A report on the growing Islamic State (IS) menace in Mindanao has shone a light on how militants use social media to recruit young Muslims to their cause.
As we reported yesterday, the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) released a report entitled Marawi, the ‘East Asia Wilayah’ and Indonesia that detailed how the ongoing crisis in Marawi was inspiring growing support for IS.
It also argued that damage to the city caused by aerial bombardment was already being used as a recruitment tool, and that the government would have to take great care not to incite further resentment.
Within the pages of this report are transcripts of social media posts revealing the propaganda battle being waged alongside the fighting on the streets of the city.
The following conversation on the Telegram messaging service was recorded soon after chaos erupted in Marawi on May 23. The report says that the names have been removed, but nothing else altered:
Non-Filipino: Have they taken the city Marawi?
Maute fighter: Assalamualaikum [then in Tagalog] My brothers/sisters in the Caliphate here in Lanao del Sur, let’s unite to raise the flag of tawheed in the Philippines
Maute fighter: We did taken the city
Non-Filipino: Is that confirmed via Amaaq?
Maute fighter: No not yet. But inshaallah our brother and sister will declare it. […]
Non-Filipino: How big is the city? Like big as the city of Kirkuk?
Maute fighter: Not so big. We burned the school created by the americans.
Non-Filipino: Isnt those old photos from yesterday?
Maute fighter: Update #ISRANAO #PHILIPPINES Assalamualaikum our brothers in the front line are busy fighting the taghut and murtadeen in Marawi City. As of 6am Manila time, 11 taghut soldiers are wounded. 3 of them died.
Pakistani participant: #BREAKING: #Islamic State overruns #Marawi city in #Philippines and raises the #Islamic state flag in the central of the city…
Maute fighter: DAWLATUL ISLAM !!!!!!
Speaker 3: Khilafah troops patrolling on streets of marawi city..philippines!
Maute fighter: We are now in the heart of the islamic city of Marawi.
Non-Filipino: What happen to the army? They run?
Maute fighter: They run like pigs with their filthy blood mix with the dead bodies of their comrades.
Speaker 3: Alhamdulillah
Non-Filipino: I’m waiting if Amaaq gonna report this
Speaker 3: He will report soon inshallah.
Maute fighter: We occupied the western part of the city. We burned the american established school named Dansalan College midnight around 9pm.
Speaker 4: Alhamdulillah…go on, brothers mujahidin. Allah with you all. Any other asean countries join Philippines Crusaders to fight against IS?
Maute fighter: Yes! china,malaysia,indonesia,japan..
Speaker 4: Brunei?
Non-Filipino: I watch tv, Brunei send as peacekeeper under kuffur PBB [Indonesian abbreviation for the United Nations] banner
Maute fighter: Yes Brunei.
Non-Filipino: Yes I saw last year in the local newspaper Brunei, Sweden, asean countries on mission under PBB in Mindanao…
Speaker 3: Here we go, Hijrah to Philippines
Speaker 4: Door is opening…
Speaker 3: We are coming
Speaker 4: Good idea; all the enemy’s look at Iraq and Suria
Eventually, Amaq, IS’s propaganda news outlet, announced that IS had attacked Marawi, and since then, a steady stream of conversations were recorded on social media from and about the siege.
At one point, a message was posted, presumably from IS high command, warning supporters to be careful about how they referred to the terrorists. It read: “We advice [sic] our beloved brothers who sacrifice their time and support their State. Don’t use “maute” “abu sayyaf ” or any group name that pledge allegiance to Amerul Mu’mineen Abi bakr al-baghdadi(hafidhahullah). Instead call them, soldiers of the State (Junudul Khilafah), IS fighter, IS of east asia.
“This is the time for wilayat for east asia (indo, malay, phil, aus, viet, sing etc). We will eradicate the names of the tawaghit country names and national, and unite for the sake of Allah(ta ‘ala).”
The report said: “Through the Telegram groups, Filipino jihadis were creating an international constituency, with their reports from the field translated instantly into English, Tagalog, Arabic, Turkish, German and Indonesian.
“The outpouring of information and support showed how much the Marawi jihad had infused individual extremists in the region with a new sense of purpose and how much jihadis around the world were reinforcing them with praise and encouragement.”
Plan for ‘East Asia Wilayah’
In another Telegram post, an unidentified Filipino IS supporter spelled out the sort of state they were fighting to create in Mindanao. An ‘East Asia Wilayah’, they said, should have the following features:
• Implements Shariah
• Implements Jizya [taxes on non-Muslims]
• Implements Hudud [punishments such as amputation and crucifixion]
• Abolishes borders
• Not participant in UN
• Not participant in world financial system
• Fights Israel and world superpowers
• Frees the prisoners
• Bans musical instruments
• Bans adultery
• Bans drugs and alcohol
• Enforces good business practices
• Has a gold standard currency
• Bans public shirk [idolatry]
• Destroys idols
• Levels graves
• Removes usury banks
• Destroys nationalism and racism
• ban smoke confiscated [sic]
The report concluded that the longer the Marawi uprising continued, and word of the militants’ resilience continued to spread on social media, the more young Filipino Muslims were likely to be radicalised.
“As with other IS-inspired or directed operations, one of the immediate imperatives of the IS coalition was to document and post its triumphal takeover of Marawi on IS media,” it said.
“Part of the appeal of ISIS has been its utopian vision of a pure state where justice, equality and prosperity would prevail.
“That vision never had any connection to reality but the willingness of even well-educated university students to believe it shows how much has to be done in Mindanao to restore – or create – a belief in democratic government.”