Anti-Gay Rhetoric in English-Language ISIS and Al Qaeda Magazines

by: Oren Segal

June 15, 2016

The claim by Orlando shooter Omar Mateen that he acted on behalf of ISIS in perpetrating a shooting at a gay club draws attention to the role of anti-gay sentiment in Islamic extremist ideology and propaganda.

ADL analyzed past issues of Dabiq, ISIS’s English language magazine, and Inspire magazine, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)’s English-language magazine, to determine the scope of anti-gay rhetoric and threat in those publications. While these publications are only a limited sample of the overall field of online English-language propaganda distributed by foreign terrorist organizations, they serve to demonstrate the issues and language that these organizations use when targeting English-speaking audiences.

Our analysis indicates that anti-gay rhetoric played a smaller role than may have been expected. Neither group preached hatred of the LGBT population nearly as much as it railed against other groups, such as Jews and the U.S., for example. However,  both magazines did feature examples of anti-gay rhetoric and used homosexuality as a synonym for sin and immorality.


Cover of the first issue of Dabiq, ISIS

Cover of the first issue of Dabiq magazine

Dabiq (ISIS)

Dabiq, ISIS’s English-language magazine, was first released in July 2014. Since then, there have been 13 issues, with the most recent released in April 2016.

Dabiq included anti-gay rhetoric with much more frequency than Inspire. In addition to using homosexuality as an example of sin and immorality, Dabiq also had at least three quotes in which homosexuality was associated with the death penalty. The increased number of references and the violent nature of the references are consonant with ISIS’s broader propaganda, which has been more overt than Al Qaeda propaganda in highlighting violence against individuals and groups ISIS has targeted. This has included images of ISIS members murdering men accused of being gay by throwing them off of buildings.

Examples of statements in Dabiq that link homosexuality with a punishment of death include:

  • “These sons fell into fāhishah (sodomy), leading them into espionage (as happened before in Sudan with others). Their treachery led to tens of airstrikes killing many brothers.” (Issue 6)
  • Likewise during his khilāfah, Abū Bakr…gathered a number of his advisors from amongst the Sahābah and consulted them about the case of a man found guilty of committing sodomy. The one who had the most severe position was ‘Alī … who said, “This is a sin that no nation had committed before except for one nation, and you know how Allah dealt with them. I view that we should burn him alive.” (Issue 7)
  •  “Knowing this and that he [a man ISIS is advocating should be assassinated] admires the secularist US Constitution and does not oppose sodomite marriage, it should be easy to grasp that he is nothing but another murtadd imām of kufr (apostate and leader of infidels).” (Issue 11)

Examples that include homosexuality as a general example of sin or immorality include:

  • “So the fornicators, the sodomites, the abandoners of jihād, the people of bid’ah (heresy), and the drunkards, these people and the mingling with them is harmful for the religion of Islam.” (Issue 3)
  • “’Liberal’ concepts that the kuffār (apostates) apply across the board for achieving evil, such as political pluralism, freedom of religion, and acceptance of sodomites. (Issue 3)
  • “If one’s children and grandchildren don’t fall into kufr (apostacy), they are under the constant threat of fornication, sodomy, drugs, and alcohol.” (Issue 3)
  • “They used their entertainment industry to mock and belittle those against the sexually deviant fringe, used their shirk (falsehood)-based parliaments to legalize sodomite marriage, used their education system to corrupt their children right from the kindergarten level by introducing books into the curriculum to combat “homophobia,” and used their churches and clergy to bless these sins via ‘revisionism.’ (Issue 7)
  • …All sinful acts are openly committed among you and for most of you they have become part of your nature. This includes committing shirk with Allah, fornication, and sodomy (Issue 10)
  • “If the majority [in a democracy] decide sodomy is legal, it is legalized even though it contradicts Allah’s Sharī’ah.” (Issue 11)
  • “Part of the pagan democratic religion is what has been labeled (sic) in this era as “human rights,” including the “right” to commit apostasy, devil-worship, sodomy, and for­nication.” (Issue 11)
  • “[The Muslim] is a stranger amongst Christians and liberals. He is a stranger amongst fornicators and sodomites.” (Issue 12)
  • “So the fornicators, the sodomites, the abandoners of jihād, the people of bid’ah (heresy), and the drunkards, these people and the mingling with them is harmful for the religion of Islam.” (Issue 13)


Cover of the first issue of Inspire, AQAP

Cover of the first issue of Inspire magazine

Inspire (AQAP)

Inspire magazine was first released in July 2010. Since then, there have been 15 issues, with the most recent released in May 2016.

We discovered at least three references to homosexuality in those 15 issues of Inspire.

In the third issue, released in November 2010, the magazine noted that a gay and lesbian synagogue had been among the locations targeted in AQAP’s 2010 cargo plane bomb plot, in which the group attempted to detonate explosives in packages with Chicago addresses in a cargo plane. Although the threat appeared to be directed against Jews more than against the LGBT community, it can be seen as a threat specifically to LGBT Jews as well.

  • “We in al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula will never forget Palestine,” it said, “…So we listed the address of the ‘Congregation Or Chadash,’ a Gay and Lesbian Syngaogue on one of our packages. The second package was sent to ‘Congregation B’nai Zion.’

In the magazine’s 8th and 10th issues, homosexuality is listed as an example of immorality.

  • A quote in the 8th issue stated, “Immorality and corruption have seeped deep into the roots of the Pakistani Army and it is not uncommon to find alcoholics, gamblers, adulterers, homosexuals and drug traffickers amongst its lower and higher ranks.”
  • A quote in the 10th issue contrasted “The freedom of living in peace with adequate resources” to “the freedom of adultery, homosexuality, interest and other impurities.”