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ISIS is winning hearts and minds in a deceptively simple way

While many Westerners associate Islamic State propaganda with violence and beheadings, the terror group also likes to showcase its deceptively “softer” side to those within its territory in the Middle East, as a Vocativ analysis showed this week.

And given that their target audience is disaffected Sunnis living in war-torn Iraq and Syria, the plan is working.

Videotaped beheadings and action-packed fighting scenes might be effective recruitment tools for young people who are thinking about traveling to Syria to fight with the militants, but the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) knows that winning hearts and minds is just as important to its longevity.

Vocativ notes that “in the areas it already controls or is fighting to take over, almost half of what [ISIS] broadcasts has a positive theme to it. ‘Come to the Islamic State,’ is the message. ‘There is fun here, and food, and services.'”

ISIS markets itself as an Islamic utopia that can provide happiness and stability its residents. In addition to enforcing a strict interpretation of Sharia law, ISIS sets up schools and consumer protection bureaus in the areas of Iraq and Syria it holds.

And apparently, ISIS also operates a mall and amusement park near Mosul, Iraq:

The above propaganda video shows children playing and residents talking about how much better life is now that ISIS has moved in and taken control of Mosul.

And it’s not just amusement parks — earlier this year, ISIS’ media wing announced that the group had re-opened a “luxury” hotel in Mosul.

The video makes no mention of the headless bodies that can also be seen in the streets of ISIS’ self-proclaimed “caliphate,” an aspirational Islamic empire that aims to unite the world’s Muslims under a single religious and political entity.

With its civil services and positive propaganda, ISIS seeks to build a sense of community within its caliphate. And given that many ISIS members are from disaffected Sunni communities, the group has a natural advantage over Westerners in uniform trying to win hearts and minds.


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