Intelligence Monitoring of Web Sites

The following is the conclusion of a research paper done by the India-based 'South Asia Anlysis Group' called "Islam & the WWW". The author was an Additional Secretary (retd) for the Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and presently is Director at the 'Institute For Topical Studies', Chennai, India. It is a practical example of how intelligence organisations study and monitor Islamic material on the web, as well as those who logon to such sites. It's level of detail is quite shocking, you may even be familiar with some of the sites mentioned in the study.


Islam & The World Wide Web

A search of the World Wide Web (WWW), even if not very exhaustive, leads to about 1,500 sites of Islamic organisations. Most of them have the benign objective of helping in a better understanding of Islam among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. They contain interpretations of the holy Koran, explanations of Islamic religious traditions and practices and articles on the contribution of Islam to science and fine arts etc. They also provide a useful database of the Muslim scientists, thinkers and women engineers of the world, the Muslim media and so on.

The following conclusions emerge from their study:

* A large majority of them are Sunni and Wahabi sites, with very few Shia or Iran-based ones. Some are anti-Ahmadiya.

* The preponderance of sites run by members of the Muslim community of the US. The next in number are those of Western Europe, Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan.

* There is a large network of Muslim Students' Associations in US universities. All of them have their sites.

The US also has some sites meant for Muslim members of the US armed forces. There is one site, called Muslim Military Members (MMM), which enrols adherents from the Muslims serving in the armed forces of other countries all over the world.

It describes its aim as follows: " The MMM is an information source for brothers and sisters serving in the armed forces. We are a gathering point. A place where information is disseminated. A means to keep people informed. Through MMM, you will stay informed of different events, resources and news items to help you survive as a Muslim in the armed forces. The MMM is not an official organisation, but rather a loose association of military personnel and those in the service of military personnel. The cost of the website is provided freely as a service by the Islamic Information Office, paid by Muntadanet.Inc."

* The comparatively fewer sites from West Asia and North Africa could be explained by the restrictions there on non-government organisations (NGOs) and also possibly by local curbs on access to the Internet.

* Surprisingly, while there are about 50 sites focussing on the problems and history of the Muslims of Jammu & Kashmir, one noticed only three sites relating to the Muslims in the rest of India-- those of the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni, the Indian Muslim Relief Committee and the "Islamic Voice", a journal published from Bangalore. It is possible there are many more sites, but these were not picked up by the search engines.

* While there are many sites to discuss the relations of Islam with Christianity and Judaism, one did not come across any on relations with Hinduism.

There are about 150 sites relating to the so-called jihad. The majority of them are run by Muslim extremist organisations in different parts of the world which have taken to violence to achieve their political and/ or religious objectives. Some are also kept by individual Muslims with assumed names such as Abu Mansoor, Abu Mujahid, Abu Jindal etc.

An organisation called the Jihad Webring seeks to bring together all international jihadi organisations to provide a common reference and navigation point. These jihadi sites undertake the following services:

* Dissemination of information regarding the jihad in different countries.

* Instructions on how to become a Mujahideen, how to manufacture explosives etc.

* Database on the availability of arms and ammunition for purchase, including the prices. The sites providing this information are apparently run by Muslims in the US, because the arms sellers recommended by them are all based in the US.

* A bibliography of articles on urban warfare and low-intensity conflicts, which had appeared in the military and strategic journals of the US. A list of 266 such articles is available. Many of them have been collated from the US Marine Corps Doctrine Publications, the Marine Corps Warfighting Publications, the Marine Corps Reference Publications and the US Army Field Manuals. One can directly access many of these articles at the Army Doctrine and Training Digital Library sites, by just clicking on the relevant titles.

* Examples of articles collated: Operations in a Low Intensity Conflict; Physical Security; Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield; Intelligence Officers' Handbook; Military Operations in Built-up Areas; Urban Warfare Communications; Air Operations in Low Intensity Conflicts; Bomb Protection Handbook; Chemical/Biological/Radiological Incident Handbook, purported to have been prepared by the CIA; Chemical Warfare Handbook of the Marine Corps Institute; Chemical Warfare Agents; Military Intelligence--Using Organic Assets; Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare, purported to have been prepared by the CIA's Psywar Division for use in Nicaragua; Dealing With Vehicle Hijacking Situations; Emergency Response to Terrorism; Media Facilitation; Public Affairs Operations; Media Relations; Building a Newspaper--Tactics, Techniques and Procedures; Combat Neurosis etc

Nearly one-third of the jihadi websites relate to Kashmir. These are run by indigenous Kashmiri organisations such as the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Pakistan-based terrorist organisations such as the Markaz Dawa Al Irshad and its militant wing, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM--still under construction) etc, Western-based Kashmiri organisations such as the Kashmir American Council, the Kashmir Canadian Council etc, Kashmiri activists based abroad such as Ajaz Siraj, moderator of the Kashnet, Dr.Ayub Thakur of the World Kashmir Freedom Movement, Azmat A.Khan, Secretary-General, JKLF,UK/Europe, Bashir Siraj of the Kashmir Forum etc Some Western personalities taking interest in the Kashmir issue such as Lord Avebury of the UK and Ms. Karen Parker of the US have their own sites. Some of the Kashmiri sites seem to have been constructed and to be run by a Colorado-based Internet Service Provider with the typical Hindu name of Indra's Net.

Amongst other jihadi organisations active in the WWW are those of Chechnya, which maintain their sites in eight different languages, with video/audio coverage of the fighting, scenes from the training camps, interviews with the Mujahideen etc, Kosovo, Indonesia and the Xinjiang province of China. One did not come across any sites of the jihadi organisations of the Central Asian Republics. Interestingly, the Uighur jihadi organisations of Xinjiang seem to operate as lone wolves, with no links to other jihadi groups. No satisfactory explanation for this is available.

The Taliban Government of Afghanistan used to have its own site maintained apparently from Islamabad. After the enforcement of the UN sanctions against the Taliban in November last, this has disappeared. Now, the site carries a message that due to difficulties in loading and maintaining the site directly from Afghanistan, it has been discontinued. The visitors are advised to read the "Dharb-e-M'umin", an online electronic monthly, for news about Afghanistan, Kashmir and Chechnya. Amongst organisations of West Asia and North Africa having their own sites are the Hamas, the Hizbollah, the Islamic Salvation Front of Algeria etc.

Some of the jihadi sites are in the Malaysian language. One does not know whether they are about jihad in Malaysia or Indonesia. Repeated searches did not throw up any site of the Al Ummah of Tamil Nadu. However, they led to an interesting analysis of the Hindu-Muslim communal riots over the location of a Hindu temple in Penang in March, 1999. It has expressed anxiety over the tensions created by the birth of the Al Ummah in Tamil Nadu on the relations between the Tamil Hindus and Muslims of Malaysia.

Surprisingly, one came across very few references to Osama bin Laden in the jihadi websites. There are far more references to the late Mohd.Azzam, a Palestinian who, along with bin Laden, was quite active during the Afghan war and who was mysteriously killed in an explosion in Peshawar in the late 1980s.The complete text of a book on jihad by Azzam is available on the web.

It would be difficult to estimate the impact of these jihadi web sites on the ground situation in terrorism-affected areas. In regions such as Chechnya, where the Russians don't allow foreign journalists, the web sites definitely become reference points for outside people wanting to have a version different from that of the Russians. One does not know in how many instances, the terrorists were established to have learnt their tradecraft from the web sites. However, it is important for the security agencies to closely monitor the jihadi sites. It would also be advisable to monitor the links, if any, of the Al Ummah with jihadi elements in Malaysia and to look for possible flow of funds to the Al Ummah from Malaysia.

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