ON-Lion Letter

"The San Bernardino attack and the one thousand open investigations on alleged ISIS members inside the United States are ample testimony to the enduring appeal of the Islamic State," Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) vice president Alberto M. Fernandez told a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs in February.

"Measured in comparison with most other terrorist groups and insurgent movements, the ISIS brand is a huge success," continued Fernandez, a former coordinator for the State Department's Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications.  "The fact that it has mobilized tens of thousands to flee their countries, thousands of those leaving very comfortable circumstances in the West, is testimony to the power of its message.  It most certainly does represent, as one scholar noted recently, very much a revolutionary, contemporary appeal.  Many of the components of this message are not new but the message is nothing if not contemporary.

"This is a compelling package, which includes a strong Salafi Jihadist ideological component, a political project which is portrayed incessantly as seemingly successful and growing, and a 21st century appeal to substantive and consequential participation aimed at youth searching for purpose and identity in a apparently aimless, empty and hedonistic world ...," he testified.

The "revolutionary ISIS brand rose and flourished not because it was so startling effective -- it very much is that, in relative terms -- but because of the political, military and propaganda vacuum which allowed it to flourish and present a stance and an option -- political and religious -- that was both extreme and plausible," Fernandez concluded.  "Working on the former part -- the extreme message -- is a longer term project, but working on the 'plausible' part is something we need to do now and we do have some tools to do so."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports MEMRI, which provides timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, Urdu-Pashtu, Dari, and Turkish media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends.

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