Cyber jihadis focus more on 'traitors', hate Hamas intensely Read more: Cyber jihadis focus more on 'traitors', hate Hamas intensely Directly challenging extremist ideology through exposing the fallacies, contradictions and harmful effects of jihadist concepts and actions is a better way of tackling them than closing down extremist websites, a think-tank has concurred. Quilliam, a London-based think-tank whose founders are former ideologues of UK-based extremist Islamist organisations, has based its conclusions on an 18-month study (PDF, 4.2 MB) of Arabic-language websites that eventually focused on 20 discussion forums. Unlike earlier studies which have focused on technical aspects of jihadist websites, Quilliamâ€™s report Cheering for Osama: How jihadists use internet discussion forums aims to re-focus attention on the ideological content of these websites and to show how pro-jihadist individuals interact on the sitesâ€™ forums in order to share religiously-framed justifications for violence, to organise a response to criticism of al-Qaeda and to plan outreach efforts in order to recruit others to violent extremism. The report, authored by Mohammed Ali Musawi, sheds new light on ideologies, recruitment strategies and social dynamics of these forums, in addition to adding to existing knowledge about the role these websites play in distributing jihadist texts, videos and statements. The Quillam study found that the primary concern of jihadi forum users is to identify traitors and enemies to the their cause. While the US, the UK, Israel and other western countries remain enemies, much attention is given to identifying enemies among people who are outwardly Muslims, for instance, those who support á¹ÄghÅ«t, those who recognise or facilitate â€˜un-Islamic systemsâ€™, those who have â€˜abandoned their religionâ€™ etc. Users of jihadist forums also think that Salafists and Wahhabis are highly susceptible towards being recruited into jihadism on account of them sharing many of the same core beliefs, rites and jurisprudential reference points as jihadists. For this reason they regularly conduct online â€˜ghazwÄtâ€™, or raids, onto Salafist forums and websites to post jihadist material there. Unlike the English forums, the Arabic-language jihadist forums lack real debate. There is a clear and deliberate attempt to create an impression of unanimity, with regular dissenters being kicked off the sites and barred. "This makes it very difficult for mainstream Muslims to use the forums to challenge supporters of jihadist ideologies," the report said. Most users on jihadist forums also lack any depth of scriptural knowledge and are frequently unable to articulate their beliefs in their own words. Instead there is a tendency to merely paste the rulings of recognised clerics, both Jihadist and Wahhabi, and likewise to fall back on platitudes (for instance, â€˜those on the battlefield know bestâ€™). Users of jihadist forums are almost unanimous in their intense dislike of Hamas (and other Muslim Brotherhood organisations). Hamas is usually regarded as an "apostate" organisation that has knowingly betrayed its founding principles. Some even believe that it is consequently acceptable for them to fight Hamas. The report underlines the point that forums are not only a cause of extremism but are also a symptom of it â€“ a fact that underscores the importance of tackling extremism more generally. It emphasises on the needs to make a clear distinction made between attempting to de-radicalise existing extremists and preventing new generations from adopting such ideologies in the first place. However, strategies that might be relatively effective at de-radicalising existing extremists may be counterproductive in preventing other individuals from adopting extremism in the future, the report warns. If deployed against those who are not extremists, some such strategies may even have the reverse effect by making non-jihadist individuals more susceptible to jihadist ideology than they were previously. Closing down websites, the author argues, has been tried but it doesn't really work. They usually pop up again somewhere else and even if they are permanently closed the ideas they promote will not go away. In the long run, suppressing them is no substitute for directly challenging their ideology. Challenging the ideology, rhetoric and worldview of jihadists forums should take place in both the â€˜cyberâ€™ and the â€˜realâ€™ worlds, he says.