A taxpayer-funded study released this week declares that Muslim terrorists are generally misunderstood, don’t want to force their religion on the world and only kill people to protect themselves from victimization by enemies of Islam.
A 14-page document, titled, “How Islamist Extremists Quote the Quran,” explains the study’s analysis of 2,000 instances of propaganda from al-Qaida and other Islamic extremist groups from 1998 to 2011:
We conclude that verses extremists cite from the Qur’an do not suggest an offensive foe seeking domination and conquest of unbelievers, as is commonly assumed. Instead they deal with themes of victimization, dishonor, and retribution. …
Based on this analysis we recommend that the West abandon claims that Islamist extremists seek world domination, focus on counteracting or addressing claims of victimage, emphasize alternative means of deliverance, and work to undermine “champion” image sought by extremists.
Arizona State University’s Center for Strategic Communication conducted the study, which was funded by a grant from the Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research.
“The highly regarded academics operate a special center dedicated to studying the role of communication in combating terrorism, promoting national security and successfully engaging in public diplomacy worldwide,” explained Judicial Watch, the public interest organization that investigates government corruption and fights to bring to justice those involved. “To fulfill this mission, the center gets big bucks from the U.S. government.”
According to Judicial Watch, the same group received a $6.1 million grant from the Department of Defense for a neurophysiological study involving narrative comprehension and persuasion. However, this assignment is a six-year, $4.5 million study on Islamist extremists’ use of narrative to influence contested populations in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, North Africa and Europe.
The latest report notes: “The verses frequently utilized by extremists” focus on themes such as “enduring hardships and the importance of fighting against the unjust unbelievers who oppress men, women and children.”
One example of an extremist statement included in the report is the following:
America knows only the language of force as the only way for putting a stop to it and making it take its hands off Muslims and their causes. America does not know the language of dialogue, or that of peaceful coexistence, appeals, or denunciation and condemnation! Only blood deters America. “Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame. Help you (to victory) over them, heal the breasts of believers.” [9:14]
The authors called the example “a deliverance story form.”
“Extremists do not favor the ‘Verse of the Sword,’ which encourages all-out war against believers,” the authors argued. “Instead they appear to invoke specific verses of the Qur’an that support a promise of deliverance.”
The report further explains:
“[Deliverance story form] is a literary structure in which ‘the community, people, or nation of the protagonist struggles in a precarious existence and must be delivered from those conditions.’ David and Goliath is a deliverance story that is probably familiar to most readers. …
“We find that, rather than encouraging a culture of naked aggression, Islamist extremists utilize direct citations from the Qur’an to provide solace for the suffering and to legitimize certain actions (particularly terrorism) in response to Muslim grievances. As the aforementioned prominence of 9:14 indicates, extremist communication emphasizes the need to rectify a sense of dishonor, shame, and suffering at the hands of threateners (i.e. nonbelievers).”
Finally, the researchers recommend the following actions:
- “Abandon claims that Islamist extremists seek world domination. … Continued claims to the contrary, by both official and unofficial sources, only play into a ‘clash of civilizations’ narrative that benefits the extremist cause. These claims also undermine the credibility of the Western voices, because the audience knows that extremist arguments are really about victimage and deliverance.”
- “Focus on counteracting or addressing claims of victimage. [O]ne means of counteracting them is to address claims of victimage. Of course, where these claims are true, they should be acknowledged and addressed. Otherwise, when claims of harm are demonstrably false, they can possibly be disputed factually. However, there are limits to this strategy. Attempted corrections can simply reproduce and strengthen the frame of the original argument.”
- “Emphasize alternative means of deliverance. Another strategy is to direct attention to existing grievances and promote alternative means for resolving them. Even if one accepts that Muslims are in need of deliverance, it does not follow that violence is the preferred means of achieving it. …”
- “Work to undermine the ‘champion’ image sought by extremists. … Extremists use a deliverance narrative to position themselves as the champion that can deliver the community from evil. However … extremists do little that is champion-like. They have not unseated any apostate rulers, and their victims are overwhelmingly likely to be Muslims. … So there is an argument to be made that even if one believes that violent action is required to deliver Muslims, Islamist extremists are not competent to occupy the role of champion.”
Judicial Watch said in a statement, “This shows close integration with the rhetorical vision of Islamist extremism, according to the brilliant academics that compiled this on the government’s dime.”
Study co-author Steve Corman told ASU News that America must be realistic about Islamists’ arguments when trying to counter their influence attempts.
“If we try to portray them as evil conquerors when their audience sees them as protectors and champions, it damages our credibility and makes our communication less effective,” he said.
Lead author Jeff Halverson said, “These findings challenge the idea of a clash of civilizations. What extremists are really saying to Muslims is, ‘our communities are under siege and God will defend us if we have faith and courage.’”