By Thomas Joscelyn
April 25, 2018
The Islamic State’s Al-Furqan Media released a lengthy speech from its spokesman, Abu al-Hasan al-Muhajir, on Apr. 22. In the 49-minute message, titled “So Follow Their Guidance,” al-Muhajir summarizes his organization’s war against its many enemies, both in the region and abroad. Far from conceding defeat, he says the fight continues.
Indeed, Al-Muhajir claims that the so-called caliphate’s men have entered a “new phase” in the “path of jihad” as others now seek “to inherit what is left behind by America” after it withdraws from the region. The ISIS spokesman says the U.S. is leaving Syria and Iraq after the “Mujahideen exhausted it.” He claims that America is “incapable of countering” the Russians and the Iranians, who are expanding their sphere of influence as America supposedly retreats.
Thus, al-Muhajir says, the Sunni jihadists should “prepare” for the next stage of their war against the “Magi” Iranians and the Russians, making them pay for scorching the ground in the Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria. He briefly imparts some advice to the “survivors” fighting on, saying they should maintain “secrecy” while probing for their enemies’ weaknesses. Al-Muhajir warns that the jihadists should be protect their “means of communication” against the efforts of spies.
The Trump administration claims that the Islamic State is close to defeat. But al-Muhajir seeks to refute this argument, asking how America can claim “victory” as the “Mujahideen” are supposedly “gaining strength” once again, only now they are “more experienced and better organized.” He boasts that they are in a “better state” than when the U.S. withdrew from Iraq in 2011 – a move that paved the way for the rise of Baghdadi’s caliphate.
Al-Muhajir threatens any Iraqi who participates in the upcoming elections, arguing that it is permissible to spill their blood as they are participating in a democracy. Both the Islamic State and its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), denounced Iraqi elections. For al-Muhajir and his fellow ideologues, the candidates have claimed “divinity” for themselves merely by running for office and those who vote for them have elevated others to a status equal to Allah – an allegedly grievous sin. The ISIS spokesman argues that the Iraqi government is under the sway of the Iranian “rejectionist mobilization” groups and, therefore, anyone who assists in the elections “assumes responsibility for them” and is going to be held accountable under the “same [religious] ruling” as those holding the votes. The voting locations and any people within them “are targets for our swords,” al-Muhajir warns, according to a translation obtained by FDD’s Long War Journal.
The Islamic State is not content with threatening the Iraqi elections. Al-Muhajir calls for the group’s members to overthrow the entire Iraqi state, destroying “every security, military, economic and media” institution of the “rejectionist government.” He adds that they shouldn’t leave a single “apostate tribal leader” in place excepted with a “severed head,” and any “hostile village” should be marked.
There are only a few moments when al-Muhajir is somewhat lenient, such as when he tells Baghdadi’s men that they should accept any “who repent before they are captured.” And the jihadists should be “kind” to those who house and support them.
Otherwise, al-Muhajir’s speech is a defiant screed. The “war is not over,” he proclaims, as the conflict with the “rejectionist Safavids” (Iranians) and others is still ongoing.
Al-Muhajir defends the self-declared caliphate’s record, arguing that it restored Muslim “honor” when it was declared in 2014. The “true Mujahideen” swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the time, thereby bringing the war to the “infidels” in a new manner.
The Islamic State spokesman must address his group’s territorial losses and he does, claiming that Baghdadi’s enterprise “never promised” its members anything in this life beyond “victory or martyrdom.” He portrays the trials and tribulations of the caliphate’s members as a necessity for any true believer. Al-Muhajir does not remind his listeners of an inconvenient fact: The Islamic State marketed the rise of its caliphate as evidence that Allah’s divine will was with them and a sign that an apocalyptic showdown with the West and its allies was drawing closer. Al-Muhajir briefly mentions that the jihad will not end until Isa (Jesus), the son of Mariyam (Mary), “returns to rule with justice.” Otherwise, he avoids any discussion of a final battle.
Al-Muhajir points to the organization’s global network and praises the jihadists who continue to fight in its name everywhere from West Africa to South Asia. He notes that some are “celebrating” the so-called caliphate’s losses in Mosul, Sirte, and Raqqa – the three most important cities in Baghdadi’s nascent empire at the height of its power. Al-Muhajir claims that some are “hoping that the rule of Allah and His sharia” have disappeared. He counters that the “soldiers of the Caliphate in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Khorasan, the Sinai, Libya, West Africa” and elsewhere readily “offer their lives” for the Islamic State’s “cause.” He also claims that the organization’s members in these areas — plus the Philippines, Somalia and Tunisia — are thwarting the designs of America’s “agents.” He holds up the “caliphate’s soldiers in the Sinai” as “proof” that the fight continues, as they have repulsed “campaign after campaign” by the Egyptian government.
At one point, al-Muhajir puffs up the Islamic State’s soldiers, pointing out that “more than 70 nations” have allied against them, with their enemies using the “mother of all bombs” (dropped by the U.S. in Afghanistan in Apr. 2017) and “phosphorus” against them, while many Muslims have forsaken them. Still, al-Muhajir claims, the caliphate’s men “march forward.”
The Islamic State has consistently portrayed its war as a “grand jihad” against the rest of the world. Al-Muhajir continues with this theme. He says that the Islamic State does not differentiate between the various “polytheists,” because Allah has commanded the jihadists to fight them all “together.” Therefore, there is “no difference” in fighting: the “apostate tyrant” ruling Saudi Arabia and his son, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the “Safavid rejectionist” Ayatollah Khamenei, Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, or the Americans, Europeans and Russians. Al-Muhajir does add “one exception,” arguing that the Arabs opposed to the caliphate are more “harmful to Islam.”
After the Islamic State’s first spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, was killed in Aug. 2016, al-Muhajir assumed the role. Al-Muhajir released his first message in Dec. 2016, seeking to rally the Sunni jihadists against Iran and the West at the time. Al-Muhajir picks up some of Adnani’s motifs in his latest message, saying that the “Crusader European and American” unbelievers now have to worry about being “run over, stabbed, or killed in the streets of Paris, London and Manhattan.” Adnani was previously responsible for advocating individual jihad in the West, encouraging followers and supporters to use whatever means they had at their disposal to lash out.
Al-Muhajir also calls upon Muslims to migrate to the areas where the Islamic State continues to fight, praying that Allah paves their way to the lands of jihad. This, too, was a consistent part of Adnani’s messaging.
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.