The Islamic State (IS) group is failing in its mission to establish a caliphate for Muslims, UK religious leaders and scholars declared today in an online magazine aimed at countering IS propaganda.
In the second edition of Haqiqah (The Reality) a set of imams explore how Muslims are fleeing from Syria to the West, "rather than into the 'welcoming arms' of the 'Islamic State.'" They also examine how IS claims and actions have no theological legitimacy and "have nothing to do with the Islam we love."
It is hoped that the second edition of the magazine will start an online conversation with young people, according to the editor in chief Shaukat Warraich. The first issue of Haqiqah was downloaded nearly 77,000 times.
In May, police said that more than 700 potential terror suspects from the UK have traveled to Syria, supporting or fighting for jihadist organizations. Earlier this year, three schoolgirls from East London left the country to join IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL. In a piece entitled "Message to my Sisters," the magazine sends a warning to those who may be inspired and tempted by the "superficial authenticity" of IS.
"The 'mujahids' of ISIS are preying on the vulnerabilities of our sisters, living both here in the UK and abroad, by enticing them with promises of a life in a 'perfect' Islamic State and of marriage to a 'mujahid,'" writes Shaykha Safia Shahid. "This is ISIS propaganda, which is designed to appeal to the young and impressionable. These 'mujahids' prey on your insecurities and try to make you doubt the righteousness of your practice of Islam."
Speaking to VICE News, Warraich explained why the magazine was started. "We were doing a lot of work with mosques, madrasas, and imams, and when we went into these places, a lot of imams started to tell us that a lot of young people are asking them some awkward, difficult, and unusual questions. When we asked them what are these questions they're asking, they were related to what ISIL had been communicating online."
As the result, Warraich decided to gather imams together to start counteracting what IS is saying, and do it online. He is also planning to travel around the country and explain to religious leaders how to best use social media and communicate with young people.
However, it is thought that IS propaganda is evolving. On Wednesday, the BBC found that the group appears to be exploiting the mobile messaging app Telegram, and shifting message distribution away from Twitter, where its accounts have been shut down.
And as opposed to just glorifying bloody acts of violence, the Quilliam Foundation think tank published a report earlier this week which found that much of IS propaganda output now depicts a utopian civilian life under its regime, portraying children playing in parks and friends fishing together.
Analyzing 1,146 units of propaganda generated by IS — including videos, magazines, posters, and audio statements — over a 30-day period, Charlie Winter, who led the research, wrote: "By creating so much content that it is literally impossible to keep a mental track of, IS's media men try to prevent us from understanding what they are doing. They flood the internet with information to a point that it becomes impossible to decode the brand they are building."
He continued: "They overawe and overwhelm their adversaries while at the same time luring the curious and vulnerable."
Earlier this year, footage was obtained of an IS social media center in Raqqa, Syria, where according to Sky News, foreign fighters work in shifts corresponding to world timezones, in order to target and groom others to join.
As recognized by Warraich, IS propaganda is indeed becoming more sophisticated and organized. "But having said that," he added, "what we're trying to say — what the counter message is — seems to be resonating."
Follow Jenna Corderoy on Twitter: @JennaCorderoy