In a new issue of its magazine Dabiq, the Islamic State boasts of the progress it’s made in polarizing the world into two sharply opposing camps—supporters on one side, and on the other, the West and all those Muslims who do not accept its newly declared “Caliphate.”
“As the world progresses towards al-Malhamah al-Kubr (the “Great Battle”), the option to stand on the sidelines as a mere observer is being lost,” declares the cover story, titled “From Hypocrisy to Apostasy: The Extinction of the Grayzone.” The magazine also lauds “the withering of the grayzone,” and grimly warns Muslims in the West that they will soon be forced to make “one of two choices.”
The new issue includes an article purportedly written by British hostage John Cantlie, a defense of recent Islamic State killings carried out against those accused of “sexual deviance,” and a piece about two Japanese hostages executed last month. It also features graphic images of a decapitated head, and the badly burned body of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, who was captured and killed by the group’s members.
Such shocking and provocative attacks are a means of “dragging the masses into the battle,” the Islamic State explains in Dabiq, through actions meant to “inflame opposition” and “make the people enter into the battle … such that each individual will go to the side which he supports.”
Dividing the world into opposing camps in this manner has long been a tactical objective of extremist ideologues.
In an influential jihadist document, “The Management of Savagery,” first published online in 2004, the late Al Qaeda strategist Abu Bakr Naji cited the need to “transform societies into two opposing groups, igniting a violent battle between them whose end is either victory or martyrdom.”
In recent interviews, Islamic State members have stated that “The Management of Savagery” remains a highly influential text within the organization, employed as part of the training curriculum for commanders, as well as for rank-and-file operatives.
University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole has noted this divide-and-conquer strategy draws less from traditional Islamic theology than from the practice of 20th-century European radicals who sought to “sharpen the contradictions” between various groups as a means of violently reshaping society.
Dabiq also cites recent attacks in France against Charlie Hebdo and in a kosher supermarket as undertaken in order to “further bring division to the world and destroy the grayzone everywhere.”
The magazine even approvingly quotes the war-on-terror rhetoric of former U.S. President George W. Bush: “Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,’” a passage reads. “‘Meaning, either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam.”
Photo: Jens Meyer/AP