As the attack on Friday on a supermarket on New Zealand by an Isis sympathiser established, Isis’s radical ideology continues to have strong allure for some disaffected Muslims in the west. Isis ideology didn’t die with the demise of Isil and its intentions to build a caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
Isis continues to radicalise people who are vulnerable to anti-Western rhetoric. Social media, the dark web, and encrypted platforms continue to aid in the propagation of its ideology around the world.
The Sri Lankan-born national who carried out the terrorist act on Friday had previously been found to have Isis content on his own computing devices and had been barred from accessing social media sites for this reason.
That is why we should be hesitant of labelling him a “lone wolf.” He may have acted alone, with no direct help from a terrorist organisation. However, his ideology and radicalization process are linked to worldwide organisations that are purposefully promoting his terrible world view and attracting new devotees to their cause.
Why Isis is so rigid to beat
While the Covid-19 pandemic might have had a provisional chilling effect on extremism, there are concerns that terrorism may become a bigger threat globally in the post-pandemic future.
Isis was never completely defeated. Because of their military defeats in Iraq and Syria, the threat has spread to other nations, including Afghanistan. Following the Taliban’s announcement of an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan, there is international fear about a resurgence of Islamic violence.
Isis has no friends in the Taliban, and there already has been some collaboration with the new Taliban government for protecting Kabul airport from Isis strikes.However, the failure of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan will have spurred radicals to pursue their global goal for strife between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples.
NZ’s global labours to fight online terrorists
New Zealand is already exploring international collaborations, such as the Christchurch Call, to assist in the elimination of internet terrorism.
Some progress has been made, including the reform of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, the development of a crisis response protocol for effective cooperation in the event of terrorist incidents with an online component, and increased civil society participation in the online counter-terrorism effort.
However, the threat landscape is constantly changing.There is now more focus on the role of social media algorithms in leading people to extremist content, as well as the ongoing global danger from far-right groups, such as the attack on the US Capitol earlier this year, which was organised online.
Prime Minister Ardern’s recent request for “ethical algorithms” to reduce the risk and dissemination of extremist internet content emphasises the issue’s relevance to the New Zealand government.
New Zealand has also agreed to join the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, which directs countries in drafting comprehensive national legislation to combat online crime.It also establishes a framework for international collaboration in combating violent extremism, such as investigations into extremism on social media and the dark web.
Aside from international initiatives, the government of New Zealand is building a national centre of brilliance on fierce extremism to increase research and more effective counter-terrorism strategy.
Why stopping attacks is so stimulating
The kind of attack carried out in New Zealand on Friday is extremely tough to prevent. It comes after a string of similar attacks, including the murder of UK soldier Lee Rigby in 2013 and the more recent 2017 London Bridge assault, in which an Islamic fanatic killed eight people with a truck and a knife.
It calls into question the role of New Zealand’s security services. The Auckland supermarket attacker had been checked for extremist beliefs since 2017 – and was being shadowedeven by police on Friday before he started stabbing people, which use to be how they were capableof shooting him in less than a minute.This, however, highlights certain inherent problems in New Zealand’s and the world’s counter-terrorism efforts.
The first issue is a lack of resources. Despite the fact that there are relatively few radicals in New Zealand, security agencies nonetheless find it difficult to maintain 24-hour surveillance of persons who may plan to do violent crimes.
It is still difficult to prevent offenders from acting on their violent ideas, particularly in random attacks like the one in Auckland, and it is impossible to forecast when or if their beliefs will be translated into action.
More extensive and intrusive electronic surveillance of internet platforms is one approach, but democratic societies like New Zealand are naturally hesitant to deploy more heavy-handed techniques, especially when entire populations may feel targeted.
Countering extremism may exacerbate divide and hostility, as New Zealand policymakers discovered in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque attacks.
New Zealand’s security forces cannot, and should not, arrest and detain anyone solely because of their religious views. This is the ultimate unsolvable issue in modern counter-terrorism.
Social unity is the key
Community resilience and solidarity may be the best and only path forward in the face of such attacks. The Muslim community in New Zealand has already expressed its outrage at this heinous act of violence and will be concerned about any spike in anti-Muslim sentiment as a result of it.
Following the Christchurch attacks, New Zealand was able to take a worldwide lead, and the national unity displayed in the aftermath of the assault served as a lesson for other countries dealing with the scourge of terrorism.
The terrorist incident on Friday occurred against the backdrop of the US and coalition withdrawal from Afghanistan, as well as the attack on Kabul airport by Isis-K, an Afghan offshoot of Isis, which murdered 13 US military members and over 150 civilians.
Any concrete links between terrorism in Central Asia and the Auckland attack would be a stretch. However, it demonstrates that Isis continues to recruit online and is more difficult to defeat there than on the battlefield.