Constructing place identity: ISIS and Al-Qaeda’s branding competition over the Caliphate
With the rise of global actors declaring statehood, the place branding competition has expanded beyond internationally recognized cities and nations. ISIS and al-Qaeda insist the establishment of the Caliphate defined both as a place and identity is paramount to reuniting Muslims under a supranational Islamic government. This study explores how each group presents the Caliphate as a place brand and identity construct in the online environment. Using a mixed-methods approach, the study investigates the discursive formation of place identity in ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Arabic-language newsletters and examines the projections of Caliphate governance in over 3200 images. Using names, slogans, logos, and colours, ISIS targeted a niche Arab Muslim readership with contextual messages in al-Naba’ newsletter, while AQAP presented al-Masra as an Islamic, mainstream publication reinforcing the stated goal of liberating Jerusalem. The discursive strategies in al-Naba’ and al-Masra visuals further positioned ISIS as a self-governing Caliphate and AQAP as one of many sister brands with some capacity to govern. The study discusses the overlaps and distinctions between place and proto-state branding strategies and highlights the communicative threats the latter poses to cities and nations’ branding efforts worldwide.
KeywordsPlace branding Caliphate ISIS Al-Qaeda Visual identity Governance
- Agnew, J.A. 2014. Place and Politics: The Geographical Mediation of State and Society. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Al-Araby. 2016. Saudi Arabia Abandons Islamic Calendar “To Save Money”. Al-Araby, 3 October. https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2016/10/3/saudi-arabia-abandons-islamic-calendar-to-save-money.
- Al-Furqan Media. 2007. Announcement of Ministry Formation for the Islamic State of Iraq, Archive.org. https://archive.org/details/The_Islamic_State_of-Iraq. Accessed 23 Mar 2016.
- Al-Furqan Media. 2009. Second Ministry Formation for the Islamic State of Iraq, Archive.org. https://archive.org/details/Al-Tashkeelah-2-Le-Dwla-Iraq-Islamic. Accessed 23 Mar 2016.
- Al-Furqan Media. 2016. Sarh al-Khilafa (The Structure of the Caliphate). https://ia600603.us.archive.org/4/items/ee997b74_mohmal_720/720.mp4. Accessed 15 Dec 2016.
- Al-Muqrin, A.H. 2008. A Message to Yemeni Youth. Sada al-Malahim, July.Google Scholar
- Al-Qur’an Info. 2018. Qur’an Transliteration and Translation. http://al-quran.info/#2. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
- Al-Zawahiri. 2005. Letter to Al-Zarqawi, Global Security. http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/report/2005/zawahiri-zarqawi-letter_9jul2005.htm. Accessed 27 Feb 2016.
- Anholt, S. 2008. From Nation Branding to Competitive Identity—The Role of Brand Management as a Component of National Policy. In Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice, ed. K. Dinnie. Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar
- Anholt, S. 2013. Beyond the Nation Brand, the Importance of Image and Identity in International Relations. The Journal of Public Diplomacy 2 (1): 1–7.Google Scholar
- Ansar Al-Shariah in the Arabian Peninsula’s Newspaper Al-Masra. 2019. Jihadology. https://jihadology.net/category/al-masra-newspaper/. Accessed 24 Oct 2019.
- Aronczyk, M. 2008. “Living the Brand”: Nationality, Globality, and the Identity Strategies of Nation Branding Consultants. International Journal of Communication 2: 41–65.Google Scholar
- Barrett, R. 2017. Beyond the Caliphate: Foreign Fighters and the Threat of Returnees. http://thesoufancenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Beyond-the-Caliphate-Foreign-Fighters-and-the-Threat-of-Returnees-TSC-Report-October-2017-v3.pdf.
- Bennabi, M. 2000. The Idea of an Islamic Commonwealth, 2nd ed. Damascus, Syria: Dar Al-Fikr.Google Scholar
- Benvenisti, M. 1996. City of Stone: The Hidden History of Jerusalem. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Central Media Diwan. 2017. The Epic Battles of Mosul. Al-Naba’ 89, July. https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/the-islamic-state-al-nabacc84_-newsletter-89.pdf.
- Chavez, N., and E. Levenson. 2017. Terror Suspect Wanted to Attack People on Brooklyn Bridge, Documents Say. CNN, 2 November. http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/02/us/new-york-terror-attack/index.html.
- Clarke, C.P., and Metz, S. 2016. ISIS vs. Al Qaida: Battle of the Terrorist Brands, 1–2. The National Interest, 16 August. https://nationalinterest.org/print/blog/the-buzz/isis-vs-al-qaida-battle-the-terrorist-brands-17370.
- Cook, J., and G. Vale. 2018. From Daesh to ‘Diaspora’: Tracing the Women and Minors of Islamic State. https://icsr.info/2018/07/23/from-daesh-to-diaspora-tracing-the-women-and-minors-of-islamic-state/.
- Deffner, A., and T. Metaxas. 2010. Place Marketing, Local Identity and Branding Cultural Images in Southern Europe: Nea Ionia, Greece and Pafos, Cyprus. In Towards Effective Place Brand Management: Branding European Cities and Regions, ed. G.J. Ashworth and M. Kavaratzis, 49–68. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing Inc.Google Scholar
- Dinnie, K. 2008. Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice, Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice. Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar
- Dinnie, K. 2016. Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice, 2nd ed. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Eurocities. 2010. A Shared Vision on City Branding in Europe. Brussels. http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/EUROCITIES_Brochure_FINAL_web_19Nov10-SMUL_10638.pdf.
- Fahmy, S. 2016. Visual Framing in the Islamic State. Latvia: Riga.Google Scholar
- Govers, R. 2015. Rethinking Virtual and Online Place Branding. In Rethinking Place Branding: Comprehensive Brand Development for Cities and Regions, ed. M. Kavaratzis, G. Warnaby, and G.J. Ashworth, 73–83. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
- Holbrook, D. 2017. The Spread of Its Message: Studying the Prominence of Al-Qaida Materials in UK Terrorism Investigations. Perspectives on Terrorism 11 (6): 89–100.Google Scholar
- Ibn Manzur, A.A.-F.M. 1975. Lisan Al-Arab (The Arabs’ Tongue). Cairo: Dar Al-Maaref Al-Masriya.Google Scholar
- Ingram, H.J. 2016b. How ISIS Survives Defeat : Propaganda and Decisive Minorities. Sustainable Security. https://sustainablesecurity.org/2016/09/26/how-isis-survives-defeat-propaganda-and-decisive-minorities/.
- Kaneva, N. 2011. Nation Branding: Toward an Agenda for Critical Research. International Journal of Communication 5: 117–141.Google Scholar
- Kendall, E. 2018. Contemporary Jihadi Militancy in Yemen: How is the threat evolving? https://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/MEIPolicyPaper_Kendall_7.pdf.
- Lemieux, A.F., et al. 2014. Inspire Magazine: A Critical Analysis of Its Significance and Potential Impact Through the Lens of the Information, Motivation, and Behavioral Skills Model. Terrorism and Political Violence 26 (2): 354–371. https://doi.org/10.1080/09546553.2013.828604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Madrazo, A. 2018. Recruiting Followers for the Caliphate : A Narrative Analysis of Four Jihadist Magazines. University of Central Florida. https://stars.library.ucf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=6786&context=etd.
- McCants, W. 2015. The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
- Milton, D. 2016. Communication Breakdown: Unraveling the Islamic State’s Media Efforts, Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/ISMedia_Online.pdf.
- Milton, D. 2018. Down, But Not Out: An Updated Examination of the Islamic State’s Visual Propaganda. https://ctc.usma.edu/app/uploads/2018/08/Pulling-Back-the-Curtain.pdf.
- Noordman, T.B.J. 2004. Cultuur in de citymarketing. The Hague: Elsevier Reed Business Publications.Google Scholar
- O’Neil, A. 2015. The 13th Juror: The radicalization of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. CNN, 30 March. http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/27/us/tsarnaev-13th-juror-jahar-radicalization/index.html.
- Olidort, J. 2016. Inside the Caliphate’s Classroom: Textbooks, Guidance Literature, and Indoctrination Methods of the Islamic State. Washington, DC. http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PolicyFocus147-Olidort.pdf.
- Pew Research Center. 2011. The Future of the Global Muslim Population: Projections for 2010-2030. http://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2011/01/FutureGlobalMuslimPopulation-WebPDF-Feb10.pdf.
- Seisdedos, G. 2006. State of the Art of City Marketing in European Cities. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&btnG=Search&q=intitle:State+of+the+art+of+city+marketing+in+european+cities#0%5Cn.
- Skillicorn, D.B. 2015. Empirical Assessment of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Taliban Propaganda. In 2015 IEEE International Conference on Intelligence and Security Informatics (ISI), 61–66. https://doi.org/10.1109/isi.2015.7165940.
- The Islamic State’s Newsletter Al-Naba’. 2019. Jihadology. https://jihadology.net/?s=naba. Accessed 24 Oct 2019.
- The Islamic State’s Newsletter Al-Naba’ #22. 2016. Jihadology. https://jihadology.net/2016/03/15/new-issue-of-the-islamic-states-newsletter-al-naba-22/. Accessed 24 Oct 2019.
- The Islamic State’s Newsletter Al-Naba’ 81. 2017. Jihadology. https://jihadology.net/2017/05/18/new-issue-of-the-islamic-states-newsletter-al-naba-81/. Accessed 24 Oct 2019.
- U.S. Department of Justice. 2017. U.S. v. Akayed Ullah Federal Criminal Complaint, 10. https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/press-release/file/1017396/download.
- Wang, R. 2012. Hey, “Red China” is Brand New: A Case Study of China’s Self-depicted National Identity on its Promotional Video “Experience China”. Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies 2 (1): 33–66.Google Scholar
- Winkler, C. 2015. Challenging Communities: A Perspective About, from, and by Argumentation. In Disturbing Argument, ed. C.H. Palczewski. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Winter, C. 2015a. Documenting the Virtual ‘Caliphate’. http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/FINAL-documenting-the-virtual-caliphate.pdf.
- Winter, C. 2015b. The Virtual ‘Caliphate’: Understanding Islamic State’s Propaganda Strategy. http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/publications/free/the-virtual-caliphate-understanding-islamic-states-propaganda-strategy.pdf.
- Wulff, H. 2013. Ways of Seeing ireland’s Green: From Ban to the Branding of a Nation. The Scenes and Society 8 (2): 233–239.Google Scholar
- Zelin, A.Y. 2015. Picture or It Didn’t Happen: A Snapshot of the Islamic State’s Official Media Output. Perspectives on Terrorism 9 (4): 85–97.Google Scholar