on a preview call Monday that though there will likely be policy introduced throughout the summit—the details of which were not yet shared—the summit will focus on fostering a “bottom-up” approach to stopping terrorism before it starts.

“This is a moment to rededicate ourselves and reach out to communities to prevent radicalization,” a White House official said Monday.

Obama is expected to speak twice at the summit, though the full agenda of the week’s events has not yet been released.

The White House was careful to not single out any particular group as the main culprit of extremism at home and abroad, but Muslim leaders have already expressed concern that the event will lead more Americans to express fear and hatred toward the community, especially given the recent murder of three Muslim Americans in Chapel Hill, N.C. Local police say the murder happened as a result of a parking dispute, but the family of the deceased says the murders were a hate crime.

The White House says the focus of the summit will be on confronting the issue of extremism as a whole, rather than target one group.

“There’s no profile that says this particular community is going to be susceptible to violence,” a White House official said.

TIME Egypt

Egypt Launches Air Raids Against ISIS Bases in Libya

Islamic State Copts
Hassan Ammar—AP Coptic Christian men whose relatives were abducted by ISIS militants gather in the village of el-Aour, near Minya, Egypt, on Feb. 13, 2015

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt had the right to punish “those inhuman criminal killers”

Egyptian warplanes launched fresh sorties against militants allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) on Monday after the jihadists released a gruesome video showing the apparent execution of more than a dozen Egyptian hostages over the weekend.

Egypt’s air force reportedly targeted ISIS training sites and weapons storage areas in Libya at dawn, reports Reuters.

“The air strikes hit their targets precisely, and the falcons of our air forces returned safely to their bases,” read a statement released by the nation’s military on Monday.

Hours before the strikes began, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi promised during a televised address to retaliate against the militants responsible for the murder of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who had been working in Libya as laborers.

“Egypt reserves the right to respond at the proper time and in the appropriate style in retaliation against those inhuman criminal killers,” al-Sisi said, according to the BBC.

Fighters associated with ISIS have flocked to the group’s strongholds in eastern Syria and swaths of northern Iraq. However, years of instability in war-torn Libya have also allowed the group to expand its influence into pockets of North Africa.

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