Launch of ICSR report: ‘Al-Shabaab’s Western Media Strategy’


Published on Nov 26, 2012 – “On Wednesday 21 November ICSR’s Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens and Shiraz Maher presented the findings of their latest report, ‘Lights, Camera, Jihad: al-Shabaab’s Western Media Strategy’.”


Key take-aways from this International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation lecture include:


  • The report was not on the Somali Civil War or on the Somali Diaspora.
  • Since 2007, 1,300 Westerns have gone to fight for Al-Shabaab (1,000 were ethnic Somalis, 300 were non-Somalis).
  • Key triggers include the invasion of foreign powers (Ethiopia, AMISOM, and Kenya) as well as Al-Shabaab’s merger with Al-Qaeda.
  • For local nationalist Somali recruitment, money and clan relations are paramount.
  • For international recruitment, a clash of civilizations narrative, effective military competence, and action are vital.
  • Key media mediums include press releases, documentaries, and Twitter
  • Goals of Al-Shabaab’s propaganda are: provide an alternative to mainstream Western media, take control of actions and consequences, project a resemble of order within Al-Shabaab, and display the benefits of Shariah law.
  • The launch video contains a showing of Al-Shabaab’s news report “The Burundian Bloodbath,” the documentary “Under the Shade of the Shariah,” the press release on “Bilal al-Birawi,” and tweets from December 2011 to April 2012.
  • The Islamic Courts Union, a precursor to Al-Shabaab, provided governance to Somalia, which gained the the group remittances from members of the Somali diaspora.
  • A key propagandist of Al-Shabaab was Omar Hammani, who encouraged foreigners to come to Somalia to fight and to learn about Islam.
  • Motives for violent jihad are a desire for adventure, the defense of Muslim lands, the establishment of a caliphate, and faith must be link to action.
  • Key ideological conceptions include an ummah consciousness (Muslim solidarity) and making the hijra (an immigration).
  • Al-Shabaab had a physical infrastructure in the U.S. and U.K. – such as hawala networks for remittances.
  • Somalis within Al-Shabaab want to keep its struggle within Somalia, but foreign fighters want to internationalize jihad.

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