by Oren Kessler
A Washington think tank is hoping to map out the breadth and scope of radical Islamic groups with the same precision policymakers once used to monitor the spread of communism.
Last month, the American Foreign Policy Council unveiled the first installment of its World Almanac of Islamism, a continuously updated online database it hopes will become a key resource in helping policy-makers in the US and beyond address the global Islamist threat.
“We’re talking about Islamism as a political manifestation of an often radical phenomenon,” AFPC Vice President Ilan Berman said.
“There are violent groups like al- Qaida and participatory groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, and while a lot of their goals tend to be congruent, they express themselves in many different ways.
“The goal of the almanac is to try to provide a bit of granularity to what is essentially an amorphous concept,” Berman told The Jerusalem Post last week on the sidelines of the World Summit on Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya.
A decade after the 9/11 attacks, he said, “there’s not a lot of understanding about how pervasive Islamism is and what its driving dynamics are – whether it’s ascendant or descendant in various places… and what the constituent governments are doing about it, if anything at all.”
The World Almanac represents the most comprehensive attempt yet at mapping worldwide Islamist movements, Berman said.
“There have been other, earlier projects, but they tended to be either region-specific or isolated in a certain moment of time,” he said. The almanac, he said, will monitor the spread of radical Islam “the way we used to track communism during the Cold War, and the way we today track the advance or decline of democracy.”
The online resource covers 58 countries, but its editors hope to extend its reach as widely as necessary.
“There are certain places – Iceland, Greenland – where this isn’t really an issue, but we do intend to expand this to areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, and to monitor trends evolving from the Arab Spring,” Berman said.
The almanac website (http://almanac.afpc.org) features a clickable color-coded world map indicating whether a country shows a low, medium or high level of Islamist activity, as well as a drop-down list of non-state Islamist groups such as the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Chapters are written and updated by dozens of experts, including the Washington Institute’s Matthew Levitt on Hezbollah, Shmuel Bar of the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, on Jordan and the Middle East Forum’s Raymond Ibrahim on the Palestinian Authority