ISIS’ Al-Hayat Media Center released a new 20-minute, highly produced video today targeted at Balkan Muslims and encouraging them to pledge loyalty to the Islamic State. The narrator is an American, though, so even though the video is steeped in the ISIS version of Balkan history the target audience is wider than Bosnians, Kosovars and Albanians.
1. ISIS is now using visual portrayals of Crusaders
Arrows, swords, storming the castle, the whole bit. The video, “Honor is in Jihad: A Message to the People of the Balkans,” uses the Balkans’ history of conflict to attempt to send a wider message. Muslims were targeted for annihilation at Srebrenica, ISIS argues, so it can happen again there and happen in other Muslims’ neighborhoods as well. The video focuses heavily on claiming those trying to make atheist or secularist states end up trying to cleanse the land of Muslims.
2. Fearmongering is a recruitment tool
Politicians in the west may be accused of fearmongering in the war on terror, but ISIS is using fearmongering as a recruitment strategy. Particularly by tapping into the wounds of genocide from just 20 years ago, ISIS wants Muslims to believe that they’re under threat of mass killings from world powers. They call the United Nations the “Church of Secularism.” They want those who might not otherwise sign up for jihad to believe that their homes, lives and religion are at stake.
3. They want ‘lone wolves’ to update their tools of death
Americans ready to use arms stop ISIS gunmen like in Garland, Texas, should be aware that the terror group has recently been encouraging more insidious methods of jihad. “Jihad is going through various stages to reach the state of empowerment and the rule of the land, as it does our brothers in the land of the caliphate,” said an April call for jihadists in Egypt to activate. They don’t need “strength or muscle, huge experience in jihad work” and “each wolf chooses what suits him and what fits his goal and location of the implementation of the action… to expand and diversify the weapon used.” A suggestion was poison instead of a bomb, bringing to mind the damage an ISIS-sympathetic food service worker could cause. Today’s ISIS video singled out poisoning as a jihad method as well.
4. Yet bombs are still very acceptable
While much of the video promotes why Muslims should come to the Islamic State, it, like most ISIS communiques, acknowledges that jihadis may not be able to come for reasons “only Allah knows.” So they’re encouraged to make jihad wherever they are. This is written off as “lone wolves,” but given the remote guidance they receive contractors or satellite recruits may be more appropriate.
5. The kids are in the fighters’ laps for more than one reason
ISIS has highlighted its “cubs” jihadi training for kids and has even released gruesome images of kids murdering their prisoners. Luring all these children to the Islamic State also has another purpose as shown in the new video: human shields. They want to be in a position where, like Hamas, they can try to elicit international sympathy if a concerted effort to take out the Islamic State results in young casualties.
6. They’re trying to paint Sharia as liberating
This Albanian jihadist says it’s not just about the fear of authorities busting in and busting up your terror cell at home, but busting in while your wife is uncovered. Now in a place where women aren’t allowed to show one speck of skin, this part of the video reaches out to the increasing number of women who are running off to join ISIS.
7. They’re still selling those creature comforts
The video paints the Islamic State as a place where a Muslim is free to be himself, sit down and enjoy tea with the gang. British jihadi Siddhartha Dhar heavily tried to hammer this point home in his recent “A Brief Guide to the Islamic State ,” in which he promoted ISIS lattes, pickles and ice cream as scrumptious. Their recruitment strategy is trying to take away any doubt Westerners have about leaving comfortable countries for the start-up caliphate, even advertising that they have endless Snickers and Kit-Kat.
8. They’re also trying to sell the Islamic State as the world’s greatest daycare
ISIS not only wants to raise the next generation of jihadists in the caliphate, but doesn’t want a potential recruit to have any discouragement by thinking what would happen to his family. So bring the kids, the terror group says.
9. Their demographic recruitment is trying to build team loyalty
This ISIS video was like others targeted toward certain nationalities or ethnic groups. It focused on grievances that Muslims have with those specific regions and leaders, trying to cash in on the us-against-them mentality while building units of fighters with common backgrounds and common cause who will hold each other accountable to stick with the jihad mission.
10. Their core mission has not changed
As Abu Muqatil al-Kosovi notes above, this is not a war in which ISIS will be content to sit in its caliphate, live and let live. Even when British jihadi Dhar waxed about ISIS cappuccinos he finished with this icy warning: “As the Islamic State army edges closer and closer to Damascus and Baghdad, as a lion stalks its prey, watch closely at how defeat eats away at the loser, because these two cities are just appetisers. When we descend on the streets of London, Paris and Washington the taste will be far bitterer, because not only will we spill your blood, but we will also demolish your statues, erase your history and, most painfully, convert your children who will then go on to champion our name and curse their forefathers.”