Jihadi Ecology Project

Salafi-Jihadi Ecosystems Research Group

Evidence-based analysis of the Salafi-Jihadi movement

The Jihadi Ecology Project was created in response to the need for robust, evidence-based analysis of the Salafi-Jihadi movement, the material they produce, the way they distribute it, and the interplay of meaning across the Salafi-Jihadi nexus.

The Jihadi Ecology Project combines forensic linguistic, hermeneutic, and data science approaches to understand ecosystems of meaning & distribution which are underpinned by the rhizomatic nature of Salafi-Jihadi theology.

Interpretation of the meaning within Salafi-Jihadi relies on knowing by heart the encoded references and being able to decipher jihadi visual codes. Only by understanding the language, references, codes and socio-political context, can analysis produce an authentic interpretation of the material Salafi-Jihadi groups are producing.

What makes the Jihadi Ecology Project different?

The Jihadi Ecology Project examines what Salafi-Jihadi groups say and write, what the evidence-base of prior documents shows they mean, and what the target audience is likely to understand.  The project is a genuinely interdisciplinary project which contributes to the progressive movement in Terrorism Studies.

Interpretation of the meaning within Salafi-Jihadi relies on knowing by heart the encoded references and being able to decipher jihadi visual codes. Only by understanding the language, references, codes and socio-political context, can analysis uncover what Salafi-Jihadi groups are communicating. In this approach, analysis is backed by quoting previous examples that elucidate the conceptual framework of producer and intended target audience.

The consistent findings from forensic linguistic and data science approaches leaves little doubt that theology is central to the Salafi-Jihadi movement.

The Salafi-Jihadi Ecosystems Research Group rely on an evidence-based approach and reject the epistemic violence, and neo-colonialist perspectives present in parts of the Transatlantic orthodoxy of terrorism studies.

Due to the evidence-based approach, The Jihadi Ecology Project discounts many of the orthodox claims made by a predominantly transatlantic network of terrorism researchers. This orthodox approach has frequently imprinted Western-centric concepts on to the Salafi-jihadi movement, despite these Western-centric ideas not appearing in any meaningful way within the vast archive of material produced by the movement. Claims about street criminals, gangsters, individuals obsessed with computer games (particularly first-person shooters or GTA), or had a desire to go from zero-to-hero, only hold if researchers cherry pick a few individuals from the many thousands of Salafi-Jihadi fighters.

Many of the orthodoxy notions about the movement are obsolete artifacts of a Transatlantic, Western-centric imagination, not evidence-based research drawing meaning from the archive of material produced by the movement. This is because it is the theology which holds together the Salafi-Jihadi movement, not crime, computer games, Nutella, kittens nor eating ice cream in a jihadi utopia that exists only in the imagination of Western researchers.

It is through a consistent and coherent expression of theology that the Salafi-Jihadi movement derives meaning and maintains lasting credibility, with its target audience, built on that theological legacy.


Many aspects of the Salafi-Jihadi movement are best explained through concepts observed in ecology, specifically the architecture of meaning and flow of information through the movement.

Salafi-Jihadi theology exhibits a rhizomatic structure of meaning. That is to say, meaning has many interconnected, non-hierarchical entry and exit points, with many individual clusters where thought and activity are concentrated. The interconnectivity of the theological concepts is also mirrored by the way meaning expressed across text, video, images and audio are all entwined.

Similarly online information is disseminated within an ecosystem of different platforms. The media mujahidin exhibit emergent intelligence and swarm mentality as they operate in online information ecosystems. This enables the speed, agility and resilience of the Swarmcast.

The media mujahidin have established resilient networks on their chosen platforms through which they create platform specific ecosystems of accounts, channels or groups. In addition, a previous study has shown that the speed and agility of the media mujahidin which comprise the Swarmcast have allowed them to create a multiplatform ecosystem, in which each online platform contributes elements to the ecosystem, in the form of beacons, content stores and aggregators.

The Jihadi Ecology Project recognises that the use of metaphor by the Salafi-Jihadi movement is intended to communicate something to the target audience. These metaphors are not an exotic corsage, intended to cloak the real intentions of the group. They are one of the links in the chain of shared meaning which connect the movement to the many preceding generations of authors. Only by understanding the encoded references, and socio-political context, can scholarship decipher jihadi visual codes and analyse what Salafi-Jihadi groups are communicating.


The Jihadi Ecology Project is a collaboration across multiple sectors, including academic, research and commercial. It was initially founded as a collaboration between Human Cognition and OnlineJihad.net.

The method adopted by The Jihadi Ecology Project is designed to deliver authentic evidence-based analysis of the purpose, strategy and tactics of the movement from the hundreds of thousands of pages of text, images and many weeks-worth of audio-visual material.