Event Date and time: Thursday 17th November 2016 | 1:30 PM – 03:00 PM 

Venue details: Lee Kuan Yew Conference Room at Arundel House, 13-15 Arundel Street, Temple Place | London WC2R 3DX

Organisers: The International Institute for Strategic Studies |

Event website: Jihadism transformed: Al-Qaeda and Islamic State’s global battle of ideas

Event cost: Free

Major events, from the Arab Spring to the death of Osama bin Laden to the rise of ISIS, have changed the nature of jihadist narratives across the Middle East and beyond. For many years, Al-Qaeda pointed to an aspirational future caliphate as their utopian end goal – one which allowed them to justify their violent excesses in the here and now. The rise of Islamic State turned that aspiration into a dystopian reality, and in the process almost completely usurped the jihadist narrative from Al-Qaeda, breathing new life into the global Salafi-Jihadi movement. Despite airstrikes from above and local disillusionment from below, the new caliphate has stubbornly persisted and remains at the heart of ISIS’s growing global appeal.

This panel will examine how these global jihadist narratives have changed and evolved dramatically in the last five years. Panellists will consider thematic changes inside the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in Europe and beyond, reflecting on regional competition between groups and the impact this has had on radicalisation and recruitment.


Dr Akil N. Awan is Associate Professor in Modern History, Political Violence and Terrorism at Royal Holloway, University of London. His research interests are focused around the history of terrorism, radicalisation, social movements, protest and new media. He has written widely in these areas, both academically and in the popular press. Dr Awan is also regularly consulted in his fields of expertise, having served in an advisory capacity to the UK Home Office, the Foreign Office, the US State Department, the US Military, Council of Europe and the OSCE amongst others. He is on Twitter: @Akil_N_Awan

Virginia Comolli is the Senior Fellow for Security and Development at The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). Her research interests are in conflict, violent extremism, organised crime and urban security. She has performed in an advisory role to government and private sector clients as well as international organisations, and has conducted extensive research on conflict, violent extremism and illicit economies in Africa, including the ISIS spread in Sub-Saharan Africa, extremism in West Africa and the Sahel, and organised crime in West Africa. She is the author of Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Islamist Insurgency (2015) and co-author of Drugs, Insecurity and Failed States: the Problems of Prohibition (2012). She is on Twitter: @VirginiaComolli

Dr Martha Turnbull is the Head of the FCO’s National Security Research Group. She joined the FCO in 2012, having previously worked on terrorism issues at the Ministry of Defence. Her research focuses on international Islamist extremism, specifically groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Dr Simon Staffell is a UK government expert on the Middle East, counter-terrorism and extremist ideologies. He has a PhD in Politics from the University of Sheffield and has studied and worked across the Arab world, most recently in a diplomatic posting in Cairo.

Share This