Asiem El Difraoui, a senior political scientist and an award winning documentary filmmaker, has recently published a new book on the subject of Jihad videos as the most important propaganda phenomenon. He currently is a senior fellow at Institute for Media- and Communication Policies in Germany.
In his book, The Jihad of Images – al-Qaeda’s Prophecy of Martyrdom, Asiem analyses the visual communication strategy of contemporary jihadism along the iconography and overall narrative jihadists have successfully promoted in the recent years. Asiem has been engaged in studying jihadists and their propaganda for several years and is a regular member at conferences (here and here).
Out of the range of Asiem’s recent publications, his study jihad.de is of particular interest (in German, click here).
“Without the creation of a highly complex propaganda strategy with videos as its most efficient weapons, Al-Qaeda and its Jihadi allies might already have ceased to exist. The Jihad of Images not only retraces the history of Al-Qaeda’s propaganda from its beginnings and the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan – thus offering a unique insight into the history of the Jihadi movement – it also analyses in detail the symbolism of Al-Qaeda’s revolutionary visual language in Islamic terms and the different genres of propaganda videos. Most importantly, the author illustrates that through its video production, Al-Qaeda hijacks the mythology of Islam and its symbols to create its own eschatological myth of martyrdom, presented as the sole path to salvation. This myth includes a cosmology in which leaders such as Osama bin Laden become prophets in Max Weber’s sense of the word, and the so-called “martyrs”, saints. In this way, Al-Qaeda qualifies as a sect. Yet despite its failure to mobilise the Muslim masses, Al-Qaeda, through its videos, has nevertheless succeeded in creating a culture of Jihad that is recognized by a considerable number of Muslims today and could inspire future generations. The research for this book was not only based on the screening of hundreds of Jihadi films but also on impressive field work including rare interviews with: leading Jihadi propagandists, Jihadi sympathisers, captives of jihadi groups as well as those engaged in the fight against global Jihad and its propaganda – from Afghanistan and Iraq to the United Kingdom and the United States.”