Comparative Content Analysis of Online Cyber Salafism and Jihadism
Mainstream literature on radicalization in Europe and North America has long passed the point of ignoring religion. Indeed today, such work increasingly converges on methodological considerations of religion in the study of violent extremism. In the case of Islamist violent radicalization, one of the key debates concerns the issue of the “radicalization of Islam” versus the “Islamization of radicals.” The former contends that the standard Wahhabi Salafist literature matters less in the process of violent radicalization because extremists instrumentalize Islam to justify their political or nihilist motivations. The latter meanwhile, advocates a more correlationist or linked approach between the faith and the extremism. This presentation will enter into a dialogue with these controversies. More specifically, it will examine and discuss current research in French, English, Arabic and Persian languages on the weight of online exposure to Islamist extremist literature in selected but representative cases of Islamist violent radicals. It will offer a comparative examination of online content of selected Wahhabi/Salafist media and violent extremist cyber outlets. The analysis will touch upon variables such as objectives, target audience(s), the confluence of complex interests, global reach, funding, strategies and means. The paper will call for movement beyond the simplistic dichotomy or sameness of global Salafism and jihadism in favor of a greater exploration of the in-text/ context of online media (including Social Medias) to assess common perceptions and intellectual/political affinities between these two streams of religious activism.