Poetry may be a potent tool in recruiting militant jihadis, a new study by Oxford academic Elisabeth Kendall has found.
In Yemen’s al-Qaida and Poetry as a Weapon of Jihad, published in a forthcoming book, Twenty-First Century Jihad, she writes: “The power of poetry to move Arab listeners and readers emotionally, to infiltrate the psyche and to create an aura of tradition, authenticity and legitimacy around the ideologies it enshrines make it a perfect weapon for militant jihadist causes.”
Osama bin Laden composed an ode to the destruction of the USS Cole in 2000, which he recited at his son’s wedding, and a second example of his verse was discovered in an abandoned safe house in Kabul, having been distributed among trainee jihadis as an exhortation to fight.
(…) Poetry is woven into life’s fabric for 300 million people in the Arabic-speaking world (…)
“The survey was conducted in December 2012 by local fieldworkers, men and women, face to face, to capture illiterate respondents of both genders. A startling 74% of respondents believed that poetry was either ‘important’ or ‘very important’ in their culture today,” she writes. (…) Finally, poetry was found to be more important among men (82%) than women (69%).
(…) On YouTube, where some poems get large numbers of hits, the impact is reinforced by the use of images – “often of jihadists training or dead children in Iraq and Gaza, with faint background music and a ‘reverb effect’ that emphasises the monorhyme and heightens the sense of gravitas in the apocalyptic battle between good and evil that is the underlying theme running through most poems”. / Emma Hartley, The Guardian