Datasprint Week Counter-Jihadism, January 2013

Counter-Jihadism online: The Delhi and the Mali Case.

Representation of recent events that provoke counter-jihadism on Facebook and Twitter

By: Lisa Bergenfelz, Larissa Hildebrandt, Jolien Siemerink, Isabel Theissen, Katia Truijen and Serena Westra.

Guide to map Counter-Jihadists on Twitter and Facebook

-Introduction of map to study counter-jihadism online during events-

Introduction

In this essay, we investigate counter-jihadism online. We were inspired by Nick Lowles, of anti counter-jihadism organization Hope Not Hate, when he stated that a real-time monitoring system would be useful to control and monitor counter-jihadism online. Therefore, we decided to focus on recent news events that are related to the Islamic faith, and to investigate how these events are used for the counter-jihadist argument.

Our ultimate goal is to make a map that can be used as a guide during events that provoke counter-jihadist reactions. For this, we would have to research many previous and current events that provoke counter-jihadism online. To start, we will focus on two recent news events involving Islam, namely the Delhi rape protests and the Mali war. In order to find out how these events are used for counter-jihadism, we researched two social media platforms: Twitter and Facebook. Our research aims to map out who the key actors are, what the subtopics are and how social media are being used during important events by counter-jihadists.

Research Question

How do counter-jihadists use Islam-related events to support their arguments on Twitter and Facebook?

a)Who are the key players in these discussions?

b)What information is in focus?

c)In what context do they discuss these events?

Counter-Jihadism

Counter-jihadism is the opposite of jihadism, you could say that it is extremism against extremism:

Old‐style racism, anti‐Semitism and authoritarianism are rejected; right‐wing Zionism is taken to be an ally. Unlike the traditional far‐Right, these new movements rhetorically embrace what they regard as Enlightenment values of individual liberty, freedom of speech, gender equality and gay rights. In moving from neo‐Nazism to counter‐jihadism, the underlying structure of the narrative remains the same, but the protagonists have changed: the identity of Western liberal values has been substituted for white racial identity, Muslims have taken the place of blacks and multiculturalists are the new Jews. (Kundnani 6)

This is counter-jihadism explained by Dr. Arun Kundnani, a researcher on race relations, multiculturalism and security. As with many discussions and wars there are always more sides to one story. It is important to stay objective when researching jihadism as well as counter-jihadism and to really look at who is doing what, weather it is a Muslim acting out on behalf of his beliefs or is it counter-jihadists acting out on behalf of their hate for Islam. Kundhani describes this as:

As it turned out, the worst terrorist attack in Europe since the Madrid bombings of 2004 – a car bomb in Oslo, followed by a shooting spree on the island of Utøya, leaving 77 dead – had been carried out in the name of a ‘counter‐jihadist’ rather than jihadist ideology. Anders Behring Breivik, whose 1,500‐page manifesto, 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence, was published online on the day of the attacks, believed that European elites were pandering to multiculturalism and enabling an ‘Islamic colonisation of Europe’. Like the Wall Street Journal editorial writer, he believed that Norway’s liberal values were under threat from ‘radical Islam’. (Kundnani 1)

To see how groups of counter-jihadists, not jihadists, are acting and reacting online, we decided to research Twitter and Facebook. To see which actors are active in contemporary discussions online we decided to research these two social media platforms on recent high profile events in the news. Namely, we focussed on: the Delhi gang rape and the protests that derived from it in India, and the armed intervention of France in Mali to strike down jihadism. With our research, we want to find out if these cases have common ground online and how discussions on Twitter and Facebook are carried out by the actors of counter-jihadism.

Researching news discussions on social media

Twitter is an online microblogging platform, said to organize discussion and information flows such as around disasters and other events (Bruns). Our research technique followed the methods of the medium, insofar as hashtags organize subject matters, and retweets point to significant content. By collecting and analysing this data, we could make claims on how the two stories of counter-jihadism are being told on Twitter. We also made a comparison of our analysis of the Twitter sphere to the Facebook space. We used a post-demographic approach for this analysis, which is concerned with how to make sense and use of a large amount of data, especially about interests and tastes. Tweets are an example of such data. According to Richard Rogers, “post-demographics could be thought of as the study of the data in social networking platforms, and, in particular, how profiling is, or may be, performed” (Rogers 29).

The Digital Methods Initiative collected a dataset of tweets on ‘jihad’ in the past few weeks, by collecting tweets with the following terms: jihad, djihad, dschihad, antijihad, antidjihad, antidschihad and cihad. This was a suitable dataset for us to use for our research on counter-jihadism because we could both use it for the Delhi rape as for the Mali case. Concentrating on retweets, it was found that they can be made to give an account of the unfolding of events (Rogers et al., 2009). In order to find out how narratives of counter-jihadism unfold online, we looked at both Twitter and Facebook for the most prominent influencers and topics.

Result and Discussion

According to our research, events like the Delhi and the Mali case are indeed being used for the counter-jihadist argument on Twitter. As we have seen, hashtags like #sioa (Stop Islamization of America) are connected to news events like the fatwa. Next, we have seen that the top hashtags that are used in the discussion on Twitter about both events, have some overlap. #Muslim, #Islam, #MyJihad and #Syria appear in the dataset of tweets about Mali and Delhi or fatwa. We have also discovered that there are two users on Twitter that operate in both discussions, namely @creepingsharia and @atlasshrugs. Both of them are counter-jihadist parties, which confirms that the events are indeed used for the counter-jihadist campaign. Interesting to note is that both of these accounts along with other counter-jihadist Twitter users are making use of the hashtag #MyJihad in relation to negative aspects of Islam. This is interesting because the hashtag was initially used by and for a public education campaign to educate people about the true meaning of Jihad and taking back Islam from extremists, Jihadists and Counter-Jihadists alike (MyJihad).

For other key actors on Twitter, like @dkgdelhi and @rabeebty, neither a connection to the Mali case nor to each other was found. We conclude from this that that a counter-jihad network on Twitter does not exist. A reason for that might be that hashtags are not shared and these actors only tweeted on one of the peak dates, sending a central message that is retweeted a lot.

Contrary to Twitter, our case studies suggest that events are not used in the counter-jihadist argument on Facebook. This difference could be attributed to, as we assume, Twitter’s role as a news source and Facebook’s role as a social platform. In the Facebook groups, although the subject of rape was commonly discussed, it was rarely in the context of the Delhi case. Instead, it was used in the larger discussion of women’s rights (or lack thereof) as it relates to Islam. However, other rape cases were sometimes discussed; for example, the case of a UK taxi rape was used as an argument against jihadism on the English Defence League Pages. In these cases, the argument was against jihadism in the UK; it is evident that these groups focus on topics related to their own groups and the common cause of counter-jihadism, without focusing on world news. Likewise, Mali was mentioned in groups like EDL who have a special interest with the conflict since they can pressure their own governments (as EU countries) to support France. Unfortunately, we were unable to draw connections between the users on Twitter and Facebook, which makes us conclude that the active Twitter users

Generally, Twitter and Facebook are used differently in terms of information exchange. We can state that Twitter as a medium is more news oriented, since news events are being discussed a lot. Facebook as a platform is more social oriented and includes a lot of images.

The Guide

In this essay we have investigated how recent events that are related to Islam, are used for the counter jihadist argument. In order to establish a real-time monitoring system of counter-jihadism, a map that contains all the networks of counter-jihadist key actors and their strategies would be needed. In Appendix 1, our sample guide can be found, which explains the method can be used to research events like the Delhi rape and the invasion in Mali in real-time. When more events are researched, the results can be combined into a map that shows counter-jihadism’s key actors online, their subtopics and strategies.

References

Bruns, A. and Y.E. Lang."Tools and Methods for Capturing Twitter Data during Natural Disasters," First Monday. 17(4), 2012.

Kundnani, Arun. Blind Spot? Security Narratives and Far-­Right Violence in Europe. The Hague: ICCT Research Paper, June 2012.

Rogers, Richard. "Post-­‐demographic Machines," in: Annet Dekker and Annette Wolfsberger (eds.), Walled Garden. Amsterdam: Virtueel Platform, 2009: 29-39.

The Report

For the full report including: method, background on the case studies, extended result-section including images and figures, see attached file.

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