Study: Muslim extremists not looking for world domination
ASU researchers highlight one effort to counter a video by al Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri as a better approach to fighting extremist rhetoric
July 10th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Study: Muslim extremists not looking for world domination

By Adam Levine

Muslim extremists are more concerned with defending against foreign intrusion than foisting Islam on the world, according to a new study of extremist texts. The study suggests that a Western approach of claiming extremists are seeking world domination is misdirected, and instead should seek to counteract claims of victimhood.

"Continued claims to the contrary, by both official and unofficial sources, only play into a 'clash of civilizations' narrative that benefits the extremist cause. These claims also undermine the credibility of Western voices, because the audience knows that extremist arguments are really about victimage and deliverance," write the researchers, Jeffry Halverson, R. Bennett Furlow and Steven Corman.

The analysis by Arizona State University's Center for Strategic Communication looked at how the Quran was used in 2,000 propoganda items from 1998 to 2011, though the majority were from post-2007, that emanated mostly from the Middle East and North Africa. Among the groups analyzed were al Qaeda and al Shabaab, as well as anonymous postings online.

One result that surprised the researchers, the "near absence" of citations from one of the most extreme passages, the "Verse of Swords," that encourages "all-out war against world domination."

"Widely regarded as the most militant or violent passage of the Quran, it is treated as a divine call for offensive warfare on a global scale," the researchers wrote. "It is also regarded as a verse which supersedes over 100 other verses of the Quran that counsel patience, tolerance and forgiveness."

The study concludes that extremists, at least based on how they quote from the Quran, do not reflect "an aggressive offensive foe seeking domination and conquest of unbelievers, as is commonly assumed. Instead they deal with themes of victimization, dishonor and retribution."

"The verses frequently utilized by extremists from this surah address subjects such as enduring hardships and the importance of fighting against the unjust unbelievers who oppress men, women and children," the researchers wrote about the most cited chapter (called a "surah").

The insights led the researchers to suggest alternative approaches to counteracting the extremist messages, rather than focusing on the fear factor. The Arizona group cites a recent effort by the State Department to counteract al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who said in a 2011 video that "there is no hope to remove the corrupt regimes in Muslim countries except by force. And there is no chance to bring change through peaceful action." The State Department Digital Outreach Team posted a video intercutting that video, which included Zawahiri daring someone to find a single example to prove Zawahiri wrong, with video of Arab Spring protesters in Egypt.

Halverson, Bennett and Corman also suggest undermining the "champion" image aspired to by extremists.

Extremists use a "deliverance narrative to position themselves as the champion that can deliver the community from evil," the researchers wrote. "However, as we have argued elsewhere, extremists do little that is champion-like. They have not unseated any apostate rulers, and their victims are overwhelmingly likely to be Muslims."

The study cites data from the West Point Combating Terrorism Center that estimated al Qaeda militants were 38 times more likely to kill a Muslim than a Westerner, based on data from 2006 to 2008.

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Filed under: Living With Terror • Terrorism
soundoff (305 Responses)
  1. Freeda Wascom

    This is the very best search system in the planet

    April 20, 2017 at 4:00 am | Reply
  2. Skorpio

    A pragmatic solution for Islamic violence is a MASSIVE CONVERSION OF MUSLIMS TO CHRISTIANITY or to any other religion except Islam. The best choice could be ANY of the Middle Eastern Arab CHRISTIAN churches which share the same language, culture and traditions as Muslims but NOT their satanic Islamic faith.

    October 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Reply
    • Some guy


      January 28, 2014 at 11:31 pm | Reply
  3. Bookarchive

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    September 18, 2012 at 6:20 am | Reply
  4. Jason

    foolish, the very core of Islam is to, over time, allow for the people to convert, just as Mohammed didn't force his catured populations to convert, he knew over time there would be natural cultural assimilation with religion following. Its no different from Christianity, we all want people to believe in Jesus the same as the followers of Islam want people to believe in the tennants of Islam. No one is saying that everyone that believes in Islam is violent or trying to convert anyone but the belief is there that all should at least want to believe. Nice try Mr. Levine but you have the story very much incorrect, its religion and the goal of the religious leaders is to spread the word of their faith and gather more followers.

    August 10, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  5. Skorpio

    The main problem with Iran is its AYATOLLAH as well as with the rest of Muslim nations. All Muslim clerics are the main instigators of the violence, hatred, vengeance, resentment, terrorism and discrimination. These rats promote, justify and encourage millions of brainless Muslims to commit all kinds of atrocities around the world. Just by watching and listening to all the top world Muslim clerics in their own language because what they say in English is different, anyone can tell these bas-tards are lairs, deceivers, hatemongers, basically they are Satan's disciples.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:42 am | Reply
    • riki

      Islam is the only religion teaching their follower to kill,what if all religion is the same?

      February 10, 2013 at 7:04 am | Reply
  6. Frank

    Your right. Only liberals and the Obama Administration believe you. For you Americans out there that want to defend your feedom. Below is the definition of Taqyia. Its used to safeguard and proselytize ISLAM, to spread it and defend it.

    The word "Taqiyya" literally means: "Concealing, precaution, guarding.” It is employed in disguising one's beliefs, intentions, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions or strategies. In practical terms it is manifested as dissimulation, lying, deceiving, vexing and confounding with the intention of deflecting attention, foiling or pre-emptive blocking. It is currently employed in fending off and neutralising any criticism of Islam or Muslims.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  7. Anon5041

    Oh all the tears of the ignorant, uninformed so-called "Christians" (nothing more than petty non-Christian-haters if you ask me) in this comment section who think they know everything about Islam. So delicious. Anyone who knows the first thing about the history of the Middle East and the Muslim religion knows this article is absolutely true. It was true 25 years ago too when the CIA created al Qaeda to drive the Ruskies out of Afghanland.

    July 17, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Reply
    • Jason

      You have it wrong, Anon5041, we were supporting the Taliban, Al Qaeda began as a terrorist organization in Pakistan who was very anti-west and started to design attacks against wester targets, it was just happenstance that the Russians became their first test targets.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Reply
  8. Tom

    Who are these people trying to convince that islam and the muslims are not out to rule the world and rule it under sharia law??? !!! These loathsome liberals are following the same scripts in the quaran that instruct to decieve the non-believers. That is why you cannot trust or bellive this love and peace crap from them. Further what do these liberals say about the command to kill the non-believers and especially Jews wherever you may find them?? And the killing of Christians because they are Christians and others and the burning of Churches continues on worldwide day in and day out!!! And the sordid and horrid list goes on. For the life of me I do not understand why the liberals, of all beings, want to cozy up to the islam cult with all of the evilness it instructs and the desparagement of women it commands. Do they not know that wss the principal reascon the islam cult was founded to have total control over women and to desparage and use them as they see fit!!!!!! May the real God, the God of ABRAHAM help us all!!!!!!!

    July 15, 2012 at 12:16 am | Reply
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