Fundamentalism and the digital era

Turki Aldakhil

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The Dubai Media Forum 2016’s panels addressed, among other subjects, terrorism and how it is affecting the media and dialogue between civilizations. Fundamentalist groups have depended on the media since the 1970s. They first resorted to cassette recordings, then began documenting their operations on video. Their works were amateurish but influential among some social categories.

Then came satellite TV in the 1990s. Recorded Al-Qaeda operations were leaked to a few channels, while late leader Osama bin Laden’s speeches gained notoriety by being broadcast on a specific satellite channel, as was the case following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Social media

The third transformation was the emergence of social media. Satellite channels are no longer crucial to terrorist groups. They use YouTube to publish videos and SoundCloud to broadcast lectures, religious edicts and debates. They also use Facebook, but Twitter has the largest capacity for their aims, as this is where recruitment and accusations of apostasy happen.

The threat lies in the easily accessible online tools available to thousands of murderers worldwide.

Turki Al-Dakhil

A few days ago, a study by the German criminal police and internal intelligence was published on Germans who join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). “More than 800 people have left Germany for Syria or Iraq for ideological motives,” said Daniel Heinke, a German expert in criminal affairs.

“By June 30, 2015, we managed to bring together information on 677 individuals. We’ve evaluated this data and we believe we have a clear picture of these individuals.” He said the internet was the decisive factor in recruitment because it is the basis of direct contact with other people.

The situation seems worse than we thought. As ISIS terrorism spreads in the Arab Levant, its presence on the internet - which Western media call the “Cyber Caliphate” - resembles a genie that is out of the bottle. The threat lies in the easily accessible online tools available to thousands of murderers worldwide. We hope Western governments wake up to this reality. Terrorism resides in the new media, so how will it be confronted?

This article was first published in Al Bayan on May 18, 2016.

Turki Al-Dakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.