A Virtual Counteroffensive


Photograph by Intrinsic-Image

From Spiegel Online:

Islamic State is “the first group of its kind to have figured out what it can achieve through social media,” says former FBI agent Ali Soufan. Islamist propaganda in the Internet acts like a combustive agent, says Berlin psychologist Ahmad Mansour, a former Islamist who has just published a book titled “Generation Allah. Warum wir im Kampf gegen religiösen Extremismus umdenken müssen” (“Generation Allah: Why We Need to Rethink Our Approach in the Fight Against Religious Extremism”).

Many young Muslims now derive much of their information about Islam from the Web, says Mansour. They increasingly live in a digital parallel society, he argues, in which Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have replaced mosque congregations.

There are still houses of prayer, like the Al-Nur Mosque in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood, where preachers of hate are allowed to spread their ideas. But they can only convey their message at specific times and only to small audiences.

In contrast, the sermons of radical preachers spread like wildfire on YouTube. Cologne convert Pierre Vogel, who speaks with equal eloquence about energy drinks, video games and paradise, has about 120,000 fans on Facebook. “The Salafists’ convictions may feel as if they were from the Stone Age, but they are pioneers in the digital religious arena,” says Mansour.

“‘Punching in the Dark’: Why Islamic State Is Winning the Online War”, Spiegel Staff, Spiegel Online