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Just sharing – Understanding Cyberspace as a Medium for Radicalization and Counter-Radicalization

Understanding Cyberspace as a Medium for Radicalization and Counter-Radicalization

Christopher Boucek

As a result of its speed, anonymity, and global reach, the Internet has become a powerful tool for Islamist extremists to raise funds, recruit new members, and spread their ideology. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Christopher Boucek highlighted an innovative Saudi model for governments looking to short-circuit Islamic extremism on the web.

The Saudi Solution:

In response to the proliferation of websites distributing jihadist literature and propaganda, Saudi Arabia has quietly supported initiatives to combat Internet radicalization.
One of the most developed and successful programs is the Sakinah Campaign, which in addition to collecting, cataloguing, and analyzing extremist material found online, allows Islamic scholars to interact online with individuals looking for religious knowledge.
The program aims to steer such individuals away from extremist sources and so-called deviant interpretations of Islam, thereby reducing the chances that they will become radicalized.
While supported by the Saudi regime, the Sakinah Campaign is an independent, non-governmental organization. Its independence helps contribute to its relative legitimacy and results in more people being willing to engage in online dialogue.
U.S. Policy Recommendations:

The United States should quietly partner with NGOs and other governments to help establish national versions of the Sakinah Campaign throughout the Muslim world. Such campaigns would benefit significantly from American financial support and technical know-how.
At the same time, the United States should be careful to avoid any visible role. As the Saudi case has demonstrated, the legitimacy of such counter-radicalization programs hinges on their perceived independence from government—and particularly Western government—influence

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About Muhammad Haniff Hassan

Muhammad Haniff Bin Hassan is a Fellow. He holds a PhD and M.Sc. in Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (previously known as the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies), Nanyang Technological University. He received his early education in Aljunied Islamic School. He then continued his tertiary education at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, National University of Malaysia, with honours in Syar`iah and Civil law. Mr. Haniff is also active in social activities as a member of the Islamic Religious Council Appeal Board, HSBC Insurance Islamic Advisory Board from 2000 to 2014, Association of Islamic Religious Teachers and Scholars of Singapore (PERGAS) and Management Committee of Al-Irsyad Islamic School. He writes extensively in Berita Harian (a local Malay newspaper) and has also published articles in The Straits Times. He has published six books in his name, co-authored a monograph and helped publish two books for PERGAS and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. His personal website in Malay is at


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