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Research Paper

Challenging the Narrative of the "Islamic State"

04 Jun 2015
Long read by Alex P. Schmid

ISIS has brought terrorist propaganda to a new level, targeting its main audiences in nearly two dozen languages with up to 90,000 tweets every day. Governments have generally been at a loss as how to counter the ISIS narrative with persuasive counter-arguments to reduce its attraction for rebellious Muslim youths in Western diasporas and Muslim-majority countries. At the core of ISIS’ narrative are themes familiar to most Muslims. ISIS has appropriated and instrumentalised them for its main purpose:  to expand the Caliphate proclaimed in mid-2014. In this Research Paper, Dr. Alex Schmid identifies a dozen narrative themes of ISIS and discusses them from theological, historical and other angles in an attempt to show vulnerabilities and point the way towards developing convincing counter-arguments. While the potential of this approach is demonstrated, Dr. Schmid argues that a concerted and systematic approach, based on synergetic, inter-disciplinary teamwork, is required to develop successful counter-narratives and that these need to be tested on audiences with a cultural affinity to ISIS main target groups before being utilised by credible Muslim voices who wish to engage terrorist ideologues and their potential followers with rational and faith-based arguments. The Research Paper concludes with the observation that developing counter-narratives, while necessary, is not enough. It is even more necessary to develop credible alternative narratives – narratives that can give a new sense of purpose, meaning and hope to those who feel that they have no future in their and our societies.

Read the Research Paper.

How to cite: Schmid, A. P. "Challenging the Narrative of the “Islamic State", The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism - The Hague 6, no. 5 (2015).