The highly polished publicity wing of the terrorist group Islamic State, now trying to establish itself as a sovereign nation, continues to publish high-production videos to encourage Muslims around the world to abandon their lives and families and move to Islamic State-controlled lands in Syria and Iraq. Muslims, they say, “don’t need any democracy” to be happy.
In a video titled “Eid Greetings from the Land of the Khalifa,” released this week and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, several jihadists from the United Kingdom, Morocco, and other areas of Africa attempt to convey what they claim is “indescribable joy” at living in Raqqa, Syria – the “capital” of the Caliphate. The video begins with an image of a child holding an automatic weapon – an image that is repeated several times, with different children, throughout the video, but the montages of children brandishing weapons and shouting “Allahu Akbar” lead to interviews with adults explaining what it is like to live in the Islamic State.
One jihadist, who claims to have moved to Syria from the United Kingdom, tries to sell the Islamic State by claiming that, there, Muslims have “the rights – you’re not living under oppression.” Since the Islamic State imposes the Koran, “you are living by the Koran and you are living by the Sunni, and – really and truly – as Muslims, that’s all we want.”
This jihadist continues to explain that every other ideological state structure does not work for Muslims. “We don’t need any democracy, we don’t need any communism, we don’t need anything like that. All we need is Sharia.”
Another man, holding his daughter in his arms and introduced with the surname “al-Afriki” (the African), tries a simpler argument: the Islamic State is fun. “Look at all the little children – they are having fun!” he says. He adds, “there is no place in the world where you will have more safety.”
The video ends with a crowd gathered at night to sing, literally, the praises of the Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The persuasive techniques of the video distinguish it from all similar jihadist propaganda. Rather than display the many dead that have fallen at the hands of the Islamic State, or elevate their popularity by showcasing the depths of their cruelty, this video attempts to paint a smile over the unspeakable abuses of the terrorist group. That is not to say that the former Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has softened its image; this is the second of two Eid greeting videos, and the first consists almost entirely of a bloody killing spree. This video encourages violence, too – children are depicted as joyful now that they can freely wield weapons.
The dangerous strength of this video, as with many from ISIS, is that it is tailored to a Western palate. The video is an attempt to persuade Western Muslims that the Islamic State is both fun and free, that residents will experience joys they did not know existed and be free to live their lives righteously. It glosses over the bloodshed, the sadistic abuses of children, the crucifixions and stonings of women. It glosses over the issue of women entirety, save for the female toddler in al-Afriki’s arms.
The terrorist group knows it must appeal to Westerners for its project to survive. The Islamic State is a land of warriors – and by default not a land of doctors or farmers or engineers, which means the jihadists are facing significant infrastructure problems in their quest to build an Islamic state. Western Muslims are more likely to have formalized education than those traveling to the state from Africa or elsewhere in the Middle East and would be more enticed by a message of “joy” and “freedom” than the genocidal reality of jihad.