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CoRE im Gespräch mit...

CoRE im Gespräch mit... ist eine von Serie Experten-Interviews mit führenden internationalen Wissenschaftlern. Sie dienen dazu, die Forschung der Wissenschaftler, die ganz unterschiedliche Hintergründe haben, genauer zu beleuchten. Es geht darum, Rat zu Zukunftsthemen in der Forschung zu geben und generelle Eindrücke sowie kürzlich zurückliegenden in der Radikalisierungs- und Extremismusforschung zu beurteilen und zu vermitteln.


In this expert interview, Bruce Hoffmann - one of the most influential advisors on politics and professor of security studies at Georgetown University - talks about the third edition of his acclaimed book Inside Terrorism (2017, Columbia University Press) which was just published in German by S. Fischer on March 27. In this context, he speaks also about current events and historical trajectories of terrorism. His profound clarity, experience and knowledge on the scholarship of the study of terrorism, his methods, own visions, and his motivation to study the field are shown throughout the interview.

The Ease of Radicalization in Times of Changing
Conflict, Violence and Society

"I think people should be entitled to be as radical and extremist as legally permissible. It's that when they use violence to achieve those aims then it crosses the line: then it becomes terrorism."

CoRE Expert-Interview with Professor Bruce Hoffman (11 April 2019)

The Ease of Radicalization in Times of Changing Conflict, Violence and Society

"I think people should be entitled to be as radical and extremist as legally permissible. It's that when they use violence to achieve those aims then it crosses the line: then it becomes terrorism."


CoRE Expert-Interview with Professor Bruce Hoffman (11 April 2019)


Nina Lutterjohann (N.L.).: Dear Professor Hoffman, thank you so much for finding the time and agreeing to do this CoRE expert interview with me. I'm truly very honored to have the opportunity to speak with you on this excellent occasion. Your third edition of Inside Terrorism has just been published last week (March 2019) by S. Fischer Verlag in Germany.

Bruce Hoffman (B.H.): (e.g.) You are very welcome. And, yes, I am thrilled with the German language publication of my book-with the different, but very accurate, title of Terrorismus: der unerklärte Krieg.

N.L.: I phrase the first two questions at once, with a tiny bit of background to why I ask. As you just mentioned, the third edition of Inside Terrorism (first edition 1998, second edition 2006, and third edition in 2017) just came out in German. I have the second edition (2008 in German) right here with me. Could you expand on the differences between the two editions? I also ask this question because at the end of the second edition, which I have here with me, among many other things, you summarize that terrorism has existed for 2000 years and it has survived so well because it has been so adaptable, we in our societies struggle to find to respond in an appropriate and innovative way. Now I come to the second question. Last week I attended a conference in North America and during my travel I was also able to visit the 9/11 memorial site. I mentioned 9/11 because many it is a wide perception that this was the beginning of a new era, the era of terrorism. What would be your advice for us as ('young') scholars be - what should we be really focussing on in our research?

B.H.: I start with the first question about Inside Terrorism. Inside Terrorism, I believe, is unique because it has been in print throughout the past 21 years; I completed the first edition in 1997 and it was first published in the US and the UK in 1998 and then in Germany in 1999, and then in a dozen other countries in following years. As you can imagine in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 2001 attacks, and for two or three years later, my publishers were very anxious for an update and they were pressing me that I bring it up to date but I didn't think that was necessary because I thought that from that seminal incident nothing really had changed in my analysis, specifically that terrorism motivated and justified by religious imperatives, had already become the driving force behind this violent phenomenon. So, there was nothing major to change from the first edition since it had already argued that religious terrorism would completely transform the nature of terrorism and indeed international security and clearly, 9/11 - the September 11 2011 attacks - proved that: hence I didn't think there was any other major changes to really discuss.

I had also discussed the symbiotic relationship between terrorism and the media which we also saw prevalent on 9/11; and I had already discussed how religiously-inspired terrorism would lead to terrorist incidents with higher levels of lethality and that, too, was demonstrated.

So, really it wasn't until nearly 10 years after the first edition was published that I finally agreed with my publisher it was time for a second edition. And that second edition does, you may recall, focus very much on terrorist exploitation of the internet. Of course, that really hadn't yet occurred in the late 1990s, so that profound change in terrorist communication-and recruitment and radicalization-did necessitate a thoroughly revised. The emergence of suicide terrorism, which had been a relatively infrequent and a rare terrorist tactic when I had finished the first edition at the end of the 20th Century had of course became perhaps the preferred terrorist tactic in the 21st century. And then of course there were the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq which were also changing the nature of terrorism. Further, the melding together of a variety of non-state modes of conflict-terrorism, guerrilla warfare, and insurgency-required greater definitional rigor to differentiate between them and this too was incorporated into the second edition. And then, again, it was another 10 years before it was time to write the third edition and that of course addressed not only the continued use of the internet by terrorists but their high effective exploitation of new social media platforms-as ISIS demonstrated. The third edition of course also had to address the emergence of ISIS and the declaration of the Caliphate and the Islamic state and the implications this had on the nature of character of terrorism; it had to address the increased salience of lone wolves as well. Although I had already adjusted the definition used in the first edition of Inside Terrorism to acknowledge the emergence of the lone wolf phenomenon in the second edition, I did not have to make any further definitional adjustments in the third edition.

I did feel, however, that I had to explore the lone wolf phenomenon in more detail in the third edition, and then also discuss the foreign fighter threat evidenced by ISIS's success in recruiting terrorists from some 120 countries throughout the world, about two thirds of the nation member-states in the United Nations (UN). And also, I felt I had to return to further explain two trends that at one point seemed to be in decline but I think had resurfaced with great prominence: one was state-sponsored terrorism and the other was potential terrorist use of chemical weapons in particular but also the spectrum of whether things had changed in terms of the likelihood of terrorists using biological or radiological or perhaps had an interest in nuclear weapons. That's how the third edition is different to the previous ones. The first edition was 90,000 words; I think now, at least the English language third edition is about more than 260,000 words. It is thus probably nearly three times longer than the first edition, that is to say that it's almost three books in essence about terrorism.

And I think one can read Inside Terrorism as a history of terrorism since I am taking a historian's perspective and you can read it as a history of terrorism, especially in modern times because so much of the book focuses on dimensions of terrorism that we had forgotten and we now are again intensely interested in, such as white power, white nationalism, and white supremacism. That was a very large part of the first, and even the second editions. The third edition provides, I think, important knowledge on terrorism in the Cold War era and its enormous influence and impact it had on subsequent generations of terrorism. So, in itself the newest edition of Inside Terrorism essentially encapsulates or captures as part of a continuum or progression our modern experience with this particular phenomenon.

In terms of new directions and what young scholars should focus on - in retrospect, nothing of my career was really planned, so it is difficult to advise other scholars how to make the career or research choices they will inevitably face. Fate played an enormous role in my academic trajectory and career and it all comes down to good fortune really. And I think looking back now that I was enormously fortunate that I started my career at the RAND Corporation in the early 1980s because that was a place that was intellectually, especially in the field of terrorism, enormously curious and allowed researchers essentially to go off into whatever research directions they wished. In the early 1980s, the Western European terrorist scene was completely dominant by radical left-wing, Marxist-Leninist terrorist organisations like the Red Army Faction (RAF) or the Red Brigades or the Action Directe. When I first came to RAND, I decided therefore to focus on something different.

My first terrorism publication I had was on right-wing terrorism in Europe (1982 followed by publications like Right-Wing Terrorism in Europe since 1980, RAND, 1984), a topic that is of enormous relevance today. So, one could go into whatever direction one wanted to. I wrote about the Anti-Castro Cuban movement that was very interesting, as it was of course a terrorist movement financed by the United States (US) [the existence of] which was heavily denied; I wrote about the Jewish Defence League, for example, on Recent Trends and Future Prospects of Terrorism in the United States (RAND, 1988), which focused on the threat from white supremacist/far right terrorists in America; and also about the rise of Shia Islamist terrorism during that period. At RAND back then what was really valued was someone, as we say in American baseball, who was a utility player, who wasn't really knowledgeable about one particular region - although I always had a long-standing research interest in the Middle East - but who had the intellectual ability to change and focus on other regions and different threats. While at RAND, I basically went where the trends were emerging that I was able to follow what was developing in terrorism. So, I was enormously lucky in that respect. And I think today we see that the past two decades plus focused on Salafi-Jihadi terrorism but is now increasingly focusing on the rise of white power terrorism and anti-immigration violence. Not that the Salafi-Jihadi threat is going away but rather - whereas for most of the past 20 years we really only had one threat to focus on, which was the Al Qaida threat, but then had expanded five years ago to the ISIS threat we see also today - it's now violence from the far-right but also in the future the continued proliferation of Shia terrorism and potentially of Shia Foreign fighters that is competing for our attention.

N.L.: Just following up on the two trends here - we see clearly the immigration/migration crisis in Europe, triggered by the events in Syria - but how do you see the rise of militant Jihadi groups in Syria connected to the emergence of white power. Where and how do they overlap exactly, would you say?

B.H.: Two things: One, when we think about ISIS - as President Trump and many others in Washington D.C. have declared that the Caliphate has been defeated and the Islamic State has been eliminated - and that may be true but terrorism and territory had never been coterminous. In other words, in order to be a terrorist organisation, you do not need to hold territory, and this was actually quite unique in the annals of terrorism that this occurred with the 2014 declaration of the Islamic state, the Caliphate.

So even though the Islamic state or the Caliphate might have now disappeared it does not mean that the threat from ISIS has gone away or has been completely eliminated and I'm sure that we will see a continuation of violence from ISIS because any terrorist group derives its strength from its ideology and I think the fundamental grievances and motivations that have animated ISIS in the first place, that those dynamics have not changed at all. In the Middle East, a number of anti-Islamic authoritarian dictatorships still exist that will continue to motivate, inspire and animate terrorism in that region.

In terms of the synergy as it were - it is not directly between the white supremacists and the white nationalists and ISIS but I think it is enormously interesting that the two most consequential trends we arguably see in terrorism today - the terrorist use of the internet and of social media and the lone wolf phenomenon - both originated with American white supremacist organisations in the early 1980s Back then, as a means to communicate with one another. American Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the Ku-Klux Klan and white supremacists began to use very primitive computer bulletin boards as communications platforms. And then after these groups suffered from FBI infiltration and informants that brought these groups down -- rather than adopt the same cell structures and leader-led strategies - the white supremacists adopted what they called leaderless resistance but in essence was precisely the lone wolf strategy we see so evident today. With ISIS, we see the use of social media and lone wolf strategy evident in the recent tragic of the shootings in the two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

N.L: These are two developments that people are currently very concerned about in Germany: this is, of course, comparing religious - especially Islamist - forms of extremism with political forms. Do you see this left-wing form of extremism also as prevalent in the US as other forms? It [left-wing radicalization or extremism] here seems to be a big topic, or at least it is debated and discussed in Europe.

B.H.: Well, don't forget there is very strong religious element present justifying and legitimizing white supremacists' violence. My core definition or basic definition of terrorism motivated by religion is when scripture or some holy text is used to justify or legitimize violence and/or when clerics have a role in blessing or justifying violence and this also clearly exists in certain strains of white power and white supremacy. I mean, there are wholly entirely secular terrorist movements, certainly anarchist movements, or very small groups that one sees coalesce on the far left, but they are a shadow of those types of organisations as they existed in the 1960s and 1970s, and at the beginning of the 1980s. At its height, the Red Army Fraction never had more than three dozen terrorists in its ranks-actual trigger pullers or bomb pullers. The Red Brigades were a comparatively much larger terrorist movement but even still that never had more than 400 hard core terrorists. Action Directe in France had maybe a dozen. Whether contemporary far more amorphous, more linear movements like Antifa or the Black Bloc will evolve into bona fide terrorist organizations is still very much unclear. In any event, what I mean is that it's almost impossible to compare these small, hierarchical groups of the cold war era with o the kinds of the very diffuse, amorphous, transnational terrorist movements we see today, whether they are Salafi-Jihadi or whether they are white power or white supremacists. They are a lot less cohesive but they have a uniquely transnational, global dimension, at least when you look at ISIS. The Red Army Faction had 36 terrorists, and was quite threatening, while ISIS attracted at least 40,000 foreign fighters in addition to the local fighters that they had. So, terrorism is today on a very different scale than it was in the 20th century, both numerically, but also in the means of secure communication, the exploitation of social media and the ease of radicalization and the ease of the dissemination of terrorist propaganda, which was much more challenging 30 years ago.

N.L.: In what way was terrorism more challenging in the past? You say now that radicalisation is more prevalent and despite using other terms you tend to focus more on the terminology of terrorism. Why do you seem to prefer to use it?

B.H.: The more one thinks about it, there is disagreement over many of the terms that are very common in politics. I mean by that there are very different definitions used for democracy, there are different definitions of totalitarianism, different definitions of communism.

So, I'm not sure we shouldn't necessarily expect that there should be one, uniformly common or holistic definition or explanation for terrorism. But at the same time, we don't shy away from using terms like democracy or fascism, or authoritarianism. Even though one might disagree on what exactly they mean they are still very useful in describing a general phenomenon and that's why I believe use the word terrorism to describe that phenomenon remain both relevant and useful. The word terrorism certainly has acquired a much more negative, pejorative tone than more neutral types of phrases, like guerrilla or irregular warfare, but I think the purpose of terrorism is to terrorise in the service of a political ideal or objective. It always mystifies me that the word is either used too promiscuously to embrace things that clearly have absolutely no political motive. But at the same time, then terrorism is often used too narrowly and often the media will refuse to call terrorists terrorists and refuses to use that label when an act of violence they are reporting is clearly designed to intimidate or coerce, to generate fear and anxiety as a means to attaining power and achieving political change.

N.L.: How come - when you think we deal with an ease of radicalization these days, although we seem to look back at a long history of violence in both good and bad ways?

B.H.: Well, I think, you know, in the past, the reach of terrorism propaganda platforms was far more limited and less effective, it basically was like throwing a bottle with message in it into the ocean and you hoped it washed ashore and somebody picked it up and was radicalized by reading that message.

Terrorist communications today uses social media to tap into increasingly concentric circles and networks of friends and associates and anyone people whom the terrorist might know. In other words, these concentric circles of intimacy are mined, exploited and taken advantage of by tech-savvy groups like ISIS and therefore reach a much wider audience than in the past. With greater immediacy, very effectively, and completely inexpensively terrorists now have this reach, and also, they are be able to tailor their message to appeal to a specific demographic or type of person they want to recruit. So, they don't have to have a one-size-fits-all message like in the past; they can get to know the audience they are attempting to radicalize and recruit and therefore adjust and adapt the message to ensure that the message appeals to these targeted individuals.

So, I think we often fail to understand or appreciate that terrorism doesn't occur in a vacuum. Terrorism reflects trends in society and technological advancements and the most effective terrorists harness those trends for their own purposes and we see exactly this happening over the past more than twenty years when terrorists first seized upon the internet a means of radicalization, fundraising and recruitment which we had then thought would be this enormous engine of education and enlightenment. But terrorists have used the internet for purposes of information laundering, to present their own false narratives, to adjust the truth in a manner that's favourable to their recruitment and their image. And now we see how terrorists have been able to exploit this massive emergence of social media over the past few years to recruit on an unprecedented international level and numerical scale.

N.L.: When we mention terrorism in different geographical regions across continents - staying generally here - let's say in parts of Africa and (Central) Asia, partially the Middle East but also Europe - of course there are different facets of what would happen in certain regions which is already different due to the specific local group characteristics that we determine - but with regard to the internet again, do you find that given the fact that we are so spoiled in the Western world by having so much access to the digital media I'm wondering a bit what you think about how the internet can be so persuasive in regions where this is less common or possible, but if this is so, how is the internet then mainly used to pursue the above?

B.H.: No, I think that's been a huge advantage. I mean there are many places in Africa where people have cell phones that have connectivity but don't have electricity in their homes, so they go to a communal center to charge their cell phones and obviously their cell phones or their handhelds are internet-accessible and I think that's what we fail to understand. You don't have to have, you know, a nice desktop or fancy laptop, computer or tablet to access terrorism websites or terrorism media or terrorism sites on social media. Or for that matter, for terrorists to reach out to you. Today, on can do that now through one's hand-held phone.

This is the remarkable thing that a hand-held phone is more powerful than the computers of just a few years ago or even of the Apollo flights that went to the Moon for example. Well over a decade ago when I was doing fieldwork in Indonesia for example, I learned that one of the incentives in joining radical groups is that recruits were given what was then given a rather more primitive cell phone that had only spotty internet connection. But it was a tremendous incentive to join the terrorist group. Firstly, it was a mark of status just to possess a cell phone; secondly, these phones were not very expensive, and the terrorist group was able to director sermons and propaganda and other information to these individuals even if they lacked a computer at home. So, this is the phenomenon even in the Southern hemisphere in less developed countries where terrorists very quickly seized on connectivity, and cell phones as in essence as a vehicle for dissemination of information and propaganda, radicalization and recruitment.

N.L.: Here's a prototypical question. When recalling the above answer that it is a rather globally similar phenomenon - by that I refer to the affinity to rather use the cell phone for the same purposes, or as we do use the computer in the Western world (as well as the cell phone) - but I'm wondering now more generally why this is happening that includes the already mentioned by you lone-wolf phenomenon. Is the affinity to engage in terrorist acts generally more due to the aspects socialisation, as for example peer-group pressure, or due to a kind of general frustration of young people at the moment (e.g. if they are unemployed, or if they have migrated in a way that has resulted in marginalisation, especially because of socio-economic reasons etc.), or is it really more about the psychological aspect that you have stressed earlier as well?

B.H.: This, I think, has always been a problem, a question asked by researchers why someone has become a terrorist and there has never been a convincing answer. But you have provided part of it: peer-group associations and social networks. Historically, not just in the internet age or the 21st century, historically, it had been absolutely pivotal and central to terrorist recruitment. For instance, in Ireland during the 1910s and 1920s, in Peter Hart's book The I.R.A. and Its Enemies (1998) he makes the point just as we have seen in recent years that entire football teams in Hebron or Saudi Arabia all became suicide terrorists. Entire Irish hurling teams or field hockey teams, football teams during the time of war of independence against Britain joined the IRA.

Also, the same way that we argue that terrorists are not universally drawn from the maw of poverty, or of the lack of education. The Hart book, as well, explains how in Ireland in that period most of the IRA were composed of people from middle- and upper-class backgrounds, people who were fairly well educated, who had been in various professions, as we see that today. This has always been the leadership of terrorist organizations. The question is how do societal developments like poverty galvanize other individuals to become the followers, the foot soldiers. And that's the real danger, I think. You can have this repercussive effect where various societal currents in encouraging larger numbers of people to become terrorists because of their socio-economic status in addition to this very important peer-group or social network aspect.

N.L.: A colleague of mine wrote his PhD (The Definitional Dilemma of Terrorism, 2017) on the definition of terrorism where he takes up, contests and discusses this matter theoretically in light of terrorism scholarship. This search, or discussion of the 'definition of terrorism' corresponds to one of your chapters in the second edition of Inside Terrorism. He argued, amongst other things, that the inability to define terrorism is not due to the often-assumed (conflicting) moral problem, especially in terms of the victim-perpetrator debate but says rather that it is because of "our failure to understand the true nature of terrorism". What in your view is the true nature of terrorism?

B.H.: Politics and power. I mean that is what terrorism is about at least in the most normative and widely accepted understanding in the definition of terrorism: in that it is acts of violence perpetuated by non-state actors. And that's why in my book over the three editions I have often said we have to differentiate what terrorism is not in order to arrive at what terrorism is. One can then distinguish between forms of violence that have no political motivation and those that do have a political motivation and that conform to the most accepted understanding of terrorism-specifically, in its most accepted usage that terrorism is perpetrated by non-state actors. That is not to say that states don't engage in terror and don't use terror and that they use terror as a weapon much like terrorists do to induce fear and anxiety but I think we rightfully differentiate between the two. When we're calling it 'state terror' from terrorism (terrorism as the non-state variable) that is not making a moral judgement. It's just making an important distinction recognizing that the levers of power at the state's disposal are of completely of a different magnitude than that of what we understand terrorism actually to be: a strategy of the weak, of the powerless, of the would-be powerful to use violence and the threat of violence to obtain their political demands or have their political grievances at least addressed if not rectified - and that's been the case throughout our history.

But I think one of the difficulties of defining terrorism, of course, is that the definition itself has changed regularly over the past 200 years, from its original usage in the French Revolution meaning state terror, it's been constantly changing and evolving, but that's not surprising that the definition of terrorism is constantly changing and evolving - that's because terrorism in itself is constantly evolving in response to contemporary political currents and divisions or to changes in technology and society or in response to the countermeasures directed against it by governments.

N.L.: And it is not just in the debate on terrorism scholarship but also in the different, let's say, linguistic, social and geographical contexts, there are different understandings of terrorism in North America than in the Middle East, as in Europe?

B.H.: Well, you know, Alex Schmid found out 35 years ago in his first edition of Political Terrorism (1988) that if you asked 100 terrorism experts your definition of terrorism you basically got 109 definitions. You know, as I said earlier, because we can't agree does not mean it is not useful to talk about to use of the term terrorism, and to use it in its most widely accepted - if controversial or differentiated - way.

N.L.: N.L.: Ok. If we have a non-state actor who started with hate-speech, infused with a political tone, as in Christchurch, well, of course it was political terrorist act in the end. In research, there is always a debate about the 'recognition' aspect of the lone wolf, the people who actually do these things, as Prime Minister Ardern said she wouldn't mention his name. Do you think this is done primarily for reasons of recognition or respect or to what extent do you think this was because of political interests, or let's say, convictions?

B.H.: Well, of course, its political because the shooter wanted to attract attention to himself and his cause but even more so because in fact he left behind a - I can't remember a 74- or 75-page political treatise - I mean this clearly gives it an ideological dimension. This is not someone randomly committing violence. He specifically sought out these targets, the two Mosques. He specifically framed his violence in the context of an anti-immigration and Islamophobic white power/white nationalist platform. You know, being a terrorist and being mentally unbalanced is not mutually exclusive. You can have unbalanced people who do things for political purposes but the fact that he left a political manifesto, the fact that he posted, he almost teased, hinted and advertised his act ahead of time and posted links so he could livestream the violence makes the New Zealand attacks clearly acts of terrorism. I mean this is all really, I think, the core elements of terrorism unfortunately, dramatically and tragically played out using a mini-cam and online access that gave this individual a much broader platform that terrorists could have obtained in the past or couldn't ever have hoped for. He deliberately sought to redraw it to a wide audience, so it becomes very clearly an act of terrorism.

N.L.: And you would use terrorism rather than radicalization or extremism, for example in this case?

B.H.: Radicalism and extremism in some countries are perfectly legal. That's the freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the liberal-democratic state.. I mean I think people should be as entitled to be as radical and extremist as is legally permissible. It's that when they use violence to achieve those aims then it crosses the line, then it becomes terrorism. This to me is a very important distinction and why calling it a terrorist is so enormously important because that shows that this violence by definition, involving an actual act of violent or the threat of violence has now exceeded the acceptable boundaries of discourse and legality, and especially in a democratic country there can be no justification.

N.L.: So, extremism combined with violence would be terrorism and this is exactly where the border to anything radical or extreme would start to be and one would say this is unacceptable.

B.H.: Yes.

N.L.: Ok. Let's very briefly speak now about violence and war, in some modest way. Your colleague, Professor Christopher Coker wrote in the chapter 'War without Warriors' in the book Global Responses to Terrorism (ed. Fawn/ Buckley 2004) about in the context of terrorism. In this profound writing, I selected two phrases: "Expressive violence is not aimed at the enemy" (p.289) and on p.291 writes: "Our understanding of war, therefore, is somewhat ambiguous: on the one hand we pretend to know what it is; on the other we are finding it difficult to understand our enemies, so great is the psychological chasm between us." Although being taken out of context, it shows how difficult it is in scholarship to grasp the essence of these terminologies and how to deal with it. I was therefore wondering if you could talk about your view on violence and war in the context of terrorism?

B.H.: I think the distinctions between terrorism, guerrilla warfare and insurgency are changing dramatically at any event; guerrillas and insurgents use terrorist tactics. And in that sense, this, what has happened in the 21st century is that violence perpetrated by non-state actors has become rather more the norm than violence between two established nation-states clashing on a battlefield. This may have been the case in every century or at least in every modern century for the past at least 700 years, let's say. That's been what has changed terrorism. That's what was so important in the September 11 2001 attacks is that terrorism suddenly went from being mostly a law enforcement concern to, something that could be addressed by the police, working with intelligence, to something that became a strategic and potentially an existential challenge where terrorists were all of a sudden wielding and actually having more of a strategic impact.

And I think what we have seen since then is that terrorism has become one of the defining characteristics of violence in the 21st century and that is why Christopher Coker, who actually was a graduate school classmate of mine at Oxford, that's why he talks about an understanding of war so profoundly that we don't really know what it is anymore. But you can see how terrorism conforms perfectly to this conceptualization there because it is a dictum of war being the continuation of politics by other means as articulated by Clausewitz, I mean this is also a definition of terrorism. Terrorism is a form of - as Alex Schmid and Janny de Graaf wrote in Violence as Communication (1982), a form of violent communication. I think what's happened that has changed so profoundly is what was once more than an aberration during the 20th century - terrorism certainly occurred - but it wasn't the dominant mode of violence afflicting the world. And today I would argue terrorism and variants of the guerrilla warfare, insurgency who use terrorist tactics - rather than being the aberrations of the past- have rather become rather more the norm. And I think we're still coming to grips with that in a world that, of course, is a very state-centric world and where states, at least legalistically retain the monopoly of violence where the Westphalian principles still hold of the nation-state's supremacy but that, of course, has been increasingly challenged by different forms of violence that are not necessarily state-driven.

N.L.: When you speak of different forms of violence, and knowing that there is this tension between norms of the state or/and of international organisations and these amorphous groups who nobody can really control - and internal tensions certainly exist there as well -, do you have any idea or view on what this could potentially result into in the next decade or decades? This is a difficult one I believe.

B.H.: I think this is really a huge philosophical question in the sense that how it's clearly eroding and being challenged more and more by non-state actors and by individuals as well. Certainly, social media and the internet has empowered individuals with a reach and an influence that just never existed before which has, I think, undermined confidence in our elected leadership, created deep divisions within political systems and within countries and that we are still coming to grips in understanding these changes; understanding the asymmetrical impact of this violence that can have an outsized impact, if used or adapted in particularly effective ways on international security. And we're really struggling in our post-Cold war world and how it's changed so profoundly over the past 30 years. And I think that's why there is all this uncertainty and why there is a lot of these definitional disputes or lack of clarity. That's because the nature of conflict is changing so profoundly and so rapidly and becoming so popularized - that's the bottom line. That was also something Clausewitz wrote about in the early 19th century is, how the Napoleonic wars and the levée en masse, had changed the nature of warfare and made it more of a popular struggle than one just prosecuted by professional militaries or by mercenaries.

I'm not terribly philosophically oriented but it's just that your question made me think that if, even in this last time, there is another inflection point where the nature of conflict is changing very rapidly and very profoundly as a reflection of how rapidly and profoundly societies' means of communicating is changing. And we're still uncertain how this will continue to unfold and evolve.

N.L.: When scholars study the field of terrorism, or are in the field, and try to follow a certain direction, where and when would you say 'Do not', or let's say, that's something we don't need (if there is something like that)?

B.H.: What we don't need in the study of terrorism? Yes, it's a tough question. I think the study of terrorism has benefitted enormously over the past 20+ years because it's just broadening, growing and has expanded. The people who studied terrorism in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s were a basically homogeneous, small group and obviously that's changed enormously. So, I think our knowledge about terrorism is much more sophisticated. I think what not to do is to lose sight of the historical evolution of terrorism and to understand that it doesn't occur in a vacuum as I said earlier but that it reflects societal developments. I think if we understand that terrorism is something that is not so different and so unique that it's not perpetrated by the 'other' but it's perpetrated by our fellow-citizens, then we would understand better why people turn to violence and why they become convinced there is only a violent solution to their political grievances or what they see as their disenfranchisement or alienation.

N.L.: Speaking of grievances here, I'm wondering that we not have grievances always at different times. Did we not always that? Yes, we had 9/11 and there more people than before we killed in a single act of terrorism. Do you think that this somehow served as a role model, or do you think it's also because film and television and portrayed violence that the grievances are becoming seemingly 'solvable' by violent means, and more than they would have been previously, as for example through protracted resistance movements?

B.H.: Well, I think the power to commit violence against large groups of people and the power to amplify and publicize it has changed profoundly in the past 20 or 30 years. And that has given terrorists enormous reach and power, endowing them with perhaps a perverse hubris that they believe they can fundamentally change the course history; and having a much more expansive platform to propagate their views through the internet, through social media, through traditional media as well. So, what once was a very narrow platform of traditional media - whether it was newspapers or then radio and then television - has expanded exponentially, now giving terrorists a greater reach and perhaps encouraging more acts of violence or a more promiscuous turn to violence because the means of attracting attention to themselves and their cause is much more easily facilitated today than at any time in the past.

N.L.: Thank you for this answer. Taking the opportunity then to ask another question, I have my own answer but nevertheless, I will pose it here because I don't know what you think about it. It is not unusual to have three editions of the 'same' book, and yours is an extremely-well known, and I think, outstanding book. However, your editions differ in size (and content of course) quite a bit, maybe more than other books do? So, I would like to ask you: why did you do it this way - why did you not write, let's say, three different books? Why do you start new editions and not, so to say, another book?

B.H.: That's true. People have suggested that I write another book instead of continue to revise the existing book. But in doing these three revisions I maintain and replenish something that in fact tells the history of terrorism for the past twenty years, since the first edition was published. I don't know of there will be a fourth edition - it could be in nine years there will sadly still be a need for one. But to reiterate, the reason that I have done successive editions is because each one traces the historical evolution of terrorism which I think is so enormously important to enable the reader to see that this is not an isolated phenomenon but rather that terrorism today is part of a historical continuum where the most effective terrorists are learning from their predecessors. And of course, the implicit message is also that governments need to learn from their mistakes or from the experience of other countries in countering terrorism to be more effective. So, I like to look at the study of terrorism as something that is cumulative. And also, I think one has to change their minds. If this evolution is changing the nature of terrorism we have to make adjustments in how we think about terrorism. I guess looking ahead, I wouldn't ever want to leave a book out there that didn't take account of the most important recent trends.

When I have written other books, they have been much more historical, very deep dives into archives - because in that sense, that is the only objective material you can get- where you can actually look at what in fact influenced a government's decision-making and how terrorists influenced the framing of policy and to me that's always been - from the time I started studying terrorism 43 years ago - my main interest: How does this affect government decision- and policy-making? In addition, governments do often claim that terrorism has absolutely no effect, but then that's just completely painstakingly false.

So, on the one hand, let's say, my more social science orientation has been to continue to build on Inside Terrorism, to continue to develop that very historical core whereas my other projects have been more deeply historical and I have used those case studies ways to illuminate some of the general points that I have made in Inside Terrorism. So, my book about the role that Jewish and Arab violence and terrorism (Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947 (2015) played in the events to that led to the British decision t leave Palestine and that set in motion the chain of events that led to the creation of Israel. This was something I devoted many years to the study to in the archives of three different countries. Now I am working on a book on what I call America's first war on terrorism, how the Reagan administration and its counter-terrorism policies developed and this involves archival work in different depositories in the United States. So, I try to answer the big picture questions in Inside Terrorism but then use very detailed historical case studies to further flesh out my own understanding of the interaction between terrorism and government policies and decision-making.

N.L.: The terrorism-government nexus is very interesting. In my institute, for example, which runs on the basis of grants provided by third-parties (by research institutions or governments, usually Ministries of any kind of foundations etc.). So, politics is interested in the work of scholarship to find out more about burning or topical and research-sensitive topics. Questions are asked and research is provided, another research develops from a previously researched idea - this is the general idea and cycle, not unusual. And sometimes the data builds on previous one, sometimes that's different. But the point I'm trying to make is the following, as you just mentioned government. Do you think the relationship between governments/ politics and scholarship is symbiotic, or do you think they [governments] could do even more with the expert knowledge that scholars provide? What is your experience?

B.H.: Well, I think there was a period up until the September 11 attacks when it was much more sporadic, and episodic. Certainly, in the decade after the 9/11 attacks there was a closer relationship between government and scholarship, with government money being made available to study a variety of different facets of terrorism. I think that's slightly less prevalent now but I think it certainly helped the field because it made the field a much larger tent and therefore more people came into it. It was a very - as I described earlier - small group of scholars that was almost an elite that studied terrorism up until 9/11. Then it became a much wider, more popular field and became more diverse. I think one the main strengths of the terrorism field from its inception is that it's always been interdisciplinary.

It's also right that one can't study terrorism from one single discipline or using one particular methodology. Certainly, all the years I was at RAND we used very diverse methodologies and I was always a part of very interdisciplinary research teams. Since then I have had the good fortune to be in academia undertaking more historical studies and archival studies, which is my main, personal interest.

N.L.: Maybe you have done this in your extensive fieldworks - but you do not seem to use interviews that much because it's not your main method; I assume because it's not so neutral. Or do you use interviews sometimes (for historical material, such as in your books)?

B.H.: I do, I use interviews, yeah. That's a very good question. There is a lot in Inside Terrorism that is based on interviews. There was a period when I was in every prison in Northern Ireland long before the 1998 Good Friday Accords and interviewed people there extensively. However, there were scholarly protocols and all sorts of protections and I always felt that people were more confident in speaking with me if I wasn't taking notes about anything, they were saying but just gaining a better understanding of why they joined terrorist organizations and committed the violence they did.

Inside Terrorism contains the products of many interactions with terrorists and political extremists in Northern Ireland, in Palestine, in Turkey, in Germany, Sri Lanka, Iraq, the United States - a variety of places. They have certainly influenced my thinking and shaped my approach - as have the countless interactions I've had across four decades with counterterrorism professionals whether in government, or law enforcement, or intelligence or the military - I mean that's been enormously important, certainly if you go to my bio on the Georgetown website, I forgot how many countries I have conducted fieldwork or research in but I've been to Iraq three times, to Afghanistan, throughout the West bank and the Gaza Strip on many occasions, made many trips to Sri Lanka for example, as well as to India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines. But, you know, I wasn't doing interviews as part of a survey instrument or as part of some scientifical collection, they were really just to learn. And in that sense, I don't quote anybody and I write down my notes afterwards, so I retain the information but it's not the kinds of things that I can use- since I can't use this information as direct quotes but as essential background and context. So, they are used to inform my understanding of terrorists and terrorism generally.

I believe very strongly in fieldwork and I think in the 1990s it was unique when many, perhaps most terrorism scholars at the time did most of their research from university libraries and the university common room. I was already going out into the field and doing these kinds of things and then after 9/11 especially - when I had brief periods of time when I was working with the government and the military - I was actually deployed to some of these conflictual zones. All that has informed my thinking, my research and my understanding of terrorism. But also, I do not want to rely too much on all those interviews and discussions with either terrorists or counterterrorists and want to take them as, you know they are- since people lie, right? - so, you have to make these assessments as well.

N.L.: So, you would be in the field and go to people? and, how did you approach? Did you say I just want to use this information for me, give your background - or do you stay completely anonymous?

B.H.: Generally speaking, I said who I was and I never concealed where I was coming from. So, as an American, working at a think tank, or at a University is how I introduced myself and I told the persons that I was speaking with that my purpose was to understand why and how they justify or legitimize their violence. Also, I wanted to understand the challenges in counter-terrorism as well and what were the most effective means to counter terrorism. So, again, it wasn't to compile interviews that I used to quote from verbatim, but to inform my knowledge and learning. Maybe it's a very idiosyncratic approach, but that's always how I operated. And I don't think a lot of people would have spoken to me in a context where I was taking notes or recording rather than just simply talking with them.

N.L.: Is there anything like a contradiction, or evolution, that has developed over the years, especially when you did fieldwork - for example you said you didn't know whom to really believe - that you discovered in yourself? I mean you wrote so many publications, and also editions of your most famous book. Is there something like the "early or the later" Bruce Hoffman, something you would see very differently today?

B.H.: I think when I probably first embarked on the study of terrorism, I did not completely realise that terrorism is just a perennial form of violence. That would continue to exist I one form or another. I could not imagine it would become this strategic threat and a much more pervasive threat and elusive phenomenon that it is today. I mean terrorism when I first started studying it 40 years ago seemed much more clearly defined, much more geographically specific and much more contained. And I think in the 21st century all those factors have completely eroded in ways that I could never have predicted; that it is much easier for terrorists to communicate, their movement has been facilitated by jet travel on a global basis and the threat if anything has become much worse than when I started studying terrorism which leaves me very depressed and pessimistic. Even 18 years ago, I would never have imagined that the war on terrorism would be poised to enter its third decade in just a couple of years from now.

N.L.: So, this keeps you going?

B.H.: Doing better in the 'war against terrorism'. Well, yes, I guess this keeps me going (smiles).

N.L.: You're an optimist then I assume, despite the pessimistic mentioning before?

B.H.: No, unfortunately I'm a pessimist.

N.L.: I know that you have to urgently go and give a lecture right now. It has been wonderful and insightful to speak with you.

B.H.: Thank you. It was a very nice speaking with you, too. I have to run?

Professor Hoffman is off to give another lecture.

About the expert

Prof. Dr. Bruce HoffmanProfessor, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Bruce Hoffman is a tenured professor in Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service where until recently he was the director of both the Center for Security Studies and of the Security Studies program. He is also Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis senior fellow for counterterrorism and homeland security at the Council on Foreign Relations and has been studying terrorism and insurgency for four decades. He previously held the corporate chair in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency at the RAND Corporation and was also director of RAND's Washington, DC, office as well as vice president for external affairs.

Amongst many other visiting professor and fellowships, he is also Visiting Professor of Terrorism Studies at St Andrews University, Scotland, where he was also founding Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV). Hoffman was appointed to the Independent Commission to Review the FBI's Post-9/11 Response to Terrorism and Radicalization, leading author of the final report. He has travelled widely to many countries across the globe and has been to conflict zones in the Middle East and also South Asia.

He has published widely. Recent books include The Evolution of the Global Terrorist Threat: From 9/11 to Osama bin Laden's Death (2014), and Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947 (2015), which was awarded the Washington Institute for Near East Studies' Gold Medal for the best book on Middle Eastern politics, history and society published in 2015 and also named the Jewish Book of the Year for 2015 by the Jewish National Book Council. Anonymous Soldiers was also cited as best book of the year by the St Louis Times-Dispatch and the Kirkus Review and an "Editors' Choice" of the New York Times Book Review. The Washington Post described Inside Terrorism as "brilliant" and the "best one volume introduction to the phenomenon" (16 July 2006).


Kamingespräche und lebensnahe Dialoge gegen Schwarz-Weiß-Malerei
sowie neue gesellschaftspolitische Phänomene

„Wissenschaft alleine reicht nicht, wenn man etwas verändern will - die Botschaft an Jugendliche braucht praktische Arbeit“

CoRE Expert-Interview mit Professor Mouhanad Khorchide (11. Dezember 2019)

Kamingespräche und lebensnahe Dialoge gegen Schwarz-Weiß-Malerei sowie neue gesellschaftspolitische Phänomene

"Wissenschaft alleine reicht nicht, wenn man etwas verändern will - die Botschaft an Jugendliche braucht praktische Arbeit"


CoRE Expert-Interview mit Professor Mouhanad Khorchide (11. Dezember 2019)


Nina Lutterjohann (N.L.): Vielen Dank, dass Sie zum CoRE Expert-Interview eingewilligt haben. Wir freuen uns sehr darüber.

Mouhanad Khorchide (M.K.): Sehr gerne.

N.L.: Was hat Sie dazu inspiriert, die Forschung, die Sie betreiben, anzugehen?

M.K.: Ich habe Soziologie und zugleich auch Islamische Theologie studiert, sodass ich beide Forschungsschwerpunkte verfolge. In der Theologie interessiert mich vor allem die Frage: Wie geht man mit dem Koran zeitgemäß um? Der Koran ist ein heiliges Buch, das im 7. Jahrhundert verkündet wurde und heute streiten wir Muslime über die Frage: Nehmen wir den Koran wortwörtlich, ist das, was im Koran steht einfach ein überzeitliches Wort Gottes, unabhängig von einem historischen Kontext? So steht es geschrieben, so muss ich es umsetzen? Das ist eine monologische Lesart. Die andere Lesart ist die dialogische, kommuni-kative Alternative, die sagt, es handelt sich um einen Dialog. Ich kann den Koran nur verstehen, wenn ich den historischen Kontext berücksichtige und den Koran im 7. Jahrhundert verorte und nicht einfach den Wortlaut übertrage. Das interessiert mich, weil Extremisten sich auf koranische Stellen berufen, z. B. „Tötet sie wo immer ihr sie trifft“, also solche Stellen, die sie wortwörtlich nehmen. Der Koran befehle uns, Nicht-Muslime und Ungläubige, wie Extremisten meinen, zu töten. Und ich lese das im historischen Kontext und sage: Da müssen wir genau hinschauen, es gab damals Kriege, die der Koran erwähnt, so wie im Alten Testament, und diese werden kommentiert und beschrieben. Wenn man sie historisch verortet, entschärfen sich die Gewaltpotenziale. Die zeitgemäße Lesart des Korans interessiert mich sehr.

Ich arbeite an einem umfassenden 17-bändigen historisch-theologischen Korankommentar, in dem ich versuche, die historischen Zusammenhänge der Verkündigung des Korans zu klären. Band 1 mit dem Titel „Gottes Offenbarung in Menschenwort“ ist im September 2018 erschienen. Das ist ein wichtiger Aspekt in meiner Forschung. Ein anderer Aspekt betrifft die systematische Theologie, die sich mit Gottes Lehre beschäftigt. Von welchem Gott sprechen wir, wenn wir von Gott sprechen? Es herrscht ein restriktives Gottesbild unter vielen Muslimen. Ein solches Bild kann leicht instrumentalisierbar sein, auch für die Legitimation von Macht und Gewalt, sogar im Rahmen des Islam. Ich spreche aber von der Gott-Mensch-Beziehung als Freiheitsbeziehung, als Liebesbeziehung. Das beschäftigt mich, daraus resultiert ein anderes Gottes- und ein anderes Menschenbild.

Etwas Wichtiges in der Theologie ist auch die Frage: Lesen wir den Islam als Gesetzesansammlung oder stehen Spiritualität und Ethik im Vordergrund? Es gibt die Lesart, dass der Islam die eine Ansammlung von Gesetzen ist, die als juristisches Schema alle Lebensbereiche erfassen will und somit Macht ausüben möchte. Ich mache mich stark für die Lesart, die im Islam eine spirituelle Kraft, eine ethische Quelle sieht und weniger eine Gesetzesreligion. Damit erreicht man auch die Jugendlichen, die Sehnsucht nach einem Vertrauensverhältnis zu Gott suchen und nicht nach einem Unterwerfungsverhältnis. Das bringt uns zur Religionspädagogik. Ich bilde LehrerInnen für den islamischen Religionsunterricht aus. Mein Anliegen ist, dass die jungen Menschen lernen, Lehrer zu sein und nicht Verkünder von Wahrheit, wie der Imam in der Moschee, sondern es geht darum, den SchülerInnen einen reflektierten Zugang zum Islam zu verschaffen. Es geht darum, dass die SchülerInnen lernen, selbst Antworten auf ihre Fragen zu finden, selbst zu argumentieren und sich selbst zu verantworten und nichts hinzunehmen, nur weil es so steht oder weil eine Autorität das gesagt hat, sondern: Ich kenne die Argumente und die Gegenargumente, ich kann sie reflektieren und selbst nach rationalen Kriterien entscheide, ob es mich überzeugt oder nicht und nehme meine Religiosität selbst in die Hand.

Es ist unser Anliegen am Zentrum für Islamische Theologie (ZIT) an der Universität Münster, dass unsere Studierende, die später Lehrer, Imame und Multiplikatoren werden, sich in der Rolle von Wissenschaftlern und Aufklärern zu sehen, die junge Menschen aufklären und zur Freiheit befähigen wollen, und nicht in der Rolle des Verkünders, der die jeweilige Wahrheit verkündet und die von den Menschen unreflektiert hingenommen werden muss.

Und deshalb führen wir am ZIT Projekte zur Prävention aus, um Alternativen zu bieten. Bei dem Projekt Digital Islam z. B. haben wir aufklärende Videos selbst produziert und ins Netz gestellt, um Alternativverständnisse des Islam in einer einfachen Sprache zu bieten - adressiert an junge Menschen, vor allem Muslime, was enorm wichtig ist. Es reicht nicht, nur den Salafismus zu untersuchen und seine Ursachen und seine Rhetorik zu kritisieren, ohne eine Alternative anzubieten. Wir probieren andere Wege, wo junge Menschen mit ihrem Glauben konfrontiert werden, aber durch ein anderes Verständnis vom Islam. Wir machen das auf einer wissenschaftlichen Basis, indem wir genauer untersuchen, was Jugendliche mehr anspricht und was weniger, was ankommt, was präventiv gegen Radikalisierung wirkt und was eher eine Radikalisierung begünstigt. Dementsprechend gestalten wir die Videos und danach analysieren wir: Rezipieren Jugendliche diese Videos über den Islam, kommen diese Videos an und welche Auswirklungen haben sie? Ich persönlich veröffentliche auch regelmäßig Videos und mache die Erfahrung, dass kurze Videos mit einem klaren Statement, aber mit einem differenzierten Denken bei vielen jungen Muslimen gut ankommen.

N.L.: Was sind das für Videos?

M.K.: Ich möchte in einer einfachen Sprache auf die Fragen von Jugendlichen eingehen, die wissen möchten, was geschieht mit meinem Freund, der nicht Muslim ist, geht er in die Hölle? Oder was geschieht mit mir, wenn ich Dinge anders sehe, homosexuell bin. Es geht also um Dinge, die nicht abstrakt sind, sondern Dinge aus der Lebenswirklichkeit der jungen Menschen. Ich möchte sie aus einer anderen Perspektive ansprechen. Ich möchte keinen Vortrag oder Predigt halten, aber in einer möglichst dialogischen Sprache reden. Das ist auf einem YouTube-Channel eingerichtet, mit der Möglichkeit, dass die Jugendlichen Fragen an mich stellen können, sodass ein Dialog geführt wird. Das Format ist weniger akademisch und geht verstärkt auf Jugendliche ein. Vielleicht entwickelt es sich dazu, dass Jugendliche daran als aktive Gesprächspartner partizipieren.

Ich habe parallel einen Verein gegründet: Muslimische Gemeinschaft NRW in der Hoffnung, dass sich möglichst viele diesem anschließen, also nichtorganisierte Muslime und viele Jugendliche. Einige meiner Studierenden machen mit. Das alles sind Alternativen zum Salafismus und zu dem konservativen Islam vieler Moscheegemeinden.

Ich habe in den letzten Jahren erkannt, dass man in der Theologie vieles weiterdenken kann. Aber das bleibt meist ein elitäres Selbstgespräch. Die Frage, die wichtig ist, lautet: Wie kann man es so kommunizieren, dass es bei der Basis, bei den Jugendlichen ankommt? Und dann habe ich gesehen, man muss Jugendarbeit betreiben; man muss aktiv werden und einen Verein gründen, womöglich auch eine Moscheegemeinde. Ich versuche jetzt, mehrere Moscheegemeinden anzusprechen, vor allem Sufi-Moscheegemeinden, die etwas offener sind, auch für den interreligiösen Dialog. Ich war, bevor ich 2010 nach Deutschland gekommen bin, in Wien, wo ich an der Universität ebenfalls Religionslehrer ausgebildet habe, ca. vier Jahre lang ehrenamtlich als Imam tätig. Ich habe auf Deutsch gepredigt ? und meine Zielgruppe waren Jugendliche. Das ist bei ihnen sehr gut angekommen. Als ich nach Münster kam, habe ich diese Tätigkeit unterbrochen, weil ich in Münster keine Institution hatte. Dann habe ich 2012 viele Morddrohungen erhalten und es war schwierig, regelmäßig als Imam in der Öffentlichkeit aufzutreten. Ich möchte das aber jetzt wieder aufnehmen, weil ich immer mehr davon überzeugt bin: Die Wissenschaft alleine reicht nicht, wenn man etwas verändern will. Die Wissenschaft hat ihren Diskurs, der sehr wichtig ist, aber wenn man ein Anliegen und eine Botschaft an die jungen Menschen hat, dann brauchen wir auch praktische Arbeit.

N.L.: Viele beschäftigen sich ja auch unter anderem mit Digital Da'wah mit Online-Techniken. Der virtuelle Raum ist ja in Deutschland und Europa (und auch zum Nahen Osten hin) sehr aktiv. Wie ? wenn Sie sagen, Sie sehen Potential in der lokalen, pädagogischen (Jugend-)Arbeit ? sehen Sie Überlappungen und Überschreitungen, aber vor allem auch die Divergenzen zwischen dem virtuellen Raum und dem, was Sie wirklich [in der Realität] machen können?

M.K.: Die größte - vor allem - Divergenz und Entfernung sehe ich darin, dass für das, was ich mache, wenn es um Wissenschaft geht, um Theologie, die Zielgruppe mehr eine intellektuelle ist, eher gebildete Menschen; eine komplizierte, stark differenzierte Sprache, die kein Schwarz-weiß-Angebot macht (nach dem Motto: So ist es richtig, so ist es falsch), sondern dazu zur Selbstreflexion befähigen möchte. Das wiederum setzt vieles voraus, nämlich, dass derjenige bereit ist, nicht einfach fertige Antworten zu bekommen. Aber auf der anderen Seite gibt es viele Angebote im Internet, bei denen es um den Islam geht (ich schaue mir das auf Arabisch, Englisch und Deutsch an). Sehr viele Botschaften sind meist sehr einfach, kommen deshalb viel schneller an, werden viel schneller konsumiert. Sie sind ansprechender für die Jugendlichen, vor allem für die, die auf der Suche sind. Das ist auch eine Bildungsfrage. Jugendliche, die eher bildungsfern sind oder nicht bereit sind, sich intellektuell vertiefend mit Themen auseinanderzusetzen, können wenig mit dem anfangen, was wir wissenschaftlich machen.

Das, was im Internet dargelegt wird - vor allem das Visuelle, nicht das Geschriebene - kommt sehr gut an. Ich schreibe in Ägypten regelmäßig eine Kolumne für eine Online-Zeitung, aber ich merke, dass ich eine ganz einfache Sprache verwenden muss. Der Text muss ganz kurz und pointiert, klar und handlungsorientiert sein, sonst wird er überhaupt nicht gelesen. Viele Muslime verstehen den Islam lediglich als Gesetzesreligion; sie wollen nicht über Beziehung zu Gottes und über Gottes Liebe und Nähe reden - sie wollen wissen, ob man es so oder so machen darf. Beispielsweise: Darf ich Gelatine essen oder nicht? Sie wollen ganz klare Antworten, die handlungsorientiert sind. Dazu gehört auch: Darf ich einen Nichtmuslim heiraten oder nicht? Wenn die Menschen im Netz Antworten auf ihre Fragen bekommen, macht es das Angebot natürlich attraktiver.

Es gibt eine Diskrepanz zwischen der Wissenschaft, die ein differenziertes Bild darlegen möchte, und dem Internet, das die einfachen Botschaften transportiert und viel mehr Leute erreicht. Ich persönlich möchte auch aufklären, aber es reicht nicht, den Menschen simple Antworten zu geben. Und es ist wichtig, dass ich in den Videos nicht als eine Art Mufti auftrete (und sage, das ist erlaubt und das ist verboten, das sollst du so oder so machen). Vielleicht wird die Divergenz zwischen der Wissenschaft und dem, was im Netz angeboten wird, kleiner, indem man über verschiedene Positionen im Islam und mehrere Möglichkeiten von authentischen Gelehrten berichtet, damit die Jugendlichen sehen, dass die einfachen Botschaften (die sind natürlich bequemer) nicht immer die authentischen und diejenigen sind, die zur Selbstbestimmung befähigen und nicht vordiktieren, was man zu tun und zu lassen hat, was richtig und was falsch ist.

NL.: Inwieweit glauben Sie, dass es immer noch um Religion bzw. um den Islam geht oder eher um die „kalte Freiheit“ oder die Sozialisierung von Jugendlichen?

M.K.: Jugendlichen geht es eigentlich um Identität und die Suche nach Zugehörigkeiten - auch im Netz, sei es virtuelle oder abstrakte Zugehörigkeiten zu Gemeinschaften. Vor allem sind es Jugendliche, die das Gefühl haben, in irgendeiner Weise marginalisiert zu sein, zum Beispiel, wenn sie sozial marginalisiert sind in der Gesellschaft und im Bildungssystem nicht weitergekommen sind oder das Gefühl haben: nicht angenommen zu werden. Es muss nicht unbedingt eine Diskriminierung sein in dem Sinne, dass sie auf der Straße beleidigt oder beschimpft werden. Wenn z. B. in der deutschen Gesellschaft darüber diskutiert wird, ob der Islam zu Deutschland gehört oder nicht, kommt diese Frage bei Jugendlichen so an, dass diskutiert wird, ob sie dazu gehören oder nicht. Nicht der Islam als Religion, sondern sie selbst. Dann haben viele Jugendliche das Bedürfnis, zu einem Kollektiv dazuzugehören. Wenn sie im Heimatland der Eltern oder Großeltern, z. B. in der Türkei, sind, dann sind sie auch Ausländer, Deutschtürken oder was auch immer. Hier fragt man auch, gehören sie dazu oder nicht? Dann findet man Zuflucht z. T. in den religiösen Milieus. Nicht, weil es ihnen um Religion selbst geht, um die Suche nach Gott und Spiritualität und die Frage, wie der Koran gelesen wird. Man sucht nach einem Kollektiv, das einen annimmt, ohne dass es um Leistung geht (wie gut oder schlecht bin ich?), in dem man einfach bedingungslos dazugehört. Und diese Zugehörigkeit bieten gerade religiöse Milieus an. Ich kenne Jugendliche, die sich zwar dem Salafismus anschließen, aber heimlich Alkohol trinken und Drogen nehmen. Aber sie wollen zum Salafismus gehören, weil ihnen das eine gewisse Macht und Anerkennung gibt. Sie gehören zu einer Gruppe, die sich gegen die Gesellschaft stellt, die in Opposition steht, in der sie sich stark fühlen, in der sie gegen den Druck der Gesellschaft bestehen. Ich habe das Gefühl, es geht mehr um den Ausdruck der Rebellion, der Zugehörigkeit zu einer mächtigen Gruppe, die sich was traut, und nicht um Religion oder religiöse Praxis. Wenn ich mir die Rhetorik von Salafisten auf YouTube ansehe, dann geht es darum: Wir sind die Richtigen, die Starken, die, die Wahrheit besitzen, Gott auf unserer Seite haben, gegen die Gesellschaft sind, die unter uns steht. Die Formel wird umgedreht. Einem Jugendlichen, der hier aufgewachsen ist, wird vermittelt: Wir sind oben, ihr seid unten, und ihr, Muslime, müsst euch aufklären. Dann kommt die andere Rhetorik und dreht es herum: Nein, sie sind unten, du bist oben. Wir sind die Besitzer der Wahrheit. Und was den Salafismus oder Extremismus attraktiv macht, ist die Ideologie, weil sie Macht vermittelt - und darum geht es. Und das sind die Videos, die auch interessant sind, wenn Pierre Vogel sich abfällig äußert über die Gesellschaft, über die Muslime, die hier integriert sind. Und über mich und die anderen Muslime, die versuchen zu vermitteln: ,Nein, das ist unsere gemeinsame Gesellschaft'. Und dann äußert er sich abfällig darüber und sagt, ?wir sind die Starken und die eigentlichen Gewinner, weil Gott nur uns gehört'. Dazu instrumentalisiert man natürlich ein restriktives Gottesbild, denn man will ja nicht von Liebe und Barmherzigkeit reden, sondern eher von Restriktionen, von der Hölle, von Strafen, von Angstpädagogik, oder wie wir das nennen, ?schwarze Pädagogik'. Man sieht das ja an diesen Aktionen, wenn Korane verteilt werden. Die Hauptrhetorik ist: ?Wir wollen, dass du Muslim wirst; komm zu uns, sonst kommst du in die Hölle und wir wollen dich vor dieser Hölle retten?. Da spielt die Hölle eine starke Rolle als Motiv für den Glauben. In vielen Videos von Ibrahim Nagi kommt die Hölle so stark vor. Da geht es um einen 11, 12-jährigen Jungen, der vor einer Klasse sitzt und hauptsächlich über die Hölle spricht. Deshalb haben sich die meisten Salafisten, vor allem Pierre Vogel, über mich aufgeregt, weil ich die Beschreibungen der Hölle im Koran als Metaphern lese und keineswegs wortwörtlich verstehe. Für salafistische Prediger ist die Hölle wichtig, weil sie damit den jungen Menschen Angst machen können und ihnen die Macht gibt: Sie sind die, die entscheiden, wer in die Hölle kommt und wer nicht, und deshalb können sie mit diesem Selbstbewusstsein in die Welt gehen - wir sitzen schon im Paradies und wir entscheiden, wer in die Hölle kommt.

N.L.: Stellen wir uns Folgendes vor. Wenn man „Gläubiger“ ist, wie ist das genau, wenn man z.B. als jugendlicher Salafist Alkohol und Drogen nimmt und man ist dann trotzdem in diesem Verständnis, dass man als Gläubiger dazu gehört? Denn die Hölle gibt es ja auch im Christentum [und in gebräuchlichen Variationen davon]?.

M.K. Eben, und hier spielt der sogenannte Exklusivismus eine starke Rolle: Gott gehört nur uns. Dieser Glaube spielt gerade bei Salafisten eine große Rolle. Deren Argument lautet: Auch wenn wir sündigen, egal wie viel, es gebe für Muslime und nur für Muslime, ein Fegefeuer, es kann aber auch sein, das Gott uns auch so vergibt und dann kommen wir ins Paradies. Alle anderen kommen in die ewige Hölle. Sie können so gut sein, wie sie wollen, für sie gibt es nur ein ewiges Feuer, kein Fegefeuer. Auf der anderen Seite kenne ich auch Ju¬gendliche, die sagen: Ich trinke Alkohol und interessiere mich für Mädchen und Diskotheken, aber ich werde später in den Dschihad gehen, um meine Sünden zu kompensieren. Das erklärt auch diesen plötzlichen Wandel (erst Diskothek - plötzlich IS). Das Schuldgefühl, das schlech¬te Gewissen, spielt dabei auch eine Rolle: Jetzt muss ich alles tilgen und wieder gut¬machen; ich fühle mich schlecht und versuche nun, nach der strengsten Variante, den Islam zu leben. Gott vergibt mir sowieso schnell. Und dann gibt es viele Sprüche, angeblich vom Propheten Mohammed: Wer 100 Mal, ?gepriesen seist du Gott? sagt, dem vergibt Gott alle Sünden.

N.L.: Gibt es dabei auch wirklich viele Konversionen von Jugendlichen [und Predigern] zum Islam (ein paar der Prediger sind ja bekannt)?

M.K.: Es sind ja viele große Köpfe, wie Sven Lau oder Pierre Vogel, die Nicht-Muslime waren. Ich meine, sie konvertieren nicht zum Islam, sondern sie suchen eine Ideologie, die stark in Opposition zur Gesellschaft steht. Das kann Rechtsextremismus sein, das kann Linksextremismus sein, das kann religiöser Fundamentalismus sein. Für diese Leute ist es wichtig, einen Fluchtweg von der Gesellschaft und eine oppositionelle Haltung zur Gesellschaft zu haben, egal aus welchen Gründen. Manchmal ist das auch ein persönlicher Grundman rebelliert gegen Eltern, gegen Hass, den man in seiner Sozialisation erlebt hat. Und dann findet man eine Ideologie, die ja ganz attraktiv ist. Für diejenigen, die in Ab- und Ausgrenzung zur Gesellschaft stehen, sind gerade diese Elemente so wichtig. Die Begriffe wie interreligiöser Dialog nennt P. Vogel immer die ,Dialüg(e)'. Er macht sich lustig über alles, was eine Annäherung an die Gesellschaft versucht: Es geht um Opposition zur Gesellschaft. Es gibt allerdings Verse im Koran, die Nichtmuslimen - auch Juden und Christen - die ewige Glückseligkeit versprechen. Solche Stellen werden von den Salafisten verdrängt. Denn für sie gehören alle, die nicht zum Salafismus gehören in die Hölle. Alles wird von ihnen unterstützt, was die Gesellschaft ab- und ausgegrenzt, in ein Machtgefälle teilt, ,die Gesellschaft ist schlecht und wir stehen oben, wir sind Gottes Lieblinge/Söhne'. Das wird in dieser Szene überbetont und es ist attraktiv, die Gesellschaft in einer oppositionellen Rolle zu sehen. Ich glaube nicht, dass die meisten, die konvertieren, zum Salafismus konvertieren. Aber ich glaube, dass es der Ausdruck einer gesellschaftspolitischen Problematik ist - egal zu welchem Extremismus sie sich bekennen. Und es gibt auch Salafisten, die früher im rechtsextremistischen Lager waren, was eigentlich auf den ersten Blick widersprüchlich ist: Wieso vom Rechtsextremismus in den Islam? Aber wenn man sieht, dass es nicht um den Islam, sondern um die Opposition zur Gesellschaft geht, dann versteht man, dass die ,Überschrift' egal sein kann.

N.L.: Also, es ist dann noch stärker im Islam, dass man noch mehr Opposition in der Gesellschaft findet als bei anderen Gruppen, was wahrscheinlich durch die wahrgenommene Ausgrenzung [und vielleicht dann auch mit dem finanziell-sozialen Status zusammenhängt?]?

M.K.: Auch, ja, aber vor allem, weil die Gesellschaft den Islam als Feindbild sieht. Und wenn jemand die Gesellschaft provozieren will, sagt er, ich will jetzt auch Muslim werden.

N.L.: Ich habe eine Frage, noch einmal, zu Ihrer Motivation in der Materie, mit Blick auf die letzten 10, 15 oder ja vielleicht sogar, 20 Jahre. Der Islam ist ja seit 9/11 zum Feind geworden, das war vorher nicht so stark. Sie haben erzählt, dass Sie in Wien studiert haben? [Wie kam es dazu?] Wie ist der Blick auf Ihren Hintergrund und wie ist es zu den zahlreichen Publikationen in diesem Thema gekommen? Also, meine Frage ist eher - ist Ihre Forschung geprägt von den Ereignissen, die passiert sind, oder war es für sie immer wichtig, die Grundidee vom Islam zu verstehen, um mehr Klarheit in die vielen Strömungen und Ansichten zu bekommen?

Bei mir ist es viel banaler, es hat hauptsächlich mit meiner Biographie zu tun. Sie haben recht, der Islam wurde seit 1990 langsam zu einem Feindbild stilisiert, nach dem Fall des Kommunismus. Das hat Huntington schon Anfang der 1990er beschrieben. Der Islam gegen den Rest, oder der Rest gegen den Islam. Aber bei mir war es anfangs biographisch bedingt. Meine Eltern sind Palästinenser, die 1948 in den Libanon geflüchtet sind, wo ich geboren worden bin. Aber aufgewachsen bin ich in Saudi-Arabien, einem sehr restriktiven Land, in den 70/80er Jahren, wo der Wahhabismus seinen Höhepunkt hat. Ich hatte in der Schule von zwölf Fächern insgesamt 5 oder 6, die den Schwerpunkt Religion hatten. Wir haben den Wahhabismus studiert. Ich war drei Monate im Sommer bei meinen Großeltern im Libanon - und Libanon ist genau das Gegensätzliche zu Saudi-Arabien gewesen: eine Hälfte Muslime, die andere Hälfte Christen. Diese Vielfalt, Schiiten und Sunniten, das habe ich im Libanon als Normalität erlebt. Und vieles habe ich von meiner Oma gelernt, die Analphabetin war, aber sehr spirituell war. Sie hat mit mir öfter Essen verteilt an Arme, die aus der Moschee oder aus der Kirche gekommen sind. Sie hat gesagt: ,Es kann uns egal sein, wo sie herauskommen, es sind arme Manschen, sie brauchen uns, wir sind die Hände Gottes, die helfen'.

In Saudi-Arabien habe ich das Andere erlebt. Meine Familie hat den Islam weltoffen aufgefasst, aber in der Schule gab es Geschlechtertrennung und ein restriktives Verständnis vom Islam. Am Wochenende haben wir gemeinsam auch mit Mädchen gespielt - Monopoly, oder Fußball. Man wächst in Diskrepanzen auf, aber als junger Mensch sieht man, dass das alles viel lebensnaher ist, dieses offene Verständnis im Libanon von zu Hause aus. Und was man in der Schule gelernt hat, war sehr restriktiv: Alle Nicht-Muslime seien moralisch verfallen und seien ungerechte Menschen.

Aber ich durfte als Ausländer in Saudi-Arabien nicht studieren als ich mit der Schule fertig war, nur weil ich Ausländer war. Deshalb kam ich nach Wien, um zu studieren. Zu meiner Überraschung war das erste, was ich ausgefüllt habe, meine Krankenversicherung. In Saudi-Arabien durfte man damals als Ausländer nicht krankenversichert sein. Es gab Krankenhäuser erster Klasse für Inländer und wir Ausländer mussten viel Geld zahlen für ganz schlechte Krankenhäuser. Also, wenn wir als Kinder Fußball gespielt haben und jemand hat sich einen Fuß verstaucht, haben wir das vor den Eltern verborgen, weil es eine finanzielle Belastung für die Eltern gewesen wäre. Wir Geschwister haben uns gegenseitig geholfen, damit die Eltern nicht mitkriegten, dass jemand krank war. Und dann kommt man zu den angeblich „Ungläubigen“, den moralisch Verfallenen und schlechten Menschen, wie man es über viele Jahre gelernt hat, und sie sagen: Du kriegst jetzt eine Krankenversicherung und zahlst genauso viel wie die Inländer und du kannst zu denselben Ärzten gehen wie die Inländer. Das ist für mich alles andere als selbstverständlich gewesen. Ich habe ja gelernt, alle Nichtmuslime seien für die Hölle gedacht und von Gott verflucht, aber so schlechte Menschen waren sie nicht (schmunzeln). Ich war 17½ Jahre alt, als ich meine Eltern verlassen musste. Ich ging alleine nach Wien, nur um dort zu studieren, weil ich das in Saudi-Arabien nicht durfte. Und jetzt kommen sie [die Österreicher] und nehmen mich auf, und ich bekomme Unterstützung. Wie kann es sein, dass Gott diese Menschen in die Hölle schickt, aber dort alle ins Paradies? Das wäre ungerecht, lieber Gott, wenn es so wäre. Ich habe aus persönlichem Interesse Theologie studiert und wusste nicht, dass das einmal mein Beruf sein würde. Es hat mich persönlich interessiert, vieles hat mich aber auch irritiert. Aber durch das Zusammenleben mit Nicht-Muslimen habe ich erkannt, dass das nicht so simpel ist (wer die Überschrift Muslim trägt, sind die Guten und die anderen sind die Schlechten), auch weil ich dann rekapituliert habe, wie schlecht wir als Ausländer von den Muslimen in Saudi-Arabien behandelt worden sind. Viele Rechte hatten wir gar nicht, oder wie oft ich das [Ausländer zu sein] in der Schule gehört habe. In Wien wurde man aufgenommen. Meine Doktormutter, die etwas älter war, hat ihre Mutter gepflegt. Es hat mich fasziniert, dass sie, obwohl sie Atheistin war, alles gegeben hat und sie bis zum Ende gepflegt hat. Für einen jungen Menschen sind das Erfahrungen, die im positiven Sinne irritieren, wobei man vieles hinterfragt. Und dann, um auf Ihre Frage einzugehen, dachte ich, mir wird etwas geschenkt, das ich weitergeben möchte. Ich habe Dinge aus der Vogelperspektive gesehen, weil ich in verschiedenen Kontexten leben durfte - Libanon, Saudi-Arabien, Wien. Dann beginnt man, die Dinge aus der Distanz zu reflektieren - und das möchte ich weitergeben. Denn ich denke, wäre ich in Saudi-Arabien geblieben, wäre ich einer von vielen geblieben, die einfach den Islam schwarz-weiß verstehen. Aber durch diese Erfahrungen, die ich machen durfte, möchte ich den jungen Menschen, die meinen, nur Muslime kommen in den Himmel und sind besser als die anderen, entgegnen: „Macht mal die Augen auf. An welchen Gott glauben wir? An einen ungerechten Gott? Nur weil sie Muslime sind, können sie ein guter oder schlechter Mensch sein, gute oder schlechte Arbeit machen, wie sie wollen.“ Ich irritiere Studierende mit solchen Gedanken, die sind sehr schnell irritiert und einsichtig. Das wäre mein Hauptmotiv, unabhängig von den Entwicklungen des Islam in den letzten 20 Jahren. Die Entwicklungen haben es aus meiner Perspektive begünstigt, dass der Islam zum Thema geworden ist. Ich glaube, dass es ohne 9/11 sicher keine Zentren für Islamische Theologie in Deutschland gegeben hätte. Wir würden auch nicht hier sitzen und so viele Projekte zu dem Thema haben. Ich sehe schon, dass 9/11 den Anstoß gebracht hat, dass sich alle intensiver mit dem Islam auseinandersetzen. Aber auf der anderen Seite hat das natürlich sehr viel Negatives gebracht, mit dem IS als Höhepunkt der Radikalisierung des Islam und dem Islamhass auf der anderen Seite.

N.L.: Und jetzt, als letzte Frage würde ich gerne die Folgende stellen: Wir sind am Ende des Jahres angelangt, Ende 2018 und das Netzwerk CoRE, indem es darum geht, präventive Formen zu erforschen, hat sich thematisch vom Ausgangspunkt des salafistischen Extremismus zur vergleichenden Forschung entwickelt. Zugleich fällt IS ab, der Höhepunkt geht zurück - wo, würden Sie sagen, entwickelt sich das Ganze [thematisch] hin?

M.K:. In unterschiedliche Richtungen, man kann nicht sagen, in eine Richtung. Einerseits sieht man, dass die Ränder wachsen. Also, wenn ich jetzt an den Islam denke, sehe ich, dass der sogenannte islamische Atheismus wächst. Es gibt immer mehr atheistische Muslime, die sich säkularisieren, in Deutschland und weltweit, auch in der arabischen Welt. Wir hatten noch nie so viele Atheisten in Ägypten, Saudi-Arabien und dem Iran wie heute. Auf der anderen Seite: der Fundamentalismus wächst auch, die Mitte wird etwas leerer, die Ränder wachsen auch in der Mehrheitsgesellschaft, der Rechtspopulismus wächst. Aber der Fundamentalismus wächst nicht, weil es wirklich um Religion geht, sondern diese Nähe, die wir in der Gesellschaft haben, verunsichert Menschen, die nach klaren Identitäten suchen. Rechtspopulismus verteidigt eine deutsche Identität, auch wenn keiner weiß, was das genau ist. Aber viele wollen das verteidigen. Genauso Fundamentalisten. Ich sehe nicht die große Gefahr alleine im Salafismus oder im Extremismus, sondern auch in dem sogenannten politi-schen Islam, der islamische Identitäten politisiert. Also, wenn ich sage, immer mehr junge Menschen identifizieren sich mit dem Islam, um zu sagen, ,Wir' - in Ab- und Ausgrenzung zur Gesellschaft - dann ist das eine politische Identität. Und es gibt immer mehr Kräfte in unserer Gesellschaft, die versuchen, diese Identität zu stärken, indem sie einen Opferdiskurs unterstützen; zum Beispiel ,Wir sind Opfer des Westens, Opfer der Islam¬kritiker, wir müssen uns stärken und zusammenhalten'. Es gibt heute Bewegungen, wie die Muslimbrüder oder Hizb ut-Tahrir, die versuchen, subtil Macht und Einfluss in der Gesellschaft zu gewinnen, um eben diese Jugendlichen zu erreichen, um eigene Kollektive in Ab- und Ausgrenzung zur Gesellschaft zu bilden. Das ist meiner Meinung nach die Gefahr, die immer stärker wird, und nicht nur der Salafismus. Für mich ist ein Pierre Vogel ein Mensch, der kommt und ehrlich sagt: Ich halte nichts von Demokratie, ich halte nichts von Frauen. Er sagt, was er denkt. Ich habe ein größeres Problem mit jemandem, der in Krawatte und Anzug daherkommt und sagt, dass wir einen liberalen Islam brauchen, aber in Wirklichkeit eine andere Agenda im Hinterkopf hat. Er weiß ganz subtil, wie er Menschen erreicht und manipuliert. Seien es Erdogan-Anhänger, die versuchen, politisch Einfluss zu nehmen, Muslim¬brüder, Hiz ut-Tahrir. Das sind alles gebildete Menschen, die nicht auffallen mit Bart wie die Salafisten. Sie wissen genau, dass sie eine politische Agenda haben und die Gesellschaft islamisieren wollen, weil es nicht um den Islam an sich, sondern weil es um Macht geht. Ich sehe, dass diese Strömung auch zunimmt im Islam. Es ist diese Grauzone, die nicht auffällig ist als Gefahr, aber sie ist eine Gefahr. Ihre Rhetorik ist vielleicht nicht so aggressiv wie die salafistische, aber es geht in dieselbe Richtung, sie ist ,ihr und wir' (wir Muslime und ihr). Diese erlebt man immer wieder bei Jugendlichen, auch bei denen, die sagen, sie distanzieren sich von Salafismus und Extremismus, aber auf dieser Opferrolle beharren: Wir müssen uns gegen die Gesellschaft schützen. Es wird in der gleichen Rhetorik polarisiert wie bei den Salafisten.

Aber ich merke, dass die Forschung sich in den letzten Jahren auf den Begriff des Extremismus und des Salafismus fokussiert hat und gar nicht auf den politischen Islam. Die politisierte Form des Islams ist viel breiter, viel subtiler, viel schwerer zu erfassen. Die anderen sind einfach: eigene Moschee, eigene Floskel, eigene Rhetorik. Sie sind aber strukturell so in die Gesellschaft integriert, wenn man von struktureller Derogation spricht. Des-halb fallen sie nicht auf. Aber in meinen Augen brauchen wir auf diesem Gebiet viel Forschung (ich hoffe auch im CoRE-Netzwerk), die diese Phänomene untersucht: also Muslimbrüder, Hizb ut-Tahrir und andere, die man heute eher im akademischen Bereich antrifft. Und nicht, wie die Salafisten, die irgendwo sozial marginalisiert sind. Das ist das Phänomen, das immer stärker wird. Beide spielen sich gegenseitig in die Hände - dieses Phänomen des politischen Islams und des Rechtspopulismus, bei dem wir heute auch Universitätsprofessoren finden; das ist kein Phänomen der sozial Benachteiligten, sondern auch das Phänomen einer Elite. Die brauchen sich gegenseitig. Sie rekrutieren ihre Gruppen gegenseitig, in dem sie vor dem anderen warnen, um das Kollektiv zu stärken. Aber ich sehe kaum Forschung, die in diese Richtung geht - in diese große Grauzone [im politischen Islam], die immer mehr wächst. Man fokussiert sich in der Forschung immer wieder auf den Salafismus und bekommt nicht unbedingt neue Erkenntnisse. Vieles weiß man, manches pointiert sich noch mehr. Es wird mir immer klarer, auch durch die Videos im Internet, dass man weiter schauen muss als auf den Salafismus.

N.L.: Vielen Dank, Professor Khorchide, für das ausführliche und ausgesprochen informative Gespräch und vor allem für Ihre Zeit, die Sie sich genommen haben.

M.K.: Ich bedanke mich auch.

Über den Experten

Prof. Dr. Mouhanad KhorchideLeiter des Zentrums für Islamische Theologie, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster

Prof Dr. Mouhanad Khorchide (geb. 1971) ist seit 2010 Professor für Islamische Religionspädagogik und seit 2011 Leiter des Zentrums für Islamische Theologie an der Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität Münster sowie Principal Investigator (PI) des Exzellenzclusters „Religion und Politik in den Kulturen der Vormoderne und Moderne“ an der WWU Münster sowie Leiter des Projekts „Koran im Kontext der Barmherzigkeit“ im Rahmen dieses Exzellenzclusters. Außerdem ist Mouhanad Khorchide Gründungsmitglied des 2015 gegründeten Muslimischen Forums Deutschland und der 2019 gegründeten Muslimischen Gemeinschaft NRW. Er beschäftigt sich mit der Vermittlung des Islams in europäischen Schulen und spricht sich für eine historisch-kritische Auslegung der islamischen religiösen Schriften aus. Er ist Autor einiger viel beachteter Bücher, zuletzt „Islam ist Barmherzigkeit. Grundzüge einer modernen Religion“ (2015), „Gott glaubt an den Menschen - mit dem Islam zu einem neuen Humanismus“ (2015), „Scharia - der missverstandene Gott. Der Weg zu einer modernen islamischen Ethik“ (2016), „Muslim sein in Deutschland. Deutsch/Arabisch“ (2016) und „Der andere Prophet. Jesus im Koran“ (2018), „Gottes Offenbarung in Menschenwort. Der Koran im Licht der Barmherzigkeit“ (2018).


"We do produce rather than prevent radicalisation and we should prevent"

CoRE Expert-Interview mit Professor Donatella della Porta (29 November 2018)

"We do produce rather than prevent radicalisation and we should prevent"

CoRE Expert-Interview mit Professor Donatella della Porta (29 November 2018)


Nina Lutterjohann (N.L.): Dear Donatella, Thank you so much for setting time aside to do the CoRE expert interview with me.

Donnatella della Porta (D.D.P.): No problem, thank you for asking me. It's a pleasure.

N.L.: Ok, I will now go right into the questions.

N.L.: What in your view is the most important factor that triggers the radicalisation processes? If one would stand out - e.g. from a biographical, sociological, or ideological perspective - which one would it be for you?

D.D.P.: I do not believe we can single out a main cause. Rather, there are multiple preconditions, triggering events and causal mechanisms that interact in different combinations in different empirical cases. In the debate on radicalisation, there is a debate about what comes first, action or thinking. In my own research, I always found that radicalization into violence happened first in deeds and then was elaborated into justifiable arguments. Ideological references were, that is, adapted in order to provide a normative basis. Relational, cognitive and effective mechanisms interacted, however. This happened in particular in what was often a main arena for escalation: the relations between the police and the protesters. The radicalization of forms of contentious politics was, that is, fueled by repression. This happened especially when repression was brutal and, what is even more, indiscriminate. Harsh policing not only signaled that the government was not open to listen to claims, but also created moral shocks. It often produced martyrs and myths that fueled solidarity within the opposition and calls for revenge. However, as the development of radicalization on the Right or in religious fundamentalism has shown, radicalization could also be triggered by inconsistent repression, with long periods of tolerance for violence. Additionally, in religious fundamentalists we saw that sometimes radical frames emerged without a direct experience of violence, but rather through the identification at a distance with those who were considered as unjustly treated. Additionally, radicalization is fueled by movements-counter movements dynamics, as the one I studied in Italy in the 1970s or in Northern Ireland, in the same period. Violent interactions in the streets produced in fact radicalized networks of activists that (sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly) developed into underground military structures. The persistence of violence was then produced by a series of vicious circles that reproduced resources, skills and frames for violence.

N.L.: You talked now a lot of about radicalisation processes, as I asked this question. But you also worked a lot on political violence and the terminology came up already as well as fundamentalism. Could you elaborate on your views regarding political violence and religious fundamentalism?

D.D.P.: Religious fundamentalism can take different forms-none necessarily violent ones. There have been in the past, and there are still, religious sects that adopt exclusive frames, but do not turn into violence. So, I do not believe specific religions are more prone to violence than others. Christian groups have been engaged in violent crusades, and the number of victims in the wars between Catholics and Protestants was probably higher than in those within the Islam. As with nationalists, when violent conflicts emerge ideological justification are constructed through some interpretation of ideologies that, even when radical, might have not fueled violence for long times. So, I think that, for religious fundamentalists as for other ideologies, we need to distinguish between radicalism of thoughts and of deeds. We see in fact shifting adaptations of religious texts in order to justify shifting violent strategies, as it happens for instance with Al Qaeda when the strategies of the organization moved from the 'liberation' of some symbolically important places and geographical areas in the Middle East to the attacks to the Twin Towers.

N.L.: How has the research you have conducted been vindicated in real world events?

D.D.P.: Of course, I did research on real world events, which, I believe, I have provided sociological explanations for. Another question is how much the theoretical model I built to analyse some specific historical forms of violence was able to 'travel' in other historical periods, how much it could be useful to explain different forms of violence. In the 1980s, I started working on left-wing political violence in Italy and then also in Germany - a very specific time and geopolitical space. The results of this research were published in the book on Social Movements, Political Violence and the State (Cambridge University Press, 1995). Initially, I did not plan to compare this form of escalation with other ones, related with different ideologies and conflicts. However, even when focusing on the radical left, I had also studied the radical Right, in particular in the movement-countermovement dynamics that I mentioned above. Moreover, I have also been stimulated to do some research in the Basque countries, using social movement studies to understand ethno-nationalist groups. When religious fundamentalism emerged as a most deadly form of violence, I had initially thought it was too different from the cases I had studied in Europe to be tempted to apply the knowledge I had acquired earlier to understand new escalations. Nevertheless, with the time passing and scientific research developing on this forms of violence, I started instead to think that it was worthwhile to test if and how some causal mechanisms that I had singled out in my previous work could help understand also religious fundamentalism. This is in fact what I have done in my Clandestine Political Violence (Cambridge University Press, 20013), in which I analyse left-wing, right-wing, ethno-nationalist and religious forms of clandestine political violence, singling out similarities and differences in their dynamics. A further step, I undertake more recently, is to move beyond clandestine political violence and looking at civil wars, as forms of political violence fueled by the radicalization of struggles for territorial control (della Porta et al, When struggles for democratization fail, Routledge 2017.).

N.L.: There is this new trend in Germany to compare between right-wing and Islamist (or religiously founded) extremism - what do you think about this?

D.D.P.: As I mentioned below, I think that comparative analysis across different forms of violence is useful to check the robustness of some causal mechanisms that is their capacity to contribute to explain also new phenomena. Yet, we have to consider that specific forms of violence also have some specific dynamics, linked as they are to the strength of collective identities, the size of supports, the interactions with different conflicts, the presence of political entrepreneurs, at domestic and international levels.

N.L.: How can we use interdisciplinary approaches in a useful way? What do you think about interdisciplinarity with regard to your discipline?

D.D.P.: Interdisciplinary approaches are generally useful. When looking at the sociological, micro-level level, one asks why some do become radical and others do not, we have to refer to psychological approaches or anthropology. When we look at radical networks, we might find insights in organizational sociology and law is important when studying, for instance, repression. Or geography can be useful when looking at riots. History can always help to develop explanations at the macro-level. But we also have to be careful as interdisciplinarity is not easy to apply in practice. Not all research need to be interdisciplinary: it depends from the type of questions which we want to address.

N.L.: I am wondering about Terrorism Studies here - would you say it is a field in its own right?

I don't think so, the very use of terrorism as a scientific concept is contested and approaches diverge a lot. If we define a field à la Bourdieu, as a set of actors and norms, I do not think this holds for the very heterogeneous sets of research on clandestine political violence.

N.L.: You have used the terminology radicalisation a lot, others use violent extremism: how do you feel about the labeling "extremism research"?

D.D.P.: I think it is important to be clear about definitions, especially when working with terms that are used, with varying connotation, in the political and mass-mediatic debates. This is why I prefer not to use the term terrorism, and suggested to analyse clandestine political violence instead. Also terms like radical, populist and extremist are difficult to use in a scientific way. The term radicalisation has moreover been stretched, being applied to very different phenomena.

N.L.: What would you give young researchers on the way? What should they think about and where should they go? Is there anything you warn against or we should be wary about?

D.D.P.: A risk in radicalization policies is that research is used to discredit entire groups of people that come to be defined as at risk of radicalization. This is in particular true at the moment for young people from ethnic minorities or migrant background, especially if from Muslim countries. I see a serious risk that this type of policies, that are defined as 'preventive', in the reality fuel distrust and repression, fueling radicalization in a sort of vicious circle. We found it out in research on youth political participation, which have shown that young people often feel not only precarious from the social point of view, but also politically repressed and stigmatized by public institutions. So, stigmatisation of entire social or ethnic or religious groups produces rather than hinders political violence. We should not forget that those who use violence are very small, tiny organizations. Scholars working on political violence have to be extremely careful in order to avoid this risk.

N.L.: Thank you very much for these insightful answers, Donatella.

D.D.P.: Thank you, Nina.

Über die Expertin

Prof. Dr. Donatella della PortaDirector, Cosmos, Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy

Donatella della Porta is professor of political science, dean of the Department of Political and Social Sciences and Director of the PhD program in Political Science and Sociology at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence, where she also leads the Center on Social Movement Studies (Cosmos).

Among the main topics of her research: social movements, political violence, terrorism, corruption, the police and protest policing. She has directed a major ERC project Mobilizing for Democracy, on civil society participation in democratization processes in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

In 2011, she was the recipient of the Mattei Dogan Prize for distinguished achievements in the field of political sociology. She is Honorary Doctor of the universities of Lausanne, Bucharest and Goteborg. She is the author or editor of 90 books, 135 journal articles and 135 contributions in edited volumes.

Among her very recent publications are: Legacies and Memories in Movements (Oxford University Press, 2018); Sessantotto. Passato e presente dell?anno ribelle (Fertrinelli, 2018); Contentious moves (Palgrave 2017), Global Diffusion of Protest (Amsterdam University Press, 2017), Late Neoliberalism and its Discontents (Palgrave, 2017); Movement Parties in Times of Austerity (Polity 2017), Where did the Revolution go? (Cambridge University Press, 2016); Social Movements in Times of Austerity (Polity 2015), Methodological practices in social movement research (Oxford University Press, 2014); Spreading Protest (ECPR Press 2014, with Alice Mattoni), Participatory Democracy in Southern Europe (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014, with Joan Font and Yves Sintomer); Mobilizing for Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2014); Can Democracy be Saved?, Polity Press, 2013; Clandestine Political Violence, Cambridge University Press, 2013 (with D. Snow, B. Klandermans and D. McAdam (eds.). Blackwell Encyclopedia on Social and Political Movements, Blackwell. 2013; Mobilizing on the Extreme Right (with M. Caiani and C. Wagemann), Oxford University Press, 2012; Meeting Democracy (ed. With D. Rucht), Cambridge University Press, 2012; The Hidden Order of Corruption (with A. Vannucci), Ashgate 2012.


Visuelle Dokumentation zum CoRE Input Vortrag am 24.10.2018

How 'gangsters' become jihadists (and why most don't):
By - Professor Sveinung Sandberg
Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo


In seinem Vortrag „How Gangsters become Dschihadists (and why most don't)“ analysiert Professor Sandberg das Zusammenspiel von Straßenkultur, Kriminalität und Dschihadismus. Dabei wird auch die Verknüpfung von Gruppen organisierter Kriminalität mit denen, die oft als „Terroristen“ bezeichnet werden, untersucht. Sandberg beginnt seinen Vortrag mit der Studie „Street Capital“ (2009), in der er untersucht, wie Religion von einer Kriminalisierung in den Straßen ablenken kann, so dass sich Kriminelle von der Straße sogar „entfernen“. Bei verschiedenen Kleinkriminellen bedeutet der Fokus auf die Religion den Weg in den gewaltbereiten Islamismus. Sandberg zeigt, dass solche „Straßenkönige“ den Dschihad symbolisch wie auch finanziell unterstützen können.

Die oben genannte Forschung verdeutlicht zudem, wie Menschen nach Erfahrungen im Dschihadismus, oder nach der Rückkehr aus dem sogenannten Islamischen Staat (IS), wieder in die Straßenkultur, mitsamt einer kriminalitätsgeprägten Lebensführung, zurückkehren sowie andere - beide Lebensstile - weiterverfolgen. Die Rückkehr nach der islamistischen Erfahrung in die Straßenkultur sei subjektiv nicht problematisch und sogar der Identitätsbildung zuträglich, solange sie ein Gefühl biografischer Sinnhaftigkeit vermittelt. Allerdings werden Kleinkriminelle eher selten langfristig zu Dschihadisten. Eines der zentralen Ergebnisse ist, dass sich dem Dschihadismus vor allem Muslime aus der westlichen Welt zuwenden. Die parallel dazu verlaufende gesteigerte Wichtigkeit von Religion spielt weiterhin eine entscheidende Rolle.

Unvermittelbar zwischen Dschihadismus und der Street Culture ist aber die konstruierte Statushierarchie zwischen den Gruppen. In der Straßenkultur ist es wichtig, dem Gegner auf Augenhöhe zu begegnen, damit ein Sieg in Respekt und Ansehen auf der Straße überführt werden kann. Unschuldige zu töten sei daher moralisch nicht vertretbar und Extremisten, die durch Anschläge zu Massenmördern werden, werden aus dieser Perspektive zu Psychopathen. Aus diesem Grund entsteht eine deutliche Ablehnung des Dschihadismus durch Kleinkriminelle, u.a. Drogendealern. Es wird als irritierend empfunden, dass Muslimen, die mit der Straße assoziiert werden, zugleich unterstellt werde, dass sie dem IS nahe stehen. Die Verbindung zur Straße als Subkultur wird für eine Rekrutierung in Europa von Muslimen oder kürzlich konvertierten Muslimen somit teilweise negativ besetzt. Attraktiv wird der Dschihadismus für Menschen, die weite Teile ihres Alltags auf der Straße verbringen, durch die moralische Alternative in eine andere Lebensführung. Die Frage ist dann, inwiefern die Narrative lebensweltlich langfristig anschlussfähig werden und ob der moralisch paradoxe Lebensweg dschihadistische Gruppen transformieren, ggf. verändern kann.