Islamic State expands da’wah activities in Mozambique

Islamic State Mozambique Province officials leading a da’wah event in Mocimboa da Praia District of Cabo Delgado.

Earlier this month, FDD’s Long War Journal reported on the Islamic State’s concerted effort to both engage in more da’wah [proselytizing] activities in Africa and highlight such activity in its global media. This effort has not only continued inside northern Mozambique, but has expanded greatly. 

As noted in the previous aforementioned article, the Islamic State’s Mozambique Province (IS-M) focused much of its da’wah activities in the districts of Macomia and Chiure of Cabo Delgado Province. In photos released yesterday, it is clear such efforts have also taken place in the districts of Mocimboa da Praia and Quissanga. 

Photos released by the Islamic State document large gatherings of civilians hosted by ostensible senior officials and commanders of IS-M in local communities within those districts. These officials can be seen lecturing locals, as seated in desks or with loudspeaker systems, as well as leading prayers and offering food to the locals. Children are featured in most of the photos. 

Both districts were previously reported as witnessing some levels of da’wah activities from IS-M in January and March 2024, respectively, by Mozambique-focused X accounts and Zitamar, a publication focused on Mozambican issues. However, the Islamic State had previously not offered any photographic evidence of such events taking place in those districts. 

It is unclear if the photos released by the Islamic State yesterday detail events that occurred in the previous months or if the events were more contemporary. Regardless, the photos nevertheless offer proof that IS-M has expanded both the physical size and geographical scope of its da’wah campaign. 

As additionally reported by Zitamar, these moves are part of IS-M’s wider strategic decision to adopt a more friendly relationship with locals. Its more hostile approach, including civilian massacres or forced displacement of locals, hurt its local support during IS-M’s height in 2020-2021. Security lapses amidst withdrawal efforts by southern African forces have allowed IS-M to recently capitalize and either recapture territory or consolidate power in areas it continued to contest. 

Notwithstanding the local initiative, the photos also come as the Islamic State attempts to better highlight its civilian outreach programs across Africa. In the last month, these activities have also been highlighted across the Sahel. 

To note, da’wah activities can typically range anywhere from religious lectures to community-based events or festivals geared around Islamic principles. This latter form is a popular device used by Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, as part of its da’wah activities in Somalia.

More importantly, such activities are an integral part of the jihadi state-building project and the release of such propaganda helps provide evidence of a form of governance over a specified area. Both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and their respective affiliates and branches, stress the importance of da’wah for this exact reason. 

With the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) drawing down by June, leaving Rwandan and Mozambican forces the remaining bulwarks against IS-M, it is likely IS-M will continue this expansion, leading to even more da’wah events to solidify its control and more importantly, public relations with the local communities. 

Select photos released by the Islamic State showing more da’wah activities in Mozambique:

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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