Islamic State magazine’s persuasive recruitment propaganda

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Blood splattered corpses and tales of destruction ensure that global terror group Islamic State’s (IS) magazine Dabiq is perfectly unsuitable for sensitive, or sensible readers. For nearly a year the group has been distributing Dabiq online as part of its propaganda arsenal to recruit fighters.

The publication is well-written and persuasive. It first came to local attention when the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) said it was used as part of the recruitment of a 15-year-old girl from Kenwyn in April. State security officials stopped the teenager before she could leave South Africa.

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A read through a few editions of the magazine, which has about 30 pages and is published in “numerous languages” including English, offers insight into the group’s vision and modus operandi.

IS named the magazine Dabiq after an area in the “northern countryside of Halab (Aleppo) in Sham (Syria)”.

“This place was mentioned in a hadith (saying of Prophet Muhammad) describing some of the events of the Malahim (what is sometimes referred to as Armageddon in English),” it says.

“One of the greatest battles between the Muslims and the crusaders will take place near Dabiq.”

IS views itself as an army of Muslims preparing for the end of the world. That sounds similar to countless other extremist groups, basing their ideology on fear and using violence to entrench itself.

Leading Muslim organisations around the world have meanwhile called IS a terror group. The United Ulema Council of South Africa this weekend had its affiliate imams around the country dismiss IS for distorting Islam. In Cape Town, the council’s president Sheikh Ighsaan Taliep told a congregation at a mosque in Woodstock that IS “violates the principles of Islam”.


IS wants Muslims from around the world to make their way to Iraq and Syria and – probably – wait along with them for the end of the world.

Dabiq publishes a call to Muslims: “Rush to your state”.

“Yes, it is your state. Rush, because Syria is not for the Syrians, and Iraq is not for the Iraqis,” it claims.

“The State is a state for all Muslims… Muslims everywhere, whoever is capable of performing hijrah (emigration) to the Islamic State, then let him do so, because hijrah to the land of Islam is obligatory.”

It calls on “doctors, engineers, scholars, and specialists” to join IS.


Dabiq shows also that IS views the world in stark black-and-white, claiming all humans are divided into “two camps and two trenches, with no third camp present”. On the one side is Muslims and on the other is everybody else.

On the IS side, there are recruits from every part of the world, “where the Arab and non-Arab, the white man and black man, the easterner and westerner are all brothers”.

Dabiq claims: “Allah brought their hearts together, and thus, they became brothers.”

On the side of disbelievers are people from predominantly western countries, with the French seemingly being singled out recently as the worst type of disbeliever.

This comes after the publication of French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons insulting a range of religious figures, including Prophet Muhammad, earlier this year.

One edition of Dabiq quotes IS spokesman Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani calling on Muslims to kill so-called disbelievers.

“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be,” it quotes al-‘Adnani.

Dabiq shows pictures of IS killings of people across the Arab lands where it has established a foothold or cells.

Dabiq also details IS charity efforts in Iraq and Syria, shows images of children being trained to kill and carries “photo reports” about its destruction of ancient sites.

IS does not believe in the value of historical artifacts and has gone on a campaign to destroy statues, claiming that it would also target Egypt’s famous pyramids and Sphinx.

Perhaps the scariest aspect about Dabiq is that the articles in this magazine are very eloquent and written in a persuasive tone; it is a successful propaganda read. IS uses passages from the Qur’an to support its vision, perhaps making it hard for some Muslims to find fault with its mission.

Dabiq further shows how IS has uprooted drug trafficking and money laundering operations in Arab countries. During Ramadaan, the Islamic month of fasting, it even fed the poor and assisted orphans.

But its violent nature overshadows these efforts as the magazine also shows images of a “stoning carried out on a woman for committing adultery”.

With this magazine available online, coupled with social media websites, IS intends to continue recruiting fighters. Its slogan is ‘Remaining and Expanding’, indicating that this war is far from over.


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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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