chapter  26
19 Pages

Martyrdom mythology in Iraq: How jihadists frame suicide terrorism in videos and biographies: Mohammed M. Hafez


Jihadists in Iraq confront a challenging communication problem. Their messages must achieve fi ve goals: appeal to potential recruits inside and outside of Iraq; justify to the public the killing of civilians and fellow Muslims in insurgent attacks; deactivate self-inhibiting norms that may obstruct their cadres from killing civilians in suicide attacks; legitimize the organizations that engage in violence; and counter the claims of authorities in Iraq and around the Muslim world. Jihadists formulate a number of utilitarian, ideological, and theological arguments to achieve these tasks. However, to avoid overwhelming their audiences with information and complicated political and theological discourse, jihadists simplify their message by relying on emotional narratives that seek to construct the image of the “heroic martyr.” Through online video clips and biographies of suicide bombers, they play on prevailing themes of humiliation, collusion, and redemption to demonize their enemies and motivate their cadres to make “heroic” sacrifi ces. They exaggerate mistreatment of women and appeal to the masculinity of men in order to shame them into protecting their “mothers and sisters.” These emotive elements of their discourse are intended to galvanize support for their cause, not just from a narrow circle of activists, but also from the broader Muslim public.