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Radicalization, Terrorism, and Conflict

Radicalization, Terrorism, and Conflict
Radicalization, Terrorism, and Conflict
Edited by
Tali K. Walters, Rachel Monaghan
and J. Martin Ramírez
Radicalization, Terrorism, and Conflict
Edited by Tali K. Walters, Rachel Monaghan and J. Martin Ramírez
This book first published 2013
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Copyright © 2013 by Tali K. Walters, Rachel Monaghan and J. Martin Ramírez and contributors
All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
ISBN (10): 1-4438-4617-1, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-4617-2
To my husband, Peter, for his love and patience.
To my boys, Jacques and Julien.
To my wife, Tina, for her support.
Acknowledgements .................................................................................... ix
Editors and Contributors .............................................................................. x
Introduction ............................................................................................. xiii
Part 1: Radicalization
Chapter One ................................................................................................. 2
The Leading Causes and Regional Security Implications of the Arab
Saideh Lotfian
Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 30
The Politicization of European Converts to Islam
Emmanuel Karagiannis
Chapter Three ............................................................................................ 47
An ‘Alternative Sense of Reality’? The Case of Anders Breivik
and the Threat of Right Wing Terrorism
Lyndsey Harris and Rachel Monaghan
Chapter Four .............................................................................................. 66
Virtual Terror—From Training Camps to Virtual Sanctuary:
The Impact of Islamic Jihad in the Virtual World
Vivian Salama
Part 2: Terrorism
Chapter Five ............................................................................................ 104
Terrorism and Organized Crime in the Spanish Criminal Law:
Reasons for Specific Punishment and Punitive Responses
Pilar Otero
Chapter Six .............................................................................................. 130
Conflicting Counter-Terrorisms: The United Kingdom’s Response to
Terrorism since 9/11
Jessie Blackbourn
Chapter Seven .......................................................................................... 162
Counter-Terrorism: The Challenges of Intelligence and Effective
Inter-Agency Cooperation in the ‘Game without Frontiers’
Mark Cochrane
Chapter Eight ........................................................................................... 201
A Decision Support System (DSS) for Intelligence Analysts:
A Systems Approach to Understanding, Predicting and Preventing
Intelligence Failure
Peter Eachus and Ben Short
Part 3: Conflict
Chapter Nine ............................................................................................ 232
The Symbolic Importance of Group Property: Implications for Intergroup
Conflict and Terrorism
Shannon Callahan and Alison Ledgerwood
Chapter Ten ............................................................................................. 268
Cyber Terrorism: Fear, Anger and Anxiety as Agents of Change
Violet Cheung-Blunden and Bill Blunden
Chapter Eleven ........................................................................................ 291
Cross-Cultural Differences in Navigating Contradiction: Conflict
Resolution and Revenge Seeking
Dong-Yuan Debbie Wang and F. Dan Richard
Contributors ............................................................................................. 311
We are extremely grateful to those individuals who took time out of
their busy academic and professional schedules to contribute to this book,
and for their patience in dealing with our e-mails seeking clarification,
exact page numbers and/or higher resolutions of images. This book would
not have been possible without you!
We would like to express our gratitude and appreciation of those
individuals who have supported and continue to support the Society for
Terrorism Research by their membership in the organization, their
involvement with the Society’s Advisory Board and Governing Board,
their attendance at conferences, their contribution of articles for consideration
to the Society’s journal Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism & Political
Aggression, their membership on the Editorial Board, and their peer
reviewing of submissions.
Finally, we are also grateful to Carol Koulikourdi at Cambridge Scholars
Publishing for seeing merit in our project and for working with us on it.
Tali K. Walters, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Rachel Monaghan, Belfast, Northern Ireland
J. Martín Ramírez, Madrid, Spain
Tali K. Walters has been a member of the Governing Board of the
Society for Terrorism Research since 2006. She has led STR as its
president, organized the annual international conferences, served as
Associate Editor to the society’s journal Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism
& Political Aggression, recruited board members, and led the organization
through strategic changes. Dr. Walters is a senior supervising forensic
psychologist for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She served on the
faculties of Harvard Medical School and Tufts Medical School. She
consults to the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and to
criminal defense and prosecution attorneys in her private forensic mental
health consulting practice.
Rachel Monaghan is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University
of Ulster. Her Ph.D. was from the University of Reading, England and
examined the phenomenon of single-issue terrorism. She has been
researching political violence in the United Kingdom for nearly twenty
years and is the author (with Colin Knox) of Informal Justice in Divided
Societies: Northern Ireland and South Africa (Palgrave MacMillan, 2002).
She has published a number of articles on single-issue terrorism, animal
rights extremism, loyalist violence in Northern Ireland and vigilantism in
the International Criminal Justice Review, Space and Polity, Terrorism
and Political Violence and the Journal of Conflict Studies. She is an
Associate Editor for the journal Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism &
Political Aggression and is on the editorial board for Studies in Conflict
and Terrorism.
J. Martín Ramírez, Professor at Universidad Complutense Madrid, is a
leader in the field of aggression research from an interdisciplinary
perspective. His main focus is on the biopsychic processes underlying
feelings and expressions of aggression. He has studied such feelings in
many different species, from birds and rodents to felines and primates. Dr.
Ramírez has advanced degrees in Medicine, Neurosurgery, Law, the
Humanities, Education, and National Defense. He has served as an
Radicalization, Terrorism, and Conflict xi
International Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at
Harvard University and as a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institute for
War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. He is on the Editorial
Board of several international journals. Dr. Ramírez is the author of more
than 400 scientific publications in six languages. Among his multiple
international honors, he is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and
Science, and advisor to the Professors World Peace Academy and to the
Society for Terrorism Research.
Jessie Blackbourn Australian Research Council Laureate
Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law
University of New South Wales
Sydney, Australia
Bill Blunden College of Health and Human Services
San Francisco State University
San Francisco, California, USA
Shannon Callahan Department of Psychology
University of California, Davis
Davis, California, USA
Violet Cheung-Blunden Department of Psychology
University of San Francisco
San Francisco, California, USA
Mark Cochrane Consultant International Affairs
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Peter Eachus School of Social Work, Psychology
and Public Health
University of Salford
Salford, England
Lyndsey Harris Centre for Applied Criminology
Birmingham City University
Birmingham, England
Editors and Contributors
Emmanuel Karagiannis Department of Balkan, Slavic and
Oriental Studies
University of Macedonia
Thessaloniki, Greece
Alison Ledgerwood Department of Psychology
University of California, Davis
Davis, California, USA
Saideh Lotfian Faculty of Law and Political Science
University of Tehran
Tehran, Iran
Rachel Monaghan School of Criminology, Politics and
Social Policy
University of Ulster
Jordanstown, Northern Ireland
Pilar Otero Vice-Dean of Law
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
Madrid, Spain
F. Dan Richard Department of Psychology
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, Florida, USA
Vivian Salama Journalist and Writer
New York, USA
Ben Short School of Social Work, Psychology
and Public Health
University of Salford
Salford, England
Dong-Yuan Debbie Wang Department of Psychology
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, Florida, USA
The events of September 11, 2001, with the terrorist attack on New
York City, Washington DC, and the hijacking attempt on a fourth aircraft
that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, brought into sharp focus a danger
that had heretofore been relegated to the third rung of investigation, law
enforcement, and academic research. It wasn't that world leadership was
not aware of terrorism as a potential source of risk to their citizenry.
Rather, the manifestation of this phenomenon seemed to be rare and
circumscribed. When terrorist events occurred, if they received much
media attention it was because they had unusual characteristics - a large
number of deaths (i.e., the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building) or an
uncharacteristic perpetrator (such as Harvard educated Ted Kaczynski, the
The extremity of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States (USA),
followed by equally devastating attacks in Bali, Madrid, and London
(among other locations that suffered such attacks), brought into strong
relief the importance of developing a clear understanding of this
phenomenon. More recent events such as the right wing lone wolf attacks
by Anders Breivik in Norway in July 2011, the killing of a prison guard on
his way to work by dissident republicans in Northern Ireland in November
2012 and the January 2013 attack on the In Amenas refinery in Algeria
orchestrated by Islamist militia leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar emphasize the
continued diverse nature of the phenomenon. What we have learned in the
past 12 years is that terrorism is a complex subject that requires multiple
disciplinary and cultural perspectives to unravel.
In 2006, the Society for Terrorism Research (STR) emerged from the
recognition of the need for global, interdisciplinary approaches to solving
the intensifying risk posed by terrorist actors. This international, nonprofit,
nonpartisan, multidisciplinary organization was created to bring together
researchers, thought leaders, and practitioners who recognize that, in order
to thoroughly understand the concept of terrorism, to lessen its occurrence,
and to prevent the devastation that accompanies it, understanding and
intervention will occur on the boundaries of disciplines and cultural
boarders. STR set out to create opportunities for the connections, collisions,
and collaborations between those who are trying to solve the global
problem of terrorism. The collection found in these pages represents one
manifestation of those efforts.
Radicalization, Terrorism, and Conflict (RTC) reflects the goals that
STR set out to achieve. Represented in the pages of this book are research,
theory, and analysis from authors from eight countries (Australia, USA,
Northern Ireland, England, Greece, Iran, Spain, and China) that represent 10
different disciplines (political science, law, psychology, criminology,
international studies, sociology, journalism, geography, engineering, and
computer technology) and several different specializations within and
across the disciplines (i.e., terrorism/security, aggression, peace, crime and
intelligence analysis, and intercultural relations).
The title accounts for the process of becoming involved in, the
engagement in, and the understanding of the devastating violence that is
the result of terrorist action. Because these elements represent an ongoing,
evolving process, any effort to capture a static understanding is impossible.
The reader of this book will find that events have occurred since the
submission of the manuscript’s chapters that make some of the information
presented obsolete. That is the nature of this phenomenon.
Overview of the Volume
Radicalization, Terrorism, and Conflict (RTC) looks at the process of
terrorism on the boundaries between disciplines and national lines,
addressing current, rapidly evolving global issues and events. The volume
is divided into three main sections that correspond to the key words in the
title. Within each of these sections, expert contributors offer discussions
on issues or topics related to the section.
First, RTC looks at aspects of the process by which individuals choose
to become actors in the terrorist theater. Saideh Lotfian provides a broad
overview of the economic, social, and political culture of Middle East and
North African (MENA) countries, suggesting these elements contributed
to the recent outbreak of dissent and violence throughout the MENA.
Emmanuel Karagiannis interviewed European converts to Islam as the
basis of his qualitative study to develop hypotheses regarding the
radicalization of individuals who choose Islam as their religion. Using the
case of Anders Breivik who, in 2011, killed 77 adolescents and adults in
Norway, Lyndsey Harris and Rachel Monaghan address the role of right
wing movements as a source of inspiration and support for individuals
who choose terroristic violence to press their political agendas. Vivian
Salama provides the reader with a window into the Internet’s role in the
Radicalization, Terrorism, and Conflict xv
recruitment and development of terrorist actors and the spread of
terroristic activity.
In the second section of RTC, authors approach terrorism from the
legal side, across international jurisdictions, as well as through critiques of
counter-terrorism efforts, with suggestions for moving forward. Pilar
Otero explores the complicated issues related to legal definitions and
prosecution of terrorism both within Spain and in the European Union.
Jessie Blackbourn analyzes the UK’s response to terrorism, assessing the
development of related laws. Counter-terrorism efforts must be conducted
within the laws of the responding jurisdiction. Mark Cochrane tackles an
assessment of those counter-terrorism efforts as they are conducted by the
UK and the USA post-9/11. Peter Eachus and Ben Short present a
Decision Support System, proposing its use in intelligence analysis.
Finally, RTC presents the results of three significant research efforts
that move forward our understanding of conflict as it relates to terrorism
and the impact of terrorist activity. Shannon Callahan and Alison
Ledgerwood present research findings that elucidate the symbolic
importance of group property and how it may contribute to the motivations
behind conflict and terrorist acts. Violet Cheung-Blunden and Bill
Blunden present the results of their research on the psychological impact
of fear of cyber-terrorism, offering an analysis of the effectiveness of US
alert policy. Debbie Wang and F. Dan Richard look at cross-cultural
approaches to managing contradiction related to conflict resolution and
revenge seeking.
We invite the reader, independent of your discipline or nationality, to
join the global effort to find solutions to terrorism. Consider collaborating
with a colleague from a different department, or from a university across
the world. The Society for Terrorism Research can be a conduit for your
efforts to start the process (
Consider participation through membership in STR.
Tali K. Walters, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Rachel Monaghan, Belfast, Northern Ireland
J. Martín Ramírez, Madrid, Spain
In 2011, the Arab world witnessed unprecedented and dramatic political
events. First, the successful revolt of Tunisian citizens culminated in the
ousting of Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali's autocratic regime. Similarly, the pro-
democracy Egyptians forced Hosni Mubarak to reluctantly end his 30
year-old presidency. Libya’s anti-government forces, with the help of
NATO military intervention, ousted Colonel Qaddafi, who had seized
power after the 1969 anti-monarchy coup. In Yemen, public dissatisfaction
with President Ali Abdullah Saleh led to widespread street demonstrations
and external pressures which finally forced him to leave office after 33
years in power. Given the refusal of these leaders and elites to voluntarily
hand over power, the Arab masses had no option but to revolt against their
dictatorial rulers. Since then, there have been high expectations in the
Middle East and North Africa (MENA) that the democratization of the
traditional regimes is an end in sight. Meanwhile, anti-government protests
erupted in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other parts of the
oil-rich region. Full scale civil war wages in Syria at the time of this
writing. The failure of development policies and the rampant repression
exerted by government forces have finally led to social and political
rebellion of the citizens who have been excluded from the patronage
system of the dominant political groups. In the minds of many people, the
Middle Eastern dictators could not have endured for so long without a
certain degree of foreign support from the expansionist major powers.
Causes and Regional Security Implications of the Arab Awakening
This chapter begins with a brief discussion of how a combination of
internal and external factors such as resource curse, tribalism, social
inequality, prolonged existence of oppressive hereditary regimes,
militarization, corruption, and the great powers’ rivalries leading to
support for MENA’s autocratic regimes, have exposed Arab societies to
violent conflict and extremism. It concludes that the use of force and
military interventions are not adequate policies to address the issue of the
region’s new security challenges; and it is advisable and more effective to
act before the outbreak of widespread political violence. The revolution in
the Arab world continues and the threat of more armed conflict persists,
unless priority is given to policies that foster economic growth, equitable
distribution of wealth, social justice and guaranteed political reforms.
Keywords: Arab world, MENA, awakening, revolution, citizen revolts,
uprising, security, autocracy, democracy, political reforms
The security environment of the Middle East and North Africa (referred
to hereafter as MENA) is changing drastically as a result of the revolutionary
wave of protests which led to the removal of four undemocratic leaders
(Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Muammar
Qaddafi of Libya, and Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen). The contemporary
Arab rulers, whatever their titles (e.g., king, sheik, emir, prince, president,
prime minister, general) have been accumulating wealth for themselves
and their families by means of plundering, bribery, embezzlement, and
other questionable practices at the expense of the welfare of their own
people for decades. It should not have come as a surprise that MENA
people have poured into the streets to protest against their corrupt elites,
demanding their fair share of national income. Popular unrest continues in
Arab countries with autocratic governments by the people who are tired of
living under their rules.
The Qatari and Saudi role with respect to Bahrain, Libya and Syria has
been an active one, providing the evidence of the anxiety of MENA
conservative monarchies. Saudi Arabia has zealously been helping to
suppress revolutionary actions in the Arab world, and has provided
economic and military aid to a number of Arab regimes threatened by
popular uprising (Kamrava, 2012; Jones, 2011(b); Cafiero, 2012). To a
lesser degree, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have assumed a
similar role in the region. The rise of world oil prices have provided the
oil-rich states with additional revenues to finance overt or covert
destabilization efforts in the territories of their regional rivals and enemies.
The Saudi and Emirati support for Sheikh Hamad of Bahrain have
Chapter One
included the supply of military equipment and military personnel who are
fighting in the streets of Manama. The ruling elites are concerned that the
anti-government movements and uprising in Tunisia and Egypt, which
ended the political life of powerful autocrats, would become examples for
the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens to follow (Kamrava, 2012).
Arab autocracies are determined to suppress the citizen revolts as shown
by the regimes’ violent responses to the widespread antigovernment protests
in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen. The critics of governments are arrested,
detained, tried without charge, imprisoned and even tortured and executed
to dissuade others from opposing the ruling political elites. With their
colossal wealth or the generous foreign aid extended by their equally
autocratic regional allies, they have easily acquired the means of social
control and violence. They still have enough power and authority to
organize pro-government demonstrations and momentarily stabilize their
undemocratic political systems (Al-Rasheed, 2011).
Until recently, compliance and apparent passivity of Arab people
regarding their autocratic rulers was based on one or more of the following
assumptions: (a) there is no significant differences between the political
leaders; (b) the outcome of the elections are determined before the voting
begins; (c) some marginalized groups (e.g., women in Saudi Arabia) do
not have the right to participate, and most people have no choice in voting
for their preferred candidates from the banned political parties (e.g., the
Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt pre-2011 or the reformists in Tunisia); and
(d) the despotic political leaders are invulnerable to domestic pressures
from below because they are protected by powerful external forces.
It was difficult for Arab citizens to ignore the myth of the invincibility
of the authoritarian regimes. The citizens of Arab states with a presidential
system knew that their electoral systems were associated with high levels
of corruption; otherwise it would have been difficult for many
contemporary Arab leaders to win the consecutive presidential elections
until forcefully removed from office. Broadly speaking, major obstacles to
political participation in Arab pseudo-democracies include the lack of
perceived differences between the political leaders, lack of political
knowledge, and the lack of trust in fairness of elections. The lack of
democratic processes of political decision making had intensified the Arab
people’s apathy over the years. The Arab citizens of MENA’s eight
absolute monarchies have been given little opportunity to enjoy political
liberties. Evidently, these citizens, who are not permitted to freely criticize
the rulers, do not have the capacity to hold them accountable by voting,
civil society activism, or any other means to influence the elite-controlled
political institutions. In the next section of this chapter, several important
Causes and Regional Security Implications of the Arab Awakening
questions will be answered, including the following: What are the causes
of Arab citizen revolts? What is the impact of the rise in income and
wealth inequality on authoritarianism? What kind of changes might be
expected inside the region as a result of the Arab awakening? What steps
should be taken to encourage the democratization trends in the region?
Some Terminological Considerations
Before discussing the reasons for the growing unrest in Arab MENA, it
is worth saying something about the Arab scholars’ preference for the use
of the terms “Arab revolution” or “Arab uprising,” over the most
frequently used idea of an “Arab Spring.” As a Lebanese scholar Rami
Khouri noted, the use of the Arab Spring term denotes “some subtle
Orientalism at work,” by speaking of Arab people as if they “all think and
behave the same way.”1 Despite the fact that the revolutionary process is
still in progress in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, the people’s 2010-2011
"rebellions" or "uprisings" are called Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” after
its national flower, Egypt’s “Nile Revolution,” and the Libyan
“Revolution of 2011.” Moreover, it has been asserted that these citizen
revolts are “Anger Revolutions” against the political systems of Arab
countries (Kazamias, 2011, p. 144). This explains the preference for the
use of Arab awakening in the title of this chapter.
Reviewing the Causes of Arab Citizen Revolts
First, the reasons for the growing unrest in Arab MENA will be
examined. Some researchers have argued that globalization has led to the
reawakening of Arab citizens (Tagma, 2011; Posusney, 2003). Other
people have focused solely on the domestic economic and social factors,
including rising levels of relative inequality within Arab societies,
corruption, favoritism, crony capitalism2 and economic mismanagement
(Dahl, 2012; Campante & Chor, 2012; Springborg, 2011; Brownlee, 2011;
Meguid et. al., 2011). Another group of scholars have focused instead on
the political forces within these societies, which have led to the restricted
1 Arab citizens themselves have a preference for the use of the following terms:
“Revolution” (or thawra, in Arabic), “uprising” (intifada), “awakening” (sahwa),
“renaissance” (nahda), and “citizen revolt” (Khouri, 2011).
2 In this kind of capitalism, economic power is concentrated in a few networks
close to the ruler or his family involved in systematic plundering, as in Egypt
under Mubarak, and Tunisia under Ben Ali (Droz-Vincent, 2011, p. 10).
Chapter One
political participation, the restraints on citizen civil liberties, militarization,
and in general the absence of a viable civil society (Dupont & Passy, 2012;
Dalacoura, 2012; Lutterbeck, 2013; Alimi & Meyer, 2011).
The Arab League population in 2011 was about 365 million from 22
different countries, most of them with large urban populations, which
make up over 70% of their total population, according to the United
Nations Development Program (UNDP) (see Table 1.1)
The changes in the urban-rural population ratios, as a result of
increased human migration from villages to the largest cities, have created
economic and security challenges for Arab governments, which are now
more susceptible to destabilizing urban riots. Of about 365 million people
living in the 22 Arab League members, 83.43 million (or 23%) of the
people of Arab MENA still live under traditional monarchical systems.
The remaining 282 million live in countries with a presidential system.
Egypt alone makes up almost one-fourth of the population of the Arab
world. Four Arab states (Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, and Sudan) account for half
of the Arab population of the MENA. Whereas the population of the six
member states of the GCC is about 44.83 million (or only 12% of Arab
MENA population).
For security reasons, the GCC governments have been secretive about
their small native population, and are believed to overestimate their
national population. Qatar’s native population numbers only 200,000 (or
12.5% of the total population of about 1.6 million); and thus the Qataris
are a minority in their own country. Similarly, the UAE population is
made up of less than 12% citizens and over 88% non-native temporary
residents, or guest workers. The foreigners outnumber the Emirati citizens.
There are inconsistent statistics on the population of the UAE. According
to the World Factbook, the population of the country was estimated at
5,314,317 in July 2012 (“The World Factbook 2011,” 2012). Whereas
another official source reported that the population of the small Persian
Gulf country was 8.9 million in 2009 (“Background note,” 2011).
According to the UAE’s National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s total
native population was 947,997, or about 11.4% of its total population of
8.264 million in mid-2010 (“UAE population,” 2012).3
3 There are conflicting statistics for the UAE population because it is a matter of
national security to hide the fact that the natives are so few in numbers.
Sometimes, the size of its population is lower than the previous years, because of
the departure of the expats from the UAE (“UAE population,” 2012).
Causes and Regional Security Implications of the Arab Awakening
Table 1.1: Comparing 2011 Population, GDP per Capita, Human
Development Index (HDI), and Gender Inequality Index (GNI) for the
22 Arab League Members
Country Population
Rank# #
Algeria 35.98 3 7,421 10 0.698 11 (96) 0.412
Bahrain 1.32 20 32,233 4 0.806 3 (42) 0.288
Comoros 0.75 22 1,074 19 - - -
Djibouti 0.90 21 2,106 18 - - -
Egypt 82.54 1 5,151 11 0.644 12
Iraq 32.66 4 3,222 16 0.573 15
Jordan 6.33 13 5,082 12 0.698 10 (95) 0.456
Kuwait 2.82 18 45,539 3 0.760 5 (63) 0.229
Lebanon 4.26 14 11,868 8 0.739 7 (71) 0.440
Libya 6.42 12 14,985 7 0.760 6 (64) 0.314
Mauritania 3.54 16 1,751 19 - - 0.605
Morocco 32.27 5 4,081 14 0.582 14
Oman 2.85 17 23,333 5 0.705 8 (89) 0.309
4.15 15 2,656 17 - - -
Qatar 1.87 19 82,978 1 0.831 2 (37) 0.549
28.08 6 21,321 6 0.770 4 (56) 0.646
Somalia 9.56 10 - - - - -
44.63 2 2,007 18 0.408 17
Syria 20.76 8 4,295 13 0.632 13
Tunisia 10.59 9 7,512 9 0.698 9 (94) 0.293
7.89 11 52,435 2 0.846 1 (30) 0.234
Yemen ᴥᴥ 24.80 7 2,243 17 0.462 16
- Denotes unavailable data.
* (“Human Development Report,” 2011).
Chapter One
This figure includes the population of the South Sudan which gained
independence in July 2011. The 2012 World Bank data puts Sudan population
at 34.32 millions (World Bank, 2012).
** The rank order of the 22 members of the Arab League based on their 2011 total
population in millions from the most to the least populated states (1 is most
and 22 is least populated).
ᴥᴥ The largest percentages of total population living in urban areas are seen in the
six southern Persian Gulf Arab monarchies of Kuwait (98.4%), Qatar (95.9%),
Bahrain (88.7%), UAE (84.4%), Saudi Arabia (82.3%), and Oman (73.3%).
Yemen has one of the lowest percentages of urban population with only 32.4%
of the Yemenis residing in cities.
# Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita expressed in purchasing power
parity (PPP) and constant 2005 international U.S. dollars (World Bank, 2011).
## The rank order of the 22 Arab League members based on their 2011 GDP per
capita in U.S. dollars from the highest-income to lowest-income states (1 is the
highest income state).
Human Development Index (HDI) is a useful indicator of the level of national
development and well-being of the Arab citizens (“Human Development
Report,” 2011).
₸₸ The rank order of the key Arab states based on the latest HDI, followed by
their rank among 187 countries in parentheses and in italic (“Human
Development Report,” 2011).
± Gender Inequality Index (GNI) measures inequality between women and men
(“Human Development Report,” 2011).
Despite the absence of reliable and unbiased statistics, these population
data are significant for at least two reasons: 1) It shows that unlike the rest
of Arab MENA, the citizens are a minority or a small majority in most
GCC states. Expatriates are not likely to start a revolution, and are more
controllable; and 2) Despite an unequal income distribution, the enormous
national resources of Qatar, UAE and Kuwait have enabled the rulers to
maintain a high standard of living for the large majority of the natives. It
is worth noting that even the most affluent Arab regimes have come under
increasing pressures to provide opportunities for political participation
through free and fair elections, to permit the creation of political parties,
and work toward higher degrees of economic and political equality.4
4 Recently, the Emirates Center for Human Rights in London revealed that Sheik
Sultan al-Qasimi from Ras al-Khaimah, which is one of the seven emirates making
up the UAE, was under detention. He is a member of the ruling family and is the
head of an Islamist reformist group, called al-Islah (Reform) which has criticized
the ruling regime (Murphy, 2012).
Causes and Regional Security Implications of the Arab Awakening
Similarly, one cannot compare the extent of income inequalities within
Arab countries, because there is a dearth of reliable and consistent data. In
fact, national statistics have been scare and largely unreliable for many
Arab states. Many scholars have mentioned the importance of the
availability of consistent time series data for policymaking and policy
evaluation, which are accessible in the public domain. For instance,
Mackey (1987) writing about Saudi Arabia’s development plans, pointed
out that “much of the data on which the Third Plan was built, as with the
Second, was conjecture on the part of Westerners trying to plan for the
Saudis” (p. 54).
In general, economic data are more available than the complex political
data on human rights violations, political prisoners, press freedom
restrictions, and other instances of disrespect for civil liberties. However,
for most Arab states social and economic data are also scarce, particularly
measures indicating the extent of poverty, inequality and corruption. As a
first step in producing a reliable data source and filling the gaps, the first
Human Development Report on the Arab World was released in 2002, and
presented data on the status of such development indicators as literacy, life
expectancy, and poverty (“Arab Human Development Report 2002,
2002). The 2011 Gross National Income (GNI) per capita (in constant
2005 purchasing power parity dollars) of Arab states was $8,554, and
much lower than the world GNI per capita of $10,082, or the value of
$33,352 GNI per capita reported for the very high human development
countries (“Human Development Report 2011,” 2011).
The number of poor Arab citizens has grown, and the gap between the
rich and the poor has continued to widen in most Arab societies. The
unemployment and underemployment rates in Arab MENA have been
high.5 Many Arab citizens are struggling with low incomes that force them
either to live in poverty, or barely above the national and international
poverty lines. In 2009, 22% of Egyptians,6 about 35% of Yemenis, over
13% of all Jordanians, 3.8% of Tunisians, 9% of Moroccans, and about
23% of Iraqis lived below their national poverty line. More than 11 million
people in Yemen, about 4.5 million people in Egypt, 3.2 million people in
5 Morocco has the highest rate of employed men (47%) and women (65%) in
vulnerable jobs, which may not provide safety nets to protect them against
economic crisis (World Bank, 2012).
6 A report by the Egyptian Council of Ministries put the number of people living
below the national poverty line at 22% in 2010, compared to 17% in 2000. There is
also an unequal geographical distribution of the poverty, indicated by the fact that
20% of the poor live in cities, and 80% of them are residing in the rural areas. For
a discussion of Egypt’s economic woes, see Meguid, et al. (2011, p. 12).
Chapter One
Morocco, 1 million people in Syria and many thousands in other Arab
societies were in multidimensional poverty.7 Appallingly, 65.6% of people
in Somalia and over one-third of the population of Yemen are in severe
poverty (“Human Development Report 2011,” 2011). These cross-national
data reported for the Arab world reveal the urgency of addressing the
problems of inequality and poverty, which have led to social discrimination
and political exclusion.
The available data show that Arab governments must redistribute more
and with no further delays. Arab political elites have largely ignored the
impact of economic underdevelopment and political instability; otherwise
they would have provided more resources for economic development.
Economic growth and prosperity vary considerably across Arab countries,
which are at different stages of political development. The rich-poor
divide in the Arab world is growing. In 2011, Qatar had a Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) per capita equal to $82,978, while the per capital income of
Sudan was $2,007 (See Table 1.1). Some MENA states are in possession
of considerable resource wealth. Whereas the nature has been cruel to
some of the regional states that have to struggle with resource scarcity of
even fresh water.
The Human Development Index (HDI)8 of Arab states for 2011 was
0.641, which was lower than the world’s HDI of 0.682. The UNDP (2011)
reported that between 1980 and 2011, the HDI of Arab countries increased
from 0.444 to 0.641, while that of the world changed from 0.558 to 0.682
(See Table 1.1). It is important to note that when the 2011 HDI of Arab
states are adjusted to inequality in the three basic dimensions of human
development (i.e., education, health, income), the Arab inequality-adjusted
HDI declined significantly to 0.472. While it is impossible to measure the
precise effects of per capita income, HDI and any other indicator of the
quality of standards of living on political unrest, economic explanations of
the uprising in the Arab world has sparked a great deal of interest in the
academic and political circles. The economic approach ignores the fact
7 Multiple indicators should be used to measure health, education, and other
dimensions of poverty, because no income-base indicator can adequately measure
the standard of living in any given country. For a discussion of multidimensionality
of poverty, see Ravallion (2011) and Ferreira (2011).
8 HDI was developed for the first UNDP Human Development Report in 1990, and
is a composite index of human development using indicators of income,
knowledge and health. HDI has a minimum value of zero and a maximum value of
one. In 2011, Norway with an HDI of 0.943 and Congo with an HDI of 0.286 had
the highest and the lowest HDI among 187 countries, respectively (“Human
Development Index,” n.d.).
Causes and Regional Security Implications of the Arab Awakening
that there is no clear relationship between economic prosperity and
political instability in some societies, suggesting that many other explanatory
variables are at play.
The ageing leaders at the helm of the authoritarian Arab regimes have
been out of touch with the younger generations who are demanding a more
equitable socio-economic order. The Arab youth will no longer tolerate a
life characterized by relative deprivation, poverty and unemployment. As
evidenced by the uprising in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen, the
political and business elites closely aligned with the unpopular ruling
families aggressively resist pro-reform movements. The revolutionary
clashes are inevitable in a situation in which the privileged elites are
reluctant to accept a meaningful redistribution of national wealth and
income, and the underprivileged lower and middle classes are determined
to compel the rulers to change. However, Arab revolts could not be
explained solely by the failures of the policy elites to fulfill the basic
economic needs and expectations of the non-elites. Many protesters are
angry at their leaders for their opposition to meaningful political reforms
aimed at democratization and the rule of law.
Human Rights Violations in Arab MENA
According to Amnesty International’s Annual Report 2011 (n.d.), most
MENA governments maintain strict restrictions on freedom of expression.
Journalists and human rights activists frequently face criminal charges for
criticizing state officials or institutions, including the monarchy. In some
cases, freedom of assembly or the formation of political parties are
forbidden by law. In many societies, discrimination against women is
widespread. Only 26% of women in Arab states participated in the labor
force in 2009, compared to 77.1% of men. The female labor force
participation rate in these societies was much lower than the world average
of 51.5%.
The Gender Inequality Index (GNI)9 of Arab countries for 2011 was
reportedly 0.563, compared to the 0.224 index calculated for the states
with very high human development, and the world average of 0.492
(United Nations Development Program, 2011). The most recent GNI
shows that the degree of inequality between men and women ranges from
9 The Gender Inequality Index is a composite measure of inequality between men
and women in three dimensions: empowerment, the labor market, and reproductive
health. Its lowest score is zero reflecting equality between women and men; and its
highest score is one showing maximum gender inequality.
Chapter One
0.769 in Yemen (highest gender inequality in the Arab League) to 0.229 in
Kuwait (lowest gender inequality) (United Nations Development Program,
2011). The unemployment levels among women in most Arab countries
today are above the average international levels.
Saudi Arabia’s GNI of 0.646 denotes that a larger percentage of
women in the conservative Arab kingdom experience discrimination in
education, health and the job market. The Basic Law of the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia discriminates against women, treating them as inferiors who
need male guardianship. In fact, “gender inequality is built into Saudi
Arabia’s governmental and social structures” (Doumato, 2010, p. 425).
Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country which has a driving ban for women,
and does not grant them the right to vote. According to the
“Women2Drive Campaign,” several Saudi women were arrested for
disobeying the official ban on driving (“Saudi woman to face lashings,”
2011; Campaign for Women’s Leadership, n.d.). On the seven-point scale
for the civil liberties index calculated by Freedom House, Saudi Arabia
scored 7 (7 is the worst case) as reported in the 2012 Freedom in the
World report. No improvement to its freedom status of “Not Free” was
registered. Moreover, this kingdom of the southern Persian Gulf is one of
the least free Arab states, as demonstrated by its political rights score of 7
(out of 7, and the lowest rank).10
Why does the Arab world lag behind when it comes to women’s
participation in the labor force and in decision making? A frequently-cited
reason is the predominance of Islamic law and practice in Arab societies.
Dominant social and legal practices exclude many Arab women from a
range of places and practices that most others in the Muslim societies
enjoy. A more likely reason is that the patriarchal nature of Arab social
systems has matched the rulers’ preferences for the inequitable structure
and organization of political and social life. Women continue to be
defiantly discriminated against in a full range of areas including freedom
of movement, political participation, and access to education and job
opportunities. Much of what has been announced in the way of reform to
reduce gender inequalities in Arab countries has been inadequate. This
policy failure suggests that revolutionary changes in attitudes and policies
are necessary.
10 Only five member states of the Arab League (Comoros, Kuwait, Lebanon,
Morocco, Tunisia) are ranked as “partly free”, and the remaining members
(Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia,
Somalia, Sudan, Syria, UAE, Yemen) are identified as “not free’ societies. No data
on political freedom is provided for the Palestinian territory (Freedom House,
Causes and Regional Security Implications of the Arab Awakening
The Western powers have been accused of ignoring the existence of
the highly restrictive laws preventing the average Arab citizens to enjoy
even the most basic political rights and freedom, and the blatant
discrimination against women and ethnic minorities by their regional
allies. A European scholar who examines several initiatives including the
Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP), points out that “while declaring
its commitment to promoting human rights and democracy, by its actions
the European Union (EU) has favored regimes and practices that
ultimately proved intolerable to a broad stratum of Arab society” (Hollis,
2012, p. 81). Jordanian monarchs King Hussein and King Abdullah, and
the Egyptian presidents Sadat and Mubarak were showered with the
United States foreign aid to assist economic recovery. Yemen’s President
Saleh was viewed as a partner in the fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula. Human rights abuses of King Hamad are tolerated because the
headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet is located in Bahrain. American human
rights advocates have called on the Obama Administration to end the U.S.
reliance on the naval base in Bahrain, and “match up American values to
interests in the Persian Gulf,” by supporting the people of Bahrain, rather
than their autocratic rulers (Jones, 2011(a)). Kenneth Roth of Human
Rights Watch mentions five core reasons why Western countries have
supported the autocratic monarchs and presidents-for-life in the MENA.
These autocrats were viewed as more reliable allies and partners in order
to: a) contain political Islam, b) combat the threat of terrorism, c) resolve
Arab-Israeli conflict, d) maintain the uninterrupted flow of oil, and e)
curtail migration (Roth, 2012, p. 3-6). In Arab autocracies with their elite-
centric and externally-dependent political systems, the pressures exerted
by foreign powers on their regional patrons and partners through informal
and formal channels could be effective democracy promotion instruments.
Corruption in Arab Monarchies and Kleptocracies
Some scholars have warned against the negative implications of
widespread corruption on economic development. Like many advocates of
democratization, the political economists have long recognized that high
levels of corruption are associated with increases in income inequality and
poverty (Gupta, Davoodi, & Alonso-Terme, 2002, p. 23-45). An outcome
of the prolonged existence of the autocratic rulers has been the emergence
of government-business corruption networks in which some political
elites, in alliance with corrupt business leaders and occasionally even
organized crime groups, have been able to accumulate huge amounts of
Chapter One
Looking at the Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions
Index, it is revealed that among the 183 countries and territories surveyed,
all Arab governments (with the exception of the UAE with a score of 6.8)
had a score below 6 on a scale of 1 (highest level of corruption) to 10
(lowest level of corruption) as of November 2011.11 It is no secret that the
level of corruption in the MENA is high mostly due to the secrecy of
defense contracts, and unchecked budgetary decision-making. The
concentration of the bulk of national wealth in the hands of a minority,
resource curse, the weakness of legal systems and governance issues are
blamed for spreading corruption, including fraudulent kickbacks in public
transactions with foreign corporations and business partners.
There are no laws to punish corrupt practices by the ruling elites. This
was demonstrated by the high-profile case of the Al-Yamamah arms deals
involving British Aerospace Company (BAe) and prominent Saudi
officials representing the royal family.12 In Saudi Arabia, where stealing
and theft are punishable by Islamic laws, it is ironic that political
corruption is prevalent among the elites. Looking at the major corruption
scandals, it is clear that bribery has been often associated with defense
contracts, arm deals and foreign aid.
Many Arab government officials do not seem to view bribery as
ethically problematic and morally indefensible; consequently Arab citizens
have become accustomed to paying bribes for the provision of public
services. Three thousand business executives worldwide surveyed for the
2011 Bribe Payers Index (BPI) were asked to evaluate the degree of
bribery in companies from 28 of the largest economies in their
international business transactions. A country in which its companies
never engage in bribery when doing business abroad has a BPI of 10. The
minimum score of BPI is 0, and is assigned to the most extreme situation
in which all companies from a country always engage in notorious
transnational bribery. No country is actually bribe-free. The Netherlands
with a score of 8.8 was less likely to engage in bribery, followed by
11 The respondents were asked questions about their views on the level of
corruption in public institutions, and on the effectiveness of the government in the
fight against corruption (Transparency International, 2011).
12 The BAe has been accused of paying more than £1bn to the Saudi Prince Bandar
as secret commissions for the Al Yamamah arms agreement for the purchase of
Tornado aircrafts and other military equipment. The secret payments continued
“for at least 10 years and beyond 2002, when Britain outlawed corrupt payments to
overseas officials.” Prince Bandar, who is now the secretary general of the Saudi
National Security Council, was at that time the country’s ambassador to
Washington (Leigh & Evans, 2007).
Causes and Regional Security Implications of the Arab Awakening
Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, and Japan. By contrast, Saudi Arabia
(with the score of 7.4) and UAE (with the score of 7.3), as the only Arab
countries covered in this report, were ranked 22nd and 23rd, respectively.
While companies from Indonesia, Mexico, China and Russia are placed at
the bottom of the list and perceived as more likely to engage in bribery,
the situation is not much better in these two Arab states in which improper
payments to government officials are common (Hardoon & Heinrich,
The lavish gifts given to the European royalty are viewed as attempts
to influence the foreign policy of major powers toward the unpopular
regimes. This is illustrated by the case of broadly publicized Bahraini
rulers’ gifts of costly jewelry and silk rugs to the British royal family.13
The opponents of the regime saw these gifts as hush money and a form of
bribery to keep the British government silent about the Manama’s brutal
treatment of the Bahraini protesters. Similar to most of the other GCC
ruling regimes, the al-Khalifa-controlled political system in Bahrain is
depicted as the creation of the British imperialists. The disclosure of the
official visit of British royals to Manama, in the midst of the violent anti-
government protests, was also viewed as proof of the Bahraini rulers’
subservience to the UK, which together with the US have been benefactors
and allies of choice in difficult times for the GCC monarchs. Such
practices are largely seen by Arab people as a sign of persistent
dependency of their detested ruling elites on their former colonial
There is also an argument that the adverse impact of economic
inequality on democracy must be analyzed. One of the scholars to take up
this scrutiny is Solt (2011) who finds that “societies with higher levels of
economic inequality are concomitantly more hierarchical, making
experiences that reinforce vertical notions of authority more common and
so authoritarianism more widespread” (p. 2). The concentration of wealth
within both rich and poor Arab states is high. Arab super-rich have formed
their own self-contained world, apart from the rest of Arab citizenry. Arab
billionaires travel in private jets and yachts, have vacation villas in
Europe, rub shoulders with the royalty, send their children to the most
exclusive European boarding schools and Ivy League colleges, and are
above the laws of the land. However, unlike other world rich and famous,
the majority of them are connected to Arab ruling regimes. They are
habitually self-indulgent and self-interested, and frequently disregard
13 It has been noted in the British press that such gifts are inappropriate (“Countess
of Wessex,” 2012).
Chapter One
boundaries between public and private. Due to the lack of effective
governmental checks and balances, and the inadequacy of accountability
and transparency mechanisms in the authoritarian Arab societies, public
funds are treated as personal assets of the rulers.
As of the beginning of 2011, there were an estimated 400,000 people
who were classified as high net worth individuals (HNWIs) in the Middle
East, while their wealth increased 12.5% to about US$1.7 trillion. The
region had 4,000 ultra-HNWIs, which constituted 0.9% of the world’s
HNWI population (“World wealth report 2011,” 2011). According to
Forbes (Helman, 2011), Saudi King Abdullah with his considerable
influence in the international oil markets is the seventh most powerful
people in the world. The UAE President Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan is
listed as number 33 (Ewalt, et. al., 2012, n.p.). In 2011, Sheikh Khalifa
controlled the $630-billion of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which
was viewed as one of the world’s most significant sovereign wealth funds
(Zawya, 2011(b)). A large proportion of public funds, which are controlled
by the royal family members and other ruling elites, are most likely not
subject to public disclosure. As of 2 March 2011, about 75% of more than
$240-billion of investments in publicly-listed firms is directly controlled
by Arab rulers and their families. The remaining 25% either originate from
government institutions (16%), or sovereign wealth funds (9%), which are
presumably under the control of the ruling elites (Zawya, 2011(a)).
According to a November 1996 U.S. diplomatic cable entitled “Saudi
Royal Wealth: Where do they get all that money?” (“WikiLeaks cable,”
2013; Helman, 2011; Lawson, 2011), every Saudi prince and princess
receives a colossal monthly allowance, and enjoys a luxury life of
unearned income and privileges including huge loans from commercial
banks, and frequent cash hand-outs for marriage, new palaces and travel
costs under the royal patronage system. At that time, this monthly stipend
ranged from $800 for "the lowliest member of the most remote branch of
the family" to $270,000 for the senior princes (Robinson, 2011, n.p). The
high-profile Saudi prince Alwaleed, with a reported $21.30 billion and the
ownership of shares in Apple, Citigroup, and News Corp, ranks number
one in the Arabian Business Rich List 2011. Not surprisingly, 60% of the
high-net-worth Arabs on the 2011 list were from Saudi Arabia.
The other super rich of the Arab world are mostly from Qatar and the
UAE (“Rich list 2011,” 2012). There are 1,225 wealthy Saudi residents
with $227 billion in assets (Broomhall, 2011), who probably pay no taxes,
and are not forced to disclose the sources of their unearned wealth. A
prominent critic of the oil-rich Kingdom, Princess Basma, the 115th and
the youngest child of the Saudi King Saud who ruled from 1953 to 1964,
Causes and Regional Security Implications of the Arab Awakening
revealed the size of the royal family: “We have 15,000 royals and around
13,000 don't enjoy the wealth of the 2,000. You have 2,000 who are multi-
millionaires, who have all the power, all the wealth and no-one can even
utter a word against it because they are afraid to lose what they have." She
voiced her complaint about social injustice: “If you are poor man and you
steal, your hand is cut off after three offences. But if you are a rich man,
nobody will say anything to you" (Milmo, 2012, n.p.).
European royal families are required to reveal financial details about
the way they spend their personal fortunes and their annual allowance for
public duties. For instance, according to Queen Elizabeth II’s accountant,
Sir Alan Reid, “The annual cost per person in the country of funding the
head of state amounts to 62 pence” (Bowley, 2007, n.p.). In contrast, there
is very little information about the personal wealth of the Arab royal
family. It is not possible to estimate the Arab rulers’ assets because of
their secret business deals, and their foreign bank accounts. According to
Global Financial Integrity (2001, pp. 38-39), the MENA accounted for
18.6% of total illicit outflows14 of US$8.44 trillion during 2000-2009 from
the developing world. Indeed, four of the top ten countries with the largest
transfers of illicit capital are located in this region, and include Saudi
Arabia ($380.04 billion), Kuwait ($270.70 billion), United Arab Emirates
($296.10 billion), and Qatar ($175.32 billion for 2001-2009 as data for
2000 were unavailable). The outflow of unrecorded capital through
bribery, kickbacks, theft, and the proceeds of corruption are the dominant
channel for the transfer of illicit funds from this strategic region (Global
Financial Integrity 2001, p. 9). It is noteworthy that these four southern
Persian Gulf states are major exporters of oil and natural gas, and are ruled
by absolute monarchies.
After the regime change, the new leaders’ investigations have shed
light on extreme corruption at the highest level of governments in Egypt,
Libya, and Tunisia. The ousted presidents and their family members and
cronies had rarely come under scrutiny for illegal and questionable
practices of misuse of public funds. No one can deny that public
corruption has been at the cost of socio-economic development, and
undermines democracy. The wives and daughters of the more modern
Arab leaders are now playing a role in the public life of their countries by
participating in ceremonies abroad, visits to the institutions set up to help
14 The report defines illicit financial flows as the cross-border movement of money
that is illegally earned, transferred, or utilized. Illicit financial flows generally
involve the transfer of money earned through illegal activities such as corruption,
transactions involving contraband goods, criminal activities, and efforts to shelter
wealth from a country's tax authorities.
Chapter One
the most disadvantaged groups in the societies, and taking part in cultural
activities. Former First Lady of Tunisia, Leila Trabelsi, who fled the
country, was accused of stealing one and a half tons of gold bars from the
Central Bank of Tunisia (“The Tunisian job,” 2011). Even though this
allegation was denied by the bank authorities (“'The Family' Tunisians
hate most,” 2011), it acted as additional proof of the scale of corruption
among the family and cronies of the president. Millions of dollars held in
Swiss bank accounts of Ben Ali and Trabelsi families and their associates
were frozen by the order of the Bern government (Bell & Bryan-Low,
The wife of the deposed president of Egypt, Suzanne Mubarak, has
been in fear of standing trial on corruption charges. She has been under
investigation for money laundering charges and illegal acquisition of
wealth. In 2011, she was forced to turn over her villa in Cairo and two
bank accounts to Egypt's Illicit Gains Authority (Stanton, 2011). Suzanne
Mubarak’s NGO with presumably charitable aims was used to withdraw
huge amounts of money without paying taxes, or being accountable to the
authorities. These NGOs gave them access to resources independent from
those allocated by the government. She was the chair of the Women's
International Peace Movement as a non-profit, non-governmental
international association established in 2003 in Geneva, and was the only
authorized person to withdraw money from its $962 million account. She
has been accused of authorizing her deputy to secretly withdraw millions
of dollars from the Swiss account and transferred the amount to a
Panamanian bank and subsequently to another bank in Cayman Islands
(Arabs Today, 2012). The Mubarak family has deposited cash in British
and Swiss banks, and owns property in European and American cities
estimated to be worth between $40 billion to $70 billion (Kim, 2011).
Similar to other MENA corrupt rulers’ families, the bulk of their assets are
most likely hidden in secret offshore bank accounts in the Caribbean and
other financial safe havens.
Arab monarchies and kleptocracies have contingency plans to maintain
equally privileged luxurious lifestyles, in case they are forced into exile by
their successors. By adopting strict anti-money laundering laws and
removing bank secrecy, Western countries are morally obligated to make
it difficult for the unscrupulous elites in the MENA to hide their ill-gotten
funds and stolen public assets.
Resource curse is another factor which might explain political
backwardness and corruption in Arab autocracies. In recent years, several
empirical studies have shown that oil has an adverse impact on democracy
(Ross, 2001; Aslaksen, 2010). As Aslaksen puts it, “Resource wealth,
Causes and Regional Security Implications of the Arab Awakening
especially oil, is a curse for democracy” (Aslaksen, 2010, p. 421).
Consideration has been given to the rentier effect of accumulation of oil
wealth in the hands of autocratic rulers. With their significant oil revenues,
the oil-rich dictators are not dependent on tax systems, and do not feel
bound by the rules of accountability and transparency toward their own
people (Omgba, 2009, p. 420). In rentier Arab states, the rulers are
dependent on oil and natural gas revenues or foreign military and
economic aid (Beblawi & Luciani, 1987, p. 51). Consequently, they have
been less susceptible to popular pressures from below because they are
less dependent on their own people.
In the post-1952 political system of Egypt, a small group of influential
political elites with military, security and intelligence backgrounds made
up the inner circle of the president. There was also a larger coalition of
beneficiaries who included peasants and unionized workers under Nasser’s
regime (1954-1970), and businessmen under Mubarak (1981–2011) (Adly,
2011, p. 304). The rapid deterioration of real wages, high inflation rates,
and the rise of food prices were among the factors which encouraged the
public sector workers, the urban poor and the civil servants to participate
in anti-government protests during the period of 2004-2011. The decline in
rents led to the inability of the Mubarak’s regime to maintain its political
power, because the top leaders could no longer allocate patronage rewards
among certain segments of the population, recognized as the regime's
clients. A key principle of allocation of the economic benefits was the
loyalty to the government.
In contrast, oil wealth still empowers the Saudi king to fill government
positions with the members of the al Saud family, or his loyal supporters
of his own choosing, which may or may not be qualified for the job. Oil
rents have benefited the political elites in oil-based economies, but now oil
revenues no longer provide the rulers with sufficient monetary resources
needed to maintain a spoils system, because they are confronted with the
demographic challenge of rapid population growth, and the ever-
increasing youth unemployment rates.
For the purpose of limiting institutional and political restraints on their
power, the rulers in Arab autocracies give key positions in government to
the trusted military and political elites. In most cases, tribal and family
connections are the most important criteria for selecting senior government
officials. Despite the political nature of the appointment process, many
retain their high-ranking jobs for long periods. Sheikh Khalifa, the uncle
of Bahrain’s King Hamad has been the prime minister since 1971. The
current head of the House of Saud is Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz who was
proclaimed sixth King of Saudi Arabia in August 2005 at the age of 81.
Chapter One
He is one of the world's oldest ruling monarchs (“Custodian of the two
holy mosques,” n.d.). Senior positions within the government belong to
the male members of the royal family, who are appointed by the King. The
79-year old Neyef bin Abdul Aziz became the new heir to the throne in
October 2011, following the death of Prince Sultan, who had served as the
defense minister for five decades. Neyef himself was the interior minister
for nearly 36 years. Prince Neyef died in June 2012, and was replaced by
the ageing Prince Salman, the Ministry of Defense and the long-time
governor of Riyadh in the Saudi gerontocracy. It was not clear whether the
King selected them by consulting the Allegiance Council, which he
created in 2006 and is composed of his brothers, half-brothers and
nephews (Henderson, 2006, 2009).
The King appoints the members of the royal lineage to key positions,
including governor of the Shi’a-inhabited Eastern Province (Prince
Mohamed who has been in this post since 1985, and is accused of
corruption), and governor of the remote Tabuk Province (Prince Fahd has
been in this job since 1987) (“Saudi King,” 2009). Moreover, the death of
a monarch or his removal by his rivals has not led to major change in the
direction of the institutionalization of democracy. In some cases, a close
family member is given the command of the military forces responsible
for protecting the rulers. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s younger brother,
Maher was appointed the commander of the Republican Guard; in Libya,
Khamis Qaddafi, the youngest son of its former dictator, Muammar
Qaddafi, was the commander of the best trained force in the Libyan armed
One cannot disregard the effects of corruption on the Arab awakening
because it provided a rationalization for organizing anti-government
protests against the political elites and their business associates most
notably in Egypt and Tunisia. The citizen revolts in Egypt, Iraq, Libya,
Tunisia and Yemen demonstrated that the Arab people blame their leaders,
whose entire conduct has been proof of their faulty character, for
widespread corruption in the government agencies, and weakness of the
rule of law. These leaders felt secure in their power position, and did not
implement policies aimed at sustainable economic development for the
benefits of the public. They were driven by concerns for their own survival
and power. The Arab autocratic regimes have been more prone to
corruption, and have not really been influenced by public opinion. Since
corruption is viewed as costly for economic development and social justice
in the Arab world, it is highly likely that the citizens will rise up against
their rulers in the remaining autocracies.
Causes and Regional Security Implications of the Arab Awakening
Democracy Promotion in Arab MENA
The recent spread of rebellion and popular uprising across the region
has provided clear opportunities for democracy promotion. However, a
democratic regime will threaten the interests of economic, political and
military elites. The 2010-2011 historic events in the Arab world have
shown that most Arab dictators and autocrats are incapable of accurately
analyzing national situations shaped by the fearlessness of the people.
Muammar Qaddafi15 did not comprehend the reality that Libyans could no
longer bear his tyrannical rule. Unlike Ben Ali who escaped to Saudi
Arabia when his last bid to quell the uprising had failed, Qaddafi tried to
hide in his hometown of Sirte in the hope of being rescued by his loyal
followers. He did not step aside like Mubarak, and did not look for a face-
saving exit strategy like Saleh. Qaddafi had a fate worse than death, unlike
Saddam Hussein of Iraq who was captured in December 2003 by the
American forces, tried and executed by hanging three years later. Qaddafi
was tortured and humiliated before being killed in the hands of the angry
Libyans in October 2011.16
An important question that could be asked is who is to be blamed for
inaction on social justice and democratization in many parts of the Arab
world. In their own defense, some Arab leaders claim that they have good
intentions; but they do not have the capability to improve the life standards
of their people. Some of them have cautiously and selectively abided by
good governance principles in order to receive multilateral foreign aid
from international financial institutions like the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, or bilateral aid from the U.S. or other
great powers. In 2011, King Mohammed VI of Morocco publicly pledged
that his government is committed to political reforms, and appointed the
general secretary of a moderate Islamist Party, Abdelilah Benkirane, as the
country’s Prime Minister after this party won the largest share of votes in
national elections. Arab rulers such as King Abdullah II in Jordan are
making statements that intrinsically are designed to calm down the
opponents of the regime by making some political reforms but not as fast
as the people would have liked. Instead of becoming submissive, the
opposition forces are prompted to demand more from the regime.
15 Qaddafi was a ruler of utterly different character, who had a taste for making
bizarre political statements, and behaving eccentrically, for example, by taking his
Bedouin tent to official visits abroad.
16 Ironically, Qaddafi’s daughter Aisha was on the team of lawyers defending
Saddam Hussein at his trial, before the uprising in Libya transformed her family’s
Chapter One
It is more likely that, in the remainder of this decade, the conservative
forces in Arab MENA will violently clash with the revolutionary forces;
and the fabricated political stability of Arab monarchies will come to an
end. Even now, old friendships have been replaced by overt enmity. There
is a potential for a shift of power in the region. Democracy promotion and
civil society building initiatives are viewed as significant challenges by the
ruling regimes. Within Arab societies, the instability problems will
become more pronounced, because counter-revolutionary forces will
resolutely challenge the transition of power from autocracies to
democracies. Human rights activists in Arab MENA will more than ever
face harassment by the government forces. One cannot be optimistic that
the Arab leaders, who have exposed their resistance to democracy
promotion, would yield to the public pressures for political rights. Since
they are not likely to accept meaningful democratic reforms which might
weaken their hold on to power, and will not voluntarily step down from
power, the widespread protests and uprising will be expected in the Arab
Arab MENA is a region in need of drastic political reforms; but the
policies of the great powers towards Arab states have largely been
influenced by national security concerns, and not by the broad criterion of
democracy promotion in the region. The continued political
authoritarianism, violations of the basic human rights of Arab citizens,
economic mismanagement and widespread corruption of Arab rulers
should not be tolerated in the name of national security. Since they do not
realize that the risks of political destabilization are real, Arab governments
have been reluctant to take bold steps towards democratization. Some
rulers have only agreed with the minimum reforms viewed as absolutely
necessary to placate their opponents. The political elites have been more
ambivalent toward long-term democratic political reforms. Incumbent
rulers must be forced to address the core economic and political problems
facing their nations. The result of inaction will be a vicious circle of
violence and armed confrontation between different social and political
groups, with drastic repercussions for regional security.
So far no credible and full democratic political system has emerged
from Arab revolts (Egypt’s revolution is as yet unfinished). There are
basically two main schools of thought with respect to the future of the
Arab uprising. Some maintain that the next few years are likely to witness
a sharp increase in the incidences of political instability in Arab MENA.
Causes and Regional Security Implications of the Arab Awakening
Demands for social justice and political reforms will accelerate in the
region, and will bring ever more people into the streets in protest. The
second school of thought asserts that with the help of their oil wealth or
foreign aid from their allies, the dictators and autocrats in the monarchical
systems have a high probability of remaining in power, despite occasional
revolts by their disenchanted subjects.
It is difficult to foresee the future of the Arab revolutionary processes, in
the midst of the conflicting rhetoric and speculation. The pace and the
magnitude of changes depend on a multitude of economic and political
factors at national and international levels. Only one fact is clear: contrary
to the expectations and hopes of the ruling elites, Arab citizenry will no
longer be kept subservient. They have reawakened to ensure that their
dreams of living in democratic and prosperous societies will come true for
the younger generations, without being forced to flee their homelands as
refugees, immigrants or asylum-seekers. The masses have become
conscious of the undemocratic nature of their political systems, and
realized that they are entitled to a better and more dignified life. This is
why one should expect to see a sharp increase in the expression of
widespread grievances and political unrest in the Arab world.
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Islam has gained thousands of new followers in Europe. Moreover,
there is a new class of Islamic activists of convert origin who have been
increasingly visible in their efforts to mobilize support for Islamic
agendas. It will be argued that the politicization of converts has been the
result of widespread Islamophobia. Converts see themselves as the new
vanguard of Islam in Europe that dares to confront the unbelievers and
spread the word of the Quran.
Keywords: Conversion, Islam, Europe, Islamophobia, politicization,
Despite its largely negative portrayal in the media, Islam is rapidly
growing in Europe. Although the exact number of Muslim converts is not
known, thousands of native Europeans have converted to Islam. In total,
there should be around 200,000-350,000 converts, making up 1.5 to 2.5
percent of the European Union’s Muslim population.1 Most European
1 France has one of the largest Muslim convert communities which is estimated at
about 50,000 to 100,000 people out of a population of 3-4 million Muslims (Pew
Research Center, 2009). In 2006, there were 850,000 Muslims in the Netherlands,
including 12,000 converts (Statistics Netherlands, 2007). In Germany, the
community of converts ranges from 12,000 to 100,000 (Kandel, 2004) with the
total Muslim population set at around 3 million. In Great Britain, there were about
63,000 native converts out of a population of 1.6 million Muslims in the early
The Politicization of European Converts to Islam
converts grew up in modern and secular societies so naturally they adjust
Islam to fit their own needs. It is hardly a coincidence that many European
converts follow Sufi Islam which tends to be inclusive and moderate.2
Yet, there are growing signs of politicization among European converts
to Islam. Several prominent Muslim activists in Germany, Italy, Great
Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and even Russia are native
Europeans who converted to the Muslim faith. These converts have taken
a public stance on many pan-Islamic issues that have agitated Europe’s
Muslim communities (e.g. Prophet Muhammad cartoons controversy in
Western Europe during 2005 and 2006, Pope Benedict’s controversial
comments about Islam during a lecture at the University of Regensburg on
September 12, 2006). In fact, a new class of Muslim activists of convert
origin has come into being in European countries, a group that is
Over the past four decades, religious conversion has been the subject
of significant debate in Western academic world (Lofland & Stark, 1965;
Lofland, 1966; Singer, 1980; Rambo, 1993). John Lofland and Rodney
Stark defined conversion as a process by which “a person gives up one
perspective or ordered view of the world for another” (Lofland & Stark,
1965, p. 862). For the purpose of this analysis, therefore, a convert is one
who has changed membership from one religious group to become
Muslim. Several researchers have investigated the growing conversion of
Europeans to Islam (Poston, 1992; Kose, 1996; Roald, 2004; Van
Nieuwkerk, 2006; Zebiri, 2008). Some authors have even focused on those
converts who have been involved in jihadi activities (Khosrokhavar, 2002;
Roy, 2008; Uhlmann, 2008).
It is not easy to conduct research on Europe’s new Muslims because
open source information is not always available or reliable. Yet, data
gathered from interviews with converts can be a valuable and useful
source of information for political trends within the world of converts.
2000’s (Office for National Statistics, 2001). However, their number must have
increased because the Muslim population as a whole reached 2.4 million in 2009
(Kerbaj, 2009). Spain has an estimated 800,000 Muslims, roughly 20,000 of whom
are converts (Pingree & Abend, 2006). In Belgium there are about 500,000
Muslims of whom approximately 10,000 are converts (Bousetta & Bernes, 2007).
In Sweden, the estimated number of converts is 6,000 out of 300,000-350,000
Muslims (McGinty 2006). In neighboring Denmark, there are about 2,800 converts
out of 200,000 Muslims (Frøslev, 2010).
2 The word Sufi probably originates from the Arabic word saaf, meaning pure or
clean. Sufism is a mystical and spiritual movement within Islam in search of
communication with Allah through ascetism.
Chapter Two
Access to them is not easy. Indeed, the establishment of trust is pivotal to
obtain interviews. Following the London and Madrid bombings, and the
subsequent rise of Islamophobia in European countries, I found that many
converts have been increasingly reluctant to share information with
Nevertheless, it was possible to interview 11 converts (eight males and
three females) about their life experiences during field trips in Great
Britain, Greece, Russia and Netherlands from 2008 to 2011. The interviewees
have followed different interpretations of Islam: two are Salafis3, four are
adherents of Sufi Islam, and five have identified themselves simply as
“Muslims”. Interviews were open-ended and were conducted in English,
Greek, or Russian. The names of the interviewees were changed to assure
anonymity. Most interviewees were identified on the basis of local
knowledge and snowballing in which one respondent suggested other
individuals who might be useful to interview. The religious background of
the interviewees was Christian, but of different denominations. More
specifically, three were Greek Orthodox, two Russian Orthodox, one
Roman Catholic, two Anglican, one Episcopalian and two Presbyterian.
This research is qualitative due to the small sample size of European
converts. It follows that my findings are not necessarily representative of
European converts who constitute a diverse group.
The chapter will first describe the experience of conversion largely
based on the interviewees’ testimonies. It will then focus on prominent
Islamic activists of convert origin who have been increasingly visible in
their efforts to promote and defend Islamic agendas. Based on the
interviews conducted with converts and some activists’ accounts, I will
argue that post- September 11, 2001 Islamophobia has contributed to the
politicization of European converts. The chapter will finally summarize
the main findings.
The Experience of Conversion
The history of Islam is a history of conversions. Although Prophet
Mohammed’s preaching was not well received by the Meccans, he later
won many converts among the inhabitants of Medina and other places in
Arabia. After the Prophet’s death, the four righteous caliphs (632-661
A.D) spread Islam to the Mesopotamia and the Levant. Under the
dynasties of the Umayyads (661-750 A.D) and the Abbasids (750-1258
3 Salafism is an Islamic movement that calls modern Muslims to revert to authentic
Islam of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, the salaf or ‘ancestors’.
The Politicization of European Converts to Islam
A.D), mass conversions took place in Syria, North Africa, Persia and
Central Asia. According to Ira Lapidus, “Conversion by force, while not
unknown in Muslim countries was, in fact, rare. Muslim conquerors
ordinarily wished to dominate rather than convert, and most conversions to
Islam were voluntary” (Lapidus, 2002, p. 198).
Although Islam is practiced differently around the world, da’wa (call
to Islam) is an important part of a devout Muslim’s life. The believer is
commanded by the Quran (16: 125) “to invite (all) to the way of thy Lord
with wisdom and beautiful preaching.” Indeed, many European converts
were first introduced to Islam by Muslim colleagues, neighbors, partners
and friends. An increased number of converts also familiarized themselves
with Islam by using the Internet. Indeed, there is a large number of
websites which are dedicated solely to converting unbelievers (Shavit &
Wiesenbach, 2009). These websites present Islam as a universal religion
that is open to people of all backgrounds and provide advice to those who
want to convert.
In the study described in this chapter, interviewees were asked to
identify the single most important reason for their conversion. In most
cases, it was a traumatic event that took place in their life and made them
search for salvation and eventually led to their conversion. For example, a
young Dutch man thought that it was the “disappointment from an erotic
relationship” that made him question his faith (Mark, 2008); an English
woman believed that it was the death of her brother from drug abuse that
convinced her to “search for the truth” (Sarah, 2009); an English man
mentioned “troubles with the law” (John, 2009); and a Russian man
attributed his conversion to “drinking problems and his wife’s extramarital
affair” (Vadin, 2011). Some converts also embraced Islam in order to
rediscover their lost Muslim roots. For example, a Greek man converted to
Islam, although he was raised by his family as a Greek Orthodox, when he
discovered that his family was of Albanian Muslim descent (Hairulla,
2010). For some others, conversion happened because of their interaction
with Muslims; for example, David embraced Islam while serving with the
British army in Malaysia (David, 2010). Some, like the English convert
Steven, became curious about Islam after the 9/11 events; in his words, “I
wanted to find out whether Islam holds it right to kill civilians but I was
eventually attracted to Islam because it is a rational religion” (Steven,
2010). Finally, many Europeans converted to Islam for practical rather
than spiritual reasons (e.g. to marry a Muslim).
Little is known about the political and social background of European
converts since there is no available data. Based on the findings from this
study, it appears that converts come from both the lower strata of the
Chapter Two
society and the educated middle class (ten out of eleven interviewees).
Most of them converted in their teens or twenties (ten out of eleven
interviewees). Some of them had a leftist background (three out of eleven
interviewees), but after the fall of the Soviet Union they started
questioning the relevance of ideology. In the words of Russian convert
Ivan, “communism may have failed but I still believe we need solidarity
and unity for mankind and this is what Islam stands for” (Ivan, 2011). In
the post Cold War era, Islam has come to be seen as a religion of rebels.
Olivier Roy has drawn attention to the phenomenon of “protest
conversion” which can be divided into four categories: the politicized
rebels who admire the anti-imperialistic rhetoric of radical Islam, the
religious nomads who convert to Islam after experimenting with other
religions, individuals with criminal record who find refuge in Islam, and
members of minority groups (e.g. Blacks, Latinos and people of mixed
race) who are attracted to Islam because of its cross-racial appeal (Roy,
2004, p. 317).
Conversion to Islam is usually a life changing experience. The new
adherents adopt a Muslim name in order to prove their allegiance to their
new faith. They are also keen to demonstrate to their friends and relatives
their commitment to the Islamic way of life. Therefore, they very often
quit habits such as drinking alcohol and change their diet and eating
pattern. Conversion to Islam is not always acceptable to parents and other
family members. Many converts mentioned a difficult time they had with
parents and siblings when they announced to them their decision to
embrace Islam. A Greek convert said that “his family treated him as an
enemy” (Grigoris, 2009). In particular, female converts have been more
visible and thus more vulnerable to criticism and ridicule. As a Greek-
Canadian female explained, “My parents believed at first that I betrayed
my culture” (Maria, 2009). Female converts have faced strong criticism
for their decision to wear a hijab (the Islamic headscarf) which, from the
Western point of view, has largely symbolized oppression. In the words of
a Dutch woman, “People felt sorry for me and almost treated me as a
victim. To them, I was a woman who had been coerced by her husband
into giving up her rights” (Edith, 2008). Yet, converts often adjust Islam to
their needs. For example, a young Dutch convert admitted that he “cannot
pray five times per day” but at least he “stopped eating pork” (Mark,
The Politicization of European Converts to Islam
Converts as Islamic Activists
The term Islamic activism has been used by many scholars, but only a
few have attempted to define it. Quintan Wiktorowicz has described
Islamic activism as “the mobilization of contention to support Muslim
causes” (Wiktorowicz, 2004, p. 2). The International Crisis Group equates
Islamic activism with “the active assertion and promotion of beliefs,
prescriptions, laws, or policies that are held to be Islamic in character”
(International Crisis Group, 2005, p. 1). Moreover, it categorizes Islamic
activism into three main groups: political Islamism, missionary Islamic
activism, and jihadi activism. In this chapter, I define Islamic activism as
any effort to bring together organizations, individuals and/or resources for
the purpose of promoting or defending Islam-related issues.
In recent years, there has been a growing number of converts who are
involved in Islamic activism. They often feel more confident than Muslims
of immigrant origin to criticize government policies and defend Islamic
agendas. Non-Muslims are usually suspicious of converts, because they
“abandoned the religion of their forefathers” (Imam, 2009). The born-
Muslims have often mixed feelings towards converts: some are skeptical
of them, while others view them as mediators between authorities and the
Muslim community because they are part of two worlds (Mark, 2008;
Imam, 2009; Maria 2009; Ivan, 2011).
Islamist groups in Europe have systematically recruited converts and
promoted them to senior positions for several reasons. First, their existence
would implicitly demonstrate Islam’s superiority over other religions,
principally Christianity. In addition, European converts are “whitening”
the Islamist movement and thus making it more acceptable to society and
the authorities. In addition, well-educated and high-skilled converts
constitute a strategic asset for Islamist groups, because they possess
valuable organizational skills. In particular, the London-based Hizb ut-
Tahrir (the Islamic Party of Liberation) has recruited a number of converts
who tend to be middle-class and highly educated. The former chairman of
the United Kingdom Executive Committee, the Canadian Jamal Harwood,
is one of them. Al Muhajiroun, an offshoot of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Great
Britain that was dissolved in 2004, also recruited converts; for instance,
the former spokesman of al Muhajiroun was Simon (or Suleiman) Keeler,
a British convert.
In addition to those who have joined Islamist groups, there are
individual converts who have become involved in activism. Yvonne
Ridley, a British journalist who converted to Islam two years after being
freed from Taliban captivity in October 2001, is one of the most well-
Chapter Two
known Islamic activists in Europe. In June 2004, Ridley ran as a candidate
in European Parliament elections for the Respect coalition party. The party
had been established by former Labour MP George Galloway together
with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the Revolutionary Communist
Party of Britain, and prominent members of the Muslim Association of
Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain. The party manifesto condemns
“Islamophobia and the demonization of Muslim communities” (Respect,
2010). Ridley herself has turned into a controversial figure, referring to
Shamil Basayev as a rebel leader who “led an admirable fight to bring
independence to Chechnya” (Ridley, 2006a) and defending Abu Musab al-
Zarqawi for his 2005 Amman bombings in Jordan (Ridley, 2005). In
March 2009, Ridley co-founded with Galloway the pro-Hamas charity
Viva Palestina.
Pierre Vogel (aka Abu Hamza) is another famous Islamic activist. He
was born in Germany and converted to Islam at the age of 23 while he was
a professional boxer. After studying under a scholarship for two years in
Mecca, Vogel returned to Germany and started preaching Salafi Islam
(Ehrhardt, 2007). Vogel has used the news media to reach a younger
audience of Muslims. In December 2009, the Swiss authorities banned him
from attending a demonstration against the minaret ban in Bern. He has
claimed that the membership of the ummah (the worldwide Muslim
community of believers) takes priority over nationality, which is a view
that goes against the principles of modern European political and legal
culture (Vogel, 2008). Due to his anti-integration messages, the 34-year
old self-appointed imam has been monitored by the German security
services that worry about radicalism among the country’s large Muslim
community (Brandt & Popp, 2010).
Abdul-Jabbar van de Ven is a leading Islamic activist in the
Netherlands. He converted from Catholicism to Islam at the age of 14. He
studied in Amman and Medina before returning to the Netherlands. He has
preached Islam in the Salafi-oriented al-Fourqaan mosque in Eindhoven
which has allegedly been linked to jihadi groups. Like Pierre Vogel, Van
de Ven has used the Internet to reach out to young Muslims. He has also
been known for his controversial statements regarding the assassination of
Theo van Gogh (NovaTV, 2004). Indeed, Van de Ven was implicated in
the case of Jason Walters, a radical Dutch-American convert, who was a
member of the notorious Hofstad group which killed the Dutch artist
(Silber, 2012).
The Italian convert Hamza Roberto Riccardo represents the older
generation of converts. He is one of the founders of the Union of Islamic
Communities in Italy and former spokesman of the European Muslim