the Islamist propaganda playbook


"We'll see terrorists coming out of Europe, because of being politically correct or assuming that they know Middle East far better than we do. I'm sorry, that's pure ignorance."

United Arab Emirates foreign minister, 2017



Islamism is, in essence, political Islam. Islamists believe that the doctrines of Islam should be congruent with those of the state. Islamists work to implement nation-states governed under Islamic Law (Sharia), emphasize pan-Islamic unity (in most cases, hoping for an eventual worldwide Islamic Caliphate, or empire), support the creation of Islamic theocracies, and reject all non-Muslim influences. For this reason, Islamists tend to portray themselves as “anti-imperialist,” while in truth they are striving to swap western imperialism with Islamic imperialism. 

Islamist ideology can be traced back to Hassan al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928. Al-Banna viewed the 1924 dissolution of the last Islamic Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, and the European colonization of the Middle East, beginning with France’s 1830 occupation of Algeria, as an affront to Islam. The early twentieth century was a period of rapid secularization in the Middle East, when Arab nationalism threatened to replace pan-Islamic identity with a pan-Arab identity. Al-Banna opposed all of this, hoping to return to “authentic” Islamic practice through the (re)establishment of the Islamic Caliphate.

Despite his extremist views, the Muslim Brotherhood was, and continues to be, pragmatic and strategic. Al-Banna advocated for “gradualist” change, as opposed to violent revolution. Al-Banna was closely allied with the Nazis, whom he saw as enemies to western imperialism, and was deeply influenced by their antisemitic views, merging Nazi racial ideology with earlier Islamic antisemitism. 

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, though Shia as opposed to Sunni like Al-Banna, was deeply influenced by the teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas began as the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. 



Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, was an Islamist through and through. His rule over Iran was characterized by the most horrific of human rights violations. He was no liberal and no progressive. He was not anti-imperialist either.

Khomeini believed that “establishing the Islamic state world-wide belong(s) to the great goals of the revolution.” He spoke of conquering the whole world under the banner of Islam: “Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world.”

But like Hassan Al-Banna, Khomeini was a pragmatist. 

In 1964, the then Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, exiled Khomeini and banned his books. As such, the vast majority of the Iranian population was unfamiliar with his more extremist beliefs. While in exile in France, Khomeini downplayed his fundamentalism, presenting himself to the west merely as a fierce opponent of American neo-imperialism and influence in Iran. It was in this manner, for example, that he was able to manipulate Iranian leftists to join him under his banner. In reality, Khomeini despised leftism, and soon after he came to power, many left-wing organizations had to flee Iran.

Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the saga of the mandatory hijab. During the Iranian Revolution, many Iranian women wore the hijab as a symbol of opposition to the Shah’s policies of westernization. Soon after Khomeini came to power, the hijab was made mandatory. Shocked, liberal and leftist women took to the streets; they had not expected the hijab to become mandatory. In response, Khomeini quickly began suppressing and eliminating all leftist and liberal political groups, figures, and parties, and to this day, hijab remains mandatory in Iran, and women who refuse to wear it face arrest, torture, and even death.



Something concerning is happening on college campuses. Why are students chanting genocidal terrorist slogans in Arabic? Why are they hoisting imagery from internationally-recognized terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas? 

The vast majority of pro-Palestine protests and events in American college campuses are sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine, which presents itself as a grassroots student effort but in reality is everything but. 

SJP is not registered as a non-profit organization, which means that its financial documents are not available to the public. SJP’s parent organization, American Muslims for Palestine, has connections to various organizations that were federally implicated for funneling money to Hamas. After those organizations were shut down, the members who were not imprisoned flocked over to AMP.

It runs even deeper. AMP members such as board member Saleh Sarsour have been convicted for direct Hamas activity. 

It’s no wonder that according to a 2021 Brandeis University study on antisemitism at universities, one of the highest predictors of antisemitic hostility toward Jewish students was a strong presence of Students for Justice in Palestine on campus.

A 2016 AMCHA report, which was later corroborated by another Brandeis University report, found that “[antisemitism is] eight times more likely to occur on campuses with at least one active anti-Zionist student group such as SJP.”

Another problem: foreign donations. Countries such as Qatar, the largest financial sponsor or Islamist terrorism, have donated billions to American universities — specifically, to Middle East studies departments — in the past few decades. Universities largely dependent on these sort of donations are going to be inclined to hire professors that promote a certain kind of narrative. In a 2020 Department of Education investigation, the DoE found that numerous American universities lacked transparency regarding large sum donations from numerous Arab countries. The report stated: “There is very real reason for concern that foreign money buys influence or control over teaching and research.”



In the west, Islamist messaging has largely spread through the media. 

The Qatari government is the largest international financial sponsor of Islamist terrorism; it is also behind the largest media platform in the Middle East, Al Jazeera, and its younger, “hipper” iteration, AJ+. In 2010, a WikiLeaks article confirmed that the Qatari government manipulates Al Jazeera’s coverage of events. In the WikiLeaks cable, Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani commented that “[Al Jazeera’s] ability to influence public opinion is a substantial source of leverage for Qatar.”

Al Jazeera and AJ+’s messaging in Arabic and English are vastly different. Its Arabic channels are deeply conservative and Islamist, whereas in English, Al Jazeera and AJ+ give the appearance of progressivism, frequently reporting on minority issues in the west, while also covertly pushing pro-Islamist politics. 

A number of journalists in the western media have documented Islamist ties, such as Medhi Hassan, who used to work for Al Jazeera and has expressed abhorrent views about Jews, non-Muslims, atheists, and gay people.

Social media is also ripe with this propaganda. Following the October 7 attack, a New York Times report stated, “In a single day after the conflict began, roughly one in four accounts on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and X posting about the conflict appeared to be fake…In the 24 hours after the blast at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, more than one in three accounts posting about it on X were [fake].” The bots were traced to Iran, China, and Russia.

According to an ongoing Jerusalem Post investigation, some 60 or so seemingly “independent” and “grassroots” influencers in Gaza, with a collective 100 million followers, have direct ties to Hamas. Many “pro-Palestine” accounts with millions of followers can be traced back to Qatar and Iran.



Since the 1970s, the IRI has been sponsoring Palestinian nationalism as a tool to destroy the State of Israel, which they view as an obstacle to their ultimate vision of a worldwide Islamic Caliphate. The IRI sees all of Israel as Islamic land. Like Hamas, the IRI is strategic and pragmatic; they don’t mind that Palestinian Muslims are Sunni because they believe those differences will be hammered out later.

Like Hamas, the IRI is well-aware that they are unlikely to defeat Israel militarily, so as they’ve often done, they’ve turned to the war of public opinion. In 1979, the IRI created “Quds Day,” an anti-Israel “holiday” which marks the last Friday of Ramadan. Since then, they’ve managed to turn Quds Day into an international affair, with anti-Israel protests worldwide. 

On April 15, 2024, Iran International reported that a leaked Iranian Revolutionary Guard document revealed plans to incite protests against Israel worldwide. 

Samidoun, one of the main organizers of the pro-Palestine protests in New York City, has an office in Tehran and ties to Palestinian terrorist groups. Samidoun was largely behind raising the profile of Within Our Lifetime, another major organizer of the New York City protests. WOL began as an offshoot of SJP. 




The Council on American-Islamic Relations is a Muslim civil rights advocacy non-profit. It has its headquarters in Washington DC, as well as 33 chapters across the United States. CAIR was founded in June 1994 with the mission to “challenge stereotypes of Islam and Muslims.”

CAIR conducts research on American Muslims and publishes reports on public opinion, demographics, and hate crime statistics. It also practices litigation regarding Islamophobic discrimination and portrays itself as a NAACP of sorts for the Muslim American community.

CAIR is also one of several Muslim civil rights organizations in the United States with documented ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The US State Department only designated Hamas a terrorist organization in 1997, meaning that, prior to that, it operated freely within the country. In 1993, the FBI wiretapped a meeting of top Hamas activists in Philadelphia, who discussed how to covertly mobilize support for Hamas among Muslim Americans. Shortly thereafter, a group of people who attended the Philadelphia meeting founded CAIR. 

According to a 2013 FBI document, “In 2008, the FBI developed a policy on its interactions with CAIR based in part on evidence presented during the 2007 trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. The evidence at trial linked CAIR leaders to Hamas, a specially designated terrorist organization, and CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.”

CAIR has been instrumental in the dissemination of pro-Hamas propaganda on social media. It has rejected accusations of antisemitism — even though hundreds of violent incidents are on video — at pro-Palestine protests on college campuses, insisting that the protests are merely “anti-war.” The CAIR Executive Director even publicly praised the October 7 massacre. 




Since October 7, Israelis and Jews worldwide have been saying “Hamas = ISIS.” But is that true? As it turns out, no, and their differences in strategy can really help us make sense of what’s happening in the west — the massive disinformation campaigns, the violent protests, the absolutely dystopian media coverage, and more.

Two notes: (1) in terms of brutality, Hamas and ISIS are just about the same. Decapitations, mutilations, sexual slavery. They are both despicable terrorist groups. (2) both Hamas and ISIS are terrorist organizations that ultimately envision an Islamic Caliphate. 

Their methods and strategy, however, are where the differences lie. 

Hamas, as an offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood, is pragmatic and strategic. Though they ultimately envision a Caliphate — they say this openly — they are willing to play the secular world’s political games. First they will focus on Palestine; the rest of the Caliphate, they believe, will come later. This is why they’re willing to ally with Shia Muslim groups, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, believing that their differences will be hammered out at a later time. First, they will deal with the Palestine issue.

ISIS, on the other hand, are ideological purists. They believe the time for the Caliphate is now. They have no patience for the secular world’s politics. They are not interested in manipulating world opinion; instead, they will conquer not by thought but by the sword. They will not cooperate with Shia Muslims; they will murder them. They don’t care that their beheadings scared people, and westerners in particular. That’s why they publicized them in highly produced videos, in contrast to Hamas, which started denying the beheadings almost immediately after they happened to save face. In fact, ISIS’s total disregard for worldwide public opinion is why Al Qaeda broke from them. They were moving too fast, scaring too many people. 

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