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Islamic Arguments Against Militant Jihadist Terrorism

ICSVE Panel Discussion featuring

Usama Hasan, Senior Analyst, Extremism Policy Unit
Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

Sheikh Ali, Islamic Scholar, ICSVE

Dr. Anne Speckhard, Director ICSVE

MARCH 22, 2022

What is the role of imams and Islamic scholars in preventing and countering radicalization to militant jihadist violent extremism, and how has that role changed over time? For years, those on the outside looking in have opined about what imams and other Muslim community leaders should and should not be doing, particularly with regard to their interactions with young people, to fight back against militant jihadist terrorism. At the same time, Islamic scholars have issued fatwas allowing for suicide terrorism, for women’s involvement in militant jihad, for taking hijrah (migration) to live in Muslim lands ruled by shariah, for the individual obligations to militant jihad, etc. Yet, it is all too rare that we hear from scholars on the front lines who work to refute not only the religious arguments that terrorists use in their radicalization and recruitment efforts, but also to provide counseling to those feeling a lack of meaning, dignity, and significance who might be especially vulnerable to such efforts.

Usama Hasan was once a radical Salafi activist who has spent the past two decades fighting against extremism in the United Kingdom. Sheik Ali is an Islamic scholar who works with ICSVE, conducting research, making counter narrative videos, and writing blog posts refuting terrorists’ arguments, in addition to much other important work. He has also worked extensively with Dr. Speckhard in designing the Islamic Challenge portions of terrorist rehabilitation programs.

On March 22, 2022, join ICSVE director Anne Speckhard and these two experts to discuss how Islamic leaders can work to prevent and counter militant jihadist radicalization and recruitment, and what role they can play in rehabilitation and reintegration work, as well.

(Imam Dr) Usama Hasan is a Senior Analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, working on extremism policy.  He specialises in theological arguments to counter Islamist extremism, and his is latest report, published on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, is “The State of Debate Within Islam: Theological Developments in the Muslim World Since 9/11.

He is also a theological Intervention Provider for the UK Home Office, providing 1:1 mentoring to individuals who are radicalised or vulnerable to being radicalised. Since his teens for two decades, Usama was a radical salafi activist and, whilst still a Cambridge undergraduate, briefly took part in the ‘Jihad’ against Communist forces in Afghanistan (1990-1). However, following the 2005 London bombings, Usama began campaigning against extremism and for religious reform within Muslim circles. Usama has served as a part-time imam for over 30 years since his teens and is a certified transmitter of the Qur’an and Hadith scriptures and has translated a number of Islamic texts into English. Before joining TBIGC, Usama was Head of Islamic Studies at Quilliam International (2012-19), where his publications included co-authoring Tackling Terror, a comprehensive rebuttal of ISIS’s manual The Jurisprudence of Blood. Usama also acts regularly as an Expert Witness in Islamic theology and law: in particular, he has been invited to give independent, impartial, expert witness by both prosecution and defence in about a dozen high-profile terrorism-related trials in the UK & USA since 2014.

Sheik Ali is an Islamic scholar carrying multiple diplomas of Islamic study. He is a trained translator and skilled video editor. He worked with Anne Speckhard in 2006-2007 designing and carrying out the Islamic Challenge portion of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq. The program was designed for the 23,000 detainees and 800 juveniles then held by U.S. forces. He also took part in ICSVE’s 2021 research with extremist prisoners in the Maldives.

Dr. Anne Speckhard is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 700 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past five years, she has in-depth psychologically interviewed over 250 ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners  as well as 16 al Shabaab cadres (and also interviewed their family members as well as ideologues) studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS (and al Shabaab), as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews which includes over 250 short counter narrative videos of terrorists denouncing their groups as un-Islamic, corrupt and brutal which have been used in over 150 Facebook and Instagram campaigns globally.  Since 2020 she has also launched the ICSVE Escape Hate Counter Narrative Project interviewing 25 white supremacists and members of hate groups developing counternarratives from their interviews as well. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals, both locally and internationally, on the psychology of terrorism, the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS.  Dr. Speckhard has given consultations and police trainings to U.S., German, UK, Dutch, Austrian, Swiss, Belgian, Danish, Iraqi, Jordanian and Thai national police and security officials, among others, as well as trainings to elite hostage negotiation teams. She also consults to foreign governments on issues of terrorist prevention and interventions and repatriation and rehabilitation of ISIS foreign fighters, wives and children. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism expert and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, the EU Commission and EU Parliament, European and other foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA, and FBI and appeared on CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, CBC and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times, Voice of America, and many other publications. She regularly writes a column for Homeland Security Today and speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to TerroristsBride of ISISUndercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her research has also been published in Global Security: Health, Science and PolicyBehavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political AggressionJournal of African Security, Journal of Strategic Security, the Journal of Human SecurityBidhaan: An International Journal of Somali StudiesJournal for Deradicalization, Perspectives on Terrorismand the International Studies Journal to name a few.  Her academic publications are found here: and on the ICSVE website Follow @AnneSpeckhard

This is the twenty-sixth discussion in this series of panels discussing preventing and countering violent extremism. The previous panels can be found at the following links:

Boko Haram Rehabilitation and Reintegration in Nigeria

Influence, Authoritarianism, and Cults

Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in Sweden

How Can We Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism in the Military?

Repatriating the ISIS Children with Ambassador Galbraith

ISIS Repatriations in North Macedonia

White Supremacists Speak: ICSVE’s Latest Research Report

Interventions for White Supremacists

Childhood Abuse, Military Service, and White Supremacism

Professor Arie Kruglanski and the Three Pillars of Radicalization

Understanding Q-Anon

Asking Incels: An Insiders Account of the Involuntary Celibate Community

The Journey Back – Turning Away from Extremism and the Road to Hope and Healing

ICSVE and Parallel Networks Team Up to Fight Violent Extremism

Rescue Me: A Conversation with the Yamout Sisters re Prison Rehabilitation

Are We Losing a Valuable Feminist Project in the Middle East?

Community-Focused Interventions Against Terrorism

Terrorism Prevention, Intervention, and Rehabilitation with Juveniles

Talking Terrorist Propaganda with a Pro

Fighting ISIS Online: An Introduction to Breaking the ISIS Brand

Into and Back Out of ISIS: An ISIS Defector Speaks Out

Terrorist Rehabilitation in the Dutch Prison System

Can We Repatriate the ISIS Children?

Can an ISIS Terrorist be Rehabilitated and Reintegrated into Society?

Issues of ISIS Prisoners & Repatriations in a Time of COVID

Event Links:

Powerpoint used in this presentation

Usama Hasan’s Blog:


11:02:15 From Porus Dadabhoy to Everyone : I have spoken two immams in the Chicago area they both indicate that the verses in the Koran as written justify the killing of non believers and there are several of theses. The koran needs Foot notes or contextual explanation. In India both major sects do not get along with one another, Deobandi and /bareli.

Anne Speckhard after the event:  Dear Porus, there is a joke in Christianity about two Baptists who meet each other and are very friendly as they compare what their beliefs are down to their synod and denomination at which point one says to the other, “die heretic!”  It is common for religious people to hold their beliefs so sacred that they don’t get along with others who believe closely but not close enough…  Likewise this conference was designed to refute both militant jihadists claims about Islam as well as those that condemn Islam as a religion of war.  Please take a look at Sheik Ali’s blogs

11:02:56 From Porus Dadabhoy to Everyone :

11:03:04 From ICSVE – Molly Ellenberg to Everyone : You can watch our past events here:

11:03:21 From ICSVE – Molly Ellenberg to Everyone : You can watch our counter narratives here:

11:05:34 From Kamaruddin MN_Malaysia to Everyone : tq ICSVE for organising this great event

Anne Speckhard after the event:  thank you for coming!

11:05:57 From Kamaruddin MN_Malaysia to Everyone : very good for peace and understanding of PCVE

11:12:34 From Rachel Elizabeth to Everyone : Thank you so much in advance to the presenters and attendees for being present and facilitating peaceful horizontal consensual relationships

11:13:15 From Gary Hill to Everyone : 1992.5

11:19:30 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : Usama agrees the slides will be put with his video on our website, but please treat them as intellectual property and attribute to him accordingly.  🙂

11:24:51 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : Molly, TM and I will soon have a paper out on the phenomena of directed hate toward Jews, but this relating to white supremacists…  maybe we’ll hold an event on that too 🙂

11:32:38 From Michael Haines to Everyone : Anne I have been trying to reach you by email I am not sure if they are getting through to you. Would you be so kind as to drop me an email at please. I am coming to America in late April and looking to give some talks within the US.

11:36:13 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : Michael I sent you my e mail and whatsapp in chat,  welcome to USA!

11:32:45 From Kamaruddin MN_Malaysia to Everyone :

11:39:28 From Abba Ali Yarima Mustapha to Everyone : I love how the presentation is going, I can see clearly the common link between global Islamic jihadist view and that of local jihad groups (esp along the shores of the Lake Chad i.e Boko haram even though ISWAP is now global).

it is important to know that cultural influence and societal norms also shape Jihadist view of jihadism

11:41:01 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : so true Abba, jihadist groups always take advantage of local grievances and are aware of local issues.

11:41:43 From Kamaruddin MN_Malaysia to Everyone : thanks ICSVE and speakers, very wonderful facts i learn from here

11:42:11 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : thank you for coming Kamuruddin all the way from Malaysia! and keep us safe when we come to you.

11:48:17 From Kamaruddin MN_Malaysia to Everyone : for sure Dr Anne, we will protect you and ICSVE team.

11:49:08 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : can’t wait to return!

11:50:18 From Royce de Melo to Everyone : But of those three caliphates, they were at war with each other at any one time (and couldn’t agree on much theologically re the Sunni and Shia divide, e.g. Fatimid vs Umayyad). It wasn’t like they were agreeing on ruling.

11:50:37 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : good point, I was thinking the same…

11:51:03 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : also Tamiyyah is so often followed by ISIS guys and militant jihadists… but they don’t have a deep understanding

12:00:12 From Sheikh Ali (ICSVE) to Everyone : It seems that Islam answers to what is available in every specific period in history, the philosophy of the Ummah and Islamic state concept was an answer to the environment of the time, which had empires existing at that time and taking into consideration all the threats to the newly born state, There is no strict model of an Islamic State in Islamic jurisprudence, it is a political view which is developed within the given time and potentials

12:02:10 From Royce de Melo to Everyone : What Sultan Mehmet said at one time does not apply historically… Different Sultans different behaviour and beliefs. Islamic expansion under Turkic leadership happened… Does Byzantium exist today? The Crusades were in part to stop that expansion, a counter offensive. The taking of Christian boys to become Muslim slave warriors.. Ottoman Islamist policy…

12:02:13 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : please have a look at Sheik Ali’s blogs on specific issues that militant jihadists claim and Islamic arguments against at ICSVE’s

12:03:12 From ICSVE – TM Garret to Everyone :

12:06:03 From Royce de Melo to Everyone : Usama, how do you explain sahih al-Bukhari 6924?

12:07:23 From Joya Elias to Everyone : Any link to Dr Usama’s publications?

12:08:09 From madeline (she/her) to Everyone :

Anne Speckhard after the event: Usama’s personal blog is

12:09:00 From Joya Elias to Everyone : Thank you!

12:16:59 From Nadeem Shah to Everyone : Usama, how can we stop the desired interpretations of Quranic verses and Hadith at the hands Imams and Muslim scholars

12:17:40 From Royce de Melo to Everyone : Anne, there’s no debate about the Crusades and what led to it. Byzantium in the first Crusade had asked western Europe for help because the Turkic Muslims were pushing them back at their borders… (Also there had been a massacre of German pilgrims to Jerusalem a few years earlier.)  Did not Arab Muslims take Jerusalem, and later the Turkic and later the Fatimid (when the Crusaders arrived in Jerusalem)? This is simple, does Byzantium exist today? No. Why? Because it was taken by Turkish Muslims, who built an empire… Byzantine concerns were real. The Islamist Turkic and Arab expansions and empire happened. Constantinople is no more, it is Turkish.

12:20:40 From Royce de Melo to Everyone : Usama, but couldn’t the changing views of the Hadith today be considered revisionism?

12:20:52 From Royce de Melo to Everyone : And thank you for your response, Usama.

12:31:12 From Royce de Melo to Everyone : Usama, keep up the good work.

12:31:38 From Mark Kustra to Everyone : There is a huge difference between blowing yourself up for a strictly military target versus deliberately targeting civilians.

Anne Speckhard after the event:  Yes, we did not get time to address this thorny issue.  If you are going to die and decide to take out those enemy soldiers around you it’s very different than strapping on a vest or getting in an  explosive-filled truck or car to attack civilians.  I would refer you to for an excellent discussion by Sheik Ali on this issue.

12:31:40 From Gary Hill to Everyone : Excellent – thank you!

12:31:51 From Mark Kustra to Everyone : Thanks

12:32:07 From Brigitte Adès to Everyone : thank you ever so much you were excellent and so useful!!!
Anne Speckhard after the event:  Usama’s Academia page is here, with most of his papers on these topics:  Thank you to everyone for coming and staying civil while discussing a difficult topic!

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