Global Islamism Monitor - No. 40

July 5, 2017

In early June, in what has since become a full-blown regional crisis, five separate Arab states — Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — all formally severed their diplomatic ties to the Emirate of Qatar. At issue, according to officials in Riyadh and other regional capitals, is the Qatari government's extensive support for Islamic extremist groups (including the Palestinian Hamas movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban and elements of al-Qaeda) as well as the country's cozy relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The rupture has taken the form of a de facto boycot, including a cessation of air travel, a closure of borders, and a call those countries' citizens and businesses to vacate the country. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have invoked the "national security" exemption of the World Trade Organization's rules to justify their isolation of Doha.

Subsequently, in late June, Saudi Arabia issued a list of 13 demands that Qatar must meet in order to resolve the current crisis, including a cessation of contacts with the Brotherhood, a shuttering of state television station al-Jazeera, which has been accused of spreading extremist ideology, and a scaling back of the kingdom's extensive relations with Iran. (
New York Times, June 5, 2017; London Guardian, June 23, 2017; London Asharq Al-Awsat, July 1, 2017)


Pakistan has long served as a major supporter of various Islamist groups, including the Taliban and various jihadi elements active against regional rival India. Of late, however, the country has found itself the target of the Islamic State, and this appears to have spurred the country's traditionally conservative religious establishment into action - of a sort. At a recent seminar hosted by the International Islamic University in Islamabad, an array of religious scholars issued a joint fatwa, or religious ruling, declaring suicide attacks and the use of force to impose Islamic law to be "haram," or forbidden. The Pakistani state, the fatwa made clear, was the sole legitimate arbiter of "jihad," and all other forms of the practice - such as the campaign now being waged against Islamabad by ISIS - were tantamount to treason and religious apostasy. (Islamabad
The News, May 27, 2017)


Across the border in Afghanistan, meanwhile, the Taliban has stepped up its targeting of religious scholars. While religious scholars have long been a target of the Islamist movement, killings of ulema have surged under the leadership of current Taliban chief Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada. The reason is logical: the Taliban, now making a strategic comeback in Afghanistan, is seeking to eliminate countervailing narratives to its legitimacy. "The reason the Taliban resort to such acts is that they want to make sure their legitimacy is not questioned by the sermons of these ulema," explains Afghan scholar Mohammad Moheq. "The only thing that undermines their legitimacy is the ability and power of these ulema if they preach and argue against them... Only they can challenge the Taliban's ideology, not the liberal scholars or others, and the Taliban understand that." (
New York Times, May 28, 2017)


Is Nigeria's most notorious Islamist group making a comeback? Despite recent claims by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari that it had been decisively defeated, Islamist terror group Boko Haram recently attacked the city of Maiduguri in a coordinated assault that marked the most serious attack on the northeastern Nigerian regional capital in over a year-and-a-half. During the past 8 years, Maiduguri has been the "epicenter" of the conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian state, which has claimed the lives of 20,000 people and displaced 2.7 million people so far. (
Reuters, June 7, 2017)


Building upon its budding presence in the Philippines, the Islamic State terrorist group is poised to expand into Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. That was the warning given by General Gatot Nurmantiyo, Jakarta's military chief, who noted that, "in almost every [Indonesian] province... there are already IS cells, but they are sleeper cells." This latent capacity could be activated by the current unrest buffeting the Philippines, Nurmantiyo noted, because "it's easy to jump" from one country to the other - raising the possibility that sleeper cells could be "activated" in Indonesia in the near future, as ISIS solidifies its foothold in Southeast Asia. (
Reuters, June 13, 2017)

Related Categories: Middle East; Africa; Southeast Asia; South Asia; Afghanistan; Countering Islamic Extremism Project

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