Moderate Muslims Counter Islamic State Propaganda With Their Own Media Strategy The Indiana-based group Reclamation Studios is hosting conversations online and posting a series of videos refuting the Islamic State ideology that they say has hijacked their faith.

Moderate Muslims Counter ISIS Propaganda With Their Own Media Strategy

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have an update now from one battlefront against the self-declared Islamic State. It's the Internet. The extremist group has used social media as a recruiting tool. Efforts to counter ISIS include one based in Evansville, Ind., which is where we find reporter Paola Marizan of member station WNIM.

PAOLA MARIZAN, BYLINE: Dozens of four-minute web episodes targeting young people with questions about Islam and its relationship to violence are being released by Reclamation Studios. In one episode, Zac Parsons is walking side-by-side on a sunny day in Evansville with Imam Omar Atia, asking him a question about Islam.

(SOUNDBITE OF WEB VIDEO, "DOES ISLAM ENCOURAGE VIOLENCE")

ZAC PARSONS: You're a Muslim guy, peaceful guy. And yet, you know, we see all this stuff on the news all the time about, you know, terrorism and violence and killing, you know, in the name of Islam, which is supposed to be a religion of peace.

OMAR ATIA: Yes.

PARSONS: How is it that for them it's not peaceful, but for you it is?

ATIA: Yeah.

PARSONS: Like, can you reconcile that for me?

ATIA: I can. It's not even left for question. Unjust killing is completely forbidden.

MARIZAN: This video is called "Does Islam Incite Or Sanction Violence?" And it's just an interaction between Parsons and Atia, the imam of the Islamic Center of Evansville. Atia wants to try to dispel the image here that Islam is a foreigner's religion whose believers are forced to choose between nation and faith.

ATIA: There's still this identity crisis that a lot of Muslim-Americans live, unfortunately because right now, still, the concept that Islam is a foreign faith to America.

MARIZAN: Zac Parsons is a digital marketing expert and says these videos try to be engaging enough to reach younger viewers.

PARSONS: Unfortunately, ISIS is doing a great job of creating that really compelling - this is something you can do to change the world. And we hope that we're able to use some of those same ideas and technologies to say no, this is actually what the religion of Islam teaches.

MARIZAN: Nour Shams works on the website from Egypt, and she says it's important to get this information across as directly as possible.

NOUR SHAMS: They can ask us questions. We can do consultations. We can give them further answers for any questions that they have. So we can even host people and just have everything transparent in front of the camera and listen to people and answer their questions.

MARIZAN: Richard Maass researches international security at the University of Evansville. He says ISIS has been successful at targeting isolated people who have little or no knowledge of Islam.

RICHARD MAASS: So the more initiatives like this one that openly refute ISIS ideology, especially online and especially through live communications with people online, the more difficult it will be for ISIS to monopolize the perceptions of those vulnerable individuals.

MARIZAN: There are now more than a dozen people working on this project. The goal is to produce 70 web episodes, all in an effort to help counter what they see as misinformation about Islam. For NPR News, I'm Paola Marizan in Evansville.

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