The power of poetry to move Arab listeners and readers emotionally, to infiltrate the psyche and to create an aura of authenticity around the ideologies it enshrines, make it a perfect weapon for militant jihadist causes.
Over the last three decades, several Islamic extremist magazines have regularly featured poetry extolling the virtues of, and rewards for, militant jihad. However, scholars and analysts alike have almost entirely neglected contemporary Arabic jihadist poetry, skipping over these classical mono-rhymed passages in favour of more direct position statements and theological debates. Yet poetry can carry messages to a broader audience as it plugs naturally into a long tradition of oral transmission, particularly on the Arabian Peninsula. This presentation asks: How relevant is poetry? What are its main characteristics? What does it actually do and what can it tell us? Dr Elisabeth Kendall is a Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke College, Oxford.