Salafist propaganda online

Salafist propaganda is directed at a young audience via social networks. The focus is less on religious topics and more on everyday issues. The ideological offerings of Salafist propaganda promise young people in particular orientation and community. What resonates here is a radical interpretation of Islam, patriarchal role models, rejection of democracy, and even recruitment for militant jihad. Young people in search of their own identity and a (political) worldview are particularly susceptible to Salafist propaganda, and their development is therefore at risk.

In order to combat agitation from the Salafist spectrum, pedagogically prepared material is needed in addition to commitment. The brochure "Salafism online. Recognizing propaganda strategies - escaping manipulation" by klicksafe and jugendschutz.net in cooperation with ufuq.de combines the specific know-how of competent organizations. The brochure is available for order and download at klicksafe. The additional materials (e.g. worksheets and YouTube links) can be downloaded by clicking on the image above.

The Salafist Scene

In Germany, the Salafist scene emerged in the mid-2000s. In the meantime, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution considers Salafism to be the most dynamic movement within the Islamist spectrum. Salafists represent a dualistic worldview, according to which a global war would be waged against Muslims. Their worldview is presented as a counter-model to a democratic and pluralistic society. They reject the rule of law and the separation of powers, as well as freedom of opinion and religion. The term "taghut" is used to condemn "un-Islamic" political systems.

  • For political-missionary Salafists, this means that they engage in active proselytizing, for example by distributing the Koran.
  • Jihadist Salafists see violence as a legitimate means of achieving their goals and in their "fight against the infidels. People who do not agree with the ideology are described as infidels.

Practical examples of Salafist online propaganda

Salafist content is found primarily on social media and reaches hundreds of thousands every day. The target groups include young people from different backgrounds. The need for community, identity and meaning is served, as is the desire for adventure and entertainment. In Germany, Salafist propaganda ties in with the media usage behavior of the younger generation. The scene uses almost all youth-oriented platforms on the Internet to disseminate its content quickly and easily. In particular, providers with a wide reach, such as TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, are of great importance for Salafist propaganda.

Videos as a central propaganda tool

A large proportion of the clips are specifically geared to the viewing habits of young target groups: They are professionally designed and animated with special effects. Their appearance, function and subject matter vary greatly: they include recruitment videos for armed jihad, speeches by Salafist preachers, torture and execution scenes from conflict zones, and films about fictional everyday stories from the Islamic State.

Experience offers as bait

These can be soccer games, barbecues or charity events. An important social effect is to do something together for the faith. Salafist events take place offline. However, they are advertised and marketed online via social media. The pictures and videos show young people in action.

Emotionalization and atrocity propaganda

Cruel and shocking images and videos are deliberately disseminated on social media in order to evoke strong emotions in the viewer. Muslims are portrayed as victims of particularly drastic acts of violence and as systematically oppressed. Civil wars, such as in Syria, or conflicts, such as between Israel and the Palestinians, are often instrumentalized. Jihadist organizations also often disseminate images of their own atrocities, such as brutal executions.

Gender-specific role models

Salafism conveys clear gender-specific roles. This is evident in the symbolism and language of its propaganda. Masculinity primarily encompasses aspects of religious scholarship and honor. Militant groups also emphasize violence and warriorism. Propaganda also specifically targets young women, usually with a patriarchal division of roles: the man fights, the woman takes care of children and the household. Thus, as potential mothers, girls are indispensable for building the caliphate; they give birth to and raise children "jihadistically." However, direct calls for women to also participate in acts of violence are on the rise. The message here is that women can also actively fight in the jihad.

Pop jihadism online

To reach young people, Salafism deliberately draws on elements of pop culture. Quotations and references to popular series, films and brands are intended to make the propaganda easier to consume, since young people know them. By linking set pieces of ideology with pop culture, an attempt is made to soften possible reservations. Well-known are the alienations of the logos of major sports brands such as Nike or Adidas, which have been provided with jihadist statements.

Counterstrategies: Active against Salafism

Report criminal content and content harmful to minors in order to take action against Salafist tendencies. There are also a number of counseling centers that offer support in dealing with Salafist radicalization.

Reporting content that is punishable by law and harmful to young people

Much of the content posted by Salafist organizations and individuals online incites hatred and violence. As such, it violates laws and the general terms and conditions (GTC) of the platforms on which it is disseminated and can be reported there. Direct reporting of hate content on social media services is not always successful. Reporting and complaints bodies have more direct contact with many platform operators and more frequently obtain the deletion of relevant content. If there is clearly criminally relevant content (sections §86, §86a and §130 use of anti-constitutional symbols or incitement of the people), you can file a report with the police.

Advice and support

Numerous counseling centers for dealing with Salafist activities have been established nationwide in recent years. Counseling is free of charge and in many cases provided by civil society organizations. Information about the individuals concerned is only passed on to the security authorities in cases where they pose a threat to themselves or others. Here you can find a list of counseling centers that offer support in dealing with Salafist radicalization.

The Radicalization Advisory Service of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF ) provides advice on questions related to Salafist radicalization. A hotline is available in particular for people who have the impression that acquaintances, relatives or students are turning to Islamist organizations. Advice is provided in German, Turkish, Arabic, English, Farsi, Russian and Urdu. The BAMF's nationwide counseling center has a network of cooperation partners with regional counseling centers to which it can refer cases. Telephone hotline:: +49 (0)911 943 43 43

Hayat is a counseling center operating throughout Germany for persons and relatives of persons who become Salafist radicalized or join militant jihadism and, if necessary, leave for conflict regions. Hayat was founded in 2011, based on the experiences of the first deradicalization and exit initiative for highly radicalized neo-Nazis EXIT-Deutschland.

The Salam Counseling Center offers counseling for young people and adults at risk from Islamist/religious radicalization, young people who want to distance themselves from extremist tendencies and break away, relatives and the social environment of young people at risk or already radicalized, and teachers, social workers, and other social space actors.

Hotline: 0800 / 72 52 610

The services offered by the kitab specialist and counseling center are aimed at parents and relatives of adolescents and young adults who turn to religious extremist currents, at those affected themselves, as well as at pedagogical specialists, institutions and other social space actors who are uncertain about such perceptions. The staff can offer ideas for dealing with the situation as well as professional support and advice for questions and uncertainties.

The Legato counseling center offers systemic exit counseling and is also a specialist and counseling center for religiously based radicalization. The offer is free of charge, anonymous and available in several languages (Arabic, Dari, German, English, Farsi, Kurdish, Turkish).

The Violence Prevention Network is a network of experienced professionals who have been active in the prevention of extremism and the deradicalization of young people at risk from right-wing extremism and Islamism since 2001.

The beRATen counseling center was founded in 2014. It offers counseling for parents, relatives, and other people in the environment of adolescents and young adults affected by Salafist radicalization.

PROvention is the prevention and counseling center against religiously based extremism in Schleswig-Holstein. It was established in April 2015. The PROvention team advises relatives, friends and acquaintances of people affected by radicalization or extremism. People who want to leave can also use their counseling. The counseling is free of charge, confidential, and focused on individual cases and solutions.  
Telephone hotline: +49 (0)431 - 73 94 926