Inciting the Believers to Fight: A closer look at the rhetoric of the Afghan jihad
While AAN in a series of recent papers has recently been looking at features of the Taleban movement in general, now it takes a look on one of its specifics: their propaganda. Our author Florian Broschk has dissected a rare Dari-language propaganda video and the language used in it, a Salafi-influenced narrative of ‘oppression’ and ‘corruption’ to ‘incite the Believers to fight’.
Although it is often stated that the Afghan insurgency is not primarily ideologically motivated, there can be little doubt that the insurgents are generally able to instill a deep sense of meaning in their supporters, aspirants and fighters. They make a ‘case for jihad’, as Florian Broschk writes in this latest AAN Briefing Paper, ‘a justification of why it is a religious duty to resort to arms in the face of a Muslim government in Kabul’ These arguments are rarely recorded and made available to the wider public – so this is an opportunity to learn more about it.
In late 2009, a video called mā dar barābar-e yak shamshir qarār dārem (‘We are faced by one sword’) wa released on Arabic language jihadi forums. Significantly, however, the sermon was given not in Arabic, but in Dari – one of the main languages of Afghanistan and its publisher explicitly expresses allegiance to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and to Mullah Omar as the commander of believers, thereby situating itself firmly within the framework of the Taleban.
The sermon-video features a masked Maulawi called Abdul Basit who, in the meantime, was announced killed in a jihadi online forum. He develops a narrative of corruption(fassād) – in its two dimensions fassād-e edāri(administrative corruption) and fassād-e akhlāqī (moral corruption) -, occupation (eshghāl) and oppression (zolm) and their interconnections, citing (and underscoring with photo footage of Western military ‘atrocities’. According to the Maulawi , this symbolises the never-ending battle against the forces of unbelief, God has already ordered his followers to take up arms against the invaders. In particular spreading fassād is, in the Mawlawi’s view, such a fundamental sin that it actually excludes its perpetrator from the general Quranic prohibition on killing; a ruler who spreads corruption is thus someone to be rebelled against – this has become a central motivation for the ongoing insurgency. Basit’s narrative comes close to the militant-jihadist concept oftakfir (declaring someone to be an unbeliever).
But even within the Taleban, the author points out, not everyone subscribes to this position. As a result, the author argues, this message is difficult to sell to a huge part of the Afghan population, most veteran mujahedin commanders from the 1980s’ jihad and arguably also the majority of well-known Islamic scholars who refuse this ideological position. Yet, with the intertwined concepts of oppression and corruption resulting from foreign occupation, insurgents generally rely on a popular, time-proven path. It should be remembered that the notion of the duty to defend homeland and religion against oppressive foreign invaders who seek to destroy society by spreading corruption, is the founding myth of a huge part of the current political class in Afghanistan.
In addition, the author concludes, the insurgents gain from the ‘somewhat inconsistent and incoherent narrative offered by the Western backers of the Kabul government’ who have difficulties in matching their own stories to the thinking and perceptions of the Afghan population of their role in Afghanistan.
The full report can be downloaded here
Release date: 15 February 2011.