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German-language "Islamic State" video aimed at recruits

Interview: Nina Werkhäuser / dbAugust 6, 2015

The "Islamic State" militant group has posted a propaganda video in German, threatening attacks and urging Muslims to kill the "infidels". DW discussed the video with Mideast expert Michael Lüders.

Mohamed Mahmoud Screenshot
Image: Propagandavideo Islamischer Staat

Deutsche Welle: Is this the first "IS" propaganda video of its kind in German?

Michael Lüders: No, there have been several propaganda videos in German, among others with the rapper Denis Cuspert. But we've never had a German-language video that shows an execution at the end. If you take that into account, it's an escalation.

What can you tell us about the two "IS" fighters in the video?

Not much is known about the two people. We don't yet know their backgrounds. I am sure that the security agencies will do everything in their power to discover their identities.

How do you rate the style of the video?

It's professional, like all videos of the "Islamic State's", both from a technical point of view and with an eye on the target group they hope to reach in Europe. And of course animated by the same spirit of inhumanity that marks the way the "Islamic State" behaves in the region.

Is this video officially by the IS leadership?

That's an interesting question that we currently can't answer. We don't know whether a single group within the "Islamic State" acted on its own, or whether there was an order from higher up to produce this video and put it online.

In the video, Muslims in Germany and Austria are called on to come to Syria and Iraq and join the jihad. The jihad is referred to as a "holiday" and "tourism". Who are they trying to reach?

That's an attempt, using propaganda methods, to glorify the fight in Syria and Iraq as a kind of company outing, a kind of group-oriented adventure. They are trying to appeal to young, mentally not yet stable Muslim youths in Europe who are seeking their identity with the aim of luring them on a path that leads to Syria. It's part of the "Islamic State's" propaganda and recruiting mechanism.

The video also urges Muslims in Germany and Austria to kill "infidels" in German-speaking areas, to slaughter them with knives. How do you rate that demand?

It's not the demand as such that is new, it's the fact that this is done in German. We haven't seen that yet. Apparently, they are trying to approach potential recruits directly in German-language countries. That's new, not the kind of propaganda as such. The fact that they insist on beheading enemies is remarkable, it's turning into a kind of "trademark" of the "Islamic State".

Does the "IS" still see potential for recruitment in particular in Germany?

Put bluntly, one could say there's till room for more. When you see that recruits from France and Belgium have gone to Syria in four-digit numbers, and about 5,000 fighters from Central Asia or Tunisia headed for the "Islamic State", then the 700 jihadists the German intelligence agencies have identified in this country are a comparatively small figure.

Michael Lüders
Michael Lüders

Of course, it's a matter of interpretation. You could say that, if the "Islamic State" needs to woo recruits even in Germany, it must be acting from a position of weakness. It's clear that Germany isn't the jihadists' ideal recruitment area. On the other hand, you could say, they're exhausting all of their sources because they know it will always attract some of the dregs of society.

What about the insults that target Chancellor Angela Merkel, the video threatens revenge for Muslims killed in Afghanistan?

Of course these activists know that they don't stand a chance to harm the chancellor. They're bragging, hoping to stumble upon naive, uneducated, credulous and disoriented young Muslims who agree with them - finally, somebody is showing the people in power what's what! This psychological element is important. So you have to take the message seriously to the extent that it's very skilful propaganda. But you shouldn't believe every word in the sense that now the chancellor's life may be in danger.

The threat of revenge could also be seen as a threat against the entire German government and the German state. Should we take that seriously?

It's presumably a reaction to the fact that the German government is supplying the Peshmerga in northern Iraq with weapons. Presumably, this threat is also a hint: If you continue along that path, we'll react accordingly by smuggling our fighters into Germany, for instance in a refugee trek; we'll try to destabilize Germany.

That is the video's underlying context.