Inside the World of Tribal and Jihadi Poetry Readings

Published August 13th, 2018 - 08:02 GMT

Elisabeth Kendall is a Senior Research Fellow in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Oxford University’s Pembroke College. She is a leading expert in analyzing and witnessing the power of poetry to motivate or stem violence in the Middle East.

Poetry helps tie jihadi messages to larger and more broadly shared sentiments with local populations, helping people to become passionate about jihad. “We mustn't have a binary view of people who join the mujahideen or don’t,” Kendall says, hinting that many people may agree with the style or substance of poems but may not think joining armed groups is the answer.

Kendall also cites poems that criticize drone strikes help to cultivate a sense of shared values between jihadi fighters and everyday people in the Middle East. 

In general, poetry is an important cultural tradition in the Middle East, where Arabic is a largely oral language.It has been used for thousands of years to express political messages.

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Elisabeth Kendall with Yemeni tribesmen. (Elisabeth Kendall)

Elisabeth Kendall with Yemeni tribesmen. (Elisabeth Kendall)

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) citing poetry

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) citing poetry

Poetry competition in Yemen. (Elisabeth Kendall)

Poetry competition in Yemen. (Elisabeth Kendall)

Kendall with Yemeni tribesmen. (Elisabeth Kendall)

Kendall with Yemeni tribesmen. (Elisabeth Kendall)

Elisabeth Kendall with Yemeni tribesmen. (Elisabeth Kendall)
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) citing poetry
Poetry competition in Yemen. (Elisabeth Kendall)
Kendall with Yemeni tribesmen. (Elisabeth Kendall)
Elisabeth Kendall with Yemeni tribesmen. (Elisabeth Kendall)
Elisabeth Kendall with Yemeni tribesmen. (Elisabeth Kendall)
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) citing poetry
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) citing poetry
Poetry competition in Yemen. (Elisabeth Kendall)
Poetry competition in Yemen. (Elisabeth Kendall)
Kendall with Yemeni tribesmen. (Elisabeth Kendall)
Kendall with Yemeni tribesmen. (Elisabeth Kendall)