The softer side of Salafist jihad?

Al Nusrah’s Himam News Agency releases video of the group fixing an electrical transformer.

While al Qaeda central is castigating the Salafist Muslim Brotherhood for engaging in the political process, some of AQ’s Syrian franchises seem to have recognized the value of public relations campaigns that don’t exclusively feature threats, beatings, and assassination campaigns that include lopping off heads and arranging them in a semi-circle. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s recent “community gatherings,” replete with ice cream and tug of war, have been joined by the Al Nusrah Front’s attempt to restore electrical service in a Syrian town. From a release and translation by SITE Intelligence Group:

Continuing its focus on the benefits provided to Syrian Muslims by the al-Nusra Front, Himam News Agency released a video showing the group fixing an electrical transformer and restoring power to a town in Deir al-Zour governorate. The 4-minute video was posted on jihadist forums on July 27, 2013. A Himam News correspondent claimed that Syrian soldiers deliberately attack transformers in areas of battle in order to cut off electricity from the residents, and due to the importance of electricity, the al-Nusra Front took it upon itself to repair the damaged parts. Footage shows the repair and reinstallation of one such transformer.

Time will tell whether this impulse toward Hamas-style social welfare and politicking will extend beyond a few PR attempts, but I have my doubts. The practice of takfir (declaring any Muslim who does not follow originalist interpretation of the Koran an unbeliever) and al Qaeda’s core philosophy about what to do with such unbelievers make the group incompatible with the daily life of a majority of Sunni Muslims, even those in historically conservative and implacably sectarian populations. Thus, the extent to which al Qaeda can find long-term success at public relations somewhat mirrors the extent to which it is willing to violate its core principles.

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

Tags: , ,


  • mike merlo says:

    how quaint. Even psychopaths have hobbies

  • toffler says:

    More than likely, the power was essential to keeping the jihad running. The town was incidental. Obama’s group are mad to help these primitive savages. There can be nothing good to come out of them. They have beheaded priests and eaten the flesh of their enemies.
    The word ‘originalist’ is a fine paraphrase of ‘Salafi’ (‘pioneer-ist’). The people have been given the choice of going along with the Al Qaeda murderers or being murdered.
    They have destroyed Syria. They could care less because they want to create Islamic utopia. These madmen are ready to destroy the earth.

  • john says:

    This is not new in terms of doctrine. The destruction of existing infrastructure and services is followed by providing services in order to become the recognized and natural provider in the eyes of the population. Hamas is the model for the doctrine. It ensures the willing support of the population, which will accept sharia and reject democracy, leaving the fascist leaders in charge in perpetuity. This is the strategy with which the Caliphate will be restored and the path to eventual domination of the entire world. All you need to do is read their own papers and lectures to discover this. Recommend “The canons of Jihad” for a pretty good start.

  • Tim says:

    I think the Nusrah front’s move toward legitimate government is only in response to the fact Ahrar al-Sham has been doing it all along. While still “salafist,” Ahrar has proven itself worthy of competition with Nusrah. And the lack of headlines which include Ahrar chopping off heads certainly helps its image.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram