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Lately I’m enchanted with Abdel Bari Atwan’s book The Digital Caliphate.  There is some amazing perception and study at work.  I’m particularily interested in the concept of jihadi-cool.

The Islamic State, according to Atwan, is also presented as an emotionally attractive place where people “belong,” where everyone is a “brother” or “sister.” A kind of slang, melding adaptations or shortenings of Islamic terms with street language, is evolving among the English-language fraternity on social media platforms in an attempt to create a “jihadi cool.” A jolly home life is portrayed via Instagram images where fighters play with fluffy kittens and jihadist “poster-girls” proudly display the dishes they have created.

Atwan doesn’t quite get this correct– jihadi-cool isnt “attempt to create”  like a social engineering experiment (eg, the infamous US Rand Muslim project).  Cool cant be forced.  The Urban Dictionary is permeated with arabic terms– khalas and bint or binty are really common.   And Atwan misses the part about where everyone is also an Abu or Umm (father or mother).  Procreation rules, marriage talk mixed with quranic quotes and marital naseeha.  The mujahiddeen do really love cats and kids– also horses and lions– this is pretty obvious.

There aren’t a lot of jihadist “poster-girls” displayed– they all wear niqab, but sometimes its tastefully accessorized with an AK47 or a bomb belt.

Theres been a lot of research devoted to the Science of Cool– but mostly its obsessive about how to monetize coolness, like Steven Quartz’s nakedly capitalistic book .  Perhaps jihadi-cool could be useful to explain why Humera Khanserai and Team CVE cant get any traction with a counternarrative.

1.  Jihadis look cool– like ninjas or video game warriors– gangstah and thuggish even– the opposition doesnt. Its mostly middleaged white guys with a smidgin of scared straight ex-mujahids and a couple middleaged women.

2. Jihadis are mostly young– Team CVE mostly isn’t.  The median age of muslims is a whopping 9 years younger than non-muslims.

3. Jihadis have cool weapons.  And cool nasheeds.

4. Jihadis have young fiery imams that fight on the battlefield.  Team CVE has ancient creaky dollar scholars and greybearded fatties nuzzling up to the madkhali trough while spouting John Kerry “airstrike fatawa”.

5. And this is the most important– salafi-jihadism made being pious cool.  It became cool to quote aya and study Quran.  And CVE has absolutely no defense against this.  When IS started up last year there was a thing called Sahaba nights, where baqiya twitter grouped up and told stories of the Companions of the Prophet– the storytelling that Dr. Carroll is such a fan of.

I love jihadi cant– dem, bait, preeing, binty, akhi… its like Belter dialect in the Expanse.  And it borrows from all languages– because jihad draws from all races and ethnicities. The voice of youth counterculture and revolution for an underclass.  Like ghetto culture in the US– the inexorable evolution of cool.

9 thoughts on “Jihadi-cool

  1. Excellent points.

    1. Jihad is cool and you don’t have to like IS or even be a Muslim to admit it.

    2. Western strategic messaging is pathetic. Even with the biggest entertainment industry in the world, the US has been unable to make even one simple buddy film about them teaming up with MENA Muslims against evil jihadis. In the 1940s alone the US made several such films about just the Filipinos.

    3. There are outposts of Western cool, like the Special Forces cult, but they are isolated rather than part of any broader worldview (all tactics, no strategy) or a transcendent cause. Western multiculturalism is a particular disaster because it produces such a Babel that only the most meaningless platitudes can be accepted by all (“British values”). Hence CVE, where lots of paper is shuffled and many conferences attended but nothing happens on the street. In contrast IS is happy to be an ideological elite which is hated by most of the world because that gives it the freedom to act.

    4. IS have combined violence and rebellion with religious traditionalism to create cool. In the West religious traditionalism is isolated and therefore uncool. If the Catholic Church really wanted to make headway in reconverting the West and re-establishing Christian values, they’d bring back crusading.

    5. The problem for the West is that it is so narcissistic and so far removed from normal human behaviors that it can’t understand how a ghazi state works even though their (recent) ancestors did.

    6. An under-studied area is social atomisation in the West not just as a result of immigration or minority status but also due to the breakdown of social structures and the Calhounian behavioural sink. IS offers – unlike the West – meaningful human contact, an ordered life and a cause to believe in. IS cool isn’t just a behaviour, it’s part of a wider lifestyle which has partial solutions to some contemporary social issues.



      • Write it (did you see Alberto Fernandez’s piece on the same subject?).

        Roadmannism is ultimately a dead end for the Caliphate itself (goodbye Rayat al-Tawheed) but a gift for razzias (the armored truck robber who went to mosque with the money box in hand from the Tam Hussein piece comes to mind).


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