Terrorists’ propaganda on Jihad

  • Beware of the Khawarij

Islam is a religion of peace since it teaches us to live humanely with communities of all other religions. Unfortunately, terrorist groups are resorting to violence and barbarianism in total contradiction to actual Islamic teachings.

Terrorist groups are operating in Pakistan with an external agenda and their actions are true specimen of people identified by our Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as Khawarij. The Prophet (PBUH) said that “In the last days of the world, there will appear people with foolish thoughts and ideas. They will give good talks, but they will go out of Islam as arrows go out of its bow, their faith will not exceed their throats. So where ever you find them, kill them, for there will be a reward of their killing on the day of resurrection” (Bukhari Vol 6, Book 61, Hadith 577).

The resilient Pakistani nation has openly disapproved the terrorist agenda and their inhuman actions. The terrorist must have now realized that the zeal and national fervour embedded in the hearts of the Pakistani nation cannot be subdued with violence or threat to their lives.

The Khawarij (singular: Khariji) were members of a school of thought that appeared in the first century of Islam during the “First Fitna”. It was a civil war which arose after the assassination of the Third Caliph Uthman (RA) within the Rashidun Caliphate which resulted in the overthrowing of the Rashidun Caliphs and the establishment of the Umayyad Dynasty. It began when the Third Caliph Uthman ibn Affan (RA) was assassinated by rebels in 656 and continued through the four-year reign of Uthman’s successor Ali ibn Talib (RA). It ended in 661 when the Fourth Caliph Ali (RA)’s heir Hasan (RA) ibn Ali (RA) concluded a treaty acknowledging the rule of Muawiyah, the first Umayyad caliph. The “First Fitna” being a crisis of leadership after the death of our Holy Prophet (PBUH), heightened into revolt against the authority of the Caliph Ali (RA) after he agreed to arbitration with his rival, Muawiyah I, to decide the succession to the Caliphate following the Battle of Siffin (657). A Khariji later assassinated Hazrat Ali (RA), and for hundreds of years, the Khawarij were a source of insurrection against the Caliphate and continue to target the Ummah.

The Khawarij aroused condemnation by mainstream scholars such as 14th-century Muslim Ismail ibn Kathir who wrote, “If they ever gained strength, they would surely corrupt the whole of the Earth, Iraq and Shaam (Syria) – they would not leave a baby, male or female, neither a man or a woman, because as far as they are concerned the people have caused corruption, a corruption that cannot be rectified except by mass killing.” In a similar vein, the 10th century Islamic scholar Abu Bakr-Ajurri said, “None of the scholars, in either past or recent times, ever disagreed that the Khawarij are an evil group, disobedient to Allah Almighty and to His Messenger (PBUH). Even if they pray, fast, or strive in worship, it does not benefit them, and even if they openly enjoin good and forbid evil it does not benefit them, as they are a people who interpret the Quran according to their desire.”

The successors of the Khawarij, al-Qaeda and ISIS, continue to terrorize the Muslim Ummah and the rest of the world. Official propaganda materials produced by the media arms of these militant groups are intentionally crafted to radicalize, inspire, and incite individuals to violence. These groups have produced propaganda in a myriad of textual, audio, and video forms– from music videos to glossy magazines– that have helped to convince individuals around the world to travel abroad to join extremist groups and to conduct deadly attacks in their home countries. At times, they have even offered specific guidance on how to do so.

According to U.S. Department of Justice 2013, Slate, Foreign Policy and CBS News, Abdirizak Warsame, who was arrested at the age of 19 for attempting to join ISIS abroad, stated that while watching violent ISIS execution videos on YouTube, he started to believe that he was “doing something for a greater cause…for good” by supporting the group. According to a report titled ‘Extremist and Online Propaganda’ compiled by Counter Extremism Project (CEP). Warsame was one of 57 individuals documented by the CEP who attempted to join an extremist group abroad, and one of 72 individuals who accessed explicitly violent propaganda materials. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev– who detonated two homemade bombs along with his brother, Tamerlane, at the April 2013 Boston Marathon– told investigators that he and his brother built the bombs using instructions from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s propaganda magazine Inspire.

Official extremist group propaganda materials are easily disseminated and accessed on the Internet. The extremist group propaganda appears on a variety of social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Google Plus, Skype, Paltalk, and WhatsApp. Several individuals also played a part in further propagating extremist propaganda materials. Of the 168 individuals documented by CEP, at least 51 disseminated propaganda materials online, in person, or via mail, and 59 viewed or discussed propaganda materials with another individual.

The US Department of Justice 2017 reports that it is worrisome that even if extremist groups lose control over territory in their respective regions of operation, their ability to reach out and spread propaganda online will allow them to continue to attract support from across the globe. For example, even as ISIS steadily lost ground in Iraq and Syria throughout 2017, US permanent resident Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov was still inspired by the group’s propaganda videos to carry out a vehicular attack in New York City on 31 October 2017, that killed eight people. As long as extremist groups continue to produce compelling propaganda that plays a part in inspiring and inciting individuals to violence– and remains easily accessible online– terrorism in the name of these extremist groups will remain a threat worldwide.

There is dire need for countering the terrorist propaganda on Jihad so that normal God-fearing Muslims are not led astray. This requirement is also related to the fact that such materials will be understood by the Muslims which is a target audience of the most intensive terrorists’ propaganda. For instance, the narrative should be aimed at proving from a religious point of view that the terrorists not only violate the basics of Islam but are also its enemies. It should be noted that the aggressive style of terrorist materials, their peremptory, eye-catching and memorable nature raises the efficiency of their promotion in certain groups. Compared to the terrorist propaganda, stereotypical slogans and general materials in the format of calls, such as “Say no to terrorism” lack appeal.

The bulk of terrorist propaganda comprises threats e.g. the song: “Soon, very soon the blood will flow like the sea, Kafirs’ throats will tremble under knives, Lions of the Ummah have awakened, the swords have been swung, Making the community stronger each day…”

Relevant counter-narrative materials recommend using a quote from an authentic hadith prohibiting such intimidation: “Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “No Muslim is allowed to threaten another Muslim” (Sahih al-Tirmidhi). Other counter-narrative materials, in accordance with the principle of active counter-narrative in cases involving suicide bombers specifically stresses that such actions are in fact suicidal and punishable by eternal damnation in Hell. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “A man… committed suicide, and so Allah said: My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him.”

The resilient Pakistani nation has openly disapproved the terrorist agenda and their inhuman actions. The terrorist must have now realized that the zeal and national fervour embedded in the hearts of the Pakistani nation cannot be subdued with violence or threat to their lives.