TWEE-HAD: ISLAMIC STATE LAUNCHES NEW ENGLISH-LANGUAGE TWITTER ACCOUNT AND E-ZINE
By Michael S. Smith II
At a time when PR is a vital element of the Islamic State’s efforts to secure support for its “caliphate,” there are signs the Islamic State’s media wing is encountering problems with the Twitter accounts it uses to generate foreign interest in its endeavors. Still, an account launched several days ago by IS’s multi-language al-Hayat Media Center is helping IS broaden its reach to English-speaking audiences. So too might Dabiq, the Islamic State’s slick new English-language e-zine that bears resemblance to al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s English-language magazine, Inspire — though this first issue is not used to promote the virtues of executing terrorist attacks in the West. While a more robust analysis of these developments and the contents of Dabiq will be posted here in the days ahead, at first glance, the emphasis placed on the matter of hijrah (immigration) in the pages of Dabiq is remarkable. Indeed, as discussed in prior analysis of statements issued in recent days by “Caliph Ibrahim,” it appears IS leaders believe the group will require a massive influx of supporters into the environs it controls in Syria and Iraq in order to shore up the group’s control of them. This, as anti-IS sentiments might be galvanized by IS’s controversial declaration of a caliphate.
Launched five days ago (at the time of this writing), and with 24 Tweets issued since, @al_hayat_en has attracted more than 2,700 followers. Meanwhile, the account is following only two other accounts, @al_e3tisam and @ajnadmedia.
UPDATE: @al_hayat_en has been suspended by Twitter.
DAY 1: BUILDING A PROPAGANDA LIBRARY
The first microblog post issued via this new account delivered access to the first issue of Islamic State News, in which a “Top Story” headline reads “CAR BOM (sic) ROCKS RAQQAH: Casualties in the 40s.”
A post later in the day provided a link to the first issue of the IS Report, which highlights the seminars IS is hosting to “train and prepare” imams and khateebs “in order to undo the damage of the regime, which corrupted the minds of the people …” The publication also highlights the work of the Office of Consumer Protection, a department within IS’s Islamic Services Committee that has been organized to help IS achieve its goal of “caring for the residents of Wilayat Ar-Raqqah.” According to Abu Salih al-Ansari, the head of the Consumer Protection Office, this department is “concerned with protecting shoppers by inspecting the goods being sold in shops, markets, shopping centers and wholesale outlets, discovering goods that are spoiled or not suitable for sale and taking those responsible to account.”
Next, al-Hayat posted a link to the second issue of the Islamic State News, the cover story headline for which reads, “Trade Flourishes Under the Rule of the Islamic State.” A pictorial of a marketplace with a headline that reads “Fresh Produce Injects Life Into Halab Market” is followed by a photo of a crowd gathering to “witness hadd for alcohol drinking,” a headline above which states, “IMPLEMENTING THE HUDUD.” The following seven pages of photo collages contained in the 11-page issue tell stories of battles, executions, martyrdom, and preparations for more fighting.
A minute later, al-Hayat posted a link to the second issue of IS Report. The two stories therein concern IS’s work collecting zakah from farmers and the Islamic Police’s work in Ar-Raqqah “and their importance in state building.”
Within seconds, al-Hayat then posted a link to the third issue of Islamic State News. Most of this edition covers IS’s “Brazen Attack on Mosul,” as described on the cover.
Other Tweets from the account issued the same day feature links to recent videos, including a piece titled “The End of Sykes-Picot.” Featuring an English-speaking, Muslim convert of Chilean descent from Norway known as Abu Safiyya, at this writing the video has been viewed more than 97,000 times via YouTube.
Finally, the first day of Tweeting on the account concluded with the posting of a link to IS’s new English-language e-zine, Dabiq. Ostensibly named for a town located in northern Syria, Dabiq is made available via archive.org, a site that has become a veritable clearinghouse for jihadist propaganda.
The first issue’s cover announces “The Return of the Khilafah [Caliphate].” Introducing the magazine, its publisher explains, “After reviewing some of the comments received on the first issues of Islamic State News and Islamic State Report, AlHayat (sic) Media Center decided to carry on the effort — in sha’allah — into a periodical magazine focusing on issues of tawhid, manhaj, hijrah, jihad, and jama’ah.”
Following the “Introduction” section, a piece titled “Khilafah Declared” covers IS’s declaration of a caliphate. This section of text is broken into the following subsections that quote from a recent address delivered by ‘Caliph Ibrahim’ (formerly known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi):
“A New Era Has Arrived of Might and Dignity for the Muslims”
“The World Has Divided into Two Camps”
“A Call to Hijrah”
“A Call to All Muslim Doctors, Engineers, Scholars, and Specialists”
Next, a report titled “Halab Tribal Assemblies” asserts, “The Islamic State has an extensive history of building relations with the tribes within its borders in an effort to strengthen the ranks of the Muslims, unite them under one imam, and work together towards the establishment of the prophetic [caliphate].” The article notes that last month, “following instructions from the head of Public Relations in Wilayat Halab, the wilayah’s head of Tribal Affairs attended a meeting with the following tribal representatives: The elders and dignitaries of the tribes of Albu Khamis; the elders and dignitaries of the tribes of Banu Sa’id; the elders and dignitaries of the tribes of Al-’Awn; the elders and the dignitaries of the tribes of the area of Al-Khafsah and its surrounding regions, foremost of them being the tribes of Al-Ghanim.” Accordingly, at the conclusion of the gathering, “several of the tribal elders and dignitaries in attendance announced their bay’ah to the Islamic State.” Further, the report notes that, following another similar gathering in Tal Fiddah (in the area of Maskanah) with “leaders and dignitaries” from the Bu Batush tribe, “the leaders, dignitaries, and many of the tribe’s members” both pledged bay’ah to the Islamic State and pledged to “defend and support it.”
Next, a four-page pictorial titled “Tal Afar Liberated” contains photos of dead “Rafidi soldiers” and concludes with a photo of IS’s banner hanging above a roadway.
The next article is titled “The Concept of Imamah (Leadership) is From the Millah (Path) of Ibrahim.” The five-part piece covers the religious foundations for the employment of the caliphate as a model of governance for Muslims, with focus on the caliph’s role as both religious and political leader of the Ummah.
The next section is titled “The Islamic State: In the Words of the Enemy.” This material focuses on an article published by former US National Security Council Director for Iraq Douglas A. Ollivant and former CTC West Point Director of Research Brian Fishman, titled “The Reality of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.”
Then comes the feature article, titled “From Hijrah to Khilafah,” which highlights a five-step process through which IS established its new caliphate (in order of succession): Immigration to the area of operations (i.e. Hijrah); Organization of a group of ‘believers’ (i.e. Jama’ah); Destabilization of the unIslamic Regime; Effecting submission to the mujahidin’s leadership; and, Establishment of a caliphate.
The unnamed author begins by explaining, “The goal of establishing the [caliphate] has always been one that occupied the hearts of the mujahidin since the revival of jihad this century.” The text continues: “It was always a hope the mujahidin were certain of attaining, for Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ’alayhi wa sallam) had promised them with it. … However, the question that engaged some of the mujahidin was how they would achieve their goal.”
Next, the author notes the factiousness evident in the Syrian Jihad is not unlike the conditions encountered by the mujahidin during the Afghan Jihad of the 1980s:
During the jihad in Afghanistan against the communists, many of the muhajirin found themselves fighting a war similar to the one being fought in Sham now. Parties with different backgrounds fought a ‘common’ enemy, ignoring all matters that distinguished them from each other, even if those matters were an obstacle in the pursuit of the [caliphate]. The biggest of these distinguishing factors were nationalism that tainted many of the banners and parties in Afghanistan, in addition to serious innovations that destroyed the creed and healthy body of the Muslim jama’ah required for reviving the [caliphate].
Still Allah (’azza wa jall) blessed the jihad, and many of its leaders and soldiers would later become the brigades upon which jihad would pass over towards the awaited [caliphate].
One of these many important bridges was that of the mujaddid (reviver) Abu Mus’ab az-Zarqawi (rahimahullah).
Continuing, the text emphasizes the importance of hijrah (a term that refers to the migration of the Prophet and his followers from Mecca to the place eventually renamed Medina, where, after asserting control of its environs, they established the first Islamic governorate that would grow into a caliphate). Indeed, hijrah is characterized as a key element of the jihad waged by the jama’ah in Iraq while led by AQI’s founding emir, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:
Its jihad would be based upon hijrah, baya’ah, sam’ (listening), ta’ah (obedience), and i’dad (training) leading to ribat and qital (fighting), then [caliphate] or shahadah.
Hijrah has been a pillar inherent to jihad …
Because there were almost no safe havens on the earth left for the mujahidin, the ideal land for hijrah was a place where they could operate without threat of a powerful police state. In the case of Abu Mus’ab [al-Zarqawi], he chose Afghanistan and later Kurdistan as a base to form Jama’atut-Tawhidi wal-Jihad.
[Thanks and Praise to God], there are now numerous more lands with conditions that support jihad, such as Yemen, Mali, Somalia, the Sinai Peninsula, Waziristan, Libya, Chechnya, and Nigeria, as well as parts of Tunis, Algeria, Indonesia, and the Phillipines.
The text goes on to laud al-Zarqawi’s strategy that focused on creating “as much chaos as possible” to achieve the goal of establishing a caliphate. The strategic logic of al-Zarqawi’s agenda: Chaos will prevent a “taghut” (unIslamic) regime from achieving the means to thwart “any Islamic movement that tried to only slightly raise its head and whisper its creed.”
To achieve this maximum chaos, the Shaykh focused on the most effective weapons in the arsenal of the mujahidin for creating chaos — vehicle bombs, IEDs, and istishhadiyyin. …
… he tried to force every apostate group present in Iraq into an all-out war with Ahlus-Sunnah [literally the Sunnis; in context, those supporting jihadist groups endeavoring to (re)establish a caliphate]. So he targeted the Iraqi apostate forces (army, police, and intelligence), the Rafidah (Shia markets, temples, and militias), and the Kurdish secularists (Barzani and Talabani partisans).
In his first speech … he threatened war on any Sunni tribe, party, or assembly that would support the crusaders.
Then when some so-called ‘Islamists’ entered into the democratic political process … he officially declared war on them …
Thus, by using methods that led to maximum chaos and targeting apostates of all different backgrounds, the mujahidin were able to keep Iraq in constant instability and war, never allowing any apostate group to enjoy a moment of security. …
Shaykh Abu Mus’ab planned to later execute more complex attacks of a larger scale sometimes referred to as operation of ‘tamkin’ (consolidation), which were meant to pave the way for the claiming of territory. All this led to the gradual collapse of any authority in the areas the crusaders would refer to as ‘the Sunni Triangle.’
The collapse was followed by the mujahidin quickly entering the vacuum left, to announce and establish the Islamic State of Iraq under the leadership of Amirul-Mu’minin Abu ’Umar al-Husayni al-Baghdadi (rahimahullah) — a monumental event in the history of the Ummah.
It was the first state in ‘modern’ times set up exclusively by the mujahidin — the active participants in the jihad — in the heart of the Muslim world just a stone’s throw away from Makkah [Mecca], al-Madinah [Medina], and Bayt al-Maqdis [Holy House of Jerusalem].
In short, these phases consist of immigration to a land with a weak central authority to use as a base where a jama’ah can form, recruit members, and train them. …
Accordingly, once trained, this jama’ah would “then take advantage of the situation by increasing the chaos to the point leading to the complete collapse” of the unIslamic regime, “a situation some refer to as ‘tawahhush’ (mayem).” Further, “The next step would be to fill the vacuum by managing the state of affairs to the point of developing into a full-fledged state, and continuing expansion into territory still under control of the [unIslamic regime].”
Continuing, without attribution by name, the text vilifies leaders of “famous jihad groups” — ostensibly first pointing to the current leadership of al-Qa’ida, followed, in nonlinear form, by reference to the Muslim Brotherhood — as impediments to the establishment of a caliphate:
This has always been the roadmap towards [establishment of the caliphate] for the mujahidin.
Sadly, they are now opposed by the present leadership of famous jihad groups [here, al-Qa’ida] who have become frozen in the phase of nikayah attacks [a reference to attacks that cause death, injury and damage to the enemy], almost considering the attainment of power to be taboo or destructive. And rather than entrusting the affairs of the Ummah to the pious mujahidin, the present heads of these groups insist upon leaving the matter out for grabs so that any munafiq [hypocrite] can stretch out his arm and reach for the leadership of the Ummah only to destroy it …
What makes matters worse is that the new leadership of these groups [apparently transitioning focus to the Muslim Brotherhood] took advantage of the old leadership’s shahadah to start propagating a hitherto suppressed deviant methodology, one that ultimately considered the tawaghit — like Morsi and Haniyeh — to be a new hope for the Ummah. …
In short, these groups gave preference to popularity and rationalization over pleasing Allah and relying upon Him alone. They [the Muslim Brotherhood] became embarrassed of acknowledging undeniable shar’i fundamentals, such as takfir of the clear tawaghit and murtaddin.
When the Islamic State was announced — after going through these phases of war — it had the effect of exposing all the jihad claimants in Iraq, splitting them into two camps. Every group and individual with iman and ikhlas quickly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State’s leader, for none had ever selflessly taken a step in the direction of jihad except with an Islamic state as their ultimate goal. Those that resisted the newborn state did so for two reasons: deviant methodologies and corrupt desires for fame, wealth, and power. Consequently, the announcement [of the establishment of the caliphate] caused some of the hidden deviance to surface.
The suppressed corruption waiting irritably to arise finally did so as well. Some of those carrying corruption in their hearts quickly allowed their pride and envy to possess them, pushing them to enter into both hidden and open alliances with the crusaders, the new apostate regime, and the neighboring tawaghit, against the newborn Islamic State, thereby forming the ‘sawah’ (‘awakening’), a term coined by the American pawns to beautify their apostasy and treachery. The sawah received financial, political, and ‘scholarly’ support from Al Sa’ud, the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood], and even America.
Then Allah (’azza wa jall) tried the mujahidin …
This was a test decreed by Allah (’azza wa jall) so He would see the patient mujahidin and expel the weak-hearted from their ranks, and thereby solidify the newborn Islamic State and prepare it for greater responsibilities. As ash-Shafi’i (rahimahullah) once said, ‘One’s authority will not be consolidated except after overcoming tribulation.’ …
Next, the text transitions focus to the Syrian Jihad, which is likened to the previous situation in Iraq:
Then the events of Sham began to unfold and the Islamic State quickly got involved …
Again, pride, envy, nationalism, and innovation, led to events similar to those of Iraq. New sahwat were formed with the exact same financial, political, and ‘scholarly’ support. They repeated the mistakes of their predecessors in Iraq and decided to enter into war with the Islamic State, but here Allah (’azza wa jall) blessed the mujahidin in a manner unique to the lands of Sham, so that quickly Sahwa treachery was exposed and destroyed. Then, by Allah’s grace, the mujahidin gained control over territory larger than many states claiming ‘legality’ today, lands formerly under control of the historical Umawi khulafa’ of Sham and ‘Abbasi khulafa’ of Iraq.
As with the contents of the announcement of the caliphate’s establishment, the declaration of a caliphate is portrayed as a reflection of IS leaders’ adherence to sharia. And the establishment of this caliphate is said to open “the path for the complete unification of all Muslim peoples and lands under the single authority of [Caliph Ibrahim].”
Moreover, according to the text, its establishment means that the “obligation is now clearer than ever before for all Muslims to raise their voices and pledge their allegiance [bay’ah]” to Caliph Ibrahim.
The next several articles, labeled “News,” are short pieces that cover the al-Assad regime’s strikes on Ar-Raqqah, the leadership of Jabhat al-Nusrah elements stationed in the town of Albu Kamal pledging bay’ah to IS, the launching of Grad rockets by IS into Qamishli Air Base, executions of highway robbers in Al-Jazarah, the destruction of border police stations near Albu Kamji, liberations of Al-’Adhim and the district of Hawija, as well as the “Campaign of Asadullah al-Bilawi.”
Titled “Murtaddin Repent in the Thousands,” the final article highlights “the many instances of repentance by the apostate members of the Iraqi government and its forces.”