The disbelieving West?
A research on the representation of the West in the speeches by the IS leadership from an Occidentalist perspective
Robbin Veldhuijzen S3666670 May 26, 2022
Department of Middle Eastern Studies Thesis supervisor: Dr. P. G. T. Nanninga Second assessor: Dr. S. Goldstein-Sabbah
Throughout the writing of this thesis I have received a great deal of support and assistance.
First, I would like to thank my supervisor, dr. Pieter Nanninga, who has helped me during the process of writing this thesis. Your feedback has helped me improve my writing and sharpen my thinking process. Your insightful comments has helped me bring my work to a higher level.
Second, I am also grateful to my fellow students who have helped me with their moral support and brainstorm sessions. They have encouraged me during the writing process. Thank you for being there when I needed you.
In addition, I would like to thank my friends and family who have helped me in times I got stuck during the writing process. Without their assistance and support this thesis period would not be as pleasant as it has been.
The media produced by the Islamic State (IS) offers insights into the inner workings, strategic goals, and ideology of the group. Leaders of the IS for example have called for attacks on the West, offering a homogenous depiction of the West, and identifying this actor as a great enemy. However, who the West is according to the IS often remains unclear. Understanding how the West is represented by the IS is crucial for a better understanding of the organization itself and for improving counter-terrorism strategies and de-radicalization policies. Therefore, this research aims to analyze to what extent the West is represented from an Occidentalist perspective in the speeches by the IS leadership.
To do so, this research uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods to analyze 28 speeches by the IS leadership from an Occidentalist perspective. Based on the analysis of the speeches, the results showed that the West roughly corresponds to the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia. Moreover, the West is supported by a variety of allies who, together with the West, are part of an international coalition that aims to fight the IS. Moreover, the main characteristic that is highlighted in the speeches by the IS leadership is the Crusader character of the West. Additionally, the IS leadership argues that the West is a master over puppet regimes in the Middle East. Next to these two characteristics, the IS leadership uses other negative and homogenous characteristics to describe the West. The purpose of this representation is threefold. First, this representation is used to construct the self-image of the IS. Second, this representation is used to mobilize support for the organization. Third, this representation of the West is used to legitimize violence and hatred directed toward the West. From this, it can be concluded that the IS uses Occidentalist discourse to represent the West in the speeches by the IS leadership.
Table of contents
1. Introduction 5-6
2. Literature review 7-11
2.1 Introduction 7
2.2 The Islamic State 7
2.3 IS media output 7-8
2.4 Narratives in IS media output 8-9
2.5 Representations of the West in IS media 9-11
2.6 Conclusion 11
3. Theoretical framework 12-17
3.1 Introduction 12
3.2 Orientalism 12-13
3.3 Occidentalism 13-16
3.4 Conclusion 17
4. Methodology 18-25
4.1 Introduction 18
4.2 Data selection 18
4.3 Data reflection 18-19
4.4 Khutbah 19
4.5 Historical context 20-21
4.6 Quantitative analysis 21-23
4.7 Qualitative analysis 23-25
5. Research results 26-45
5.1 Introduction 26
5.2 Who is the West 27-34
5.2.1 Introduction 27
5.2.2 Actors 27-29
5.2.3 Allies 29-31
5.2.4 International coalition 31-33
5.2.5 Conclusion 33-34
5.3 What are the characteristics of the West 34-41
5.3.1 Introduction 34
5.3.2 Crusaders 34-36
5.3.3 Masters 36-38
5.3.4 Other negative characteristics 38-41
5.3.5 Conclusion 41
5.4 What is the purpose of this representation 41-45
5.4.1 Introduction 41
5.4.2 Constructing the self-image 42-43
5.4.3 Mobilize support 43-44
5.4.4 Legitimize violence 44
5.4.5 Conclusion 44-55
6. Conclusion and discussion 46-50
6.1 Introduction 46
6.2 Conclusion 46-48
6.3 Contributions 49
6.4 Limitations 49-50
6.5 Implications 50
7. Bibliography 51-58
8. Appendices 59-270
Appendix 1: speeches by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 59-112 Appendix 2: speeches by Abu Muhammad al-Adnani 113-181 Appendix 3: speeches by Abu al-Hasan al-Muhajir 182-225 Appendix 4: speeches by Abu Hamza al-Qurashi 226-263 Appendix 5: Overview of amount of usage of terms per theme 267-270
Appendix 6: Figures 267-270
On January 20, 2022, insurgents affiliated with the so-called Islamic State (IS), orchestrated an attack against the Al-Sina’a prison in the Ghweiran neighborhood in the city of al-Hasakah, located in northeastern Syria. The aim of this attack was to free detained IS fighters from the Al-Sina’a prison (Al-Hajj, 2022). In total, the attack lasted 10 days and resulted in the redeployment of the British and American air forces (Loveluck & Cahlan, 2022). This attack is the largest attack committed by the IS since the fall of Baghouz in March 2019 (CNN, 2022). In the last couple of years, the topic of jailbreaks has been an important theme in the media produced by the IS. In the last speech by al-Baghdadi, released on September 16, 2019, the former caliph of the IS called on IS operatives to liberate detained IS fighters from prisons in the region (Baghdadi, 2019).
This event showed two important things. First, the UN Security Council (2022) stated that the recent attack is a reminder that the IS still poses a great threat. The IS Sanctions Monitoring Team argued that the incident was predictable, as the organization had been calling for jailbreaks in their media for years. This is related to the second point, namely that the media produced by the IS offer insights into the inner workings, strategic goals, and ideology of the group (Ingram et al., 2020, p. 509). According to Winter (2020, p. 5), the IS uses its media to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions and direct the behavior of its supporters. According to the IS, its media is used to ‘light the path’ for people (Ingram et al., 2020, p. 508). This shows that it is important to analyze the media produced by the IS.
In the latest speech by the newest spokesperson of the organization, Abu Omar al-Muhajir, released on April 17, 2022, the spokesperson called on supporters to organize terrorist attacks in the West (Orton, 2022). This is not the first time that a key figure of the organization has called for attacks in the West. In 2014 and 2015, the former spokesperson of the organization, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, also called for attacks on Western targets (Flashpoint, 2022).
These examples show that the West is a very significant topic in the media produced by the IS. The organization regularly offers a homogenous depiction of the West in their media, identifying the West as a great enemy (Baele, Bettiza, et al., 2020, p. 887). But who the West is, often remains unclear (Mahood & Rane, 2016; Macnair, 2018). Several researchers have already analyzed representations of the West in magazines produced by the IS (Richards, 2017; Lorenzo-Dus & Macdonald, 2018; Baele, Bettiza, et al., 2019). However, research on representations of the West is often limited to these English-produced magazines. It is crucial to analyze other important media produced by the IS to get a better understanding of how the West is perceived by the organization and its supporters. This provides a deeper understanding of the organization itself, but also has implications for better-adapted
counter-terrorism strategies and de-radicalization policies. Representations of the West by the IS leadership have not been researched based on the speeches by the organization. Therefore, this research will analyze 28 speeches by the IS leadership to research how the West is represented in these speeches.
To analyze representations of the West in these speeches, this research uses an Occidentalist framework by Buruma and Margalit (2005). According to these authors, Occidentalism can be defined as “the dehumanizing picture of the West painted by its enemies” (Buruma & Margalit, 2005, p.5). In other words, their concept of Occidentalism relates to a depiction of the West in which the West is negatively represented in discourse by its enemies. To illustrate, the West is often depicted as insensitive, selfish, arrogant, or materialistic. This theory is a useful approach for analyzing representations of the West by the IS leadership, as it gives an insight into how the IS defines and interprets the concept of the West. Additionally, Occidentalism is a useful lens to analyze how the IS creates its own worldview in its speeches and research how the West relates to this reality. Therefore, the research question of this thesis is: “To what extent is the West represented from an Occidentalist perspective in the speeches by the IS leadership?”.
This research proceeds as follows. Chapter 1 provides the literature review which discusses the existing literature on this topic, the research gap, and the relevance of this research. In chapter 2, the theoretical framework is presented. This chapter discusses the theories of Orientalism and Occidentalism which form the basis of this research. Chapter 3 explains the methodological approach of this research, discussing the data and methods of analysis of this research. Chapter 4, presents the research results. Lastly, chapter 5 provides the conclusion and discussion which presents the answer to the research question and discusses the contributions, limitations, and implications of this research.
2. Literature review 2. 1 Introduction
As this research aims to analyze Occidentalism in the speeches by the IS leadership, it is necessary to get an insight into the most important debates relating to this research. First, this literature review discusses the scholarly context of the IS. Second, studies relating to the IS’s media output are analyzed. Third, different dominant narratives in the IS’s media are discussed. Subsequently, this literature review focuses on research relating to representations of the West in the IS’s media. Lastly, the conclusion discusses the most important debates of this literature review, how this research relates to the discussed literature, and the importance of this research.
2.2 The Islamic State
The IS is a relatively new phenomenon, which is also reflected in the existing literature on this organization. However, multiple root organizations existed before the IS started its territorial project.
Many scholars have published on this history of the IS, discussing how Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) are considered root organizations preceding the IS (Steed, 2016, pp. 41-58; McCants, 2015; Acun, 2014). Barret (2014), Alexander & Alexander (2015), Lister (2014), Stern & Berger (2015), and Atwan (2015) were some of the first to publish literature focusing on the IS. What this literature has in common is that all publications focus on a broad range of topics including the emergence of the IS, the social, political, and economic tensions that facilitated this emergence, the ideology of the IS, organizational tactics, leadership dynamics, propaganda, and recruitment. This literature, therefore, serves as introductory literature on the IS for this research.
2.3 IS media output
Another theme in literature, which is relevant for this research, is the media output by the IS.
Pennington & Krona (2019) discuss the media and propaganda dimension of the IS by focusing on different narratives of the IS’s media and how the media campaign by the IS legitimizes the self-declared caliphate. Farwell (2014) also discusses how the IS uses its media to expand its influence. He argues that, by using media, such as social media and cyber technology, the IS can build credibility, establish legitimacy, recruit fighters and intimidate enemies of the IS. One narrative that is often used by the IS is that the group portrays itself as an agent of change to create social justice and uphold the true Islamic doctrine. Gambhir (2014) also emphasizes the importance of the IS’s media by analyzing Dabiq, an English magazine produced by the organization. She argues that Dabiq is much more than simply a propaganda tool by the IS. Rather, it is a comprehensive form of literary outreach that articulates the IS’s vision of the caliphate. Additionally, it is an important medium to recruit new members and inform followers of operations in the region. Winter (2020) also argues that the media output by the IS is much more complex than just a tool to recruit new members. According to him, the
term “propaganda” is used inadequately when it comes to describing the scope of tactical and strategic approaches that are employed by the organization. Rather, the media output by the IS is instrumental to the jihad itself as a way to enlarge the organization, defend against adversarial attacks, and use psychological tactics. Baele, Boyd, et al. (2019) also analyze how media output by the IS can be used to strengthen the organization. They studied the magazines of the IS, arguing that these magazines are targeted to reach out to specific groups, such as potential recruits. Special attention is given to the video productions by the IS. The authors argue that the videos are relatively standardized with consistent themes. What distinguishes this book from other literature on the ISs media is that these authors also take into consideration other, often-forgotten, components of the ISs media such as religious chants, photo galleries, reports, books, and news communiqués.
What can be concluded from this literature is that most researchers analyze a specific corpus of media.
These often include magazines, videos, and social media produced by the IS. Additionally, most of these sources are produced in English. While this state of affairs is indeed legitimate, given the visibility and accessibility of these media, these three components do not form the whole IS media toolkit (Baele, Bettiza, et al., 2019). Moreover, as argued in the literature, it can be concluded that the media output by the IS is rather important in articulating the vision of the organization. This shows that it is essential to not only focus on the magazines, videos, and social media of the IS but also to analyze other important primary sources such as speeches by the leadership of the IS. Therefore, this research is concerned with studying the often-forgotten speeches by the leadership of the IS. In doing so, this research adds to the existing literature on this topic by studying other primary sources by the IS.
2. 4 Narratives in IS media output
For the purpose of this research, it is also important to get an insight into the scholarly works that discuss different narratives in the IS’s media. There has been extensive research on this topic. Macnair
& Frank (2018), for example, used sentiment analysis of the online media released by the IS, which included IS-produced videos, magazines, and social media posts from IS-affiliated Twitter accounts, to analyze different dominant narratives in the IS’s media. They conclude that the most dominant narratives are “the strength of the organization”, “the humiliation of enemies”, “the victories by the IS” and “the religious righteousness of the organization”. Another important study is by Mahood &
Rane (2016). They analyzed Islamist narratives in the IS’s recruitment propaganda focussing on the IS’s films and the magazine Dabiq. The authors concluded that two powerful Islamist narratives can be identified based on the data. The first one is the Crusader narrative, which relates to infidels, especially the West, invading Muslim countries. The second one is the Jahiliyyah narrative, which represents the ignorance of a society not governed by the laws of God. This narrative is often used to refer to ‘corrupt’ regimes in the Muslim lands. Macnair (2018) also analyzed magazines and videos
produced by the IS. According to him, the themes of Muslim persecution, religious piety, and vengeance against enemies are important topics in the IS’s media. Other scholars focus on one medium instead of a collection of media. Bröcklinga et al. (2018) studied the IS-produced magazine Rumiyah to research which narratives are used in addressing its readers. They found that the narratives focusing on “the enemy” as well as “rules and regulations” are dominant. As a result, the IS is able to create an In-Group-Out-Group mentality with prevailing stereotypes. Additionally, the IS can offer a framework of norms and values as well as a sense of belonging in its media. A study that is of particular importance for this research is by Ingram et al. (2020). In this study, the researchers analyze primary sources by the IS, including milestone texts, video transcripts, and speeches, to present the history of the IS. The scholars argue that it is important to engage with these texts because, through the use of media, the IS can influence how sympathizers, enemies, and neutrals engage with and perceive the IS.
To conclude the above-mentioned studies, scholars have identified different narratives in the IS’s media. These narratives range from a focus on internal dynamics, such as the religious righteousness of the organization, to more external dynamics, such as the Crusader narrative and the organization’s focus on its enemies. These different narratives are important for this research, as they provide a basis for analyzing the speeches by the leadership of the IS. As this research is concerned with Occidentalism, the West, and the IS’s media, several narratives that are identified by the abovementioned researchers are of particular importance for this research. First, the Crusader and Jahiliyyah narratives, identified by Mahood & Rane (2016) are important for analyzing how the IS portrays the West and its enemies. Additionally, the In-Group-Out-Group mentality is important for the analysis of this research, as this might give insights into how the IS constructs the West as an
“other”. Additionally, it can be concluded that the above-mentioned studies again mainly focus on English magazines, videos, and social media produced by the IS. The study by Ingram et al. (2020) however, does focus on the speeches by the organization. Therefore, the insights of this study are particularly significant for the aims of this research, as their analysis serves as background information for the analysis of the speeches by the IS leadership. In conclusion, this research will contribute to the literature on narratives in the IS’s media by analyzing the speeches by the leadership of the IS and comparing the results of this research with the conclusions of the discussed literature.
2. 5 Representations of the West in IS media
As already identified in the works of Mahood & Rane (2016), Macnair (2018), and Bröcklinga et al.
(2018), the West is a topic that is discussed in different ways in the IS’s media. However, this research analyzes how the West is represented in speeches from an Occidentalist perspective by the IS leadership. Therefore, studies exploring the relationship between the IS’s media and the representations of the West are especially relevant. Richards (2017), for example, researched the
“good and evil” narratives adopted in the IS’s media, namely in Dabiq magazine, videos and speeches by the IS, and official policy statements by the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. She found that all parties define the “other” as evil and the “self” as good. This is also reflected in other scholarly works. Lorenzo-Dus & Macdonald (2018) analyzed Dabiq and Al Qaeda magazine Inspire over a 5-year period. They found that terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda and the IS, construct the West as an “other” by presenting it with a limited set of stereotypes including immorality, brutality, and arrogancy. Lorenzo-Dus et al. (2018) also support this argument. These scholars studied how the West and non-believers are represented in propaganda magazines by the IS and Al Qaeda. They found that magazines produced by these organizations construct an “us versus them” dichotomy which polarizes differences between, on the one hand, the West and non-believers and, on the other, the IS and Al Qaeda. Other scholars focus more on a theoretical approach for their analysis. Baele, Bettiza, et al. (2019) for example used The Clash of Civilizations by Huntington to situate the IS’s media in relation to Huntington’s theory. For this aim, they studied a corpus of twenty-five articles from the magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah. They found that the IS used civilizational narratives to radicalize its audiences and show that civilizational differences matter.
Additionally, they argued that the IS constructs a homogenous and negative image of the West, using Occidentalist narratives. Another scholar that also uses a theoretical approach for his research is Sims (2012). He studied the rhetoric of Al Qaeda to analyze to what extent the organization represents the West from an Occidentalist perspective. According to him, Al Qaeda constructs the West as the aggressor and presents the worldwide Islamic community as the victim. This is done using a media campaign spreading this message. Slåttelid (2017) also focuses on Occidentalism in her research. She analyzed how the IS uses an Occidentalist and Masculinist narrative in their discourse. To research this, she analyzed articles featured in Dabiq magazine. What she concluded is that the Occidentalist narratives are used to justify the use of violence and to explain the hatred toward the West. It results in a dualistic division of the world in which the believers are seen as superior to the disbelieving West.
These studies show that there has already been a lot of research on how the IS represents the West.
Just like the previous areas of study, most studies focus on the magazines, videos, and social media posts by the IS. Most scholars argue that the IS and Al Qaeda define the West as an “other” by creating a dichotomous worldview in their media. Slåttelid (2017) identified that the IS represents the West from an Occidentalist perspective in Dabiq. Sims (2012) also concluded that Al Qaeda used an Occidentalist perspective in their rhetoric to create an “us” versus “them” worldview. The question that arises is whether the IS also represents the West from an Occidentalist perspective in other media.
Therefore, this research analyzes the speeches by the IS leadership. It is important to compare the results of this research with the abovementioned studies. Moreover, this research will build on the abovementioned studies for the analysis of the speeches by the leadership of the IS, by analyzing how
the IS creates an “us versus them” and “good versus evil” worldview. Additionally, attention will be given to specific stereotypes that are used in the speeches by the IS to represent the West.
What can be concluded from this literature review is that relatively much research has already been done on topics relating to this thesis such as the IS’s media output, different narratives in the IS’s media, and representations of the West in the IS’s media. What becomes clear from the discussed literature is that most scholars mainly analyze English magazines, videos, and social media produced by the IS. Only a few scholars have focused on other primary sources such as speeches by the IS leadership. Although the speeches by the leadership of the IS might be less familiar to many, they are important and should not be given any less attention. The speeches come directly from the IS leadership, more than the magazines, videos, and social media produced by the organization.
Accordingly, these speeches provide important data that gives insights into the communication of the IS leadership, how the leadership produces meaning, and how the West relates to this reality.
Therefore, this research analyzes these often-forgotten speeches as they might provide new insights into to what extent the West is represented from an Occidentalist perspective in the speeches by the IS leadership.
Moreover, there has already been extensive research on the relationship between the IS and the West.
As explained above, Slåttelid (2017) identified that the IS represents the West from an Occidentalist perspective in the magazine Dabiq. Sims (2012) also concluded that Al Qaeda used an Occidentalist perspective in their rhetoric to create an “us” versus “them” worldview. These studies raise the question of whether the West is also represented from an Occidentalist perspective in the speeches by the leadership of the IS. Therefore, next to filling the gap in the literature, it is also important to research how the insights of this research relate to the insights of the studies described in this literature review, especially the studies by Slåttelid (2017) and Sims (2012). In doing so, this research will build on the discussed literature as the basis for the analysis of the speeches by the leadership of the IS. Special attention is given to what narratives are often used by the IS to define the West, as well as how the IS uses the process of othering to create a dichotomous worldview. Next to the scholarly importance, this research is also of social and practical relevance as the insights of this research are essential to improve counter-terrorism strategies, de-radicalization programs, and repatriation tactics, as the insights of this research might provide new tactics for policymakers to implement.
3. Theoretical framework 3. 1 Introduction
In this part of the thesis, the theoretical framework is presented. First, the theory of Orientalism is explained. Many scholars have published on the theory of Orientalism (Williams, 2000). However, due to the scope of this research, this theoretical framework only discusses the publication by Edward Said. This paragraph discusses the Orientalist debate, the importance of discourse, and the relationship between the Orient and the Occident. The second part of this chapter is focused on Occidentalism.
This section discusses the work by Buruma and Margalit. Here, attention is given to the Occidentalist debate, the four discrepancies identified by the authors, and the difference between religious and secular Occidentalism. Additionally, the works by Hasan Hanafi, Sadiq Al-Azm, Xiaomei Chen, and Tamara Wagner on Occidentalism are also discussed in this chapter. Lastly, the conclusion summarizes the relevance of the theory of Occidentalism for this study.
3. 2 Orientalism
The concept of Orientalism is rather ambiguous. On the one hand, Orientalism can be understood as the act of studying the Orient. On the other hand, this term can also be understood as indicating a presence of underlying assumptions and a discursive tradition that influences the representation of the Orient that indirectly or directly presupposes Western superiority (Wilcox, 2018, p. 10). The latter understanding of Orientalism forms the foundation of the theoretical approach of Edward Said.
Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) is commonly referred to as the catalyst and reference point for postcolonial theory. This work has influenced how scholars research Western representations of the Orient as the ultimate “other” in discourse such as literature, art, history, music, and movies. The focus of Said is on the historically imbalanced relationship between the Orient on the one hand and the Occident on the other (Gandhi, 2019, pp. 64-68). Moreover, this book discusses the underlying structures of power which are embedded in discourse. This is what Said has called “colonial discourse”, which means a discourse that represents the Orient as an inferior “other” (Burney, 2012, p.
23). The themes that are important when discussing Orientalism are the production of textual and discursive meanings, colonial hegemony, the representation of other cultures, and the relationship between power and knowledge (Said, 1985, p. 98).
An important cornerstone of Orientalism is the concept of discourse, much in the Foucauldian sense of the word. The philosopher Michel Foucault argues that “discourse is constituted by a group of sequences of signs, in so far as they are statements, that is, in so far as they can be assigned particular modalities of existence” (Foucault, 1969, p. 107). In other words, discourse is a construct that assigns meaning to words and relations between words. Said builds on Foucault's work by arguing that
Orientalism is performed through discourse. According to him, Orientalism is best captured as a style of thought which makes an ontological and epistemological distinction between “the Orient'' and “the Occident”. In this way of thinking, the Orient and the Occident are considered different in their very nature. As a result, the Orient can constitute an “otherness” in comparison to the Occident (Wilcox, 2018, pp. 10-11). This demonstrates that the power of the Occident is an important factor in Orientalism. According to Said, the West is able to socially construct the Orient, but also control and manage it because of its hegemony over the Orient. The Occident uses power relations through which the Orient is represented as an inferior “other” in Western images, literature, art, media, poems, and other aspects of cultural and political appropriation (Burney, 2012, p. 23).
Another important aspect of Orientalism is that the Orient has to be studied in conjunction with the Occident. The Orient and the Occident are thus bound to one another as the definition of one has implications for the self-definition of the other (Zantop, 2020, p. 107). In other words, by determining what the Orient is, the Occident can define itself in opposition to this externalized “other” (Wilcox, 2018, p. 11). An example is that the Orient is often represented as irrational, aberrant, backward, inferior, inauthentic, and crude. In contrast, the image the Occident creates of itself is that the Occident is essentially rational, humane, superior, authentic, and developed (Xypolia, 2011, p. 27).
This idea is best understood in Said’s own words: “The relationship between Occident and Orient is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of a complex hegemony …. The Orient was Orientalized not only because it was discovered to be “Oriental” in all those ways considered commonplace by an average nineteenth-century European, but also because it could be - that is, submitted to being - made Oriental (Said, 1978, pp. 5-6). The Orient is thus identified and represented, by the Occident, as the antithesis of the Occident (Burney, 2012, p. 24).
Occidentalism is often perceived as the counterpart of Orientalism. There is a diverse array of publications on Occidentalism. As a result, the meaning of Occidentalism is rather contested. One of the best-known publications discussing Occidentalism is the book published by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit called Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies (2004). In this book, the authors describe a history of anti-Westernism, which relates to Occidentalism. They define Occidentalism as: “The dehumanizing picture of the West painted by its enemies…” (Buruma &
Margalit, 2005, p. 5). The authors argue that Occidentalism can be understood as an anti-Western sentiment that stems from “an offensive display of superiority by the West…” (Buruma & Margalit, 2005, p. 95). Their version of Occidentalism can thus be equated to anti-Westernism (Bakhshandeh, 2016, p. 18). In their book, the authors argue that this anti-Western rhetoric originated from anti-enlightenment movements in Europe that critiqued excessive rationality, individuality, capitalism, and scientism. Eventually, these anti-Western sentiments transferred from the West to other parts of
the world, such as Japan, Russia, and Egypt. (Marranci, 2015, pp. 53-54). This version of Occidentalism relates to Edwards Said’s Orientalism because in Occidentalism one also creates an
“other” to distance oneself from to claim a sense of superiority.
In the book, the authors identify four overlapping animosities against the West. The first is the Occidental city which is identified as a repulsive, soulless, rootless agglomeration of capitalists, participating in mass consumption and mass politics. In these metropolitan cities, everyone has lost touch with nature and tradition. Instead, citizens are living in an information society and are corrupted by the capitalist ideology (Buruma & Margalit, 2005, pp. 13-47). The second animosity is the aversion to the Western bourgeoisie. Here, the comfortable Western way of life is denounced. The West is identified as a group of mediocre lazy men with no principles, who appreciate their comfortable life (Buruma & Margalit, 2005, pp. 49-73). The third animosity is the mind of the West.
Here the enemies of the West denounce Western science and rationalism. As the authors describe: “It is a mind without a soul, efficient, like a calculator, but hopeless at doing what is humanly important”
(Buruma & Margalit, 2005, p. 75). The West is capable of producing economically beneficial outcomes, but it has lost any touch with spirituality and lacks an understanding of human suffering (Buruma & Margalit, 2005, pp. 75-99). The last animosity against the West is the hatred against the
“Infidel”. The enemies of the West disapprove of the secularization that is taking place in the West.
However, secularism is not identified as the end of religion, but rather as the worship of the god of materialism. This animosity is of particular importance for the aims of this study, as in this section of the book, the authors introduce the difference between secular Occidentalism and Religious Occidentalism. In religious Occidentalism, the animosities against the West are not presented in a secular way, but as a holy war fought against an absolute evil (Buruma & Margalit, 2005, pp.
For the purpose of this study, it is important to discuss religious Occidentalism in more detail. In the book, the authors discuss Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian and Islamic scholar and leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s. The authors argue that in Egypt, from the nineteenth century onwards, the West was associated with idolatry, emptiness, and decadency. Qutb defended the, according to him, true Islamic doctrine in which there is no room for the idolatrous materialism of the Occident. Because of his aversion to the West, he revived the concept of Jahiliyyah, which was previously used to describe the period of ignorance of people in pre-Islamic history. In his version of Jahiliyyah, Qutb argued that Western materialism is much more dangerous than the common idolatry since the West is devoted to a “strange” god that is materialism. The old Jahiliyyah was just an act of ignorance. In this new Jahiliyyah, the true god is downright denied, which Qutb argued is far worse than the ignorant idolatry of Arabs before the arrival of the prophet Muhammad. According to the
authors, this new Jahiliyyah “is the main target of modern radical Islam, and thus the core of Religious Occidentalism” (Buruma & Margalit, 2005, pp. 49-73).
The definition of Occidentalism by Buruma and Margalit forms the basis of the theoretical framework for this research. Occidentalism is a useful theoretical approach for this research as it gives an insight into how the IS constructs the image of the West in its speeches. In doing so, this research makes use of the four animosities that are identified by Buruma and Margalit. In the analysis, attention will be given to how the IS constructs the image of the West, what characteristics the IS attributes to the West, and how the IS relates to this image of the West. Additionally, the concept of “Religious Occidentalism” is central in the analysis of the speeches by the leadership of the IS. Religious Occidentalism is a useful lens to analyze how the IS uses religion in constructing an image of the West, how the West relates to the concept of Jahiliyyah, and how the IS uses the narrative of a holy war in representing the West.
However, Occidentalism as explained by Buruma and Margalit has also been criticized as a theoretical approach. As argued by Woltering, one of the main criticisms is that Buruma and Margalit do not define who “the West” is (Woltering, 2017, p. 9). However, Occidentalism is a construct. Therefore, a definition of the West depends on the actor being studied. Precisely because Occidentalism is a social construct, this theory provides a good theoretical approach for this research, as this research studies Occidentalism in relation to the speeches by the leadership of the IS. In other words, this study aims to analyze how the IS constructs the West.
The theoretical framework of this research is complemented by other publications on Occidentalism.
One publication that is of particular importance is Hasan Hanafi’s Introduction to the Study of Occidentalism (2010). This publication is the first Arabic publication to engage with Occidentalism.
According to Hanafi, Orientalism has had a significant influence on the Third World, and he therefore aimed to establish a new theoretical approach to study how the Western world is represented from the eyes of the non-Western world (Salhi, 2019, p. 11). He argues that the main objective of Occidentalism is to counterbalance Westernization in the Third World (Hanafi, 2012, p. 410). Through Occidentalism, society can understand the history, source, commencement, and end of European consciousness. Moreover, it enables society to oppose the idea that Europe is the representative civilization of the world (Al-Hamdi, 2019, p. 75). He called this study of Occidentalism istighrab and this is the opposite of the science of istishraq (Orientalism). Hanafi’s definition of Occidentalism can thus be considered as Orientalism in reverse. However, his work has been criticized for its dualistic and essentialized ideas on the West (Bonnett, 2017, p. 162).
Another important publication for this research on Occidentalism is by the scholar Al-Azm. He introduces another variety of Occidentalism called “Talibanish Occidentalism”. His version of
Occidentalism is described as a: “vulgar, barbarous, and spiteful Talibanish variety of Occidentalism, which insists that what you, the West, and your local stooges call our backwardness is our [the Occident’s] authenticity, what you term our primitiveness is our identity, what you denounce as our brutality is our sacred tradition, what you describe as our superstitions is our holy religion, and what despise as our illiteracy is our ancient custom… “ (Al-Azm, 2010, p. 8). What is important in this variety of Occidentalism is the glorification of what the Orient rejects. This version of Occidentalism is closely linked to religion and is often used to explain groups such as the Taliban or Al Qaeda.
These two publications are important for the analysis of the speeches by the leadership of the IS.
Hanafi’s definition of Occidentalism is important for the aims of this study, as that definition is focused on how the Occident opposes the idea of Europe as the representative civilization of the world. In the analysis of the speeches, it is important to examine to what extent the IS presents a negative image of the West or if the leadership rejects the West as the representative civilization of the world. Moreover, Al-Azm’s definition of Talibanish Occidentalism is also significant for the analysis of the speeches, as this definition raises the question of how the IS glorifies the things that the West rejects. These two publications will thus be used in the analysis of the speeches by the leadership of the IS in addition to the definition of Occidentalism provided by Buruma and Margalit.
There are also other publications that are of less importance to this study but are nonetheless important when discussing Occidentalism. The first one is the publication by Xiaomei Chen. He analyzed Chinese representations of the West and argued that there were two discourses on the West.
One discourse was produced by the Maoist state authorities in China. In this discourse, the West was represented as a hopeless realm of exploitation incapable of any progress. The second discourse was created by critics of the Chinese regime. In this discourse, the West was praised and seen as an example for China (Woltering, 2017, p. 17). Another publication engaging with Occidentalism is by Tamara Wagner. She analyzed Japanese and Malaysian novels to research how Occidentalism and Orientalism influence these novels. She argues that Occidentalism is often seen in light of either Westernization or anti-Westernism (Woltering, 2017, p. 5). These studies are of less importance to the aims of this study because these two studies analyze state discourse by the Chinese government and discourse in Japanese and Malaysian novels. However, they are still relevant as these studies also analyze representations of the Occident by the Orient.
3. 4 Conclusion
To conclude, this research makes use of Occidentalism for the theoretical framework. The most important understanding of Occidentalism, which forms the basis of the theoretical approach of this research, is provided by Buruma and Margalit. This definition is combined with the publications on Occidentalism by Hanafi and Al-Azm. This combination of publications on Occidentalism creates a useful theoretical approach to get a better understanding of the creation of meaning in the speeches by the leadership of the IS. It allows new insights into who constitutes the West, how the West is represented in the IS’s discourse, what narratives are often used to represent the West, what role religion plays in their discourse, and how the West and the IS relate to one another. The next chapter presents the methodology of this research, which discusses how the theoretical framework is applied in this research.
This chapter introduces the methodology. The first section of this chapter discusses the data selection, the historical context of the data, and the content and structure of the data. The second section introduces the quantitative methodology that is used for the analysis of the data. The third section discusses the qualitative methodology. Here, attention is given to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA).
3.2 Data selection
The research question of this thesis is: “To what extent is the West represented from an Occidentalist perspective in the speeches by the IS leadership”. To analyze Occidentalism in the speeches, the analysis is divided into three sub-questions: (1) What constitutes the West according to the speeches by the IS leadership, (2) what characteristics does the IS leadership attribute to the West according to the speeches, and (3) what is the purpose of this representation of the West in the speeches by the IS leadership? Because of this three-dimensional approach, this research can analyze Occidentalism from different perspectives by analyzing several essential aspects of Occidentalism. In doing so, this research uses a quantitative and qualitative method of analysis.
The data that is used for this research are speeches by the leadership of the IS. These speeches are part of a database that has been compiled by dr. Pieter Nanninga since the establishment of the organization. For the quantitative analysis, this research uses all the speeches in the database. The qualitative analysis analyzes a selection of sources available in the database. This combination of a quantitative and qualitative method of analysis is the best methodological approach for analyzing Occidentalism in the speeches. On the one hand, the quantitative research method allows for a broad analysis of the speeches, identifying important themes and terms in the speeches that the IS leadership uses to represent the West. On the other hand, qualitative research allows for a deeper analysis of the discourse of a smaller selection of data, allowing for a better exploration of the different narratives in the speeches that are used to represent the West.
3.3 Data reflection
The data that is used in this research consists of translations of speeches by so the so-called caliph of the IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and by the spokespersons of the IS, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, Abu al-Hasan al-Muhajir, and Abu Hamza Al-Qurashi. Because these speeches were originally published in Arabic, this research analyzes English-translated versions of these speeches. The database contains 9 speeches by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. His first speech was delivered on April 4, 2014, and his last speech was delivered on September 16, 2019. These speeches on average contain 4185 words, the shortest consisting of 1140 words and the longest consisting of 9730 words. The database also
contains 8 speeches by Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. His first speech was delivered on June 12, 2014, and the last on May 5, 2016. On average, his speeches consist of 5627 words, the shortest consisting of 1527 words and the longest consisting of 8846 words. The third corpus of 6 speeches is by Abu al-Hasan al-Muhajir. He delivered his first speech on December 5, 2016, and his last on March 18, 2019. On average, his speeches consist of 5323 words. His longest speech contains 9068 words and his shortest is 532 words long. Lastly, the database also includes 5 speeches by Abu Hamza al-Qurashi. His first speech was delivered on October 31, 2019. His last speech was delivered on June 22, 2021. On average, his speeches consist of 5394 words, the longest speech consisting of 7220 words, and the shortest consisting of 1298 words.
The speeches by the leadership of the IS are primary sources. They can be considered the most formal communication by the IS, as it is delivered directly by the leadership of the organization to the public.
The speeches are of varying lengths and discuss a variety of different themes, such as the creation of the caliphate, military operations, and political, religious, and ideological observations. Most speeches are audio fragments, except for two speeches by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.1The IS spread these audio fragments online and are targeted at various audiences, ranging from potential supporters, fighters, enemies, disbelievers, and other jihadists (Yarchi, 2019, p. 58).
The speeches by the IS often have the same structure. They are influenced by liturgical discourse called khutbah. This liturgical sermon is one of the oldest oratory forms in the Muslim world and is presented in mosques during the Friday prayers or on special occasions such as holidays (Styszynski, 2015b, p. 46). A khutbah consists of three parts. The first part includes short prayers, religious invocations, and citations of Quranic verses. Here, the khutbahs often refer to the Quran and hadiths, which are records of the words, actions, and approvals of the prophet Muhammad as transmitted through narrators. The second part of the khutbah includes the main message of the speech, often discussing social questions, religious and moral values, and more specific issues, such as drug abuse or unemployment. Additionally, these khutbahs also discuss contemporary developments. The third part of the khutbah is the conclusion. They are concluded by referring to other religious citations and religious invocations (Styszynski, 2016, pp. 171-172). Even though khutbah is one of the oldest oratory forms, it is also used by Islamist groups, such as the IS. These groups often politize them by presenting and discussing political messages in the second part of the speech (Styszynski, 2015a, p.
195). Therefore, for the analysis of Occidentalism in these speeches, the second part of the speech is the most important part for the analysis, as this part contains the message of the speech.
1These two speeches are “Khutba and salat al-jum’a in the great mosque of the city of Mosul” and
“In the hospitality of Amir al-mu’minin, caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi”.
3.5 Historical context
The analyzed speeches were delivered in the period from 2014 to 2021 (P. Nanninga, unpublished database, February 13, 2022). Within this period, the IS has gone through several developments. To analyze these speeches within their specific historical and political context it is important to provide a short historical overview of the IS.
The IS has emerged from the remnants of the organization founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi known as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Later, this organization changed its name to the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI).
This group faded into obscurity, but in 2011 it reemerged and took advantage of the growing instability in Syria and Iraq. In these years, the leadership shifted to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In 2013, al-Baghdadi released an audio statement in which he announced that the ISI and Jabhat al-Nusra, a jihadi organization active in Syria, merged and would continue under the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). However, the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra denied this fusion. On 29 June 2014, al-Baghdadi announced the formation of a worldwide caliphate, stretching from Aleppo in Syria to Diyala in Iraq. With this announcement, ISIS changed its name to the Islamic State (IS) (Wilson Center, 2019).
In response to the growing threat, an 82-nation Global Coalition was formed, led by the United States.
This US-led coalition started a campaign against the IS in Syria and Iraq, also known as “Operation Inherent Resolve” (Mumford, 2021, p. 1). The strategy of the coalition consisted of five “lines of effort”. The first was to support military operation, capacity building, and training, which was led by the US and Iraq. The second was to stop the flow of foreign fighters, led by the Netherlands and Turkey. The third was to tackle the humanitarian crises, which was led by Germany and the United Arab Emirates. The fourth was to cut off the IS’s finances, led by Italy, Saudi Arabia, and the US. The last effort was to ideologically delegitimize the IS, led by the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the US. The first airstrikes were conducted in Iraq on August 7, 2014. A month later, the US-led coalition started with airstrikes in Syria (Mumford, 2021, p. 13) The following year, the coalition conducted over 8,000 airstrikes in Syria and Iraq (Wilson Center, 2019). Out of the 82 coalition nations, only the US, the UK, France, Australia, Jordan, Belgium, Denmark, Canada, and the Netherlands undertook airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq and Syria. Half of these airstrikes were carried out by the US (Mumford, 2021, pp. 83-84). The US-led coalition claims that they were responsible for the deaths of 1,114 civilians in Syria and Iraq during the first four years of the operation. However, journalists and think tanks estimate this number to be much higher. In a report by the New York Times, a journalist estimated that the civilian death toll was actually 31 times higher than the US-led coalition admits (Mumford, 2021, p. 87).
In late 2014, the Islamic State was in control of large areas in Syria and Iraq, compromising around 100,000 square kilometers. With a population of approximately ten million, the IS was in control of around 25 percent of Syrian territory and 13 percent of Iraqi territory (Gerges, 2021, p. 1). The group also captured major cities and provinces in Syria and Iraq such as the province of Deir al-Zour and al-Raqqa and the city of Mosul (Gerges, 2021, p. 3). At the end of 2014, the organization oversaw approximately a third of Syrian and Iraqi territory (Gerges, 2021, p. 3). The IS was also operative outside of Syria and Iraq. The organization declared wilayas (provinces) in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Central Africa, Mali, Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, and the North Caucasus. Moreover, the organization has carried out attacks in countries such as Lebanon, Morocco, and India, but also in Western countries such as France and Belgium (The Counter Extremism Project, n.d.). Examples include the bombing of a Russian airplane in October 2015 which killed 224 people and the attacks in Paris in November 2015 which killed 130 and injured more than 300 (Wilson Center, 2019).
In 2017, the organization endured great territorial losses. The IS lost control over Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and Raqqa, the de facto capital of the IS. Additionally, in 2017, the organization had lost many of its leaders, commanders, and fighters, with Al-Baghdadi in hiding (BBC News, 2017; Huzaifah & Mahzam, 2018, p. 57). Later, in 2018, the focus of the IS shifted to eastern Syria, where IS-held territory was challenged by the US-backed coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). In February 2019, the SDF launched an operation in Baghouz, the last stronghold of the IS. This city fell on March 23, 2019, which practically ended the territorial project of the IS. Later that year, in October 2019, the former leader of the IS, al-Baghdadi, was killed in a US raid in northern Syria (Wilson Center, 2019). Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi became the new leader of the organization. In the following years, the organization proved to be resilient despite its territorial losses. It had expanded again in territory and diversified its operations in Syria and Iraq (Sherko, 2021). Most of the IS’s fighters fled to unpopulated villages in desert areas. The organization turned to guerilla warfare and focused on refugee camps and detention centers, especially in northeastern Syria, for infiltration and attacks (Almohamad, 2021, p. 4). According to scholars, the IS remains active in the Middle East and North Africa. However, with minor exceptions, the IS has not been able to hold territorial control over cities since the fall of Baghouz (Bunzel, 2021). In February 2022, US President Joe Biden announced the killing of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, the former leader of the organization (Karam, 2022).
3.6 Quantitative analysis
The first methodological approach of this research is quantitative analysis. In this research, the quantitative research method is aimed to identify themes and terms that are often used in the speeches by the IS leadership to represent the West. To achieve this, the transcripts of the speeches by the
caliphs and the spokespersons of the IS are analyzed. During the process of reading the speeches, specific keywords are highlighted in the text. These keywords are terms that represent the West or are indirectly linked to the West. After analyzing the speeches and highlighting the keywords, they are put into a diagram that gives an overview of the amount of usage of the keywords in the speeches by the Islamic State. This allows the research to measure the frequency and importance of these words, which provides an insight into several key terms and themes that the IS uses to represent the West.
The coded terms are then categorized into different themes. These themes include the Crusader theme, the Western actors theme, the Western allies theme, the Western characteristics theme, the international coalition theme, and the masters theme. These themes are constructed based on several themes that are identifiable from the coded terms. This process is applied to all 29 speeches by the leadership of the IS.
The terms that have been highlighted in the speeches are identified to directly or indirectly relate to the West. Some terms have already been identified by other researchers to represent the West (Beale, Bettiza & Boyd, 2019; Metin, 2021, p. 34), such as “kuffar” or “secular”. However, during the process of reading the speeches, other terms have also been identified as relating to the West. Sometimes, the IS leadership uses words that are based on the same root, for example, “disbeliever” and
“disbelieving”. In that case, all words that are based on that same root are categorized under one specific version of that term. The final list of keywords includes 125 terms.2
In some speeches, the IS talks about the West without explicitly mentioning the term, or talks about the West in relation to other geographical locations, persons, or regimes. In these cases, the researcher established whether the IS talked about this geographical location, person, or regime in relation to the West. An example is that in some cases, the IS talks about the Saudi government as “puppets of the West”. In that case, the Saudi government is also included in the diagram. However, in the case that the IS talks about this geographical location, person, or regime not in relation to the West, this word is not included in the diagram. An example is when the IS talks about “the unbelieving Saudi regime”.
This research analyzes representations of the West and Occidentalist discourse in the speeches by the leadership of the IS. The quantitative method of analysis is an important method for the aims of this research. By using a quantitative method of analysis, this research is able to give insights into what terms are often used to describe the West. These terms also give insights into specific themes of words that the leaders use in their speeches to represent the West. Moreover, this quantitative method of analysis might give insights into what terms the IS prefers over others to represent the West. These insights are crucial for the qualitative method of analysis, as the qualitative analysis builds on the insights of the quantitative analysis. Another advantage of the quantitative method of analysis is that it
2The total list of terms that are coded in the speeches by the IS leadership can be found in the Appendix 5 pp. 264-266
is possible to analyze a bigger corpus of data because this method of analysis is relatively easy and less time-consuming. Therefore, the quantitative analysis allows for a broad overview of Occidentalist discourse in the speeches by the leadership of the IS.
However, there are also some disadvantages to this quantitative research method. First, in using this method of analysis it might be harder to analyze the speeches within their historical, social and cultural context. As the speeches by the IS cover a large timeframe, this must be taken into account.
Moreover, the researcher has an important role in deciding which terms are and are not included in the coding process. Therefore, some terms might have been coded that should not be coded, or vice versa.
Additionally, quantitative analysis is sometimes considered narrow-focused. Because during the reading process of the speeches, special attention is given to specific keywords, this can result in ignoring other relevant observations. For this research, it is for example important to analyze coded terms in relation to the narrative in which they are used. To resolve these disadvantages, this research uses quantitative research in combination with qualitative research. This combination of quantitative and qualitative research allows for a broad analysis of a bigger corpus of speeches for the analysis of Occidentalist discourse in the speeches, while also analyzing a smaller selection of data to analyze Occentalist discourse in the speeches by the IS leadership on a deeper level.
3.7 Qualitative analysis
The second methodological approach to analyze Occidentalist discourse and representations of the West in the speeches by the leadership of the IS is qualitative analysis. Many studies analyzing IS discourse and media output use CDA for analyzing their data (Abdulhadi, 2020; El-Nashar & Nayef, 2019; Slåttelid, 2017). This method of analysis can thus be considered the standard research method for qualitative analysis in this field of study. According to Fairclough (1995, p. 135) discourse analysis “aims to systematically explore often opaque relationships of causality and determination between (a) discursive practices, events and texts, and (b) wider social and cultural structures, relations and processes; to investigate how such practices, events, and texts arise out of and are ideologically shaped by relations of power and struggles over power; and to explore how the opacity of these relationships between discourse and society is itself a factor securing power and hegemony”.
A central aspect of CDA is that it studies how language is used, what effects it has, and how this furthers the position of those who are in power (Catalano & Waugh, 2020). In other words, CDA is aimed at analyzing the relationship between discourse, power domination, and social relations.
Three concepts are central in CDA. The first concept is social power. It is often associated with a group, community, or institution and is often manifested through resources such as knowledge, authority, status, and expertise. Their power is directly or indirectly expressed through discourse. The second concept is ideology. Through discourse, one can shape and express their worldview and
articulate their beliefs, values, and social principles. Discourse thus provides insights into one’s ideological beliefs. The last concept is social practice. Discourse is a social practice that influences ideological and hegemonic processes. These social practices are often seen as natural and obvious thereby influencing the norms and ideas of people (Le & Short, 2009, pp. 11-13). These three concepts show that it is important to analyze discourse because it provides insights into the power structures, the ideology, and social practices of an actor. What makes CDA ‘critical’ is the social and political aspect that is added to discourse analysis. It critiques social and linguistic practices and structures and analyzes discourse in relation to their broader historical, social and cultural context (Le
& Short, 2009, pp. 66-67).
For this research, CDA is used to analyze Occidentalism and representations of the West in the speeches by the IS leadership. As explained above, discourse is important in shaping the ideological beliefs, norms, and ideas of people. Therefore, CDA is a useful methodological approach for analyzing Occidentalist discourse in the speeches by the IS leadership. Special attention is given to how the IS produces meaning, how the West relates to this reality, and how the West and the IS relate to each other. This qualitative analysis builds on the results of the quantitative analysis. The terms that are identified as important in the quantitative analysis are analyzed within the narrative in which they are used. Therefore, this part of the research is mostly focused on the narratives, whereas the quantitative analysis is mostly focused on identifying important terms and themes in the speeches. In the analysis process, the speeches have been analyzed by using the three sub-questions. First, the speeches were analyzed by focussing on the question of what constitutes the West according to the speeches by the IS leadership. Here, attention was given to specific actors that are identified as Western, but also to what actors are considered allies of the West. Second, the speeches were analyzed by focussing on what characteristics are ascribed to the West in the speeches. Here specific narratives are identified that the IS leadership uses to describe the West. Moreover, attention is given to how these narratives are used in the speeches. Lastly, the speeches were analyzed by focussing on what the IS leadership is trying to achieve with its representation of the West. Here, attention is given to how the West relates to the organization itself and what goals they are trying to achieve. During the process of analysis, several quotes were higlighted that are used to illustrate the observations of the research results.
Because the qualitative analysis is rather time-consuming, only the speeches by the caliph are analyzed. This choice is made because the caliph is the leader of the organization and can thus be considered the most important person in the organization. Additionally, in the eyes of their supporters, the caliph is seen as the successor to the Prophet Mohammed and leader of the entire Ummah, the global Muslim community. As argued by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (2015), the role of the caliph is a military, political and religious one. To analyze Occidentalist discourse, these
speeches are thus important, as they give insights into how the leader of the organization represents the West, engages with the West, and how the West and the IS relate to each other.
CDA has several advantages that are important for this research. One of these is that CDA analyzes discourse within its own social, historical and cultural context. Therefore, this research can analyze the speeches of the Islamic State without oversimplifying the context in which these speeches are situated. Moreover, CDA is a good method of analysis to use in addition to the quantitative method of analysis. In the quantitative analysis, this research gives a broad overview of the Occidentalist discourse in the speeches by the IS leadership. However, in combination with qualitative analysis, this research is also able to gain a deeper understanding of a selection of speeches, building on the insights of the quantitative analysis.
There are however also some disadvantages to CDA. The first disadvantage is that CDA is highly time-consuming. As a result, the qualitative analysis part of this research only analyzes the speeches by the caliph of the IS. Moreover, because the researcher has a primary role in interpreting and analyzing the data, this research method is often critiqued for being too subjective. However, because of the dualistic approach of this research, consisting of quantitative and qualitative analysis, this research is able to limit these disadvantages.
5. Research results
This chapter presents the research results of the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the speeches by the IS leadership. First, this chapter discusses what constitutes the West according to the speeches by the IS leadership. Second, this chapter analyzes what characteristics are attributed to the West by the leaders of the organization. Lastly, this chapter discusses what the purpose of this representation of the West is in the speeches by the IS.
To do so, this chapter makes use of a variety of different figures. Figure 1, gives a general overview of coded terms that the IS leadership often uses to represent the West in its speeches. The terms that are included in this figure are terms that are used more than 10 times in the analyzed speeches that relate to or represent the West. Based on these findings, the terms are subdivided into six different themes.
The six themes include the “Crusader theme”, the “Western actors theme”, the “Western allies theme”, the “Masters theme”, the “International coalition theme” and the “Western characteristics theme”. The terms that are included in the themes generally relate to one central theme.3An example is that the term “America” is included in the “Western actors theme” and that “arrogant” is included in the
“Western characteristics theme”. Moreover, this chapter also uses a variety of short quotes from the speeches by al-Baghdadi to illustrate the conclusions of this chapter.
Most used terms relating to the West in the speeches by the IS leadership
3An overview of what themes include what terms can be found in Appendix 5 pp. 264-266
5.2. Who is the West
This research aims to analyze how the West is represented according to the speeches by the IS leadership from an Occidentalist perspective. The West as a concept is a construct that has a different meaning for every actor being studied. Herborth and Hellmann (2017, p. 3) argue that by using a definition of ‘the West’, one is able to establish a set of images, differences, and boundaries that demarcate the political and social space of this entity This shows that it is important to analyze what constitutes the West according to the speeches by the IS leadership.
When analyzing the speeches by the IS leadership from an Occidentalist perspective, it is important to first get an understanding of which actors constitute the West according to the speeches. Figure 2 shows an overview of the amount of usage of terms that are included in the “Western actors theme”.
This theme includes coded terms that all relate to what actors the IS leadership categorizes as Western.
What can be concluded from Figure 2 is that the term “America” is the most used term in this theme.
In total, it is used 169 times in all the speeches (Figure 1). Additionally, the IS leadership uses terms that specifically relate to the United States. To illustrate, terms relating to US Presidents such as
“Obama”, “Bush” and “Trump” are mentioned several times in the speeches. In other cases, specific political institutions of the US are mentioned such as “the White House” and the “Pentagon”. This indicates that the terms relating to “America” are important when referring to Western actors in the speeches by the IS leadership.
Western actors theme: The amount of usage of terms in the speeches by the IS leadership
However, Figure 2 shows that other terms are also used to represent Western actors in the speeches.
The most important of these is the term “Europe”. In total, this term is used 17 times in the speeches.
Other coded terms that indicate Western actors are “Canada”, “Australia”, “Belgium” and “Russia”. In some cases, the IS leadership mentions specific cities when referring to the West. These terms are
“Paris”, “London” and “Manhattan”.
What can be concluded from these findings is that the IS leadership refers significantly more to the actor “America” than other Western actors (Figure 2). To compare, the term “America” is used 169 times, and the second-most used term “Europe” is only used 17 times in the speeches by the IS leadership. This shows that America is an important actor in the speeches. Other actors are also important, however, they are less frequently mentioned.
From a qualitative reading, it can be concluded that al-Baghdadi never specifically mentions which actors constitute the West. This is also in line with the conclusion of Baele, Bettiza, et al. (2019, p.
897). The authors argue that the West as a concept is rarely specified in the magazines produced by the IS. However, the authors do argue that the West broadly corresponds to Europe and the United States. Based on the speeches, these two actors indeed constitute the West, as al-Baghdadi attributes Western characteristics to these actors. However, other actors are also identified as constituting the West according to the speeches, namely Canada and Australia. This can be concluded because al-Baghdadi often discusses these actors in combination with each other, which implies that the IS leadership categorizes these countries in the same Western category. An example is:
“… And the Crusaders in America, Europe, Australia and Canada sleep with rage filling their hearts, powerlessness burdening their backs, and fear pounding their beds.” (Al-Baghdadi, 2015a)
This quote shows that al-Baghdadi co-mentions America, Europe, Australia, and Canada and assigns the same characteristics to this group. Therefore, it can be concluded that the West, according to the speeches by the IS leadership, includes: the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia. Russia is also once co-mentioned with this group (Figure 2), but in general, the IS leadership does acknowledge that Russia and the West differ in their political objectives:
“...after your [America] bitter rival and enemy, Crusader Russia, regained its position of leadership.” (Al-Muhajir, 2018)
This quote shows that the IS leadership does acknowledge that America, which is considered part of the West, and Russia are enemies. Therefore, Russia is not identified as being part of the West. Baele, Bettiza, et al. (2019, p. 897) also argue that Russia is often co-mentioned with the West in the IS magazines, but is not included as a Western actor. Rather they argue that Russia is included, together with the West, in the broader category of “the Crusaders”.