A couple of weeks ago the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in Berlin hosted a very interesting workshop on “Jihadism in the Internet and the New Media – the State of Play.” The event, funded by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung and organized by Asiem El Difraoui (SWP), presented the latest research on jihadism online by some of the world’s leading specialists on the subject. Here’s a quick roundup to give our readers a sense of what people are working on at the moment.
The four-panel workshop was opened by SWP’s Guido Steinberg (who later presented a paper on the ethnic and national diversification of jihadi networks in Europe). Nico Prucha (University of Vienna) followed suit with a “Jihadi Press Review” that brought the audience up to date on the latest jihadi publications.
The first panel entitled “Theatres of Media Jihad”, featured a detailed presentation by Stig Jarle Hansen (UMB, Aas) on the propaganda efforts of the Shabab movement in Somalia. Christopher Anzalone (McGill University) examined the rise of small jihadi-takfiri groups in Gaza. He analyzed the battle between Hamas and Abu Nur al-Maqdisi’s Jund Ansar Allah and Hamas, as well as the reaction on the Internet and the plentiful photographic, internet posters, videos and audio files issued alongside of statements.
The second panel, entitled “Understanding Jihadi Propaganda,” opened with a talk by SWP’s Philipp Holtmann on “Ritual Aspects of Virtual Virtual Leadership in the Jihadi Net”. He was followed by Joas Wagemakers (University of Radboud) on the somewhat neglected but highly important Saudi jihadi scholar Abu Jandal al-Azdi. Both speakers focused on the role of the internet in producing a community of virtual ideological leaders.
The subsequent panel included a presentation by Reuven Paz (PRISM, GLORIA Center) on “the Growing Phenomenon and Influence of the Jihadi Internet Scholars.” Thomas Hegghammer’s (FFI) paper on “Trust and Paranoia on Jihadi Forums” looked at how interpersonal trust is established – and broken - in contested virtual environments such as jihadi discussion forums.
The fourth panel was devoted to the topic of ”Countering Jihadi Propaganda”. It started with a fascinating talk by Aaron Weisburd of the Internet Haganah on “Contradictory Approaches to Countering Jihadi Propaganda”. Then Rüdiger Lohlker, professor at the University of Vienna, analyzed the online efforts of the Singaporean Religious Rehabilitation Program.
The workshop closed and provided further perspectives by an interesting line-up of speakers. Asiem El Difraoui started with his presentation of “Saints of Suicide – an Analysis of al-Qaeda’s “Martyr” Videos”, arguing that al-Qaida, in spite of their professed salafism, in fact engages in religious innovation by glorifying martyrs as saints. Sabine Dorpmüller (Orient Institute, Cairo) gave a interesting talk entitled “Salafiyya meets Pop Culture: the Framing of Afterlife in Satellite TV” which analysed the rise of “Islamic Televangelism” in Egypt. Yassin Musharbash (Spiegel Online) concluded the conference with his thoughts on “The Future of Arab Media”.