Saturday December 03, 2022

‘The Internet has become both boon and bane’

Area Study Centre for Europe’s two-day conference ends with a spirited dialogue over the darker side of technology, challenges of radicalisation and pitfalls of curbing human expression

By our correspondents
October 09, 2015
While the Internet is an incredible invention and one that helps us communicate over a spectrum never even dreamt of before, it can also be a bane, especially when it comes to terror activities.
This was the gist of the assortment of views among speakers on the second – and final – day of the seminar, “Issues of Radicalisation in Migrant Urban Societies: A Comparative Assessment of Pakistan and Europe”, held under the aegis of the Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi, at the Royal Rodale Club on Thursday.
Former senator and federal minister of information, Javed Jabbar, who was presiding over the morning session, said that the Internet had any document one could imagine. “The Internet has unprecedented power,” he said. However, Jabbar said the innovation needed to be regulated because, paradoxically, communication also increased conflict.
Madiha Lateef, on the other hand, was highly critical of the Cyber Crimes Bill 2015, recently passed by the government, terming it an overt attack on fundamental human rights. She said it was in direct contravention of Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
Under Section 34 of the Act, she continued, the government had the discretion to block any piece of an Internet communication if it was deemed to be in violation of the norms of morality, decency, and the like. “This is in direct violation of the rights of the individual. Such moves will stifle education and discourage the youth from discussing vital national and international issues,” said Lateef.
She backed up her stance with a claim that there were 64,000 web sites banned in Pakistan, none of which were related to terrorism. “Terrorism is just an excuse. It is just that the state wants the people to think the way it wants. It wants to regulate the people’s thought processes,” she said.
Air Commodore (Retd) Arshad Hussain Siraj was of the view that, though the Internet was a fascinating

development, it had also become a tool for terrorists to recruit and win impressionable minds over.
Dr Muhammad Khan, chairman of the International Relations Department of the National Defence University, Islamabad, said the Internet, regardless of its umpteen benefits, had become a tool for
radicalisation. “Today, 80 percent of all warfare is being manipulated through cyber tools,” he stated.
Ross Frenett, manager of the Against Violent Extremism Network at the UK-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue, could not turn up on account of a visa glitch, but spoke at the conference via video link.
He said that his organisation had adopted a technology whereby they tried to reason out with the radicals. “We offer them the help they are not getting and it has been pleasing to see that many of these extremists ultimately came around and offered to renounce violence,” said Frenett, “They even tried to cooperate with us by trying to make other radicalised individuals see reason.”
For Frenett, the reason for successful rehabilitation was that they did not adopt a confrontational approach and, instead, tried to accommodate them.
At the second session, Dr Habiba Hassan blamed the decades of coercive, undemocratic and dictatorial rule in the country resulting from the US-USSR cold war.
She took a stinging swipe at all these regimes and accused the then rulers of being hand-in-glove with Western rulers of the day who helped capitalist powers usher in the World Trade Order (WTO) in 1995.
That, she said, had increased poverty and economic exploitation which, in turn, turned the exploited masses to radicalisation. She blamed all of society’s ills on the ruthless crushing of the democratic and secular forces.
Talking about the radicalisation of Muslims, Noman Sattar, acting director of the Area Study Centre, North and South America, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, said the two main reasons for the radicalisation of Muslims worldwide and the lack of their integration were US imperialism and the involvement of the North Atlantic Trade Organisation and the allied military pacts against the Muslim countries.
Sustainable integration of Muslims, he said, remained a massive challenge for Europe.
Bakare Najimdeen of the Preston University, Islamabad, cited the increasing conservatism in Europe as a stumbling block to the integration of Muslims, often resulting in radicalisation. He said that the Muslims were an economically disenfranchised people.
Lt-Gen (Retd) Moinuddin Haider, a former Sindh governor and federal interior minister who was presiding over the session, interjected to say that it was essential that the values and ideas of the host country also be respected, which was something the migrant Muslims were not coming up to in Europe. “While in Rome, do as the Romans do,” he quipped.
Former bureaucrat Ross Masood Khan summed up the conference and said that the assimilation of the Muslim migrants in Europe was a vexing dilemma and the world had to put on its thinking cap to devise a speedy, viable solution.
Dr Uzma Shujaat, director of the Area Study Centre, Karachi University, thanked all the participants for gracing the occasion for two consecutive days and appreciated all the organising staff for making the occasion a success.