We’re happy to announce that the Central Asia Digital Islam Project has released our first short policy paper with the The Central Eurasia – Religion in International Affairs (CERIA) program at George Washington University.
Facebook Jihad: The IMU’s Digital Communication Strategy for the Karachi Airport Attack identifies the IMU’s social media tactics and strategies seen through the ongoing campaign to promote the largest attack they have claimed in recent years:
The overall digital communication strategy common to the June Karachi airport attack and other recent IMU-claimed operations can be seen in three phases: 1) Claim attack but argue it was a legitimate act of defense against Pakistani authorities; 2) Distribute messages primarily on social media to avoid censorship and reach a broader audience of potential recruits and supporters; 3) Re-enforce previous messaging about civilian casualties in Pakistani military campaigns in North Waziristan, portray IMU as defenders of “only true Uzbek shar’ia community.”
The key policy takeaways from the study are that the IMU’s adoption of social media as their primary means of messaging has helped them to overcome most of the censorship mechanisms regional governments use against them, allowing them to reach an exponentially larger audience than ever before. Even as their communication techniques become more sophisticated, however, their messages largely fail to resonate — in no small part because they unintentionally highlight how far removed the IMU has become from the concerns of most Uzbeks and how much their ideas about Islam conflict with those of the vast majority of Central Asian Muslims.