ji·had·ica

What role does the Palestinian question play in global jihad?

In policy circles as well as among both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian activists, the question of whether, how and why the Palestinian-Israeli conflict plays a role in al-Qaida’s global jihad is hotly debated. The reason for this is clear: pro-Israeli politicians and activists obviously don’t want to conclude that American support for Israel, for example, causes people to become jihadis fighting the US, while people with a more pro-Palestinian point of view are often keen to point out that there is a correlation between the two, presumably hoping for a more even-handed American approach towards the conflict. Research Despite the fact that this question has often come up in debates, suprisingly little research has been done on the connection between transnational or global jihad on the one hand and the Palestinian question on the other. To address this issue, Jihadica alumnus Thomas Hegghammer and yours truly have edited a special issue

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Caliphate Now: Jihadis Debate the Islamic State

Since the mid-November beheading in Aleppo of allied commander Muhammad Faris of Harakat Ahrar al-Sham, a barrage of negative media attention has afflicted Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). ISIS was concerned by its public image problem even before this signal mistake. In a September statement, Islamic State official spokesman Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani defended his emirate from a perceived media onslaught, thought to be led by “the unbelieving West” and its regional allies and aimed at discrediting ISIS: playing up its feuds with other mujahidin in Syria and playing down its battlefield accomplishments. Another campaign to discredit the Islamic State, however, cannot be attributed to Western origin. It arises from within the jihadi community itself. In November the two most high-profile jihadi ideologues alive today issued searing critiques of ISIS and its emir, al-Baghdadi. Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada al-Filistini, imprisoned in Jordan in the

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Al-Qaida Advises the Arab Spring: The Case for al-Baghdadi

The once fledgling Islamic State of Iraq has appeared to be going strong again since its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, merged it with the jihadi efforts in Syria to become the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Although this merger was apparently rejected by Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the leader of the Syrian Jabhat al-Nusra, at first, things now seem to be going smoothly. (See here for a recent report on Syria’s military opposition, by the way.) Since the start of the ISIS in April of this year, much support for this state and al-Baghadi has been expressed among jihadis across the world. Not everybody seems to be convinced, however, and apparently some still see the need to criticise al-Baghdadi as a proper leader of the ISIS. For this reason, Abu Hummam Bakr b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Athari, one of the scholars who used to be on the Shari’a Council of

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Memo about Syria: Jihadis are people too

Perhaps the most important reason mentioned by a lot of people why the United States should not bomb targets in Syria is that the possible downfall of President Bashar al-Asad’s regime may lead to a situation in which jihadis come to power, who may be even worse than the country’s current leader. Such fears are certainly justified. Yet we should also be careful not to exaggerate the threat that these men supposedly represent.  In this post, I look at a specific series of fatwas from the Shari’a Council of the Minbar al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad that deals with the problems and questions that potential jihadis have (these, these, these, these and these), which shows that jihadis – their sometimes radical views notwithstanding – can be quite human too. Refusing parents Many of the questions that Abu l-Mundhir al-Shinqiti, the shaykh who has long been the sole scholar on the Shari’a Council, has

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66 Important Jihadist Twitter Accounts (part 2)

In our earlier post, together with Ali Fisher we detailed and assessed 66 accounts listed by Shumukh al-Islam jihadi Forum member Ahmad ‘Abdallah as ‘important jihadist’ members on twitter. We looked primarily at the users individually, using the data of these 66 accounts to create this infographic to give our readers an overview of these users. In this post we focus on what we are able to find out about them as a group and provide an interactive network map to show the links between these advocated ‘important jihadist’ twitter accounts. Relational dynamics Analysing the relational dynamics between these accounts as a group and those who choose to follow them is a key part of understanding the online strategies of “The most important jihadi and support sites for jihad and the mujahideen on Twitter”. As we identified previously, the accounts had been categorized in different types by Ahmad ‘Abdallah. This

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Al-Qaida Advises the Arab Spring: Al-Maqdisi

As Cole Bunzel pointed out some time ago, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, the famous Jordanian radical Salafi scholar, has published several fatwas and other documents in the last few months. Cole mainly dealt with only two of al-Maqdisi’s recent publications, however, while there are several others he wrote afterwards that are quite interesting as well. Joining rallies Several months ago, al-Maqdisi started publishing a series of short documents containing one or more fatwas. It’s not clear who’s asking the questions, but this doesn’t make his answers any less interesting. In the first installment of the series, al-Maqdisi discusses questions that are quite similar to some that his brother in arms Abu l-Mundhir al-Shinqiti also dealt with several years ago, namely whether or not it is allowed to participate in rallies against the regime. Al-Maqdisi’s answer is similar to al-Shinqiti’s – it is allowed – but far more detailed. Al-Maqdisi states that

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The ‘Who’s Who’ of the Most Important Jihadi Accounts on Twitter?

In this part of our series for Jihadica on the Jihadi Twitter phenomenon, Ali Fisher and Nico Prucha take a closer look at 66 Twitter accounts recommended by a Jihadi online forum user. To be clear, we are analyzing these accounts that are defined in this posting as most important for jihadi sympathizers, but it does not necessarily mean that the individual Twitter accounts are an integral part of this worldview. A posting on the Shumukh al-Islam forum recently provided a “Twitter Guide” (dalil Twitter). This ‘guide’ outlined reasons for using Twitter as an important arena of the electronic ribat; identified the different types of accounts which users could follow; and highlighted 66 users which Ahmad ‘Abdallah termed “The most important jihadi and support sites for jihad and the mujahideen on Twitter”. We mentioned this guide in our first post kicking off the series on Jihadica. In this post we

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Toward an Islamic Spring: Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s Prison Production

Even from behind bars, the influential jihadi scholar Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi continues to command a following. Last week the Ansar al-Mujahidin forum launched a media campaign demanding freedom for the Palestinian-born shaykh, who was imprisoned in Jordan in September 2010 and is serving a five-year sentence. Tellingly, the campaign to free al-Maqdisi (observable on Twitter at #أطلقوا_العلامة_المقدسي) drew far more attention on the jihadi forum than Ayman al-Zawahiri’s most recent statement marking the anniversary of the Nakba. No one, it would seem, possesses jihadi cachet online like the imprisoned Palestinian. (For more on his influence and ideology, check out Joas Wagemakers’ new book.) “The Ibn Taymiyya of Our Age” This contrast says much about the nature of the Jihadi-Salafi community, where it is often independent writers and thinkers—more than the al-Qaeda leadership itself—who chart the ideological course of the movement. Al-Zawahiri himself has acknowledged his debt to al-Maqdisi, describing him

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Jihadi Twitter Activism part 2: Jabhat al-Nusra on the Twittersphere

For the second installment of our Jihadi Twitter Activism series Ali Fisher and Nico Prucha explore data collected from Twitter related to the Syrian AQ branch Jabhat al-Nusra. This post identifies key ‘influence multipliers’ for Jabhat al-Nusra’s strategic communication and an overview of the content that these multipliers disseminate via Twitter.

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The Jihad of Images – al-Qaeda’s Prophecy of Martyrdom

Asiem El Difraoui, a senior political scientist and an award winning documentary filmmaker, has recently published a new book on the subject of Jihad videos as the most important propaganda phenomenon. He currently is a senior fellow at Institute for Media- and Communication Policies in Germany. In his book, The Jihad of Images – al-Qaeda’s Prophecy of Martyrdom, Asiem analyses the visual communication strategy of contemporary jihadism along the iconography and overall narrative jihadists have successfully promoted in the recent years.  Asiem has been engaged in studying jihadists and their propaganda for several years and is a regular member at conferences (here and here). Out of the range of Asiem’s recent publications, his study jihad.de is of particular interest (in German, click here). Here is the English book description by the publisher (for French, click here): “Without the creation of a highly complex propaganda strategy with videos as its most

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