Taking Terrorists at Their Word: Testing the Co-Religionist Hypothesis in Islamic State Propaganda
Date of Submission
Doctor of Philosophy in International Conflict Management (Ph.D. INCM)
This dissertation operates on the idea that, as conflict researchers, we can look to Islamic State’s (referred to from here on as ‘Daesh’) own recruitment propaganda to identify the best people to counter Daesh’s violent rhetoric. This project analyzes Daesh’s main print publication, Dabiq, to catalogue and classify the types of people and institutions Daesh targets most, and which types of arguments Daesh uses to attack those targets. It uses this information to test the Co-Religionist Hypothesis, which predicts that the most effective peaceful interveners in a religious conflict will be of the same religion as the belligerents. Conventional wisdom holds that Daesh, in choosing targets to fight both on the battlefield and in its recruitment propaganda, prioritizes groups that are less similar to it – for example, Jews and Christians. My analysis upends this conventional wisdom, and in fact shows that the binary assumption of the Co-Religionist Hypothesis itself is too simplistic. This dissertation finds, rather, that the most effective intervenors are found along a Religious Continuum that identifies not only co-religionists, but also co-sectarians and co-fundamentalists, and, further, non-co-religionists who are of different, but similar religious traditions. These findings can help inform future peaceful counterpropaganda campaigns that focus on religious conflict.
Defense and Security Studies Commons, International and Intercultural Communication Commons, International Relations Commons, Mass Communication Commons, Near and Middle Eastern Studies Commons, Peace and Conflict Studies Commons, Social Influence and Political Communication Commons, Terrorism Studies Commons