VisualMotifs in Jihad

FredBarnard once stated that &quot a picture and illustrate more than athousand words.&quot This summarizes the reason pictures cancommunicate a lot of information. As many people find it difficult tocommunicate effectively in the Islamic world, understanding themotifs, images, and the pictures and more importantly people`semotions is essential to life. Since 2001, US has catalyzed the waythe jihadists learn, recruits and communicate. The jihadists havefound the use of imagery and pictures as a new way to communicatewith their followers to communicate and carry out their terrorismattacks on other Christian countries. This paper is going to discussthe use of imagery by the jihadists’ movements in communicatingtheir strategic vision to their followers (Chen, 1350).

Visual motifs enable the jihadists to accomplish their terroristobjectives through their propaganda. They create a mental perceptionconcerning the reality of the situation to their followers. The useof carefully edited pictures raises the emotions of the followerseliciting a negative emotional response that may be subconscious orconscious. Often these pictures are used to communicate a strong ideaamong the members of the Jihadist movement. Constructivist theoryteaches us that there is no knowledge of what is true and wrong.There are only constructed, symbolized understanding about realitythat can be illustrated through the use of images and language. Every person that views the propaganda spread by the Jihad bringswith him a very different and unique set of knowledge and experience,which assists to frame cognitively their own messages beingpromulgated by the images. The images assist the propagandists tocommunicate a strong message, which is often a visual argumentagainst the Christians. Language and texts, including imagery offersinteractive ways for jihadists to participate in the ideology offighting for their own benefits. Many photographs that are used bythe Jihadists were not established by them but were lifted fromvarious media sources (Torres, (Manuel, Javier, and Nicola, 400).

Althoughimages might seem to be contemporary, the motifs of the jihadists areoften based on the past traditions and historical events thatoccurred in the past. In jihad imagery, the sun is used to indicatenotions of regional divine and identity and the imagery is usedeither figuratively or literally. The figurative imagery of the sunis either abstractions or the graphic representations such as goldenrays that suggest the rays of the sun. The inclusion of the sunimplies that items, symbols, or individuals who are associated withthe divine are also included. The sun among the Jihadists is used toassociate the things that are related to God and thus to make themlegitimate religiously and spiritually. The sun, therefore, is usedto paint regional divine and identity. The photographic portraits ofthe sun, which generally show the forms of sunset or sunrise, arevery common in the imagery of the jihadists. The imagery can be usedto illustrate the abstract notions of the identity as well as theregional identity and the life after death among the members of thejihad (Weisburd, 1070).

Themoon is very complex and important imagery in the Islamic culture. Itaccompanied with astrological importance as well as a wider spiritualand religious meaning among the Muslim communities. The use of themoon in the Jihad community is less complex, and it is therefore usedto indicate the power of God and life after death. The jihad groupcombines the moon with the imagery that highlight the aspect ofmartyrdom to illustrate the reward that martyr gets in heaven. ManyMuslims make use of the symbol to communicate their stern message andto carry out their strict operation. They make use of crescent moonas a symbol to communicate to their followers the issue of religiouspiety and purity. Among the jihadists, the white crescent moon is anexample that is offered specifically to realize the objective of themartyrdom and to promise the members that God will reward them afterthe fight in heaven. The symbols used by the jihad movement carries avery strong message to their followers, and it indicates why most ofthe Jihad members hate the Christian individuals. The messagescommunicated instruct the jihadists to do away with the Christianssince they are unbelievers. The Christians are portrayed as peoplewho are impure and do no not uphold the religious purity with God(Chen, 1350).

Thejihadists make use of many images to spread their strong messages totheir followers to enhance their heinous acts in the world. To many,a flower may be viewed as a plant meant for beauty but among theJihad members, this is very different. The flower suggests a sense ofparadise and martyrdom. Even though the movement makes great use offlowers, not all colors and varieties of flowers carry a specificmeaning. This indicates why in life every image and picture have itsown meaning, and it can be found that the meaning of a symbol in oneregion is interpreted differently in another region.

Thejihad movement employs text and symbol to create a visual imagebetween the incorrect and the correct Islamic practices and thebeliefs suggesting the &quotPath of the Koran&quot motif. Theimages that contain the quotation from the Quran serve the as thereminder to jihadists to uphold their religious duties as they servein their movement. This is meant to convince the followers that theoperation is spiritual and religious and that there is no evil beinga member of the movement. There is perhaps a greater motivation tomembers of the jihad than the belief that God will reward them inheaven after their death for serving Him as members. The movement isquite intimidating but at the same time, the architecture has beensuccessful as the propagandists use their power to convince thefollowers and make them stick to the rules of the movement. They evenhave the images and symbols that indicate the punishment that thosewho deviate from the movement will get from God (Chen, 1350).

Thebleeding or bloody hands are particularly associated with thegesture. For instance, the bloody hands holding flags or wordssuggests the historical events to the members. The bloody hands showsthe war that the people of the movement went through to defeat theenemies. The imagery teaches the members that struggle and successare achieved at a great cost and that all the members of the movementare required to participate in the struggle to realize the requiredsuccess. There is the great emphasis on the fight since the movementis led by the objective of fighting a holy war and eliminating thenon-believers from the society. The modern weapons such as RPGs andrifles indicates the violent nature of the movement`s warfare andexaggerates to the members of the movement that the movement is verypowerful than any other movement in the world. The use of the of themodern weapons suggests the kind of victory that Jihadists militaryhas attained and the technology that they have towards ensuring thatthey succeed in the holy war against the non-believers in thesociety. The imagery of the modern weapons such as nuclear weaponsillustrates the capability of the movement to defeat and overcome thewestern countries. Members of jihad and the strong martyrs of themovement use nuclear weapons to associate themselves with themovement and construct their own identities as the participants inthe movement. Incorporating images of the weapons in their logosuggests the heroic fight carried out by the violent movement.

TheJihad movement is an example of a medieval gothic architecture of thecurrent society. The Jihad members use weapons in differentcombinations, or they present them in different ways to suggest theircomplex involvement in the movement. The members do not have the baseargument of joining the movement but rather they only enter themovement blindly without determining the consequences they impose onthe society. A good example of this is the combination of ideologiesthat combine the modern and pre-modern beliefs of the movement. Theybelieve that the non-believers are against the will God, but there isno fact to support their argument from the Quran. The leaders misleadtheir followers without telling them the real reason as to why theyare conducting the fight against the Christian. It is very wrong forthe members of the Jihad to call the Christians and other people ofthe different denomination as non-believers yet they have their ownreligion that they believe in.

Themovement uses much imagery that are obvious to the public asmisleading. Those that are outside the movement see the ideologies asfrustrating that aim to satisfy the few individuals in the society tocarry out their heinous acts. The jihadists have found the use ofimagery and pictures as a new way to communicate with their followersto communicate and carry out their terrorism attacks on otherChristian countries. The use of imagery by the jihadists’ movementsin communicating the strategic vision to the Jihad movement followers(Reid et al, 410).


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Reid,E., Qin, J., Zhou, Y., Lai, G., Sageman, M., Weimann, G., &amp Chen,H. (2005). Collecting and analyzing the presence of terrorists on theweb: A case study of jihad websites. In Intelligence and Securityinformatics (pp. 402-411). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Torres,Manuel R., Javier Jordán, and Nicola Horsburgh. &quotAnalysis andevolution of the global jihadist movement propaganda.&quotTerrorism and Political Violence 18.3 (2006): 399-421.

Weisburd,A. A. Comparison of visual motifs in Jihadi and Cholo videos onYouTube. Studies in Conflict &amp Terrorism, 32(12), (2009).1066-1074.