Like the Arabic nasheeds from the Ajnad Media Foundation, the nasheeds released by Al-Hayat Media Center contrast catchy sounding melodies with lyrics of apocalypse, violence, and death. How can we combat this? Our first goal would be to combat ISIS on an ideological standpoint. This is already being done by the Muslim community, most notably the Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi and Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Islamic Curriculum on Peace and Counter-Terrorism.
Logistical efforts have been undertaken by the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications campaign known as “Think Again, Turn Away”. “It features graphic scenes showing whippings, crucifixions and suicide bombs that have been repackaged from original IS recordings” explains news.com.au “[its] an attempt to take on IS in the social media space where it has been targeting recruits [and] to discourage foreign recruits from joining ISIS.”
Indeed, the campaign has been praised by the State Department as an effective was in combating potential ISIS recruits and giving a voice to defectors. One photo, for example, reached at least 232,320 people with most of the readers being Iraqis. The Arabic version of the Sate Department video “Caravan of Martyrs” had nearly 43,000 views.
But that isn’t the only thing that can be used to combat ISIS. “ISIS capitalizes on this ignorance in its propaganda, including audio and video statements, magazines, and chants called nasheeds”, explains Major Theresa Ford of the American Armed Forces. “Nasheeds should be used to counter ISIS, as they are extremely effective in recruiting. […] Nasheeds could be just as effective in turning people away from ISIS.”
“Bombs and bullets alone cannot defeat ISIS”, Ford concludes. “To defeat these terrorists, we must engage them in the domain of deen where they maintain freedom of movement, and we must counter words with words. We need to use the same weapons, including knowledge of Islam, Islamic history, and language, to defeat them.”
The way I see it, we should utilize the same themes that ISIS creates with their nasheeds, and encourage the Muslim community to make ones of their own as powerful as the ones that ISIS creates. Thus, a reinterpretation of the four common themes that ISIS uses in its own nasheeds can be utilized, for both Arabic and non-Arabic nasheeds. 1) Encouraging “pilgrimage” away from ISIS territory, 2) Encouraging to fight against ISIS, 3) Warning ISIS of dire consequences that are to befall them, 4) Praise the establishment of Muslim unity against ISIS.
This has recently been taking root, but barely so. Two notable examples have been a Kurdish song by Kendal Maniş which praises the “revolutionary girls and boys defending the homeland” and show that they are “not afraid of barbarians, we’ll expel them from our fatherlands.”
The second example was released several days ago by Ahrar al-Sham, a Syrian rebel group. “Shoot the head of the evils”, the nasheed commands “Break the horn of ISIS to promote the right. They are the worst people. They corrupt jihad and the revolution. They emerged when we didn’t unite, they split the Mujahidin in a nasty way. They displaced an honorable people, they deformed a pure religion and they shed the blood of innocent people just because they did not give them bayah.”
It is apparent that more is needed to be done if we are to win this fight against ISIS. By escalating this fight with the clash of civilizations theory theorized by Samuel Huntington, we are only playing into the enemy’s hand and actually agreeing with them on the notion that this is an Islam vs. the West fight. Rather, it is a fight against not Islam, but an apocalyptic cult hell bent on bringing their version of the end of times against the civilized world.