Covid-19 Has Created a “Perfect Storm” for Fueling Extremism

Clarion Project
Article Source: Clarion Project

Article Source: Clarion Project

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Islamist & Anti-Muslim Extremism 

British National Named as Texas Synagogue Hostage-Taker

  • On Saturday, January 15, 2022, a 44-year-old British Citizen, Malik Faisal Akram, held members of Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas hostage.
  • Akram was demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui (see below for more details on Siddiqui).
  • After a nearly 12-hour standoff, the hostages escaped, and the FBI’s elite hostage rescue team breached the building and killed Akram.
  • He arrived in the U.S. recently on a tourist visa from Great Britain approximately five weeks ago. Malik’s brother revealed he had a criminal record and questioned how he was eligible to enter the U.S. in the first place.
  • British authorities arrested two teenagers the next day in connection with the attack. 

Who is Aafia Siddiqui?

  • Aafia Siddiqui is a 50-year old Pakistani woman who earned a bachelor of science from MIT and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Brandeis. She became the first woman accused of working with al-Qaeda leadership and would eventually earn the nickname “Lady al-Qaeda.”
  • Siddiqui was convicted in 2010 of attempting to kill American military personnel in Afghanistan while being detained in 2008 on suspicion of plotting attacks in New York. She is currently serving an 86-year prison sentence.
  • In 2009, while awaiting trial, Siddiqui tried to fire her lawyers because of their Jewish background. Siddiqui later demanded that jurors in her trial be DNA tested to prove they weren’t Jewish.

Alt-Right & Alt-Left Extremism

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Oath Keepers Leader Indicted for Seditious Conspiracy

  • A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment charging 11 defendants with seditious conspiracy and other charges for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
  • Two of the defendants, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, 56, of Granbury, Texas, who is the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, and Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix, Ariz. are being charged for the first time in connection with events leading up to and including January 6. 
  • The charge of seditious conspiracy carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Alt-Right Developments

  • Kaleb Cale, 25, a leader of the Neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division from Washington State, was sentenced to 84 months in prison for his role in a plot to threaten and intimidate journalists and advocates who worked to expose antisemitism.
  • Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was released from prison after serving just over four months in jail for burning a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a historic black church in Washington late in 2020. 

Antifa Members Charged for Attacks on California Pro-Trump Protesters

  • California anti-fascists face charges of assault, conspiracy to commit a riot, and illegal use of tear gas in trying to disrupt a pro-Trump rally earlier this year with “violent criminal acts.”
  • The defendants “are self-identified to be affiliated with Anti-fascists or Antifa” and gathered on Jan. 9 in San Diego to take “direct action” against a pro-Trump “Patriot March,” according to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. 

Hostile Foreign Influence Operations

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UK Government Promotes Firm Involved in Chinese Influence Operations

  • The British government has been directing investors toward a law firm run by Christine Ching Kui Lee, a lawyer accused by the country’s own MI5 intelligence service of political interference on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party for years.
  • The MI5 issued an “interference alert” warning that Lee linked politicians across the political spectrum in England and China and facilitated donations “on behalf of foreign nationals.

Chinese in Diplomatic Blitz with Gulf States to Boost Trade and “Security” Cooperation

  • China is hosting foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain, as well as the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council this week as part of an effort to bolster its influence with the oil-producing states.
  • With strained U.S.-Saudi relations and the sense among Gulf state leaders that the U.S. is pulling out of the region, China seems eager to move in to fill the vacuum.

US to Drop Charges Against MIT Professor Accused Under China Initiative

  • U.S. prosecutors are reported to have recommended dropping criminal charges against one of the highest profile cases under the Justice Department’s China Initiative.
  • Chinese-born MIT professor Gang Chen was arrested on charges of concealing posts he held in China in a grant application he made to the U.S. Department of Energy in 2017. 
  • MIT successfully argued that the grant was for a collaborative project of MIT’s nanotechnology department and not for Chen directly.
  • The China Initiative has focused its enforcement energies on finding professors who failed to disclose their connections to Chinese government interests rather than focusing on the widespread and far more damaging theft of intellectual property.
  • This is the 8th of the 23 research integrity cases that the Justice Department has had to drop or that have been acquitted.

Research and Analysis

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Covid-19 Has Created a “Perfect Storm” for Fueling Extremism

  • Covid-19 and the actions taken by governments to try to stem its spread have fueled extremism around the world.
  • report by the United Nations on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on terrorism, counter-terrorism, and countering violent extremism states that the pandemic has exacerbated many pre-existing issues and challenges that shape the terrorist threat landscape. Terrorists and violent extremists have sought to exploit pandemic-related socio-cultural restrictions to recruit, radicalize and organize via virtual platforms.
  • Covid-19, social isolation, and a rise in online extremism have created a “perfect storm” for young people vulnerable to online radicalization, according to the UK’s most senior counter-terrorism police officer.