Islamic State – The Changing Face of Modern Jihadism

In our latest report, Islamic State: The Changing Face of Modern Jihadism, we assess how the rise of Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq has affected the status quo of global jihadism, and make a comparative analysis between al-Qaeda and IS. We also detail a number of recommendations for how security services, governments and civil society alike should address the current situation in Iraq and Syria.

Key findings of the report include:

• International intervention against IS is pushing it and elements of al-Qaeda back together, hence the “Crusader vs. Muslim” paradigm must be shattered by stronger intervention from regional, Sunni-majority states. However, 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.

• IS use of social media cannot be tackled with censorship. After all, censorship only tackles symptoms, not the underlying cause. This can only be done through community-led counter-speech initiatives.

• The return of foreign fighters should be facilitated, but not with impunity – they must be punished and put on mandatory de-radicalisation programmes. There should be Europe-wide coordination on surveillance and prevention and, in the long-term, counter-extremism measures must be improved in order to remove the appeal of jihadist ideology.

• IS’ financial autonomy (derived primarily from oil and gas production) must be inhibited. Furthermore, as oil production is cut off, donor networks will once again become more important. Arab Gulf States in particular must act against citizens who fund IS.

• IS has a level of political legitimacy on the ground. There will not be a tribal uprising against it unless tribes are certain they will not be reinstating a past status quo. Hence, profound political restructuring in Iraq and a solution to the Syrian war must be at the top of the international agenda.

• Al-Qaeda remains a clear and present threat, and any assertion that it has been obscured by the rise of the so-called “Caliphate” is dangerous.

Co-author of the report and researcher at Quilliam, Charlie Winter, says:

“IS did not emerge out of the blue. It is an evolution of the same jihadist ideology that groups like al-Qaeda espouse. IS does, however, represent a shift in jihadist tactics, something rendered apparent by its manipulation of the Internet, large-scale recruitment of foreign fighters, financial independence and seizure of swathes of Iraq and Syria.”

By the kind invitation of Sir Richard Ottaway MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, we will be holding the parliamentary launch of this event on 11 November at 5:30pm. For more details click here.

To read the full report, please click here and to read the executive summary please click here.