In the two decades since the 9/11 attacks, online Salafi activism has fundamentally changed. Shaped by a generational shift involving younger followers, the ubiquity of video game devices and platforms, and the rise of message boards, social media platforms and encrypted messaging applications, this new strain of Salafi activism is borrowing and adapting the visual language of gaming, the alt-right and the far right.
A growing subset of Generation Z (Gen-Z) Salafis are increasingly fluid in their ideology, internally conflicted, and building networks with the aim of attacking opponents and pushing an idiosyncratic set of ‘culture war’ tropes. They are a generation who were born at the height of the ‘Global War on Terror’ and immersed in identity-based polarisation both within and outside the Muslim community. They are now coming of age in a world where ISIS is active, and the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has reshaped assumptions about global power.
This historical backdrop has informed an online community of Salafis who, unlike their predecessors, have only a limited interest in dawah, or evangelism, and are more concerned with broadcasting Salafist tropes designed to cause division among and between Muslims and non-Muslims around the world. The use of chan culture2 memes, ‘edit’ videos and video game cultures born out of the likes of Minecraft add an additional dimension and complexity to understanding this subset of online Salafism.