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French Version

A crackdown on so-called 'extremist' sites

There have been a number of news reports about "extremist" web sites which are being targeted by anti-terrorism authorities in the United States and Europe.

There have been a number of news reports about "extremist" web sites which are being targeted by anti-terrorism authorities in the United States and Europe.
Typically, as you would expect, all the sites identified by authorities as potentially "threatening" belong to Islamic groups. The reports claim that some of these web sites teach visitors "how to wage a holy war on the United States", "how to build a bomb", and "advertise training courses on guerilla warfare for true believers". Maybe they don't know that many "do-it-yourself" sites on the Web out there teach users how to build bombs—most of which are not run by Muslims and that hundreds, if not thousands, of web sites carry anti-American slogans and rhetoric coming from countries all over the world, not necessarily just Islamic countries. Why don't American authorities check out some Yugoslav, Russian and Chinese sites which are just as vocal?! It seems that singling out Islam makes the job easier for authorities who need to show results fast even if they're not always pursuing the right people! It's no secret that there are some web sites on the Internet that have been calling for a holy war (Jihad) against the United States for years now. But there are also many anti-American government sites run by Americans. In fact, there are hundreds of American groups on the Internet like the one that carried out the Oklahoma City bombing. Why doesn't anyone talk about their threat! Honestly, there's so much on the Web illustrating the sometimes disturbing variety of human beings out there which we conveniently ignore as we search the Web day-to-day.

The point is that there are many potentially threating sites, other than so-called Islamic extremist sites, but nobody considers those a threat. The news reports include information about arrests carried out in countries like Britain and Germany, where authorities have taken in a number of "Webmasters" for questioning, all of whom are Muslims, and whose web sites have been classified as "extremist". Some of these sites call on Muslims to help their brothers in the Caucasuses (Russia) a war that has been going on for several years now and which has little, if anything at all, to do with the attacks on New York and Washington.

Other sites labeled as "extremist" ask visitors to donate money to Islamic social and religious causes, and some sites simply provide general Islamic guidance, "touching" on the issue of Jihad as an obligation of every Muslim. Obviously there's a lot of confusion and misunderstanding out there, with the "extremist" label even being applied to web sites run by the Hizbollah. In response, a Hizbollah spokesman commented by saying, "I did not know that being committed to liberating one's land is viewed as extremism".

What is particularly disappointing is that some reports I saw included comments from so-called Israeli "experts" on terrorism who gladly added fuel to the fire. Naturally, their comments are totally biased and exaggerated. These people must be having a field day, snipping at Islam and Arabs. Then as a conciliatory note which came too late, some writers of these reports said that "for most Muslims, the Web is just another means to connect and exchange cultural information." It's too little, too late. All of us agree that what happened on 11 September was terrible, but what we don't agree to is a random crackdown on web sites run by devout Muslims or Islamic groups.

There is a need for more understanding and more tolerance, but most importantly, there is a need for a clear and specific definition of what makes a site an "extremist" outlet.

Let's hope the recent calls for religious understanding throughout the world are also applied to the online world.

Zeid Nasser
The Star

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