Radicalization on the Internet?

The spectre of a retrograde, puritanical and belligerent ideology may seem anachronistic in the twenty-first century. However, Jihadism (as opposed to the classical reified conception of Jihad) is a thoroughly modern phenomenon. The Internet, that most contemporary of media, is increasingly its medium of choice: Jihadist websites, forums and blogs flourish. Prominent Jihadist ideologues like Ayman al-Zawahiri argue
that: We must get our message across to the masses of the nation and break the media siege imposed on the jihad movement. This is an independent battle that we must launch side by side with the military battle. The Jihadists’ marginalized status vis-à-vis the mainstream media is a consequence of what Phillip Hammond refers to as ‘the media war on terrorism’. Bemoaning this ‘media siege’, they have turned to the Internet as their principal ideological battlefield. Virtual propagation of Jihadism proceeds apace, with an exponential growth in Jihadist websites from fourteen to over
4,000 between 2000 and 2005 alone. The audiences of this virtual corpus of Jihadist media are extremely difficult to ascertain, unless users willingly disclose this information. Audience demographics are however dictated to a large degree by extraneous factors pertaining to accessibility of the medium itself such as age, gender, location, socio-economic status, and so on. In addition, the audience profile is further limited by the content available, in particular its linguistic demands. The overwhelming majority of virtual Jihadist forums are published in Arabic alone and so inaccessible to a large proportion of Muslims as well as other Internet users. British Muslim audiences are
predominantly (74 per cent) South Asian and are therefore more likely to speak Urdu, Punjabi, or Bengali, than Arabic. This article focuses on English-language Jihadist fora, as these are readily accessible to British Muslim audiences.

Tags: Forums, Radicalisation, Social Media, Violent Jihadism