Inside the Jihadi Mind – Understanding Ideology and Propaganda

Inside the Jihadi Mind – Understanding Ideology and Propaganda

New research from the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Centre on Religion & Geopolitics, Inside the Jihadi Mind: Understanding Ideology and Propaganda, finds a common ideology communicated through the propaganda of three leading jihadi groups: ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The report has been described by Professor Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University as “the single best work I have read on the ideological foundations and theoretical underpinnings of the ongoing wave of jihadi violence.”

Last week, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron both spoke at the UN on the importance of understanding jihadi ideology to counter the threat of extremism. Inside the Jihadi Mind provides evidence for that assertion. The study shows how the groups examined exploit scripture and Islamic doctrine to provide justifications for their violence, appealing to extremist groups that share aspects of their ideology but are not yet violent. The evidence shows that while the groups exploit grievances to gain recruits, almost all the ideological themes, stretching across the values, objectives, conduct and group identity of jihadism, are shared.

The research findings challenge the claim that one jihadi group is more ideologically ‘extreme’ than another. Instead, the research shows the prominence of ideology within jihadi propaganda, a system of ideas which goes beyond manipulation of grievances. It is this worldview which must be contested in a battle of ideas. The report provides the basis for this response.

Countering this ideology will weaken such groups at their foundations. This report shows how that could be done, and a number of policy recommendations are provided.

Professor Bruce Hoffman, Director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, said:

“[Inside the Jihadi Mind is] is a needed and incisive analysis of one of the core issues behind the current jihadi threat: the manipulation and exploitation of scripture to provide a religious justification for their violence. The report is noteworthy for the clarity and cogency of presentation; its enormously sound and useful policy recommendations; and, especially the forcefulness of the argument that it makes in noting that the jihadis’ fusion of ideology and propaganda is intrinsic to their clarion call to violence and can therefore only be effectively countered by a response that acknowledges this fact.

“This is the single best work I have read on the ideological foundations and theoretical underpinnings of the ongoing wave of jihadi violence. Accordingly, it makes a valuable contribution both to the literature on terrorism and radicalisation as well as to the measures and efforts needed to most effectively counter the appeal of the jihadi message.”

The report’s authors are

Dr Emman El-Badawy, doctoral researcher at Exeter University’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies

Dr Milo Comerford, researcher for the Tony Blair Foundation’s Centre on Religion  & Geopolitics

Dr Peter Welby, Editorial Manager of the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics

Read the full report