Saudi Arabia: encounters with social media
For the first time in history, the Internet has proven to be terrorism’s recruitment grounds. Social media is one of the Islamic State’s most effective terrorist recruitment tools. Its global reach stirs many to action. Governments like Saudi Arabia’s are using the same tactics with social media. They also use political satire, an approach used to repress violent groups elsewhere in the world.
Saudi Arabia is unique in its acceptance of political satire. The website Muftah said that in many parts of the Arab World, political cartoons and clever language are bringing countless dictators down to size. Satire and parody are important pillars of political expression in Saudi Arabia.
Looney Tunes style cartoons make their way to Saudi websites. “The bumbling young militant first drops the rocket launcher on the toes of his boss before taking aim and firing toward a military checkpoint outside of an Iraqi town – not realizing he’s fired it backward at his leader.” This is how the website Town Hall describes an example of parody used to dissuade would-be jihadists.
This counter attack seems to be working against jihadists who recruit their cause on social media. Indeed, the militants find success in spreading propaganda via social media in as many languages as possible. Every day, Saudi Arabia’s 25 million inhabitants watch over 90 million videos on YouTube. This totals more than half the views from the Middle East and the largest per-capita use in the world.
“With social media it’s easier to tell people you’re stronger than you are,” explained Erin Saltman of the London-based Quilliam Foundation, a counterterrorism think-tank. “Many researchers are arguing that this (Islamic State) is not an incredibly strong army. The longer they are left alone, they more validity they seem to have. The more successful they seem, the more people will join.”
In response, global governments are also joining and monitoring social media sites. The US State Department has opened numerous social media accounts to dissuade the online Muslim community from enlisting with militant Islamic groups. The Telegraph reports “The accounts in English, Arabic, Urdu and Somali posts stream of images of the aftermath of US airstrikes against the jihadists as a warning of what of the fate that awaits them.”
Saudi Arabia has struck back against jihadist recruiters by heavily monitoring social media. Since social media has wide use and many jihadists have emerged, the nation uses forceful punishment. Eighty-eight alleged-terrorists were arrested there in late August.
PRAY that Arab satire will expose truth to those who the terrorists are recruiting (The Bible, Ephesians 5:11).
PRAY that Saudi online users will see through terrorist propaganda and understand their need for a Savior (The Bible, 2 John 1:6-8).
PRAY that Arab Christians will harness the potential of social media to share the hope of the Gospel (The Bible, Isaiah 48:20).