First Wednesday: Exporting Russia’s radical Islam to the West

By Heather Christie

Is Russia’s radical Muslim movement related to the global jihad movement? Or are the targeted attacks executed in Russia fundamentally different from those that take place in the West?

That tricky question was debated at April’s First Wednesday event at the Frontline Club, after the recent Moscow metro bombings.

If you couldn’t make it to the event, you can watch the whole thing in full here:


Dr Bobo Lo, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, argued that all radical Islamic movements are different and the violence stemming from Russia’s North Caucasus region must be understood on its own terms.

"Terrorism as experienced by the West is very different from terrorism in the North Caucasus region," he said, adding that there is a "desperation" that motivates violence from the Caucuses that differs from Western Islamic violence.

Lo argued that the issues motivating bombers in Russia are entirely domestic, while the Western "war on terror" is motivated foreign, international issues.

Oksana Antonenko, senior fellow and programme director for the Russia/Eurasia Institute for Strategic Studies, disagreed.

Today, Russia is facing very similar terrorist threats to the rest of the West; the challenges are similar and we’re all failing at dealing with them.

Antonenko added that it is both Russia and the West’s failure to properly handle the disenfranchised members of society that has led to such large-scale violence.

Irina Demchenko, UK bureau chief of the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, blamed jihadi social media web sites for radicalising Russian Muslims.

However, Asim Qureshi, senior researcher at Cageprisoners and the author of Rules of the Game disagrees with this approach, arguing for a more nuanced approach to radical Islam.

Just by looking at websites, you’re not going to get radicalised. It’s not necessarily the same thing every time – you have to look at every single circumstance. It’s very naïve to think that just because it’s an instance of radical Islam, it’s linked to all others.

It’s for this reason, Qureshi argued, that the term "War on Terror" is a nebulous and slippery term. Lo agreed:

Part of the problem is that people have fundamentally divergent values. The ‘global war on terror’, however, implies some sort of united front but none of us can agree on the causes or the solutions.

For more of Lo’s views of the ‘Global War on Terror’, listen to this Audioboo:




The evening’s debate ended on a call for nuance. One audience member highlighted the apparent absence of black-and-white solutions to the global and domestic jihad. She said:

I can’t agree that we’re all on the same side… It’s a terrible mask to say it’s just ‘them’ and ‘us’.

Here’s a re-cap of what people were tweeting during the event:


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