Women are being used to manipulate Muslim men into joining forces with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) as so-called “white feather girls” did during the First World War, an anti-extremism think tank says.
Quilliam, a counter-extremism think tank that works to defend religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy, has identified over a 100 social media accounts of ISIS sympathizers presumed to be located in Britain.
Erin Marie Saltman, a senior researcher with the organization, told The Times women who journeyed to Syria to wed ISIS militants were deploying online blogs as a “soft tool of recruitment.”
She further claimed these women are attempting to shame British men via social media platforms, suggesting they are not “real Muslims” or “real men” unless they joined the conflict.
“It is similar to the First World War, where men were branded cowards if they did not enlist. Jihadist wives are using language to degrade the machismo of British men.
“They use physical comparisons to shame the ‘fat and lazy British Muslims’ into joining the ‘physically fit and strong mujahidin’ in Syria and Iraq,” she said.
One such women, a blogger who has adopted the pseudonym ‘Bird of Jannah’, reportedly offers a romanticized account in English of being the bride of a jihadist. Her blog site is adorned with Kalashnikovs and roses, The Times reports.
A report published by Quilliam today uncovers two social networking sites it warns are havens for ISIS propaganda. But this tide of propaganda never remains static, the body reveals, and is constantly in flux.
Dr Erin Marie Saltman, a senior researcher at Quilliam, told The Times: “As one front line becomes more censored, then [ISIS] will move to another platform. Currently, we are seeing lots of activity on Ask.fm and VK and yet these companies have not been involved in the Downing Street and EU talks to tackle this.”
While Google, Facebook and Twitter are considered to be the most prolific social media sites in operation, it is more difficult to monitor other fringe and recently emerged platforms, Saltman said.
“Social media organizations don’t want jihadists using their networks and yet they’ve created these civil-society platforms to be used without censorship,” she added.
The deployment of social media sites to channel and disseminate ISIS propaganda is “unprecedented for a terrorist organization,” and has sparked “the first social media war,” the think tank’s report warns.
Online jihadists in Britain reportedly provide direct links to ISIS and other extremist militants in Syria.
In a separate report released by the counter-terrorism organization Tuesday, Quilliam said the use of social media cannot be adequately tackled with censorship.
“This can only be done through community-led counter-speech initiatives,” the think tank argued.
Quilliam also warned the global intervention against ISIS is creating a reunion between al-Qaeda and Islamic State, who are finding renewed commonality in a “Crusader vs. Muslim” paradigm. The think tank said this binary must be “shattered by stronger intervention from regional, Sunni-majority states.”
“IS will never be bombed into obscurity, the long-term problem of jihadist terrorism will not go away unless governments and civil society around the world counter the Islamist ideology as a whole,” it added.
It emerged on Tuesday that ISIS has set fixed prices to sell Yazidi and Christian women who have been abducted by members of the militant group. The barbaric tariffs range from around $40 for older women to $170 for children, Iraqi media reported.