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The French-Language Media Entity Ansar At-Tawhid And Its Role In ISIS Terror Activity – Part II: Spreading ISIS's Message In French

By: S. Benjamin*

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

The Ansar Al-Tawhid (AT) – Supporters of Monotheism – media operation is a key element in the Islamic State's (ISIS) outreach to French speakers.  This report, the second part of an article on the group, analyzes the message it spreads as part of its efforts to instill ISIS's worldview among French speaking Muslims.[1]

Table of Contents

IV. Ideological Content

· AT's Core Message

·  Recruitment And Hijra – migration to ISIS territories

· Calls For Jihad And Armed Combat (Qital)

· Women

· Criticism Of The West, Media Jihad

IV. Ideological Content

AT's Core Message

The core message of AT is the strict Salafi-jihadi doctrine of the Islamic State: it stresses the paramount importance of exclusive worship of Allah (tawhid), living a life according to the early Islamic traditions of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions (sunna), denouncing polytheism (shirk) and rulers who do not apply shari'a (taghout), broad use of declaring other Muslims as infidels (takfir), and so on. To the preaching of these principles is added the duty incumbent all Muslims to pledge allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Tactical orders are directly derived from the professed principles: the individual duty to carry out armed jihad (jihad fard 'ayn) against all enemies of the Muslim people (ummah) – that is, enemies of ISIS – and the duty to live under shari'a rule, thus making the act of immigration (hijra) to ISIS-controlled territory a personal obligation. All these principles and the actions they entail are reiterated systematically, with specific Islamic sources cited as proof (dalil) of their validity. [2]

Recruitment And Hijra

AT's main theme is the duty incumbent on all Muslims to immigrate to territory where shari'a is fully implemented – that is, ISIS territories, and it offers arguments and religious proof to support this position. On May 12, it encouraged followers who might have doubts about joining ISIS, calling upon them to focus on their personal spiritual state and reinforce their faith: "I will mention some fears that I often hear from sisters and brothers: 'You saw what is happening at the border, we will never get through; I won't take the plane, it's too risky, haven't you seen the number of arrests?;  I'm a woman, I'm afraid to make hijra alone;  I will not abandon my parents; we have to go to Syria [as opposed to other lands of jihad].' I will answer you once and for all: My brothers and sisters, if there is a good time to go, it is now. [...] Be aware that hijra is not a game, jihad is even less of a game. [However,] today... considering the[spiritual]  state you are in,  preaching spiritual jihad must be the top priority because you have ignored it [...] You have forgotten your own self, and the great fight against yourselves, and if God permits we will do our best to help you."

On May 18, AT wrote about the refugee crisis,[3] praising those who choose instead to immigrate to the land of jihad: "Syrian migrants, they don't know the reward they lose. It sickens me to see them begging in the lands of unbelief while we are struggling and risking our lives to help them. [...] If Allah has guided you to this land, it means you are a part of the elite. [...] Allah is just. He will not leave you in the land of unbelief where His religion is fought against. If you are part of the elite, reform yourselves, and He will guide you and ease your journey. [...] If you see Syrian brothers and sisters, even if their choice is bad, it is still a duty for us to help them."

The above AT post shows a screenshot of a page from an Islamic history book discussing a battle from early Islamic times; caption reads: "To raise the sword during Ramadan is jihad on the Prophetic path."

On June 3, AT warned followers of the hardships of the immigration process, and called upon them to be steadfast. It also warned ISIS supporters that once the cross the border into Syria they will likely be in the territory of Al-Qaeda groups or other (non-ISIS) rebel groups: "Today Allah has sent down heavy trials; if you think you will cross the border while doing a 'moonwalk' you are severely mistaken. No, brother, sister, you will dodge whistling bullets... But before that, you will be leaving, closing the door behind you and thinking of your family, of your property that you have left behind... You go forth, you meet the forces of the taghout and you pray to Allah as you have never done before, for you wish to please Him and obtain this great reward. [...] But even after you have passed though [the border] you will likely be among the enemy. You saw the map of the Turkey-Syria border; the northern part is controlled by the rebels, Jabhat Al-Nusra, etc. You will likely pass in their ranks and use deceit... until you arrive in the [Islamic] state. [...] Your road will be long. My sisters, the road will be dangerous for you, as for you, my brothers, but sisters, beware of wolves. [...] At the border you will run as you never have. Behind you, humiliation and the land of unbelief. Before you, success and martyrdom."

AT's encouragement to join ISIS and immigrate to its territories is not limited to ISIS lands in Syria and Iraq. For instance, on June 17, it wrote: "For those of you who want to join ISIS, know that there are still lands easier to reach than Syria. For instance, Libya, Africa, Yemen, etc."

Calls For Jihad And Armed Combat (Qital)

AT's media activity includes many religious "reminders" of the importance of individual jihad, both the spiritual kind to elevate the soul and the armed kind to destroy and conquer the enemies of Islam. Special emphasis is placed on the obligation to fight, whenever possible, although spiritual jihad is also stressed.

On May 22, it posted: "To those who put off the call to come to jihad and to immigrate [...] it is only a lack of confidence in Allah. [Wage] spiritual jihad. Fight yourselves before you fight your enemy."

The motto of the AT website, which appears on its homepage, is a quote from medieval Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya, whose writings are a cornerstone of modern jihadi ideology: "A book that guides and a sword that brings victory."[4] This statement expresses the mission that AT has set for itself: propagating the Salafi-jihadi creed while undertaking military action. Both these aspects are viewed as fundamental and as complementing each other.

On March 22, AT posted on its website an article from the ISIS French-language magazine Dar Al-Islam offering religious justification for terror attacks in the West.[5] In several cases, AT reposted documents and information published by official ISIS media wings.[6]

In another May 22 post, AT provided justification for waging jihad in the West:  "The West keeps believers from immigrating to lands where they can live a decent Islam... In response to this, ISIS has called on believers to wage jihad in the land of unbelief. [...] The aim of the Caliph [Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi] is to reconquer the Muslim lands and implement shari'a, in order to call for unity under a single banner, to elevate the word of Allah, and to bring down the worldly, man-made laws. The West has not declared war on the Islamic state – [it has declared] war on Islam."

AT shared these posters, which were produced by official ISIS media outlets, inciting lone-wolf attacks in the West and warning of the dangers of "fornication through social media"

On May 24, AT condemned Western Islamic scholars for abandoning the teachings of jihad and for failing to join the Salafi-jihadi movement in calling for jihad: "Where are our scholars? Where are the fatwas on armed combat? Where are the books on the jurisprudence of armed combat? Our Muslim people are burning, and our brothers and sisters are dying. [...] This is not a call to jihad, but a call to come back to the basics. Jihad is obligatory for everyone who can [carry it out] today, just like prayers and fasting. [But] do not expect from them [i.e. mainstream Islamic scholars] any word or fatwa about fighting your enemy, they never will [mention it]."

In numerous posts, it reiterated the individual duty to wage jihad – as opposed to the collective duty, which would absolve Muslims in the West of having to carry out attacks or going to a land of jihad. It stressed that this duty is part of the duty to obey the "Caliph". Thus, on May 27, AT directly incited followers to carry out attacks in the West and follow the orders of ISIS: "I just had a thought which particularly concerns those brothers who have pledged allegiance [to the ISIS leader]. It is allegiance to obey the Caliph. So if he has given you an order, to you who have pledged allegiance, you must obey. If you do not, you are committing a great sin."

March 22 article on the AT website justifying terror attacks in the West: "Attacks in the lands of unbelief and the blood of the innocents."

On June 12, immediately following the Orlando attack, AT praised shooter Omar Mateen, and called again for carrying out similar attacks, mentioning SISI Spokesman Al-Adnani's instructions: "Bin Laden built international terrorism. Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has made it into a weapon of mass destruction. As Adnani said, if you cannot join the lands of jihad, carry it [jihad] out in your homelands." About Mateen, it added: "[Now] that is a lone wolf! May Allah accept our brother, Amen."

On June 4, AT wrote about choices of targets, encouraging prioritizing police and the military and calling for blowing up the Eiffel Tower: "I would say it's best to attack the rulers who do not apply shari'a... policemen, soldiers, and whatnot." It added: "The things that bring them the most money should be blown up. Bin Laden understood this well. Everyone knows we can kill civilians, but in the end will it be really beneficial? Blow up the Eiffel Tower and you will see if the infidels don't weep more for a piece of metal than for people."


Several posts focus on women, advising them on various matters and warning them about unlawful relationships or about allowing men's desires to divert them from the "right path." Since women constitute a growing portion of Westerners who seek to emigrate to ISIS territories, women's issues are an important part of the recruitment discourse. On May 23, AT wrote: "To the women in Syria: My sister, you are an honored pearl, know that if you leave your home in the land of unbelief to immigrate to Islamic lands, you will be rewarded [by Allah]."

Message calling for donations to help "a sister."

On May 17, AT noted: "The number of French citizens who have joined ISIS is constantly on the rise, particularly women." On May 22, it wrote at length about women living in the West, "in the Abode of War," encouraging them to emigrate even on their own. Underlining the French ban on the full-face veil, it emphasized that defying this law is a form of jihad: "Finding a jilbab or niqab is jihad. Picking up her children at school wearing her veil is jihad. Walking outside with her veil (under the gaze of the infidels) is jihad. Paying the €135 fine [for publicly covering her face] when you are a stay-at-home mother is jihad." The same day, it wrote a post for women who had requested instructions for "physical training," with a lengthy program including jogging and other workouts.

Criticism Of The West, Importance Of Media Jihad

AT is highly critical of life in the West, particularly in France, and on several occasions posted messages about how impossible it is for Muslims to live outside of an Islamic country. On May 26 it wrote about the kind of Islam being preached in France: "They are forming another religion, which certainly isn't ours, calling indirectly to worship an entity other than Allah. Yes, when you fear Man like you should fear Allah, it is idolatry; when you set the laws of Man above the laws of Allah, it is idolatry; when you become the defender of those rulers who do not apply shari'a and neglect your brothers [in Islam], it is idolatry."

On May 14 it writes: "Who has ever seen [in a mosque in France] a book of Islamic law about how to live in the land of unbelief, or about the armed struggle? I think there aren't many. Yet these books exist! They are willfully hiding the truth."

Several messages praise "media jihad," that is, preaching and spreading ISIS ideology online, which is a common theme among ISIS supporters. These messages underline the important role media activists play in the psychological operations ISIS conducts across all media platforms. On May 18, AT praised the role of "media soldiers" on the front lines: "There are soldiers, and [there are] media soldiers. There are two kinds of media soldiers, some behind a PC and others on the front line behind a camera. [...] Know that they have huge hearts, for they think of your good before their own, and they hope for Paradise for you, in their war against Zionist propaganda and its lies about the mujahideen."

On May 18, AT explained "de-radicalization": "The infidels want to de-radicalize the brothers and sisters of the [Salafi-jihadi] creed. Translation for those who don't understand: The infidels want to remove the truth from the hearts of people who have received the truth from Allah. Moreover, it's funny how the infidels want to make our creed seem like the belief of a crazy person. [...] Believers will make their choice and join a state where they can practice Islam as they wish, not the Islam which is forced on them. They aren't idiots, or lacking social structure. They have simply fled."

AT shared several original banners, including the one above which quotes Sheikh Al-Albani on France as "the mother of nudity, perversion and debauchery."

On May 24, AT posted a message attacking the West for its campaign against ISIS: "The infidels have not taken into account that they are fighting the Islamic State, and indeed, as the name Islamic State suggests, it is a state so there are necessarily non-combatants. A state comprises religious, political, military and economic power; it is impossible for a state or a country to be victorious solely by the power of the sword. Those that do not fight are victims of this war – women, children, etc."

In an unusual post titled "From Media Jihad To Madness," on May 29, AT criticized ISIS's media strategy, and called for more restraint in the dissemination of execution videos because, it said, these are not an effective means of recruitment. It also advised other media activists to step up their efforts:

"I have nothing against ISIS, far from it, but I often think to myself that it will be hard for a person to accept the truth with what he sees of ISIS all day, and ISIS isn't helping in this matter. Honestly, their scenes of executions are almost like 'Saw' (the horror movie). [...] One thing is certain; you will never preach and call to Islam with a severed head, unless you have some really weird fantasies.

"So, brothers and sisters, refrain from sharing [ISIS videos] to the infidels and to brothers and sisters who are not of the [jihadi] creed. However, among each other, you can even eat popcorn as you watch the enemy of Allah being taken by the Angel of Death.

"But do not destroy part of this media war. [...] [When speaking with] infidels, share [information about] the offices of Zakat [welfare distribution], agriculture, or the treatment of [legally protected] minorities – believe me, this works better. [...] Jihad is the middle ground that some people have not understood. Wake up; the Muslim people today do not need madmen (pardon the expression), but mature individuals who think and know how to analyze something and use it to the benefit of all."

A June 4 post praised ISIS policy vis-à-vis those living under its rule, providing 10 alleged facts about the social structure of the self-proclaimed caliphate: "Islamic state Policy – Ten facts about the Islamic State that everyone should know: 1 – We do not pay rent, the houses are given for free. 2 – We don't pay electricity or water bills. 3 – We are given on a monthly basis: food, pasta, rice, eggs, etc. 4 – Monthly allowances are given not only to the husband and wife ($100 per woman), but also to each child ($50 per child). 5 – Medical consultations and medication are free – the Islamic State pays for you. 6 – You can survive even if you do not speak Arabic, you can find almost all 'races' and nationalities here. 7 – Each new married couple is given a $1200 gift (only for fighters). 8 – You do not have to pay taxes (if you are Muslim). 9 – People do not work during prayer time. You can see people leave their store open and going with everyone to pray at the mosque or next to the store. 10 – The number of mixed marriages and mixed race children is so high. It's beautiful to witness brotherhood without racism."


*S. Benjamin is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.

[2] In Islamic terms, the majority of AT posts and publications are meant to serve as dhikr ("remembrance, reminders"), i.e., to remind the readers of Allah and of key religious doctrines, which is a central part of Islamic preaching. For instance, AT often posts banners bearing quotes from the Koran or from Hadith in order to emphasize and remind the readers of the importance of a particular principle.

[4] Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu'at al-fatawa, Chapter 20, p. 210.