Aesthetics, Culture Key To Understanding Jihadists In the West, Muslim extremists are often seen as two-dimensional villains. While groups like ISIS often act in monstrous ways, there are human elements that fuel what they do and believe.
NPR logo

Aesthetics, Culture Key To Understanding Jihadists

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/540088339/540088340" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Aesthetics, Culture Key To Understanding Jihadists

Aesthetics, Culture Key To Understanding Jihadists

Aesthetics, Culture Key To Understanding Jihadists

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/540088339/540088340" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

In the West, Muslim extremists are often seen as two-dimensional villains devoted to violence and revenge.

While groups like ISIS have done monstrous things, Thomas Hegghammer says jihadists have what he calls a "rich aesthetic culture" full of art, music and poetry. He says understanding this culture is key to understanding jihadists and how they operate.

Hegghammer is senior research fellow at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment in Oslo and author of Jihadi Culture: The Art and Social Practices of Militant Islamists.