Imams Against Daesh

Countering Islamist extremism through reasearch and engagement with religious communities.

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Through its campaign, Imams Against Daesh aims to raise awareness of Imams who have stood out in opposition to Daesh, or ISIS, and ensure that youth in the UK are aware of their efforts. This was done through the dissemination of video testimonies on Facebook to act as engagement points for their target audience. The main objectives of this campaign were to increase awareness within UK Muslim communities of the 180,000 Imams who had spoken out against ISIS and to encourage engagement with their content from Muslims and non-Muslims on social media. Imams Against Daesh first conducted research using the Global Terrorism Database to understand the details of ISIS’ campaigns of violence and which imams had spoken out against ISIS, before using this information to create an informed and targeted counter-narrative to extremism.

Imams against Daesh Key Takeaways:
  • Messenger: Credible and respected messengers are key to reaching and impacting a campaign’s intended audience. Imams Against Daesh does exactly this by leveraging the voices of authority figures, known to be credible with young Muslims, to deliver their message. The extensive background research conducted by the campaign’s organizers (e.g. into imams that had already spoken out against ISIS) further helped them choose the right messengers.
  • Message: Islamist extremist groups such as ISIS often recruit new members by explaining and justifying their actions as “religious duties”. Imams Against Daesh counters this in a simple and accessible manner – by explaining why ISIS narratives go against Islam and its teachings, using both the Qur’an and the Sunnah (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad) to support this. This effectively pokes holes in ISIS’s attempts to portray themselves as religiously legitimate, and thus strips away some of their appeal and authority.
  • Content: ISIS is known for using video content to distribute its propaganda and encourage recruitment. By using the same medium to respond to and counter ISIS narratives, Imams Against Daesh provides a structure to outcompete ISIS content and increase opportunities for youth to engage with positive content that delegitimizes ISIS’s “us versus them” ideology.

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