If you want to understand ISIS and violent Muslim extremists… read their poetry. That’s according to Robyn Creswell, poetry editor of the Paris Review, and Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton. They’ve co-authored an article headlined “Battle Lines” in this week’s New Yorker.
Westerners are familiar with brutal videos of beheadings and other displays of outlandish violence. But ISIS propaganda for Arabic speakers is different. Chanting that forms the background for some ISIS videos illustrates the use of poetry for propaganda. It’s an art form that’s as old as the Arabic language and the cultures of the Middle East and reading it is important to understanding the appeal of the Jihadi movement.