On February 19th, 2016, the Pakistani Dawn Newspaper featured a story on Jamaatud Dawa – an Islamist and nationalist party, which maintains a strong social media presence on the internet. The group bills itself as aiming to protecting the interests of Islam and Pakistan against encroachment by anti-Islamic ideologues and those seeking to defame Pakistan’s national legitimacy. The following interview with the members of the Jamaatud Dawa Cyber Team provides insight into their work in cyberspace:
The men of Jamaatud Dawa sport long, untrimmed beard, which sharply contrast their laptops, smartphones and cameras. Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the chief of JuD, has said that social media has “permeated people’s lives” and that it is his group’s responsibility to “counter… sectarianism and the negative portrayal of Islam, even by Muslim groups.”
Many mainstream political parties in Pakistan utilize only English in their web presence, but JuD uses bilingual platforms. The group’s cyber team operates with a team made mostly of volunteers, which includes IT technicians, camera people, and editors which are present in over 45 towns throughout Pakistan.
In addition to their normal agenda, JuD also conducts operations to counter “anti-Pakistan elements,” whom they describe as “supporters of TTP [Pakistani Taliban], Daesh [ISIS], or even those who want to make Pakistan a secular country or forget the Kashmir issue.” JuD’s Cyber Team follows the discipline of a typical political party, since all posts are consistently monitored for derogatory and personal attacks, according to Cyber Team leader Abdul Rehman Salar.
The social media team’s work is divided into two main divisions – activism and production. The Facebook and Twitter pages on JuD’s website have been suspended, which they assert is due to the protests of Indians. Salar also operates the Twitter account of JuD leader Hafiz Saeed, whose writings are in demand, even from users in India. The Cyber Team for JuD also produces videos and images, which aren’t in strict accordance with the basic ideology of the group.
Salar explains that lax policies regarding videos are due to the fact that “television… has turned into a key tool for information and propaganda…” Most of the JuD members are well-versed with modern IT tools, and are required to undergo internal training, which includes technical skills and ideological instruction. JuD is a nominally Sunni organization, but they say that there are members of all Islamic denominations, including Shia Muslims.
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the leader of the JuD, hosts a conference for those interested in taking part in online jihad operations
The official logo of the JuD Cyber Team (Left), which has been used in materials recruiting people to like the JuD CyberTeam’s social media pages (right)
This graphic was shared on social media when the page on Facebook reached over 5000 “likes”
JUD Cyber Team on Social Media
As of February 22, 2016, the JuD Cyber Team Facebook page had 660 followers
On February 10, 2016, JuD Cyber-Team’s Twitter account shared information relating to a workshop they hosted for aspiring cyber-jihadists
On February 4, 2016, JuD Cyber Team shared a tweet thanking all their affiliates on social media for participating in their online Jihad for Kashmir.