Islamists develop professional media capabilities to wage public relations Jihad - groups urged to monitor media and repond
December 1, 2005
Islamist Militants Call for a Coordinated Media Jihad
By Stephen UlphAs an indication of the increasing intellectual infrastructure the jihad is acquiring, and the growing sophistication of its ideological defense, forum discussions are focusing on the need to develop more professional media capabilities. The call comes at a time of increasing pressure on mujahideen to maintain the public relations war, given the rising controversy over the targeting of civilians in Iraq, and the negative response to high-profile errors such as the toll of Jordanian Muslims in the November 9 Amman bombings. The anti-jihad ideological currents also threaten the Islamist militants' ground. These currents are typified by events such as the July 6 Amman conference, which prohibited the excommunication of Muslims and called for the establishment of a licensing mechanism for clerics issuing fatwas, and the announcement this month by the Indonesian Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah Islamic organizations of a coordinated effort to counter jihadist propaganda.
One discussion, posted November 20 on the jihadi al-Firdaws forum (http://alfirdaws.org/forums) by a user calling himself Bassam, deplored what he called the domination of "errant groups supporting the pacifist, defeatist schools [of Islamic thought] that are compliant to the tyrants," groups which were frequently infiltrated, and dealt "only with limited cultural, recreational and superficial affairs … to distract Muslims from the duty of jihad." The numerical weakness of pro-jihad sites was attributed to the laziness of Muslims: "what the Muslims need today are qualified Islamic cadres capable of confronting the views of parties opposing Salafist-jihadist groups, or deviant sects such as Shi'ism."
The solution to this problem, Bassam states, is for Muslim youth "to follow events and newspapers and to monitor media inimical to Islam, so that mujahideen working in the media will know what is going on and be able to respond." In particular, there is a need for "specific forums in relevant areas, such as:
· "sites specializing in responding to doubts [about the Faith] stirred up by secularists and nationalists;
· sites specializing in amassing articles carrying sound political opinion and analysis written by scholars and intellectuals in defense of monotheism and jihad;
· sites specializing in collecting media publications from jihadi groups;
· sites on fiqh (Islamic law) to act as a source and authority for Muslim researchers."
That this aspect of the jihad represents a hidden, but all the more crucial aspect of the information war that parallels the armed conflict, is underscored by Bassam by his description of the media sector as "a battleground." "If we shirk the Islamic media campaign … who will respond to the lies of God's enemies and the doubts they seek to sow; who will stamp out the arguments of the Muslim Brotherhood, of al-Qaradawi or of those like them among the anti-jihad groups?" A concentration of forces is needed, he argues, "and the co-operation of the greatest possible number of cyber-mujahideen … each of them to take the initiative in what should be a planned, organized media jihad."
In what appears to be a reference to the Amman bombings disaster, which required two subsequent statements from al-Qaeda in Iraq to justify the operation, Bassam specifically underlined the need for "sites specializing in attracting the sympathies of Muslims and ensuring their support for the mujahideen and jihadi [militant] groups." These sites will be of particular importance to ensure "that if a jihadi operation occurs in which mistakes are made or were not sufficiently well planned, Muslims remain [politically] conscious and aware, and are not pushed by ignorance into condemning the operation and those who carried it out when voices of polytheism descend on them from all sides, criticising the methods of the jihadi groups and sowing doubts as to [the propriety of] their actions."
The call for the media jihad is well timed. The liability of the jihadist movement to catastrophic loss of support was illustrated by the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat. Its November 20 report highlighted a survey that revealed that 64 percent of Jordanians questioned (including his al-Khalayla kinsfolk) stated that they had radically changed their opinion on Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi following the Amman bombings [www.daralhayat.com].