Why we focus on Arabic – Stating the Obvious for the Oblivious

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While many reports focus on social media accounts and sources that use English, Arabic is the primary language of jihadi groups globally. And this is not new. 99.9 % of all materials by jihadist groups is released in Arabic. Yet, out of a lack of lingual expertise, and an absence of “reading  their lips”,  has led to simple answers for Arabic illeterate audiences – produced by Arabic illerate opinion makers – out of touch with the massive ecosystem of writings. This post is about why Arabic matters, which should be evident to anyone dealing with jihadist materials due to the sheer amount of Arabic produce. To focus on this question, we repackage previously released posts, expand on the issue and emphasize, given by the evidence of collected materials, why Arabic matters.

On March 22, 2016, two bombings hit the city of Brussels. The bombings at Brussels airport and the metro station Maelbeek, which is located in the heart of the city and close by many European Union institutions, left 32 people dead from around the world – not including the three suicide bombers. As would later be the case with the Manchester bombings (May 22, 2017), several days later documents by IS were released to outline and justify these attacks. Based on theological grounds and grievances echoing from within the territory held by IS, a document was published on March 25, 2016, by al-Wafa’. The text is entitled “Ten Reasons to Clarify the Raids on the Capital [of Belgium] Brussels.” Penned by a woman by the nom de guerre of Umm Nusayba, ten reasons are clearly outlined why suicide bombers had attacked the airport and metro station. This Arabic language text has not played any meaningful role, in the media reporting or the wider academia, to understand the motivation behind this terrorist attack – in the words of the terrorists.

The same occurred when a similar text was released days after the May 2017 Manchester attack.[1] It seems that ISIS has the luxury of disseminating their coherent extremist writings well knowing it reaches their Arabic speaking target audience and bypasses the vast majority of the non-Arabic speaking counter-terrorism policy officials, academic analysts and commentators. Apart from being published on Telegram where a wider range of ISIS sympathizers are initiated into this mindset – and where most speak Arabic, the text references theological nuances and sentiments which are familiar to those acquainted with content ‘intimately tied to the socio-political context of the Arab world’,[2]

رباط يوم في سبيل الله

Neglecting the corpus of Arabic writings produced by Jihadist groups due to the absence of fluent Arabic speakers who understand the deep nuances of these writings is a luxury we should no longer afford. This enables content to remain online undetected in the open due to human ignorance. Caron E. Gentry and Katherine E. Brown have both shown how approaches, including cultural essentialism and neo-Orientalism, can cause a ‘subordinating silence’ which veils particular groups or perspectives from view.[3] This veil of silence still falls over the majority of the Jihadi movement which operates in Arabic, as the majority of research focuses on peripheral languages, particularly English, and interpret meaning of images based on a Western Habitus.

Violent extremist religious groups, often referred to as violent jihadist groups, have issued since the 1980s over 300,000 pages in Arabic promoting their brand of theology to justify violent jihad. In addition, contemporary Jihadist material references elements of the rich 1,400-year long tradition of Islamic writings. Part of this massive corpus are thousands of writings by the extremist Salafist spectrum. This violent jihadist theology informs their actions of violence and allows groups to communicate concepts and meaning through shared understandings of specific references, across languages, by conveying symbols and codes expressed in pictures, writings, videos or key words – strengthened by re-distributing historical and contemporary Salafist writings and, as often the case, citing these in their self-published propaganda.

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ISIS shares more extremist Salafist writings (in pages) then producing their own

From ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam’s books from the 1980s Osama bin Laden’s declarations in the 1990s, or Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s statements in the 2000s (in sum 620 pages), Abu Mus’ab al-Suri’s “Global Resistance” book (1604 pages), Yusuf al-‘Uyairi’s “Constants on the Path of Jihad” (78 pages), or his “Truth of the New Crusader Wars” (119 pages), the first electronic AQ magazine “The Voice of Jihad” (in sum 1353 pages) etc.; for any Arabic speaker researching this field, “it is crystal clear – to virtually anyone who has the linguistic capacity to grasp and the opportunity to witness what jihadists are actually saying, writing and doing, both online and offline – that religion matters.”[4]

AQ, IS documents and the videos of the “Islamic State” are a treasure trove and yield to the audience the true power IS holds (and uses as nostalgia as of 2018 after great territorial loss): having (had), for the first time ever in the history of modern Jihadist movements, the power to apply theology penned by historic and contemporary theologians on conquered territory in the Arab world. This power is furthermore enhanced by the ability to project influence on the world outside of the “caliphate” by using social media as a launching pad. Sunni extremists seek to fulfil two objectives that are deemed as divine commandments: (i) commit to militancy often termed as Jihad bi-lsayf (Jihad by the sword) while (ii) being driven by the dedication to missionary work. Instead of the traditional term da’wa (proselytism), Sunni extremists, militant as well as non-militant, refer to this as Jihad bi-l lisan (verbal jihad).[5]

Sunni extremists continue operating freely online, expanding their existing databases of texts (theory) and videos (theology applied in practice) for future generations. Organizing on platforms such as Telegram allows the ‘Media Mujahidin’ to swarm on other platforms[6], social media sites and the internet in general, in their belief to fulfill the divine obligation of da’wa (proselytising) to indoctrinate future generations for their cause. Groups as IS can operate conveniently online, as their clandestine networks are protected by, as noted before:

  • Arabic language required to access clandestine networks, the ongoing paucity of these language skills amongst researchers is appalling (lingual firewall),
  • Knowledge of the coherent use of coded religious language and keywords, which few researchers can demonstrate in their writing (initiation firewall),
  • With the migration to Telegram, IS succeeded in shifting and re-adapting their modus operandi of in-group discussions & designated curated content intended for the public (as part of wider da’wa).

Media raids ensure that dedicated content gets pumped to the surface web, ranging from Twitter to Facebook, while the IS-swarm can (re-) configure and organize content related to what is happening offline on the ground to ensure the cycle of offline events influencing / producing online materials is uninterrupted. The theological motivation, coherently repacked and put in practice, based on 300,000 pages of writings and over 2,000 videos just by IS needs to be addressed. Yet, “without deconstructing the theology of violence inherent in jihadi communications and practice, these religious ideas will continue to inspire others to act, long after any given organized force, such as the Islamic State, may be destroyed on the ground.”[7]

As outlined in this post from July 2019.

This is where we stand as of May 2020, with IS resurging for over a year in MENA and expanding in Africa, from Sahel to West Africa; not to forget the fierce battle for Marawi and the growing presence of IS in South East Asia, using both soft and hardpower. Yet, the West only seems to comprehend hardpower giving soft- and hardpowered orientated extremists areas to exploit and thrive in.

And now further details on the recent post:

The Caliphate Library on Telegram – Evidence of the importance of extremist Salafist writings

Note: for a deep diver on the Caliphate Library, please click here.

To recap:

Many Telegram channels and groups operated by Jihadi groups, distribute lengthy Arabic documents.  An analysis of the content shared by one such channel, ‘The Caliphate Library’ Telegram Channel shows how the Jihadi movement thrives on lengthy documents that sets out their theology, beliefs, and strategy.

Overview of findings:

  • This individual library contained 908 pdf documents, which collectively contain over 111,000 pages. This is far from what one might expect from a movement which thinks in 140 characters, as some Western commentators suggest.
  • In addition to the material produced by Dawlat al-Islamiyya, the channel;
    • republished earlier writing through Maktabat al-Himma, a theological driven publication house of Dawlat al-Islamiyya.
    • shared earlier work produced by al-Qaeda
    • distributed historical and contemporary Salafi writing which intersects with their theology.
  • ISI era is an important part the identity for Dawlat al-Islamiyya – over 15% of the pages in ‘IS media products’ category originate from that period.
  • While 10% of PDF were encrypted, most documents were produced using tools easily available on most modern laptops.
  • Not one of the texts envisages a ‘Jihadist Utopia’ nor proposes a ‘Utopian narrative’. The idea of a ‘Utopian Narrative’ is an artefact of Western misinterpretation. It is not rooted in the texts of of Dawlat al-Islamiyya nor their predecessors.
  • Graphics on the documents – not so the content – is availabe in the previous post.

Sample Set taken of the Telegram IS channel “Library of the Caliphate” – more ISIS poroduced articles then historical and contemporary extremist books shared (left) yet the number of pages (right) outweigh what terrorist groups produce.

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The pie-chart on the left shows the number of pages of each category. The categories are:

  • AQ era (without ISI) in red;
  • IS media group in yellow;
  • Extremist Salafist books by contemporary and historical authors in green. These writings are neither banned nor illegal in most countries around the world and provide the religious ecosystem to degrade humans and define the ‘other’ as enemy and so forth. The number of pages of these writings outweigh what terrorist groups produce.
  • Blue shows the dedicated re-publication of such legal extremist Salafist writings by IS’ Maktabat al-Himma, marking the importance for the extremist constituents.

The pie-chart on the right side shows the quantity of documents in the Caliphate Library. 596 uniquely IS (and ISI) produced document make up over 13,000 pages. Hence, the number of IS produced documents are shorter, quicker to read, more in number, yet reference to the rich ecosystem of the (green) 87,000 pages of extremist Salafist writings.

The AQ Era – The Arab Peninsula Documents

6% of the 908 PDF documents are from the AQ era, excluding the Iraqi AQ side, The Islamic State of Iraq, the forerunner of IS. It is significant to note, for IS and their readership, the ‘historical’ AQ documents of the Arab Peninsula jihadist ecosystem matter. It provides the theological legitimacy to kill fellow Sunni Muslims in the service of Arab regimes (i.e. al-Zahrani), the historical jihadist legitimacy of indiscriminate killings (i.e. al-Fahd[8]) or the re-enforced intellectual argumentations of fighting jihad until the end of times (i.e. al-‘Uyairi[9]). The first generation of al-Qaeda on the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) had been pioneers in facilitating the Internet as a constant medium for their output in the early 2000s and had a major crossover to the unfolding jihad in neighbouring Iraq. AQAP not only produced the first electronic jihad magazines but also had been key and cornerstone to develop the Sunni jihadist online activism.[10]

Of these core pre-IS AQ documents one AQ author is dominantly featured: Abu Hummam Bakr bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Athari. Al-Athari gained fame by his real name: Abu Sufyan Turki bin Mubarak bin al-Bin’ali, who had been a keen supporter of the Islamic State in Iraq when it was part of AQ and later sided with al-Baghdadi before falling out with him.[11] He was a prolific writer and, for example, under his pseudonym eulogized the Islamic State of Iraq leaders, the “believer of the faithful and his minister”, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Hamza al-Muhajir in April 2010. His writings regarding the Arab Spring in 2011, calling for violence as the only possible means in Syria[12] are shared by the Library as well. A document from February 2010 entitled “Conversation or Mooing”[13] is shared as well, highlighting the framework of that time when the West sought to engage moderate Islamic forces to undermine extremist groups – whereas this document shared in this context almost ten years later is seen as proof for the Caliphate Library target audience that ‘true’ Islam is victorious despite the odds. His 2011 fatwa styled ruling on banning women from driving is also part of the collection and was enforced during the reign of IS during its physical territorial phase in Syria and Iraq.[14]

Other writings of the AQ era feature Nasir al-Fahd, a treatise on “What a Woman should wear in front of other women”, dated to the year 2000. Nasir al-Fahd was a prominently featured scholar among the ecosystem and his writings among other things called for indiscriminate revenge bombings of citizens of enemy nations and the like. Nasir al-Fahd was arrested after the May bombings 2003 in Riyadh and recanted his support of terrorism while in prison. AQ, at that time active in Saudi Arabia, was keen to support al-Fahd by the emergent online ecosystem at the time and al-Fahd’s alleged letter “recanting the alleged recantation” was featured within this ecosystem.[15] Unlike al-Fahd, Abu Jandal al-Azdi was executed by the Saudi state after his arrest in August 2004. Abu Jandal al-Azdi aka as Abu Salman Faris al-Zahrani by his real name, was a key jihadi-theologian. In the Caliphate Library collection his work on “Usama bin Laden – Reformer of our Time and Crusher of the Americans” (640 pages) is featured and a new IS version of his early 2000s writing regarding the permissibility to kill Muslims in the service of Arab nation states had been re-published. He was on a wanted list of Saudi Arabia, to which AQAP responded by issuing a 65 page long ‘counter-narrative’ featuring the 26 individuals. This writing was edited by al-Azdi and is part of the Caliphate Library.

The Documents of the precursor Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and IS

In addition to the material produced by IS, the channel republished ISI era documents. This is an important part of the identity for Dawlat al-Islamiyya (IS) and a religious authoritative source – over 13% of the pages (over 13,000) in ‘IS media products’ category originate from that period. Most documents are martyr stories that had been published by the AQ Iraq media diwan (2005) and was then distributed by the Majlis al-Shura al-Mujahidin and al-Furqan, the foundations of ISI. IS re-published these early martyr stories of Iraq fighting against mainly the Americans in 2018. The document of 235 pages features over 50 martyr stories, including prominent al-Zarqawi lieutenant Abu Anas al-Shami[16], valuing the avant-gardist jihadist operations of the time that led to the success of the Islamic State a decade later. The textual cohesion laid by such martyr stories of the ISI-era is continued by similar stories by, for example, IS’ al-Rimah media featuring the martyr Abu ‘Ali al-Shammari, a member of a large tribe, from Iraq, following the “examples of Khattab [Samir Saleh ‘Abdallah, Chechnya], Shamil [Basayev, Chechnya], Usama [bin Laden] and other” jihadi foreign fighters.[17] A focal point, naturally, are the IS era documents that to a degree are transcripts of IS radio al-Bayan programs, featuring lengthy theological explanations by iconic IS figures such as Abu ‘Ali al-Anbari outlining the Sunni jihadist understanding of being a muwahhid, of professing the meaning of the “oneness of God”.[18] Other key documents include the series about the “Bath party – it’s history and ideology” (al-Battar), the treatise “legal ruling on defending against an attack against the Islamic shari’a and the ruling of the [jihadist] banner”, an updated re-print from the Saudi AQ era and released by al-Battar in 2015. The collected speeches by Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani are likewise featured with IS Maktabat al-Himma re-releases of slain ISI leaders writings, prominently having featured the “30 recommendations to the amirs and soldiers of the Islamic State” by ‘Abd al-Mun’im bin ‘Iz al-Din al-Badawi aka Abu Hamza al-Muhajir. This 74 page long advise, in the sense of his legacy, was re-distributed in multiple languages by Maktabat al-Himma in 2016. Several Arabic articles translated from English released in English in Dabiq appear alongside selected articles taken from the weekly al-Naba’ magazines. Showcasing the active side of the Islamic State, the constant emphasize that jurisprudence during their reign was actively implemented, lengthy documents clarifying everyday legal issues are part of the library, explaining in a Q&A styled process legal rulings (fatwa) to mundane issues such as who has to recompense what to the family of a victim of traffic accidents or general rulings in regards of blood money and revenge killings.[19] Ashhad writings on the proper process during Ramadan[20], reacting to AQ claims and drawing a line of distinction between AQ under bin Laden and that of al-Zawahiri[21] and classical jihadist-styled theological treatises that in sum can be labeled as anti-democracy analysis.[22]

Not one of the texts envisages a ‘Jihadist Utopia’ nor proposes a ‘Utopian narrative’. The idea of a ‘Utopian Narrative’ is an artefact of Western misinterpretation. It is not rooted in the texts of IS nor their predecessors.

The Salafist Distributions by Maktabat al-Himma

While the majority of single PDF documents are crafted by the two dominant Sunni jihadist groups AQ and IS, the Caliphate Library distributed historical and contemporary Salafi writing which intersects with modern Sunni jihadist theology. Earlier writings through Maktabat al-Himma, a theological driven publication house of IS republish writings by authors of the ‘Abd al-Wahhab family, mainly Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab. His writings are the backbone of modern-day Wahhabism that constitutes the state doctrine of Saudi Arabia and had been radical-revolutionary at his time. Banning veneration of graves and being outspoken anti-Shiite, the work of ‘Abd al-Wahhab gave birth to modern jihadism where a clear Sunni identity is laid out in cohesive literal format and with the Islamic State 2013 onwards, demonstrating the power of applying this form of extremist theology in audio-visual format to appeal to a less text-affluent zeitgeist on the Internet. Apart from extremist Salafist books re-published through Maktabat al-Himma (MH), using own created covers featuring the MH and IS logo with the slogan “upon prophetic methodology” many Salafist writings shared by the Library channel are scans made available as PDFs.

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Maktabat al-Himma, IS core textual media foundation, distributes historical writings by Muhammad ‘Abd al-Wahhab to boost and promote their actions as theological sound based on the writings of the founder of Wahhabism.

Of the non-IS branded Salafist writings shared by the Library, not all works are to be associated with the extremist segment. The 40 hadith by al-Nuwawwi for example are an exception and are often simply party of any well stocked Islamic library. What makes the Salafist writings shared by the Library to be defined as extremist, however, is set on two principles:

  1. The Salafist writings are linked to modern jihadist groups based on the shared theology, using the same language and referencing oftentimes the same religious sources to justify violence. Legitimizing killing those who insult prophet Muhammad (ibn Taymiyya 1263-1328 AD) is put into practice by AQ in the 2000s (following the Muhammad cartoons), sanctions the murder of Theo van Gogh (Amsterdam, 2004) and the main theme of a major ISI/IS themed video series (2012-2014). The writings are the basis of modern jihadist theology, relating the jihadist religiosity to violence against the defined ungodly, unholy or simply unhuman ‘other’.
  2. Writings such as Minhaj al-Muslim featured in the Library are heavily cited by AQ and IS. Looking at the Arabic produced content of jihadist groups allows to reference and link the sources. The Caliphate Library Telegram channel provides a comprehensive collection of such core-jihadist historical and contemporary extremist Salafist textbooks that continue to inspire and fuel the Sunni jihadist movement as such. This is not limited to historical Salafist writers such as of ‘Abd al-Wahhab, ibn al-Qayyim, but includes modern extremist Salafist thinkers who are as outspoken in their works.

The Extremist Salafist Connection

The Salafist books featured in the Caliphate Library Channel by far outweigh in number of pages the jihadist documents. Apart from classical works by Imam Shawkani or Ibn al-Qayyim, the “shaykh al-Islam”, Ibn Taymiyya is overrepresented. Ibn Taymiyya, died 1328, was a prolific writer and member of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence. His work has influenced the Wahhabi movement of which the theological jihadist branch is the most extremist extension thereof. Within the 300,000 penned pages by AQ authors and IS productions, Ibn Taymiyya is referenced over 40,000 times. His jurisprudential (fiqh) works justify the persecution and killing of non-Muslims and provide a clear-cut definition of when Sunnis become apostates – the very essence of almost every contemporary jihadist author (and applied in the videos of jihadist groups). Ibn Taymiyya is renowned for his “characteristically juridical thinking”[23] and has a high level of competence as a legal scholar expressed in his writings that are based – at least in parts – on Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).Ibn Taymiyya is frequently cited in Sunni extremist, writings since the 1980s and accordingly referred to and quoted by jihadist ideologues in audio-visual publications.  The “Islamic State” is basing all of its audio-visual output on the theology that has been penned by AQ since the 1980s – with the significant difference, however, that IS has had the territory to implement and enforce this corpus of theology upon the population of the self-designated “caliphate” – which as of 2019 serves as the filmed legacy and pretext for the return of IS. Featured in the Caliphate Library is the over 4,000 page long multivolume “tafsir shaykh al-Islam”, the exegesis of the Qur’an by Ibn Taymiyya and his notorious book “The drawn sword against the insulter of the Prophet” (al-sarim al-maslul didda shatim al-rasul). Within the Sunni extremist mindset, the sword must be drawn upon anyone who opposes their worldview and specific interpretations of Qur’anic sources, the hadith (sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad) or frame of references that have been penned since the 1980s. Ibn Taymiyya’s book has been used by Muhammed Bouyeri to justify killing Dutch filmmaker and Islam critic Theo van Gogh in November 2004 in Amsterdam and is part of a long list jihadist operations in recent years.

“The text details how and why to kill targets, first of all because of insult (shatm, sabb, adhan) of Islam. Bouyeri tried to sever van Gogh’s head with a big knife after he had shot him several times. In the text we find the passage: “the cutting of the head without mercy is legal if the Prophet does not disapprove it.” Moreover, the text advises multiple times to use assassination as an act of deterrence. The slaughter of van Gogh in open daylight seems like a one-to-one translation into reality of the directives we find in the text.”[24]

For example, Ibn Taymiyya has been used to justify the suicide bombing attack of the Danish Embassy in Pakistan (2008)[25] after the Muhammad cartoons had been released. In June 2012 the Jund allah (soldiers of God) media outlet of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan published a German language video featuring Moroccan-German “Abu Ibraheem” (Yassin Chouka) calling on his associates in Bonn from Waziristan to kill members of the German rightwing party Pro-NRW.

This exact notion was picked up by German speaking Global Islamic Media Front activists in 2012 in the wake of the violent protests in parts of the Islamic world in response to the movie “Innocence of Muslims.” A German translation of al-Maqdisi’s pamphlet, presumably by Austro-Egyptian jihadist Muhammad Mahmud, enriched the fatwa by the Egyptian pro-jihadist Ahmad ‘Ashush calling for the death of anyone involved in the movie project.[26]

In January 2015 two brothers, apparently trained by al-Qaeda on the Arab Peninsula in Yemen, attacked the offices of the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. The Kouachi brothers after the massacre are seen and heard in one video made by a bystander shouting “we have avenged the Prophet” (li-intiqamna al-rasul), and then shoot wounded French police officer Ahmad Merabet in the head.[27] A video published on January 11, 2015 by the IS affiliated media outlet, Asawitimedia, praises the attacks. The video is entitled “The French have insulted the Prophet of God – thus a merciless reaction.”

To cite Rüdiger Lohlker once more: “without deconstructing the theology of violence inherent in jihadi communications and practice, these religious ideas will continue to inspire others to act, long after any given organized force, such as the Islamic State, may be destroyed on the ground.”[28]

This applies not just to deconstructing the massive literature corpus produced by Sunni Jihadists. Without understanding the linguistic-theological links to the extremist Salafist spectrum that is of intimate importance to the modern Jihadist movement, and taking steps against the maintained presence of extremist Salafist materials online (as well as the multilingual printed offline global dissemination), the threat of the most extreme form of religious terrorism is unlikely to diminish any time soon.

[1] Nico Prucha, The Context of the Manchester Bombings in the Words of the “Islamic State” on Telegram, onlinejihad, August 2017, https://onlinejihad.net/2017/08/27/the-context-of-the-manchester-bombings-in-the-words-of-the-islamic-state-ontelegram/.

[2] Paz, Reuven. “Reading their lips: the credibility of jihadi web sites as ‘soft power’in the war of the minds.” Global Research in International Affairs Center, The Project for the Research of Islamist Movements 5.5 (2007).

[3] Brown, Katherine E. 2011. “Blinded by the Explosion? Security and Resistance in Muslim Women’s Suicide Terrorism,” in Laura Sjoberg and Caron E. Gentry, eds. Women, Gender, and Terrorism. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 194-226.

[4] Rüdiger Lohlker, Why Theology Matters – The Case of ISIS, Strategic Review July –September 2016, http://sr-indonesia.com/in-the-journal/view/europe-s-misunderstanding-of-islam-and-isis

[5] Both references, jihad by the sword as well as the tongue are based on Ibn Taymiyya’s understanding thereof, whereas Ibn Taymiyya declares “jihad by one’s hand, heart, and tongue.” Ibn Taymiyya, Qa’ida fi l-inghimas al-‘adu wa-hal yubah? Riyadh: Adwa’ al-salaf, 2002, 19. The first generation of al-Qaeda on the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) referenced the “tongue” as part of the overall endeavor to commit themselves to God and using violence to deny the application of man-made laws: “We call all Muslims to work on behalf of the religion of God, and to jihad on the path of God, by dedicating one’s live, financial abilities and one’s tongue.”

“Statement by the mujahidin on the Arab Peninsula regarding the latest declarations by the Ministry of Interior”, translated and commented in Nico Prucha, Die Stimme des Dschihad – al-Qa’idas erstes Online Magazin, Verlag Dr. Kovac: Hamburg, 2010, 137-144.

[6] Ali Fisher, “Netwar in Cyberia: Decoding the Media Mujahidin”, CPD Perspectives on Public Diplomacy, (Paper 5, 2018)  https://www.uscpublicdiplomacy.org/sites/uscpublicdiplomacy.org/files/Netwar%20in%20Cyberia%20Web%20Ready_with%20disclosure%20page%2011.08.18.pdf

[7] Rüdiger Lohlker, Why Theology Matters – The Case of ISIS, Strategic Review July –September 2016, http://sr-indonesia.com/in-the-journal/view/europe-s-misunderstanding-of-islam-and-isis

[8] Nasir al-Fahd, a long-time sympathizer and endorsed by the classical AQ, currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.

[9] Yusuf al-‘Uyairi, former bin Laden bodyguard and key AQAP theologian whose writings are in parts of analytical sobriety and in other parts clear theological instructions. His writing “constants on the path of jihad” is one of the most important documents and was indirectly cited by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi when he re-iterated that “god commands us to wage jihad, he did not order us to win”, emphasizing jihadist motivation in this world is to strive to be certified to enter paradise in the next.

[10] The range of pioneer activist media operations spanned from re-thinking jihadist videos to professionally  broadcast the testimonies of suicide bombers, include important textual sources in filmed documents to legitimize beheadings (before these became a symbol in Western mindset for AQ Iraq with the filmed beheading of Nick Berg 2004), and even a first form of streaming: a squad of AQAP operatives maintained a cellphone connection allowing an audio recording as the operation unfolded. This audio was then included in a later video production to praise the attack and commemorate the killed operatives. Nico Prucha: Die Stimme des Dschihad – al-Qa’idas erstes Online Magazin, Dr. Kovac: Hamburg, 2010.

[11] Falling out over takfir issues – killed – link

[12] Al-Bin’ali (al-Athari): Ya ahl al-Sham inn al-asima fi l-husam, Minbar al-Tawhid wa-l Jihad, 2011.

[13] Al-Bin’ali (al-Athari): Hiwar am khuwar?, Minbar al-Tawhid wa-l Jihad, 2010. He notes the term khuwar “mooing sounds” by citing the Lisan al-‘Arab reference of the Qur’an: 7:147

[14] Al-Bin’ali (al-Athari): al-Ishara fi hukm qiyyada al-mara’t al-siyyara, Minbar al-Tawhid wa-l Jihad, 2011.

[15] For more on the online operations and key players of the first generation of AQ in Saudi Arabia: Nico Prucha: Die Stimme des Dschihad – al-Qa’idas erstes Online Magazin, Dr. Kovac: Hamburg, 2010.

[16] Abu Anas al-Shami was a renowned theologian and a vital figure for al-Zarqawi and his group. He died in a targeted missile strike by American forces in 2004 near Abu Ghraib in Iraq. He was a Palestinian based in Jordan. He grew up in Kuwait, where arguably many Palestinian workers and engineers had been exposed to the strict teachings and interpretations of the Wahhabi dominated Arab Peninsula Islam. Experiencing war and expulsion again, the Palestinian migrants, who nevertheless had been refugees in Jordan and had come to Kuwait in pursuit of economic opportunities, had to flee back to Jordan because of the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait in 1990, taking the Arab Peninsula Salafism with them. As the PLO sided with Saddam Hussein, the Palestinians lost their base in Kuwait and in most cases returned to the refugee camps of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and elsewhere. Hazim al-Amin, Al-Salafi al-yatim – al-wajh al-Filastini li “l-jihad al-‘alimi” wa-l “Qa’ida”. Beirut-London: Dar al-Saqi, 2011, 114-127.

[17] Abu Mu’adh al-Shammari, Qissa shahid min ard al-‘Iraq Abu ‘Ali al-Shammari, Rimah Media, 2018.

[18] For example, the – as featured in the library as of time of writing – 26 transcribed episodes of al-Anbari’s lessons how to avoid involuntarily shirk (‘polytheism’).

[19] i.e. Fatawa ‘abr al-athir: Qatl wa-mawt wa-qisas wadiyyat wa-l jana’iz, al-Bayan, 2017.

[20] Abu ‘Ammar al-Ansari, al-Khuttab al-madhbariyya istiqbal Ramadan, Ashhad, 2018.

[21] Abu l-Bara’a al-Yamani, al-Radd al-qasif  ‘ala shuyukh al-qa’ida al-khawalif, Ashhad, 2018.

[22] Abu Mu’adh al-Shammari, al-Dimukratiyya wa-atiba’uha fi mizan al-shar’i, Ashhad, 2018.

[23] Wael b. Hallaq: Ibn Taymiyya against the Greek Logicians. Translated with an introduction by Wael Hallaq, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, xxxiii.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack on the Danish Embassy in Pakistan in 2008. In video entitled al-qawla qawla al-sawarim, “the words [are now about action and hence] words of the sword”, shows the testimony of the suicide operative identified as a Saudi by the nom de guerre Abu Gharib al-Makki [the Meccan]. The one hour long video justifies the attack – among a rich blend of theological narratives – by the referencing of the time to talk is over, the time for actions (i.e the swords must be drawn) has come to avenge the insults of Prophet Muhammad, referring to the work of Ibn Taymiyya.

[26] Nico Prucha, Fatwa calling for the death of the director, producer, and actors involved in the making the film “Innocence of Muslims”, Jihadica, September 18, 2012, http://www.jihadica.com/fatwa-calling-for-the-death-of-the-director-producer-and-actors-involved-in-making-the-film-%E2%80%98innocence-of-islam%E2%80%99/

[27] A detailed oversight is provided by the BBC, outlining in depth also the attack by IS member Amedy Coulibaly who executed several hostages in a Jewish supermarket, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30708237

Amedy Coulibaly uploaded a video where he pledges allegiance to al-Baghdadi. Part of his video is used in one of the ‘official’ IS videos to applaud the January 2015 Paris attack, Risala ila Fransa, Wilayat Salah al-Din, February 14, 2015.

[28] Rüdiger Lohlker, Why Theology Matters – The Case of ISIS, Strategic Review July –September 2016, http://sr-indonesia.com/in-the-journal/view/europe-s-misunderstanding-of-islam-and-isis

How decliners get data so wrong

Western habitus and Jihadist media:

media_battle_on_fire

The understanding of the jihadist movement is a research task which requires collaboration between data analysis and subject matter expertise, a formulation Jeffery Stanton described in his book Introduction to Data Science.

Daulati_Baqiyah

Previous posts have focused on the role of subject matter expertise, and how the study of the Jihadist movement has tried to understand it in terms of street criminals, gangsters, individuals obsessed with computer games (particularly first person shooters), and a desire to go from zero-to-hero. These interpretations originate from the attempt to view the subject matter – Jihadist media – through a Western and predominantly English language lens. In this lens, not even Latinized Arabic key words from the rich blend of Arabic dominated theological motifs are reflected upon sufficiently. This traps the interpretation within specific perceptive dispositions that Pierre Bourdieu calls habitus.[i] These interpretations frequently lack any attempt to address the theological aspects of the movement, even the simple references in the titles of media products go unnoticed. This, as a consequence, leaves the analysis dislocated from the repeated referencing of the concepts, which link together to construct chains that anchor contemporary media to the foundations created by scholars stretching back through the history of Jihadist writing, (and furthermore, the redundant yet coherent use of historical writings used by jihadists to enhance and enrich their posture).

For example, most discussion and interpretation of the series Salil al-Sawarim (SAS), located in a Western habitus, focused on the Hollywood style or slick production values – just as understanding of the movement often revolves around ideas of ‘brand’ and ‘marketing’. However, as noted in the previous post SAS:

 

is particularly illustrative of this emphasis on theology. Readers sufficiently initiated into the mainly Arabic language corpus of Sunni extremist theology will understand the title’s particular reference right away;[1] it refers to the book al-Sarim al-maslul ‘ala shatim al-rasul, “the Sharp Sword on whoever Insults the Prophet.” Its author is 13th century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328 AD),

Equally consider the sound effect used to underscore references to Ibn Taymiyya’s writings in numerous AQ and IS videos. It is no coincidence that it is a high pitched metallic sound effect which recreates a sword being drawn from its scabbard.

Interpreting the movement with references to a street crime, zero-to-hero, and gangsta lifestyle, creates an impression recruits are being lured to join ISIS with the promise of Big Screen TVs, blunts, 40s and bitches… (to quote ‘Steve Berman’).[ii] These interpretations lack any attempt to address the theological aspects of the movement, nor encoded cultural understandings, and the meaning evident to those from (or sufficiently initiated into) an alternative habitus.

William Rowlandson argues, definitions are “really a debate about who owns the words”.[iii] Framing the interpretation of Jihadist media within a Western habitus focuses interpretation firmly within the comfort zone of English speaking commentators who often have little familiarity with the theological and historical reference points used by the movement, nor a nuanced understanding of the concepts expressed by Jihadists in Arabic. To maintain their ownership over such interpretations, it has become increasingly important for some commentators to downplay the role of theology.

Instead, bolstered by a focus on defecting European Foreign Fighters, these commentators attempt to wrest the analytical locus of the jihadist movement away from the complex, and unfamiliar Arabic core – preferring instead to locate understanding within a Western habitus. This approach fences off alternative world views and further seeks to extend Western hegemonic ownership over meaning – developed since 9/11 became a moment of universal temporal rupture.

Western policymakers reviewing recent media statements, commentary and research will have found a confused range of interpretations for the Resilience and Appeal of “Islamic State” media content. This confusion is as often due to an imbalance between the level of subject matter and data analysis expertise. For example, the data analysis of ISIS networks on VK, deployed a robust data analysis approach for the online phase of the research, but from the outset struggled with the subject matter. The authors appeared surprised to find women prominent in the digital outreach efforts.

However, as Saudi former Usama bin Laden bodyguard and first-generation leader of AQAP Yusuf al-‘Uyayri wrote in ‘The Role of the Women in Fighting the Enemies’:

the woman is an important element in the struggle today, and she must participate in it with all of her capacity and with all of her passion. And her participation does not mean the conclusion of the struggle – no. Rather, her participation is counted as a pillar from amongst the pillars that cause victory and the continuation of the path.[iv]

The document highlights women as fighters and participants in battle (mujahidah being the female form of mujahid):

[T]o show the importance of your role in this clash today between the religions of Kufr and the Religion of Islam, and especially in the new crusade that the world is waging against Islam and the Muslims under the leadership of America, then we must remind you of an aspect of your role, reflected in the image of the Mujahidah of the Islamic Golden Age.

While acknowledging limitations on the involvement in battle – outside of specific circumstances – the document states

… we want you to follow the women of the Salaf (female companions of the prophet) in their incitement (inspire) to fight and their preparation for it and their patience on this path and their longing to participate in it with everything in return for the victory of Islam.

Far from being unlikely to be involved in online activities, this emphasis on incitement, preparation, and participation should highlight the expected role women may play within the online struggle – including on VK.

Familiarity with these texts is not just a niche historical interest. AQAP theologians such as Yusuf al-‘Uyairi and their many writings have long mattered to IS (not just in the time since they caught the attention of commentators as they swept into Syria). Many of the Arabic language productions by IS have strong lingual and theological ties to content produced by the original incarnation of AQAP, yet IS was the first group to have the room, territory and thus resource to apply the otherwise theoretical theology that was brought into organized existence by key leaders and theologians such as al-‘Uyairi. His study circles, strategic writings, sober analysis of U.S. intervention into Iraq etc. are reflected in the structure and output of contemporary IS media releases and notions. Furthermore, a eulogy of al-‘Uyairi (died 2003) by his brother in arms al-‘Awshan (who was also killed shortly after) was downloaded nearly 3,000 times in just one core IS-Telegram channel.

Data Science:

Familiarity with subject matter is one aspect of data science, the other is the familiarity with data handling and statistical techniques. One of the most common elements of commentary (and confusion) is the question of how much ISIS content is being produced, and what it looks like – sadly fewer column inches are allotted to the strategic purpose this content serves.

Since mid-September the stream of commentary, reports, and presentation claiming to show some element of the online presence or Virtual Caliphate has gathered pace. However, as methods vary wildly, and statements are often ad hoc responses what an individual personally saw on Twitter, rather than explanations of research that carries predictive value, politicians can be forgiven their moments of confusion.

Take these statements – both in November from Charlie Winter, one of the proponents of the flawed concept of a Virtual caliphate:

“The caliphate will continue to exist no matter what happens on the ground,”[v]

And

“My latest on the state of #IS’s virtual caliphate. Bottom line up front: It’s not doing too well these days”.[vi]

September:

Back in late September he told a Wired security event about the ‘Virtual Caliphate’:

“There’s a lot of propaganda coming out on a daily basis,” … “Hundreds and hundreds of unique media products, videos, magazines, radio bulletins, in lots of different languages coming out every single day.”[vii]

Tech World reported from the event:

ISIS and its central media office, Winter claims, is “really effective” at keeping up that flow of information – and the propaganda side is something that the group strongly tries to maintain. “I think some of them are addicted to this propaganda, it’s something the group really tries to cultivate, the interdependence between the brand and supporters,” he says.

October:

In October the claim changed, now ISIS had only produced a total of 300 items for the month of September. This claim included a graphic which purported to show “#IS’s media machine is contracting. A large proportion of the propaganda apparatus is now almost totally dormant”.[viii]

It later transpired that to produce the impression that sections of the ISIS media apparatus were “totally dormant” any foundation or province thought to have produced 4 or fewer pieces of content was excluded.

Despite the grainy resolution of the accompanying graphic it was possible to see that the approach had significant methodological problems. The viewer could make out which provinces were considered ‘dormant’. These included al-Furat, Somalia, Khurasan, Bayda’, Anbar, & West Africa. The problem was simple:  all these actually produced more than four pieces of content in September.

Publishing the image provided conclusive proof that from a data science perspective, the research is not analysing ISIS production, but recording the declining ability of a particular individual to locate ISIS content.

Furthermore, the impact of the methodological limitations means that from a data science perspective the graphs showing ‘content type’ actually record the type of content which this individual is able to find – not an assessment of the type of content ISIS is actually producing. A subtle difference, but one which makes all the difference in data science.

Equally problematic, this analysis equates the publication of a single photo with that of an hour-long video and a 16-page newspaper. As a result, the organisation that published the 46 minute speech by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, at the end of September 2017 is recorded as dormant because it only produced the first recording of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to be released in the last 10 months.

It should be needless to write, this audio-release by al-Furqan is of much greater importance than a single image, or photo report – at least for IS sympathizers and operatives. Although currently we still find ourselves having to write it.

November:

In November, the claims of drastic decline continue; “Nowadays, IS propagandists can barely get out 20 pieces of media in a week”.[ix] As in October, from a data science perspective the claim is based on the declining ability of a specific individual to find content, not actual IS production.

The gulf between rhetoric and reality continues to widen.

November has witness the continued weekly production of the 16-page newspaper al-Naba’ with associated infographics (now 106 issues in total) and numerous photo reports, at least 39 at time of writing (22nd November), collectively containing 215 unique images from 11 different provinces, including al-Furat, Khurasan, al-Khayr, Diyala, and the Khalid ibn al-Walid army. In addition, al-Bayyan has continued to be broadcast, providing a range of radio programmes and daily updates (available to stream, and download in MP3, text and pdf versions in a range of languages).

November also saw the launch of a new 16 page magazine al-Anfal along with videos from provinces including al-Baraka which produced two videos & one each from Damascus, Salah al-Din, al-Janub, and Diyala, bringing the total to six without the inclusion of non-Wilayat video production. This volume of production is a far cry from claims “ISIS is struggling to produce 20 items a week”.

In fact, not only does the current content for November eclipse the ‘struggling 20 a week’ mark, on current pace the images alone will exceed the claim of 300 pieces for September. A situation which echoes the 2016 CTC report on ISIS visual production. That report also claimed significant decline in ISIS production. However, subsequent analysis showed ISIS weekly production actually exceeded the CTC estimate of monthly production. (New Netwar p. 38) This was because CTC, just like these more recent claims of decline, were based on tracking the declining ability of the researchers to find content, not the ability of ISIS to produce it.

Given the ongoing level of production, it is hard to see how a data science approach could produce a credible analysis which shows a shift from; “There’s a lot of propaganda coming out on a daily basis” in late September to; “struggling to produce 20 a week” by early November. But this type of confusion is not unusual; the lack of collaboration between data analysis and subject matter expertise regularly results in research which fails to produce a coherent understanding of the information ecosystem. As is often the case these studies bear little resemblance to the observable reality for those able to access and understand the content produced by the jihadist movement.

For example, a Home Office funded VOX-Pol study concluded ‘the IS Twitter community is now almost non-existent’. Yet at the time of the study 40% of known traffic to ISIS content was coming from Twitter. In addition, a presentation during the recent VOX-Pol conference at ICSR contained research showing there were “90 tweets planning terrorist attacks are tweeted per minute”.[x] That conference also produced the rather cryptic statement that “The deep web should be inhospitable, but not too inhospitable”.[xi]

The need to understand how ISIS networks of influence operate at a strategic level is now evident to almost all – and it requires data science based on the collaboration between data analysts and subject matter experts to achieve it. Understanding the information ecosystem is about more than peering down soda straws at handpicked examples; it is about the way different parts of the ecosystem co-exist and intersect; it is about the way the humans behind the screens interact and fundamentally about the content they share. This includes the documents which outline the strategy and tactics which the Jihadist movement currently intends to use.

The Jihadist movement distributes their strategy in their own words, these words should not be obscured by disciplinary siloes, a failure to collaborate, nor an attempt to force the understanding of the movement into a Western, predominantly English language, habitus.

 

Notes:

[i] The influence of habitus within Critical Terrorism Studies, particularly with reference to 9/11 as a point of temporal rupture is discussed by Harmonie Toros. While this focuses largely on temporal elements the approach is equally applicable here.:

Harmonie Toros, “9/11 is alive and well” or how critical terrorism studies has sustained the 9/11 narrative, Critical Studies on Terrorism Vol. 10 , Iss. 2, 2017

[ii] Track 6, The Marshall Mathers LP

This deliberately crass reference to Dr Dre is used to emphasise the gulf between the imagery of western gangsta rap and what Jihadist media actually contains.

[iii] Rowlandson, W. 2015. Imaginal Landscapes: Reflections on the Mystical Visions of Jorge Luis Borges and Emanuel Swedenborg. London: Swedenborg Society.

Quoted in Harmonie Toros, “9/11 is alive and well” or how critical terrorism studies has sustained the 9/11 narrative, Critical Studies on Terrorism Vol. 10 , Iss. 2, 2017

[iv] Yusuf Bin Salih Al-‘Uyayri, The Role Of The Women In Fighting The Enemies, (Translated version) At-Tibyan Publications

[v] https://www.thedailybeast.com/winning-the-battle-losing-the-message-inside-americas-utter-failure-to-counter-isis-propaganda

[vi] https://twitter.com/charliewinter/status/928586607271268352

[vii] https://www.techworld.com/security/how-isis-runs-its-central-media-operation-3664672/

[viii] https://twitter.com/charliewinter/status/920651518172332032

[ix] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-41845285

[x] https://twitter.com/VOX_Pol/status/919914070907736065

[xi] https://twitter.com/VOX_Pol/status/919952628632707074

Anwar al-Awlaqi – shooting star of AQAP and the online AQ spheres

Notorious Anwar al-Awlaqi, the US-born Yemeni ideologue that has in the last year or so been pushed and used by AQAP’s Yemen wing, has a new video, released online today. The video, the “filmed speech” is entitled “to make it known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it” and is a short part taken from the Quran 3:187. The full part, according to the translation of Yusuf Ali is as follows:

“And remember Allah took a covenant from the People of the Book, to make it known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it; but they threw it away behind their backs, and purchased with it some miserable gain! And vile was the bargain they made!”

 

As usual, the video is available for download in various sizes, with 1.1 gb being the maximum. While I frequently promised to publish more on my blog, I yet issue another promise and will blog something in the coming days when I have had the time to consume al-Awlaqi’s speech/sermon.

The video is in Arabic with the call “to spread this video everywhere and to translate it into English.”

 

After along while… a few brief updates…

Due to a lot of workload the blog had been totally out of date but now, perhaps with the bad weather kicking in, the blog will resume, at least spontaneously on parts of the huge data load of jihadist materials.

Some while ago AQAP Yemen published a couple pictures that may have been taken from a forthcoming video depicting various operations of the Mujahidin in Yemen. The original pictures had Arabic captions and now the al-Ansar Forum has re-published the same pictures with brief English descriptions.

With AQAP having been in control in Lodar, these pictures are sought to undermine how their ground is being defended.

“Image of an attack on a military checkpoint which oppressed Muslim women” . Naturally and ideologically bound as advertised.

AQ Yemen denies claims of killed leaders

AQAP just denied claims of the “Idols and the Crusaders” to have killed six leading members of AQ in an air strike in northern Yemen. “This is just part of a series of lies since the bombardment of Abyan, where the people suffered and witnessed how women and children were sacrificed, until the recent bombing, what was misguided to hit its target, all praise be God. The Yemeni government makes these claims, to undermine the alleged victories and to present its offering to Obama and their allies at the London Conference.” This is of course just done so that the corrupted leaders can get the most of western money offered to fight the Mujahideen on the Arab Peninsula. The statement includes a call to further the activities of online jihad in order to fight, combat and counter-argue the propaganda of the enemy. “An obligation for our ummah today is the public declaration of jihad against the infidel and their henchmen.” And this by all means, including to ‘reveal’ by this ‘media offensive’ how the US has besieged the Gulf of Aden, launching spy planes and drones into Yemen. Thus the need for actions is not restricted to land, but should also be taken onto the sea and the air, for “the fortresses of the warring Crusaders are present in the Gulf of Aden, in the Arabian Ocean, the Red Sea and American spy planes are violating the airspace of the Arab Peninsula, just how they proclaimed a open war against the people of Islam. Therefore it is our obligation to declare a open war on the Crusaders and their traitor henchmen.”

Confirmed by multiple sources: Qasem al-Remy, the military commander of the Yemeni AQ branch was killed in a Yemeni army strike in northern Yemen on Friday along with at least five other high value members of the network.

Al-Quds al-Arabi edition of 16/17 January: “Military leader of AQ on the Arab Peninsula and five of colleagues killed… Al-Zindani renews his calls for jihad”.

The Saudi newspaper Arriyadh announces the death of al-Remy as well, among “three other elements have been captured of the organization.” This was “confirmed by Yemeni governmental sources on Saturday.”

Among al-Remy, Ammar al-Wa’ely, who reportedly killed on Saturday in the air strike, among four other members of AQ, one an Egyptian citizen. Saleh al-Tees, Ayed al-Shabwani and the Egyptian Muhammad Ibrahem Muhammad Saleh al-Banna were killed in the strike.

New ideological writing by Anwar al-Awlaki

First of all, al-Awlaki’s blog is about to resume, as indicated by the address below the title.

Let’s see, how long his wordpress account will remain online with all the media focus on this US citizen currently, who just returned to his homeland, Yemen, to help build and support AQ on a global scale there. Allegedly, he is also responsible for the effective indoctrination and radicalization of Hassan Nidal Malik, who went on the killing spree in Fort Hood.

Yesterday a new writing was published by al-Awlaki (AA), who issued “44 ways to support jihad” – in English, rich with Arabic-Islamic terms that are packed in translated religious sentiments which can be appealing to some.

UPDATE The user “TS” was so kind to inform me (see comment) that this writing by AA is not new and has been published in February 2009. Thanks for the info and the link (http://www.nefafoundation.org/miscellaneous/FeaturedDocs/nefaawlaki44wayssupportjihad.pdf). With so much content being disseminated every day, I thought this English document had been new as well, sorry for any confusion I may have caused!

Most interesting is the short introduction, where the audience, the youth, is particularly highlighted. This highlighting is not new and AQ leadership of all levels most commonly address their appeals and calls to the “youth of Islam”, who must, should and are able to wage most effectively a jihad against invading criminal non-Muslim elements and their allies:

“Jihad is the greatest deed in Islam and the salvation of the ummah is in practicing it. In times like these, when Muslim lands are occupied by the kuffar, when the jails of tyrants are full of Muslim POWs, when the rule of the law of Allah is absent from this world and when Islam is being attacked in order to uproot it, Jihad becomes obligatory on every Muslim. Jihad must be practiced by the child even if the parents refuse, by the wife even if the husband objects and by the one indebt even if the lender disagrees.

Dear brothers and sisters the issue is urgent since today our enemy is neither a nation nor a race. It is a system of kufr with global reach. The kuffar today are conspiring against us like never before. So could we be heading towards the great battle between the Romans and the Muslims – Al Malhamah – which the Prophet (saaws) spoke about?

Again, the point needs to be stressed: Jihad today is obligatory on every capable Muslim. So as a Muslim who wants to please Allah it is your duty to find ways to practice it and support it. Following are 43 ways for the brothers and sisters to support Jihad fi sabeelillah.”

The writing goes on, addressing 44 factors that are vital – ideologically as well as practical military – and deemed a divine command to be fulfilled by pious believers.

A short selection (let us call them the “top ten” – even if it aint ten), that is a bit outstanding outside of the usual ideological writings that deal with the topic, copy-and-pasted:

4. Fundraising for the mujahideen

In addition to paying from your own money you should also encourage others to do the same. Rasulullah says: “The one who guides others towards a good deed would receive rewards equal to those who practice it.” By fundraising for the mujahideen you are also fulfilling a sunnah of Rasulullah (saaws) which he would often practice before going out for a battle.

5. Financing a Mujahid

Rasulullah (saaws) says: “Whoever sponsors a fighter in the cause of Allah has fought” (Majma’ al Zawa’id). This includes all the expenses of the mujahid including his travel expenses. This gives a chance for the rich and the poor to receive the rewards of Jihad, the poor by fighting and the rich by sponsoring them.

8. Sponsoring the families of the prisoners of war

Taking care of the family of a prisoner is equal in reward to taking care of the family of a mujahid. It is extremely important for such a practice to become the norm so that in the future when our brothers go out in the path of Allah they would know that if they die or if they are captured their families would be taken care of.

10. Contributing to the medical needs of the mujahideen

The mujahideen are in great need of any medical assistance they can get. They need physicians, they need hospitals and clinics that would open their doors to them and they need medicine. There are hundreds of thousands of Muslim physicians and nevertheless we hear many stories of injured mujahideen who suffered from simple wounds but because of the absence of medical help they had to suffer in agony until they died. Those Muslims who studied medicine and claim that they are doing it for the sake of Allah and to benefit the Muslims, we say to them: Where are you?

It is said that Khattaab – the great Muslim commander in Chechnya – was injured in a battle and his brothers found no Muslim doctor to take care of him so they had to take him to the Red Cross and have them treat him under gun point! Muslim health care workers have a great responsibility and their contribution to Jihad is indispensable.

In fact their rewards could be even greater than those of the fighters.

13. Fighting the lies of the Western Media

The perceptions of many Muslims are formed by the Western media. Allah says: “O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one (fasiq) with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful” (49:6)

So what about when the news is coming from a kafir rather than a fasiq?! The danger of the Western media stems from the fact that it puts on the cloak of truth and objectivity

when in reality it is no more than the mouthpiece of the devil. Can’t you see that the Western media is constantly trying to underplay the atrocities committed by the West while exaggerating the violations – which are few and far in between – committed by Muslims? Can’t you see how the Western media succeeded in presenting the awlyaa’ (friends) of Allah, the ones who are fighting in His cause, as the followers of evil, while it presents the Pharaoh of this day and his armies as the army of good? The Western media is so good in its deception that its lies pass on a wide section of the Muslim ummah. The fact is that this media demonizes the mujahideen, spreads lies about them, blows out of proportion their mistakes, tries to sow the seeds of disunity amongst them, attempts to ruin the reputations of their leaders, and ignores or demonizes the scholars of truth when on the other hand, it glorifies and promotes the scholars of falsehood.

So my dear brothers and sisters part of your duty is to campaign amongst Muslims to raise their awareness regarding this issue. You should encourage them to be careful and critical of the Western media. A Muslim should not believe Western sources unless they are confirmed by a trustworthy Muslim one. I say a “trustworthy” Muslim source because the verse was warning us from accepting the news of a disobeying Muslim. Now that is not to say that we should not believe the media in anything it says even in its weather forecasts! No, what we are saying is that you should not believe what they say about Islam and Muslims. A media source that could otherwise be very objective and truthful could become a fabricator when it comes to covering news on Muslims. That is how the disbelievers dealt with Muslims since the dawn of history…and there is no reason for us to believe why that would change.

18. Following the news of Jihad and spreading it

Following the news of Jihad and the mujahideen is important because

• It keeps your attachment to Jihad alive.

• It strengthens your belongingness to the ummah.

• It encourages you to join Jihad when you see the heroic acts of the mujahideen. It kindles your desire for martyrdom when you see the courage of martyrs.

• Those who follow the news of the mujahideen will see how Allah is protecting his servants and guiding them towards victory. They will see how the ummah is heading towards the era of Islam under the leadership of: “al Ta’ifah al Mansoorah” mentioned in the hadiths of Rasulullah (saaws).

• Reading history or Fiqh books on Jihad provides you with the theory. Following the news of the mujahideen provides you with practical examples of how our brothers are applying the theory in today’s world. It provides you with something tangible, something real.

• The news of Jihad is the news of the conflict between good and evil which has existed since the time of Adam and will continue until the end of time. Following the developments of this conflict brings Quran into light. When you read Quran with this awareness you would have a more engaged relationship with the book of Allah than a person who is living in the seclusion of his ivory tower. This engagement with the book of Allah reaches its height when you yourself are engaged in this conflict by joining the ranks of the mujahideen. I need to repeat what I mentioned in point 13 that you should only spread authentic information from authentic sources. Because spreading

rumors is an attribute of the hypocrites: Allah says: “And when there comes to them something [information] about public security or fear, they spread it around. But if they had referred it back to the Messenger or to those of authority among them, then the ones who [can] draw correct conclusions from it would have known about it.” (4:83)

23. Arms training

Preparing for Jihad is obligatory since Jihad today is obligatory and the sharia rule states that: “Whatever is needed for an obligatory act becomes obligatory”

Arms training is an essential part of preparation for Jihad. Allah says: “And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you don’t know but Allah knows” (8:60) The Messenger of Allah (saaws) said regarding this verse: “Power is marksmanship, power is marksmanship” (Related by Muslim)

The issue is so critical that if arms training is not possible in your country then it is worth the time and money to travel to another country to train if you can.

29. WWW Jihad

The internet has become a great medium for spreading the call of Jihad and following the news of the mujahideen. Some ways in which the brothers and sisters could be “internet mujahideen” is by contributing in one or more of the following ways:

• Establishing discussion forums that offer a free, uncensored medium for posting information relating to Jihad.

• Establishing email lists to share information with interested brothers and sisters.

• Posting or emailing Jihad literature and news.

• Setting up websites to cover specific areas of Jihad, such as: mujahideen news, Muslim

POWs, and Jihad literature.”

As you may have guessed, number 29 is certainly one of my personal favorites… However, it must be noted, that AA’s addressed bullet points have been established – continuously – over the previous years and in the meantime the jihadists usage of the internet has reached a technical highly professional output with content that is in some parts highly appealing for the audience.

Anyway, the 44 ways are not entirely new and are, as a matter of fact, a cheap write-off of the “39 Ways to Serve Jihad and the Mujahidin on the Path of God”, by Muhammad bin Ahmad al-Salim (aka ‘Aisa bin Sa’ad bin Muhammad Al ‘Awshin), a Saudi ideologue who wrote for the AQAP magazine The Voice of Jihad (2003-2008). His document contains similar thoughts, intentions and motivations.

This edition was published by a platform prior to the extensive online publishing foundation The Voice of Jihad. I’ll spare you the details.

“Anwar al Awlaki Blog is proudly powered by WordPress” – we will see for how long.