The Propaganda of Jihadist Groups in the Era of Covid-19
Since the very beginning of the pandemic, jihadist groups have been addressing and discussing the issue of Covid-19 in their propaganda, seeking to interpret it for their constituencies and exploit it for their cause. As we shall see in detail below, these groups have sought to use the pandemic as an opportunity to denigrate their enemies, spur recruitment, and inspire attacks. They have also tried to cast the pandemic as a warning from Allah to mankind, including Muslims, and in many cases have detailed strategies for preventing the virus’s spread.
Jihadist messaging regarding the pandemic has not been uniform, however, as the following survey of the different groups’ propaganda will show. The main difference is seen between those groups focused more on stopping the spread (e.g., the Taliban, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham) and those focused more on exploiting the pandemic to stoke violence and amplify their message (e.g., the Islamic State, al-Qaida). All of these groups, however, have benefited from one of the main effects of the pandemic, which is the considerable increase in time spent on the internet and social media as people were forced to isolate themselves at home. To that extent, the pandemic has created fertile ground for jihadist propaganda and proselytising campaigns.