https://asunews.asu.edu/20120709_extremistcommunication A common belief in the West is that al Qaeda wishes to impose Islam everywhere. This might be a pipe dream for the group, but a new study of their use of religious texts suggests that Islamistsâ€™ goals are much more modest. Researchers with ASUâ€™s Center for Strategic Communication (CSC) analyzed more than 2,000 items of propaganda from al Qaeda and related Islamist groups from 1998 to 2011. They catalogued more than 1,500 quotes from the Qurâ€™an that extremists used to support their arguments, and identified the chapter (surah) and verse represented in the quote. Results showed that most of quotes are about enduring hardships and maintaining faith and hope in the face of attacks by enemies of Islam. The so-called â€œVerse of the Swordâ€ (9:5) that says â€œfight and slay the pagans wherever you find themâ€ was used only three times. â€œWe were surprised at the very limited use of the sword verse,â€ said Bennett Furlow, a research assistant and one of three co-authors of the study, â€œHow Islamist Extremists Quote the Qurâ€™an.â€ â€œConventional wisdom says Islamists are bent on world domination and this verse is the justification. We found it to be insignificant,â€ he said. The verses most frequently cited came from three surah, Surah Nine, Surat at-Tawbah (â€œThe Repentanceâ€), Surah Three, Surat al-Imran (â€œFamily of Imranâ€) and Surah Four, Surat an-Nisa (â€œThe Womenâ€). They address enduring hardships and the importance of fighting against the unjust outsiders who oppress men, women and children. â€œThese findings challenge the idea of a clash of civilizations,â€ said the studyâ€™s lead author Jeff Halverson, a professor of communication in ASUâ€™s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in reference to the theory that future wars will be fought over religious identity rather than national boundaries. â€œWhat extremists are really saying to Muslims is, â€˜our communities are under siege and God will defend us if we have faith and courageâ€™.â€ It is important to be realistic about Islamistsâ€™ arguments when trying to counter their influence attempts, noted ASUâ€™s Herberger Professor and study co-author Steve Corman. â€œIf we try to portray them as evil conquerors when their audience sees them as protectors and champions, it damages our credibility and makes our communication less effective,â€ he said. The study concludes with four recommendations for the West: 1) abandon claims that Islamist extremists seek world domination; 2) focus on addressing claims of victimization; 3) emphasize alternative means of deliverance; and 4) reveal that the image of â€œchampionâ€ sought by extremists is a false one. Other studies have shown in fact that al Qaeda-linked militants are 38 times more likely to kill a Muslim than a member of another group â€“ hardly the activity of a â€œcompetent champion,â€ the ASU study states. The study of Qurâ€™an quotes is part of the larger project at the center titled â€œIdentifying Terrorist Narratives and Counter-Narratives: Embedding Story Analysis in Expeditionary Units,â€ which examines Islamists use of narrative and persuasion to influence contested populations in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. The six-year effort is being funded by the Office of Naval Research. The Center for Strategic Communication is a research unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a strategic initiative of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University. Established in 2005, the center promotes advanced research, teaching, and public discussions of the role of communication in combating terrorism, promoting national security, and improving public diplomacy. To learn more about this project: http://asu.edu/courses/fms000/CSC_Video/CSC-FINAL.swf.