Panel 8B

The Discourse and Propaganda of ‘Islamic State’

11.30 – 13.30
Chair: Elena Pokalova, National Defence University

Dabiq and Rumiyah: Islamic State’s Propaganda Mechanism

Paulami Sanyal, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

Islamic State, the Islamist fundamentalist group that came to the international scene in 2014 has already gathered a reputation for its brutality; mass killings abductions and beheadings. With its sophistication in the field of social media and a strategic online policy, it is becoming more threatening to the world than any other Islamic militant organisations before.  Apart from the online accounts in social media or blogs, online magazines, Dabiq and Rumiyah are also used for propaganda and recruitment purpose of this organisation. They are periodical magazines and depict the Islamic State through glorified images of their victories and romanticises the goal of restoring Islamic golden age through new caliphate.  The purpose of this paper would be to analyse them. The published issues are in a number of different languages including English and are available online through Clarion project’s website. The paper will try to focus on three questions: What are the types of articles published; what different kinds of propaganda materials are used and lastly, how are women portrayed through these two journals?

The Islamic Caliphate in ISIL’S Discourses: A Social Myth

Marco Jovanovic, Institute of Social Sciences, Belgrade, Serbia

Given the recent attempts of reestablishing the Islamic caliphate by ISIL, this paper aims at determining whether the group’s use for the word “caliphate” truly represents a revival of the oldest Islamic traditions and a religious duty or, on the other hand, whether it is a social myth derived from a distortion of early Islamic history. To that end, we will first refer to Muslim scholars, whose research has attested that the appointment of a caliph isn’t a religious duty and thus could not be substantiated with verses from neither the Qur’an nor the Hadiths. Afterwards, the paper will examine the use of terms “caliphate” (hilâfa) and “caliph” (halîfa) in the historical records from up until the 10th century, when the equation of the Qur’anic halîfa with the head of the Islamic community first started. On the second part of the paper, we will briefly explain the social myth emergence theory and in that regard discuss the ISIL, who has put the term caliphate in the center of its political and religious discourses; more specifically, an analysis of its official statements will be performed in order to trace the components of this social myth and its references to early Islamic history.

Radicalisation on the Move: The Foreign Fighter Phenomenon

Elena Pokalova, National Defence University

With the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, the phenomenon of foreign fighters became a significant security concern. Governments around the world have become preoccupied with the possibility of their citizens leaving to fight among the IS ranks. The foreign fighter phenomenon is not new and previously foreigners travelled to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, or Chechnya to name a few conflicts. However, the IS has attracted record numbers of fighters from all over the world and from countries that previously did not have to deal with foreign fighters. As a result, policymakers have become preoccupied with prevention of radicalization measures targeting vulnerable populations that might be linked to foreign fighters. Further, as veterans have started returning to their home countries, governments have become concerned about the significance of combat experience and exposure to radicalization such individuals bring back with them. This research project aims at filling the gap in the existing knowledge regarding such concerns. I conduct a quantitative estimation at the country level to investigate which factors are significant in contributing to the outflow of foreign fighters to the IS in Syria and Iraq. The number of foreign fighters from a specific country is treated as a dependent variable, and such variables as political openness, economic development, religious diversity, along with other control measures are included in the analysis.

“Give glad tidings to the strangers”: Sufi ‘strangers’ re-imagined as ISIS’s ‘muhajiroun’

Nabeelah Jaffer, University of Oxford

This paper examines the unusual link established in ISIS propaganda between the Islamic doctrine of hijra (migration), and classical traditions on guraba (strangers). Scholars have highlighted the way modern jihadist movements such as Al-Qaeda have often linked hijra as an Islamic doctrine – commonly involving movement from non-Muslim to Muslim lands – with the practice of violent jihad.  ISIS’s propaganda similarly urges Muslims across to world to embark on ‘hijra’ to its territory in Syria and Iraq. But ISIS goes further than other jihadist movements by associating the ‘muhajiroun’ (migrants) who travel to its territory with the classical Islamic concept of ‘strangers’ – encouraging migration to Syria by promising these individuals an end to estrangement within ISIS territory.  Yet this prominent reinterpretation of a notably Sufi theme within ISIS propaganda has received little consideration. The idea that ‘strangers’ – wanderers – had a special claim to holiness was common within classical Sufi thought. Sufi thinkers such as Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya not only described travel as a holy act, but also used travel as a metaphor for our time on earth: true believers were perpetual ‘strangers’, journeying toward the afterlife. Al-Jawziyya’s writings on ‘strangers’ are quoted extensively in the ISIS magazine, Dabiq. I will suggest that ISIS adapts Sufi traditions by promising its followers an end to estrangement within the world, rather than locating it in the afterlife. This highlights an unexpected link between ISIS’s attempts to construct a coherent religious framework, and the Sufi traditions they purport to despise.

ISIL’s Narrative in Mosul and Raqqah, and How to Counter It

Amjed Rasheed, University of Durham

Language is a form of power exercise (Leites, 1951, 1953; Lasswell and Leites, 1965; Walker, 2011). ISIL’s narrative seem to provide this organisation of a source of power. Thus, this paper aims to analyse the narrative that ISIL uses in Mosul and Raqqah to exercise power over the civilians in these two cities.  To do so, this paper also provides a socio-?anthropological survey of those two cities, in order first to understand the content ISIL’s messages and put them into a religious prospective, and second, investigate to what extent they were convening to the locals of the two cities, and second to ?understand the primary driver of support of the locals in both cities to ISIL. This paper utilises a ?content analysis approach, using Nvivo to analyse the messages that ISIL.

What Explains the Expansion the “IS” Organization and Its Ideology?

Hassanein Ali, Zayed University

The “IS” organization is considered the most dangerous jihadi terrorist organization in the world. It has become a transnational network, which has sleeper cells, supporters and sympathizers in many countries around the world. The organization recruited thousands of youth from more than 100 countries, including developed ones such as Germany, Australia, United States, France, Belgium and others. This paper aims to explain the reasons behind the expansion of the “IS”, and the factors that allowed it to spread its ideology at the global level. The paper will highlight a number of factors, including: the nature of the thought raised by “IS”, and its attractiveness to some people; the performance of the organization in managing the areas that they dominated it in both Syria and Iraq; its financial resources which made it the richest jihadist terrorist group in the world; its military capabilities, which enabled it to wage war on more than one front for some time; and its media strategy which focuses in using social media in particular. In Addition, the paper will discuss the phenomena of the weak and failed states in the Arab and Islamic world, which represented a suitable environment for “IS” to expand. Also, it will address the identity crises and integration problems, especially among second generation of Muslims who hold citizenships in some Western countries. This is one of the main factors that partially explain the success of “IS” in recruiting thousands of western youth in their ranks. In this context, the defeat of “IS” in Syria and Iraq does not mean the end of their ideology, since countering its ideas require more than military and security solutions.