The School of Journalism and Communication congratulates Dr. Nadia Hai on the successful defence of her PhD dissertation, “Framing the Western Jihad: A Grounded Theory Analysis of Inspire, Dabiq and Rumiyah Magazines.”

Hai’s research explores some of the media strategies and communication activities of ISIS and al-Qaeda. Both are pro-jihadist, anti-western movements, yet they compete with one another for attention and influence. Hai notes that in the study of the relationship between terror and media, scholars tend to focus much of their attention on how terrorist groups seek to shape how they are portrayed in mainstream media. Her dissertation focuses not just on how these groups compete for media attention as a legitimation strategy, but on how they incorporate that coverage into their own media and reframe it for a more targeted audience.

“I was interested to examine how these movements use their own English-language media to appeal to western audiences—how they position themselves historically, how they seek to establish legitimacy for their actions and campaigns, and how they frame themselves as heroes and The West as an enemy of Islam.”

We often read about the radicalization of pro-jihadist sympathizers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, but we know little about how this happens, including the mediascape that shapes how audiences make sense of intercultural conflicts. What media do these audiences read and how does this inform their worldview about relations between Islam and the West?

This sets up an important question that sits at the centre of Hai’s dissertation: “how do audiences which share little to no kinship, linguistic or cultural ties with the places where these movements operate, such as Iraq and Syria, find ideological alignment with these extremist movements?”

Hai argues for a closer analysis of the media produced by these movements, in particular media that circulates in western countries like Canada. “My study found that while ISIS and al-Qaeda claim to reject the west and western culture, they still rely heavily on both, not only to engage and recruit audiences in those countries but also to define themselves.”

Professor Karim Karim, who supervised Hai’s dissertation, says the study makes a significant contribution to knowledge about the ways in which militant groups have sought to recruit Muslims living in western societies. “Whereas the literature in this area has grown substantially in the last few years, Nadia brings a fresh approach to analyzing the online propaganda of ISIS and al-Qaeda,” he explains.

Hai’s 5-member examination board found the dissertation to be clearly written and meticulously argued. According to Karim, “Nadia’s thoughtful analysis enabled her to make a

novel contribution in helping us understand how these groups have used history for their own purposes, and she draws out how their propaganda manipulates contemporary arguments such as environmental concerns, as a way to reach impressionable young minds.”

Currently, Hai works as a national security policy analyst in the federal government. She plans to turn her dissertation into a book after taking a well-deserved break from her research. For now, she continues to celebrate and savour this achievement and looks forward to officially receiving her doctorate at the Spring 2022 convocation.

Monday, January 24, 2022 in ,
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