Mapping the Thematic Landscape of Dabiq Magazine

This article presents a thematic network analysis of Dabiq—a prominent English-language e-magazine produced by the Islamic State. Through formal qualitative analysis, the article examines the e-magazine’s first 13 issues in order to better understand its structure, evolution and intended audiences. In terms of structure, thematic network analysis provides a comprehensive and holistic understanding of Dabiq’s themes, identifying a range of concerns that are broader and more complex than is often supposed by academic and professional commentators. In terms of evolution, this analysis reveals a thematic landscape that has demonstrated considerable dynamism over four distinct phases throughout the magazine’s publication. In terms of understanding audiences, it is argued that Dabiq has been particularly engaged with the manipulation of group-level identities in an apparent attempt to garner support from global audiences. Themes related to allegiance, the group’s strengths and victories, and territorial expansion all feature consistently and prominently. They seek to create an in-group identity centred on victory, and to frame the Islamic State’s expansion and successes as a group achievement on behalf of Islam itself. Additionally, Dabiq provides the Islamic State with an opportunity to justify its actions and its religious authenticity to a broader Muslim audience, and thus provide the Islamic State with legitimacy beyond its borders. Recognising these thematic dynamics will be important for those engaged in counter-messaging and the development of counternarratives.

Tags: Content Analysis, ISIS, Qualitative, Violent Jihadism