Internationally recognized governments are not the only stakeholders that have been deliberating over how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Communications released by jihadi organizations and their affiliated media outlets demonstrate a degree of hesitation about how to capitalize on the global crisis.
Transnational networks with little territorial control such as the remnants of the Islamic State inside Syria and Iraq and al-Qa`ida Central deemed COVID-19 a “Soldier of Allah,” sent to weaken the enemies of Islam and punish the disbelievers. While rudimentary health advice has been circulated through these organizations’ official channels, they have also consistently claimed that jihad would itself provide protection and sought to ‘weaponize’ the virus by encouraging attacks against the “Crusader” enemy.
Such propagandizing and proselytizing are expected and well documented, yet there has been little coverage of extremist movements actually ‘governing’ large populations, where entirely different challenges are presented by the pandemic. Some groups may be starting to display a pragmatic streak in their dealings.