Following ISIS’s demise, Islamists around the world have been forced to radically reassess their strategy against the West. Dashing the utopian hopes of its sympathisers, the fall of the Caliphate has set back the Islamist cause for decades. Just as when many Communists became disillusioned once their ideology had been implemented in the Soviet Union, ISIS’s barbarity can no longer be ignored.
True, even in 2021, some groups such as the resurgent Taliban and Boko Haram — to say nothing of the Iranian regime — remain committed to a type of Islamist militancy that includes an emphasis on violence, with all the human suffering that entails. But for the most part, jihadist militancy has proved unpopular among Muslims, often inviting a violent counter-reaction. Its promise of an Islamist dream state has lost its appeal.
Yet Islamists in the West appear to have found a possible solution that sidesteps, at least for now, the use of explicit violence. The core of this alternative strategy is to focus as much as possible on dawa.
Nearly 20 years after 9/11, Westerners still remain unfamiliar with dawa. In theory, the term simply refers to the call to Islam, a kind of invitation; Westerners would recognise it as part of a proselytising mission. In practice, however, Islamists rely on dawa as a comprehensive propaganda, PR, and brainwashing system designed to make all Muslims embrace an Islamist programme while converting as many non-Muslims as possible.
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