Facebook Jihad: The IMU’s Digital Communication Strategy for the Karachi Airport Attack

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by Noah Tucker on 7/9/2014

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.

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– author of 54 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Noah Tucker is managing editor at Registan.net and an associate at George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs Central Asia Program. Noah is a researcher and consultant for NGO, academic and government clients on Central Asian society and culture. He has worked on Central Asian issues since 2002--specializing in religion, national identity, ethnic conflict and social media--and received an MA from Harvard in Russian, E. European and Central Asian Studies in 2008. He has spent four and half years in the region, primarily in Uzbekistan, and returned most recently for fieldwork in Southern Kyrgyzstan in the summers of 2011 and 2012.

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