Counter-Terrorism: When Rebranding Does Not Work


August 13, 2014: Hamas hoped for a big popularity boost by taking on Israel again. Didn’t work out that way. While there is a lot of sympathy for the Palestinian civilians in Gaza, Hamas is getting no love. It’s gotten so bad that even when Israel bombed mosques that Hamas has been using to store rockets or fire rockets from there were no protests even in Moslem countries. Hamas appears to be suffering from the Al Qaeda Disease. This happens when an Islamic terrorist group gets a lot of Moslems killed and seems to have no realistic agenda to justify the lives it so enthusiastically snuffs out. Hamas should have seen this coming as what is happening to them is just another case of Islamic terrorist groups suffering a big drop in popularity even among Moslems. This was also seen happening with Iraqi Islamic terrorists (ISIL or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) who, for the second time since 2007, suffered a major dip in approval ratings because of their seemingly pointless brutality.

Back in 2007 it was the "Al Qaeda In Iraq" leadership that was out of control. Back then opinion polls in Moslem countries showed approval and support of al Qaeda plunging, in some cases into single digits. Thus after the 2003 invasion of Iraq al Qaeda managed to take itself from hero to zero in less than four years. Since that low point al Qaeda recovered somewhat but that kinder and gentler approach did not last and by 2013 the Iraqi al Qaeda (now rebranded as ISIL) was again losing popular support. That was quite visible in 2014 when ISIL seized control of parts of Iraq and promptly slaughtered captured Iraqi soldiers and police, mainly because these men were Shia. ISIL put videos of these mass killings on the Internet.

Then ISIL declared the parts of Syria and Iraq it controlled were the new Moslem caliphate. Naturally the ISIL leaders are running this new caliphate and are calling on all Moslems to follow them. Most Moslems have responded, according to recent opinion polls, by expressing greater fear rather than more admiration for Islamic terrorist groups, especially ISIL. In the meantime (earlier in 2014) al Qaeda leadership condemned ISIL as completely out of control and not to be trusted or supported.

In the last year opinion polls show Moslems becoming more hostile to Islamic terrorists, seeing them as a cause for concern not as defenders of Islam. The same thing happened back in 2007 and now, when Hamas began getting more aggressive towards Israel in June of 2014 they found that there Hama was now considered as pointless, and dangerous to Moslems, as ISIL

When al Qaeda showed up in the 1990s as a post-Afghanistan international Islamic terrorist organization they were popular to Moslems in proportion to how far away the al Qaeda violence was. Once al Qaeda began killing people nearby Moslems tended to change their minds and disliked the Islamic terrorists. In 2013 37 percent of Turks were concerned about Islamic terrorism while now it is 50 percent thanks to increased ISIL violence on the Syrian border and some inside Turkey itself. In 2013 54 percent of the people in Jordan were concerned versus 62 percent for the same reason. In Lebanon, where the Syrian violence spilled over quickly after 2011 last year 81 percent were concerned about Islamic terrorism versus 92 percent today.

The hostility towards al Qaeda in the region has tainted all forms of Islamic radicalism, including the Shia ones (especially Hezbollah in Lebanon). Yet once Islamic terrorism disappears again (as it does regularly) many Moslems will get nostalgic for those legendary warriors seeking to defend Islam. This is a cycle many Moslems would like to break, but so far the cycle of violence persists.





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