SWP Conference Summary

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”.

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7 Responses

  1. Will these papers be made available, either on the web or individually to other scholars in the field?

  2. The first cyber jihad magazine for women has been released.

    I have a jihad e-book for children, and the host site has been taken down, but as yet have not seen a monthly offering for children. It will surely be a future propaganda product.


  3. Internet magazines dedicated to women and jihad have been released before, including the one issue of the original AQAP’s “Al-Khansa’ ,” named after the famous Jahiliyyah-early Islamic period poetess, and a short-lived publication that also tried to use her fame, “Hafidat al-Khansa’ .”

  4. Like thousands of others this week, I watched the viral video of anti-Muslim protesters in Orange County California. It was filmed on Feb. 13 and distributed by CAIR.

    I can hardly imagine a more effective radicalization video. In the US, the anti-Muslim activists have mainstream visibility and impact, and their message is the same as the “jihadi” videos: Muslims and Americans have to be in conflict.

    When will our terrorism experts start speaking out, and identify the anti-Muslim activists as the radicalizing terrorist recruiters that they are?

  5. Ryan and Raff: I don’t think the papers will be made available at this point, as most of them represent work in progress. That said, you can always approach presenters individually and ask if they would like to share drafts or notes.

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