Dabiq # 4 – A look at the ISIS recruiting publication
Dabiq is a town in Syria near the border of Turkey with a number of Islamic cultural references. It was most likely chosen as the name of the ISIS recruiting publication due to the location being one of two places specifically identified in the Quran (Dabiq being the one under ISIS control at the moment) to watch for signs that judgement day was approaching. There are references to the arrival of “Romans”/Cursaders in Dabiq being one of the final indicators. The cover of issue 4, shown here, displays an ISIS flag being flown over the Vatican. The document is 53 pages long, and I will attempt to summarize the highlights and takeaways in considerably less than that.
First it is important to recognize that this is an ISIS recruiting tool aimed directly at Western English speaking Muslims. While my grasp of Arabic is grossly insufficient to read the Arabic version and compare it, my supposition is that version is quite different in the manner in which these same arguments are presented. As we look at some of the key sections, we begin to see exactly who in the Western world ISIS is interested in recruiting. Additionally, while this does not give us a look at ISIS, it does give us look at who ISIS wants the Western world to believe they are. The English version is well organized, for the most part readable and filled with high quality supporting images. From a production standpoint, it is in line with some of the better online publications.
Section one – ISIS claims to be the only “True followers of Islam”…
This section opens with the standard Muslim litany of “Allah is great, etc..,” ad Nauseam. Sentence one claims that the crusade continues against the “Islamic State” which sets the tone for the entire document. ISIS is the target of Western aggression toward all Muslims. Interestingly, they include a shout out to their AQI roots and actually quote Abu Musab Zarqawi. For those that do not remember him, he was the AQI leader in the Anbar province in 05/06 whose video taped beheading proved too much for even Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda officially disowned him and his organization in an attempt to salvage their reputation in the Muslim world. That occurred a few months before we killed him with a 500-pound bomb in June of 2006… Some would even suggest that it was Al-Qaeda agents that provided us with the targeting data…
Regardless – the publication goes on to encourage its readers to get their jihad on across the globe, by extolling the virtues of the “True followers of Islam”. They finish this section with claims that this is the “last crusade” after which Muslims will supposedly be masters of the universe, which will serve as another indicator of the judgment day being at hand. Of note they use two references to slavery and the requirement to be a compassionate master, which sets the stage for some later content. The images include a set of seven or eight hands on top of each other indicating unity, a peaceful shot of what appears to the Sultan Ahmed (also know as the Blue Mosque) at sunrise, which is interestingly located in Istanbul, and a photo of Jihadists driving the U. S. equipment the Iraqi Army abandoned.
All in all this is the weakest section of the document from a production standpoint due to the script. It is likely due to translational issues resulting from the Muslim tendency to doggedly reference Allah’s greatness, quote scripture and delusional versions of their own grandeur in every sentence of every written document they produce. While this incessant repetition is the norm in the Muslim world – as if they are desperately tying to convince themselves it is true – anyone not familiar with the culture will find it distracting, if not out right strange. My suspicion is this is a quite literal or direct translation of the Arabic version which is very likely to create some form of a social disconnect with their target audience – Muslims in the Western World. That was a bit surprising from what is otherwise a well put together piece of propaganda.
Section Two – ISIS says attacking Westerners is the duty of every true Muslim…
This section opens with the claim that a speech made by the “Official Spokesman of the Islamic State” “terrified America” into expanding its crusade from Iraq into Syria, and inspired Muslims around the world to execute crusaders in both Muslim lands, and their homelands.
While quite a stretch to make the connection between Colleen Huffords’ murder (Classified as workplace violence – correctly in my opinion) at the hands of Alton Nolen (a would be Muslim) with an extensive criminal past and limited opportunity in the United States. It does however show that they are aware of and paying attention to Western media. More importantly, this is highly likely to be regarded as evidence by the would be Jihadists in our society that ISIS would approve of the targeting of non-combatants (and in fact they later say that it is outright acceptable and encourage it).
He later cautions against conceit and arrogance. He references a coming trial where the pure will be “sifted” from the filth who have entered their ranks – and who he blames for the “transgressions and oppression”… “of others that may have occurred”… In other words, it was not ISIS that committed atrocities, it was a few wayward soldiers who will be punished. I read this as a response to the significant social backlash they are experiencing due to their indefensible behavior toward other Muslims, and the rest of humanity.
He then continues on to claim that Muslims of the “Islamic State” have cast off the bonds of slavery and are now “leaders”, in addition to referencing the last crusade. The images in this section are generally of aircraft designed to the give the impression that ISIS has captured and has air capability, and of old American photos retuning flag draped coffins in a C5 Aircraft attempting to indicate they are killing American soldiers.
He repeats the typical ISIS call to Muslims to kill Americans and Europeans, Canadians and Australians in their own lands outright stating that killing “civilians and military personnel alike” is justified and that “true followers of Islam” should seek no more council and should simply attack their non-muslim countrymen. These are calls for what we refer to as lone wolf attacks and have no down side for ISIS. If one occurs, panic spreads, if it does not, simply the threat of it causes us to attempt to defend against it. One of the goals of Al-Qaeda (which ISIS probably is in line with here) is increasing the economic burden of security in the western world – and this is a nearly free means of doing so, which we can expect will continue. As we saw in Canada yesterday, it will occasionally pay off for them. [Update 23 Oct, 2014: we have since seen two lone wolf jihadist attacks in Canada, and one in New York].
What the forward lacks in readability is made up for in the story provided by quotes from the speech. This section contains a number of references to current events in western media, and is specifically designed to alleviate conflicts potential recruits may be having with their belief system and what they are seeing and hearing in the media. Atrocity was committed, but only by a few who we will punish, etc…. There is just enough fact strewn in with the bravado and fantasy to make it seem believable. The imagery is selected to reinforce the idea that ISIS is winning, and the west losing in what is “the final battle” before judgment day.
Section 3 – ISIS justifies stealing the property and wealth of non-muslims…
This is a clear calling for Muslims to join the cause and come to fight with ISIS. There are number of justifications and rationalizations designed to indicate that the most correct path for a Muslim to follow is to kill non-Muslims and in doing so they will be granted their property.
ISIS wants the readers to believe that by joining the cause, they can simply take what they want by killing the owner (provided he is not a true Muslim – which according to their actions seems to mean anyone other then card carrying ISIS members). They reference Islamic laws on the amount that can be taken, etc… An additional point made is the “war booty” is more legitimate then other forms of income because it is taken from one who “does not deserve it”, and returns it to “one who does”. They go to great lengths to explain that abandoned property of “the enemy” is as acceptable as property, which was actually fought over which is how they have obtained most of their military equipment.
While the intent of this section is to encourage western Muslims to come and join the fight, it clearly is laying out the fact that they will be financially rewarded for doing so. The images are of military equipment seized from the Iraqi Army. Again images of planes were used to emphasize that ISIS has air capability (which I do not believe they do in any significant form) and an extensive array of military equipment and hardware. While the previous section was an attempt to lay out the moral requirement to join the cause, this is an attempt to entice potential recruits with promises of wealth.
Section 4 – ISIS claims enslaving and raping women is the right of all true Muslims…
This one is priceless. It lays out in detail the “justification” for their treatment of Yazidi women. Despite other Muslim rulings to the contrary, the “Islamic State” made the correct ruling with regard to the treatment of the Yazidi people and claims they were once Muslims, but turned away from Islam. Under ‘islamic law’ This makes requirement to provide them the option of paying a special tax (Jizyah) to be nullified. More importantly, unlike apostate women who could only be forced to repent or killed, women of a sect that has turned away from Islam can be enslaved and divided amongst the fighters, after the appropriate 20% (Khums or Tax) of the women were repatriated to the “Islamic State”.
Fortunately they did so lawfully, humanely and according to ‘islamic law’ because women were not separated from their children… They also indicate the future offspring of “Salve Girls” (children resulting from the rape of these women) will be born free Muslims and as “Masters” and not “Slaves”. Lastly they make the claim that that adultery, and fornication has increased because of the lack of “Slave Girls” made available to Muslim men. They cover the lack of available “Free women” and financial burden associated with marriage and indicate that it would be perfectly acceptable for Islamic fighters to rape their slaves, instead of getting married, which would provide them a means of having legitimate sons (which is a sign of manhood in the Muslim culture). Further, they indicate that many of the “slave girls” are actively repenting and attempting to make up for their past transgression, by learning to follow the path of Islam. In short, enslaving women is legally and morally acceptable, a benefit to society as whole, an acceptable alternative to marriage, and the enslaved women and girls are actually enjoying it…
In four sections we have covered the moral imperative for Muslims world wide to get their Jihad on – now. We have explained that the clearly inhumane reports were committed by a few soldiers who will be punished and that most ISIS fighters are true Muslims. We promised potential recruits wealth, dominion over all others, and finally we have given them access to women.
The video above is a few clips from a video ISIS released of western recruits telling their story. When we look at the “westerners” who have joined ISIS, it is not the captain of the football team who they are recruiting. These individuals would quite likely be social outcasts in any western society and were probably marginalized, lacking a purpose or moral cause, with little economic opportunity, and most likely no romantic prospects on the horizon. These are the target audience for ISIS, and they have done a reasonably good job of providing a facade that these desires will be met.
Section 5 and beyond – ISIS claims judgement day is upon us…
Here we find “updates” on ISIS for the next 10 pages or so. Ansar-Al Islam joining them, the continued territorial gains in the face of ineffective intervention on the part of the coalition attempting to stop them, and a significant portion dedicated to high-lighting community service. They claim to be building bridges, and curing cancer in children (literally). This is generally designed to reinforce the idea that ISIS is first winning (which is largely true at the moment), and second that they are a legitimate government providing social services, and not simply a collection of well armed thugs and rapists. My assessment is they are nearly entirely the later, but having learned a lesson from Hamas, they are at least maintaining the illusion of social services and governance.
The next 15 pages are a long drawn out attempt to convince Muslims that judgment day is approaching. They do so by attempting to tie a long series of events to prophecies in the Quran. Using a variety of ISIS leaders, they weave together what is a plausible interpretation that the end is near, ending with an outright statement that it is a duty for every Muslim to target and attack citizens in every county. They specifically reference avoiding “analysis paralysis” and recommend that all “True Muslims” simply go out and kill non-Muslims. “Every Muslim should get out of his house, find a crusader, and kill him”. They essentially recommend against discussion with anyone and encourage the lone wolf to act now.
In this section we find some gruesome images of dead Muslim children, which appear staged in my opinion, which they blame on western airstrikes. While I am certain that our use of air power has killed numerous men, women and children who were non-combatants, I find it unlikely that so many children would be found in such close proximity to each other in these physically controted positions after a 500 – 2000 pound bomb landed in their vicinity. Regardless – they are doing a good job of visually making the case that America and the west is killing Muslim women and children. This will certainly provide convincing evidence to someone on the fence..
In the final sections they publish a letter from Steven Sotloff to his mother admonishing western states who did not negotiate (America and the UK). They subsequently publish an extensive piece written by John Cantile, who has produced a series of videos, which are largely critical of the policy of not negotiating for the release of hostages. Much of it very likely (after two years of detention), his honest opinion on the subjects addressed. It, like Mr. Sotloff’s letter is largely critical of coalition aggression towards the “Islamic State” as well as highly critical of the policy of not opening diplomatic channels with the “Islamic State”. Ultimately, it is a comparative poor attempt to get western muslims to stir demand from their fellow citizens to push for recognition of ISIS as a state, by negotiating with it. To their target audience, this may seem like a reasonable request, but to the rest of society I would consider it unlikely to gain any traction.
Dabiq #4 in summary
The production quality is high, and for young, socially marginalized Muslims, this recruiting piece is very well done. It tells them joining ISIS and waging jihad is the only way to be a true Muslim. They provide a thin justification for the atrocities committed by blaming wayward soldiers, but it is probably adequate to alleviate any moral disconnect a potential western recruit may be having with ISIS actions reported in the media. In addition to the moral imperative, they offer a clear or implied path to power, wealth and access to women. Something, their target audience is unlikely to achieve on their own. They consistently and repeatedly reference the impending judgment day that is approaching, make the case that they are winning, attempting to drive home that now is the time for all true Muslims to jump on board with the winning team.
When we contrast this with what we are putting out to counter it, we (The US) are severely lacking. I do not expect to see large-scale lone wolf attacks like the one[Update: s] in Canada [Update: and New York] , as most of the individuals susceptible to this type of influence are largely incapable of independent action. The mostly likely impact will be on the method of attacks that would probably occur anyways (Like the Nolan Case), where he was predisposed to violence [Update: As they all were violent criminals prior to being radicalized], and would have attacked regardless of the Muslim influence in his life, but undoubtedly, the influence was what led him to behead Colleen Hufford.
As we continue to launch airstrikes in the absence of competent ground forces, we find ourselves playing into their goals. While we act in the absence of an effective strategy to deal with Islamic Extremism as whole, we needlessly increase the human toll of this already “long war”. We have the military capability to deal with ISIS, and the next symptom of extremism we find in very short order. The real question is do we have the moral commitment to deal the causes of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and to cut the demand for the the next generation of the Islamic extremist organization of the week?
~ Patrick Henry
#ISIS, #ISIL, #Dabiq#4