Don’t mind the few times these particular nashid had been downloaded within Telegram, part of the normal traffic of IS networks there. While this may be a paradox given the constant drum beat that IS is in decline, or as recently claimed, their ‘play book’ was disrupted online (for the third time?), the IS networks on Telegram did not get that memo, as BBC Monitoring confirmed. Neither had IS been hempered to either release their weekly al-Naba’ 129 or the w. Damascus video. And neither did the IS members and sympathizers who conduct media raid operations bringing content to the non-/less initiated on Facebook, Twitter, and everywhere else see a disturbance, so dropping “dark web” as a buzz word isn’t a excuse.
Three reasons for online network resilience and continued existence in the offline realms:
- Lingual firewall: Arabic content that hardly echoes into the academic realm or within analysis (with few exceptions),
- Initiation firewall: you need to have read and consumed the content in Arabic to understand the depth of theology which is used as coded communication;
- comittment, coherent messages and applying what was penned on paper as state policy with the uninterrupted documentation of bringing shari’a rule in their understanding to the few territorial zones that are held or reclaimed by IS. This combination gives credibility. The coherency in the media output is based on tens of thousands of – mainly Arabic – penned pages where jihadis clearly state why they fight. But without Arabic and understanding the religious depth exercised here, it simply does not matter to the outside who are pre-occupied with the few English items that are found (not neccesarily understood).
So nashid and warning – a reference to the 1980s... again…:
Nashid (or nasheed if you will / pl. anashid) are jihad-hymns. These religious songs are exclusively acapella-styled and oftentimes enhanced by sound effects such as the “clash” or “clang” of a sword, a machinegun, an explosion or the neigh of a horse – suggesting the Mujahid embarked on a horse following the historical role models steering into combat.
Since the 1980s, the nashid has been a genre of its own, enriching sermons and the videos of jihad in general, conveying elemental and key themes of Sunni extremist ideology in a playful style to a wider audience. The use of the Internet was key in popularizing the nashid, some of which have entered mainstream pop-culture, such as the song salil al-sawarim. Generally, nashid acoustically convey rhythmic and easy to comprehend texts featuring religious key words in Arabic. This holds true for both Arabic and non-Arabic nashid, where likewise Arabic key words full of Sunni extremist meaning are broadcast outlining theological concepts and a general Muslim identity. Such key concepts are enhanced by visual means, either pictures or short video sequences – or the nashid serves as the theme for segments within jihadist videos.
The nashid salil al-sawarim has become one of the main IS theme songs, often used to enhance videos, including non-jihadist content, such as a video showing a belly dancer with over 1 million views, a “Shiite version” with drums and about 875 000 views, Egyptians mocking IS or a heavily modified “Skrillex” version thereof with over 430 000 views. When searching for this nashid in Latin transliteration salil al-sawarim, the ‘original’, unmodified version appears by Abu Yasir with over 640 000 views and about 4 500 likes. Most of the comments are in English with the seeming majority in favour. Of the nearly 2,000 comments, statements such as “this song rocked so hard the twin tower collapsed” (25 likes) appear as often as references to first-person-shooter games where two teams fight each other to death:
“Played this over mic in a csgo [Counter Strike Global Offensive, a first-person-shooter] match while yelling Allahu Akbar. Everyone else started yelling with me. The bomb got detonated and we all went totally crazy. 10/10 would jihad again,” (742 likes)
or a top comment:
“My speakers just exploded for like no reason.” (957 likes)
Other commentators criticize the popularity of the IS nashid, claiming that:
“Thanks to 4chan & Reddit, metadata won’t be able to tell the difference between legit radicalized Westerners and teenagers with really weird senses of humor.” (47 likes)
The nashid tends to accompany action-related content released by IS, such as in-combat footage or sniper videos, including a video released January 13, 2016 by the wilaya Halab (“province of Aleppo”). The 7-minute video entitled “Deadly Arrows” (sahm al-qatil) highlights the professional training of IS snipers, with one sniper speaking to the audience about the necessity to fight. Footage showing the shooting of Syrian soldiers through the sniper scope is enhanced by the nashid salil al-sawarim.
As stated, the nashid in general is a genre of jihadist media productions that is meticulously and professionally produced and serves the strategy of conveying ideological parameters and popularizing key words with in-depth meaning to a wide target audience.
A Translation of the nashid salil al-sawarim
Clashing of the swords, hymn of the reluctant
while the passageway of fighting is the way of life
so amidst an assault, tyranny perishes
the most beautiful echo is silence
concealment of the voice results in the beauty of the echo
By it my religion is exalted and tyranny is laid low
Therefore, my people, awake on the path of the brave
For either being alive delights leaders
Or being dead vexes the enemy
So arise brother get up on the path of salvation
So we may march together, resist the aggressors
Raise our glory and raise the foreheads
That have refused to bow before any besides God
Come on to righteousness
The banner has called us
To brighten the path of destiny
To wage war on the enemy
Whosoever among us dies
In sacrifice for defense
Will enjoy eternity
Mourning will depart
Will enjoy eternity
 A news report on mock executions and Egyptians dancing in a funny manner to offend IS, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFR1AUA_RPo. About a quarter million views with some strong language in favor of IS in the comments.
 Salil al-sawarim
 This refers to local tyrants (local Arab regimes) and the ‘far enemy’ (Western nations, supporting regimes in the Arab countries to suppress Islamist and jihadist movements).
 Lit.: the silencing of the voice is a beautiful echo.
 Lit.: the silencer is a means of a beautiful resistance [to assassinate enemies in secret].
 In the meaning of “my religion is honored” (‘izza), a term frequently used to re-instate lost pride and respect to incite the consumers of jihadist media to get active and participate in an empowering movement. La ‘izza ila bi jihad, “there is no honor except by jihad” was a popular slogan for the first generation of AQAP and often used within the electronic magazine “The Voice of Jihad.”