Dr Rohan Gunaratna’s Abstract

  • The Islamic State (IS) presents a growing threat to the security and stability of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. With the meteoric rise of IS, an al Qaeda mutant, the nature of the global and Asian threat landscape has changed. Multiple threat groups outside Syria and Iraq have either pledged support to IS or taken an oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. In Asia, two dozen groups support IS. Nearly 1000 recruits from Southeast Asia, China, Australia and New Zealand have travelled to Syria and Iraq. The al Qaeda centric threat landscape is eclipsed by an al Qaeda-IS hybrid global threat. Today, al Qaeda and IS compete for supremacy of the terrorist movement. Nonetheless, their ideology is identical: IS is more permissive in its brutality. If either of the apex leaders are killed, they will unite presenting an unprecedented global threat.


    With IS mastery of shock action and social media, the threat is both territorial and  global.  With Western and Middle Eastern political will, IS infrastructure can be dismantled and by building international partnerships, global harmony can be restored. Although the threat of IS and al Qaeda-directed attacks persist, the dominant threat is by self-radicalized homegrown cells and individuals.  The strategy is to create a multinational, multipronged, multiagency, and a multijurisdictional framework to fight upstream counter radicalization and downstream deradicalization. Rehabilitation and community engagement are game changers in the fight against terrorism. To engage vulnerable communities and rehabilitate both terrorists and extremists, the formula for governments is to work with the civil society and private firms. As the IS threat is global, the challenge today is to build a global rehabilitation and community engagement vision, infrastructure and capabilities. By integrating hard power with soft power, smart power can contain, isolate and eliminate IS at its core, its associates in Asia, and in the virtual space.


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