Dr. Moign Khawaja | School of Law and Government

Moinuddin (Moign) Khawaja is a teaching fellow and a researcher at the School of Law and Government, DCU. He successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled "Acting Like a State: Visual Analysis of IS's (Staged) Performances of Modern Stateness' in September 2022. Moign teaches modules related to security studies and international relations such as conflict, peace, security, intelligence, foreign policy, diplomacy to undergrads. He has a background in international relations, world conflicts and journalism and has been a keen observer of Middle Eastern affairs since the last two decades. He has worked as a multimedia journalist in the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman. 


PhD - Dublin City University (2022)

MA Journalism - University of Lincoln (2008)

Supervisor: Prof. Maura Conway


Thesis Abstract:

The ‘Islamicness’ (or not) of so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS) has been controversial and come under intense scrutiny. This thesis investigates the under-studied other side of the equation: the ‘stateness of Islamic State’. Specifically, it enquires IS’s ‘performance of modern stateness’ projected in its official videos. Two core questions are addressed: How did IS project ‘performances of modern stateness’ in its official videos? What were the purposes behind those ‘performances’?

The definition clause of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States specifies that “[t]he political entity claiming to be a State must have (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) a government; and (d) the capacity to enter into relations with other states.” Following this framework and utilising qualitative data analysis software MAXQDA, the thesis provides detailed examination of IS’s portrayal of its population, territory, governance, and foreign policy in its videos. It establishes that IS had a vision to implement a 7th century ideology, but via 21st century means: its videos are replete with performances of specifically modern stateness. The thesis shows that IS performed like a State in its videos, not with the intention of seeking international recognition, but with the objective of giving local populations the impression that their needs as subjects were being met across the Caliphate while attracting immigrants from all over the world to come and help further the state project.

This work contributes to a growing body of research on IS’s visual propaganda and its state-building project through detailed analysis of a large tranche of official IS videos, and will also prove beneficial in future research on de-facto jihadi states and deradicalisation.

Areas of Interest: Counterterrorism, Foreign Policy, Propaganda, Radicalisation, Recruitment, Internet, Social Media, Violent Extremism, Visual Communications, Security Studies.


Taught the following modules to undergrads: Introduction to European Integration (LG104); Introduction to US History & Politics (LG113); International Political Economy (LG125); Foreign Policy & Diplomacy (LG219); Conflict Peace & Security (LG233); Intelligence, National Security & Foreign Policy (LG244); Political Terrorism (LG245); Contemporary Politics of the Middle East & North Africa (LG320); Political Ideologies (LG359); Chinese Politics & Foreign Policy (LG392).

Received nomination for the DCU President's Awards for Excellence in Teaching 2021.

Taught the following modules to cadets of Irish Naval Service: Contemporary Security (2021); Maritime Security in the Middle East (2019-2020).


Conway, M., Khawaja, M., Lakhani, S. and Reffin, J., 2020. A Snapshot of the Syrian Jihadi Online Ecology: Differential Disruption, Community Strength, and Preferred Other Platforms. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, pp.1-17.  

Conway, M., Khawaja, M., Lakhani, S., Reffin, J., Robertson, A. and Weir, D., 2018. Disrupting Daesh: Measuring Takedown of Online Terrorist Material and its Impacts. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, pp.1-20.

Maura Conway, Moign Khawaja, Suraj Lakhani, Jeremy Reffin, Andrew Robertson, and David Weir. "Disrupting Daesh: Measuring Takedown of Online Terrorist Material and its Impacts." VOX-Pol (2017): 1-45. 

- Under review: “#ISIS Twitter Fans’ Visual Narratives – Contextualising Profile Pictures”.


Terrorism and Social Media (TASM) Conference at Swansea University, Wales; 28-29 June 2022.

Presented paper entitled “Acting Like a State – Visual Analysis of IS’s (Staged) ‘Performances of Modern Stateness”.

New Perspectives on Non-State Political Violence at Queen’s University Belfast, N. Ireland. 22-23 November 2019.

Presented paper entitled “Like No Other State – Determining the ‘Stateness’ of IS via their Video Propaganda – Theories, Methodology & Case Studies”

Terrorism and Social Media (TASM) Conference; 25-26 June 2019 in Swansea, Wales.

Presented paper based on my methodology chapter entitled “Determining the 'Stateness' of Islamic State According to their Video Propaganda”.

EUROPOL-European Counter-Terrorism Centre (ECTC) Advisory Network Conference, 9-10 April, 2019 in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Co-presented with Prof. Maura Conway paper entitled “Extremist Twitter Fans’ Visual Narratives: Contextualising #ISIS Supporters’ Profile Pictures”

VOX-Pol Conference – Violent Extremism, Terrorism, And The Internet: Present And Future Trends; 20-21, August 2018 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Co-presented with Prof. Maura Conway (DCU) and Dr. Suraj Lakhani (Uni. of Sussex) paper entitled “Mapping the Contemporary Jihadi Online Ecology: Differential Disruption, Community Strength, Out-linking Practices, and Preferred Online Platforms”in which we analysed and compared the activities of Hayyat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS), Ahrar Al Sham and Taliban accounts on Twitter

Terrorism And Social Media (TASM) Conference, hosted by CyberTerror Project (CTP) at Swansea University in June 2017 in Swansea, Wales.

Co-presented paper entitled “Disrupting Daesh: Measuring Takedown of Online Terrorist Material and its Impacts”. 

VOX-Pol’s Mid-Project Conference; 22-24 June, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland.

Co-presented with Prof. Maura Conway (DCU) paper entitled "#ISIS Twitter Fans’ Visual Narratives – Contextualising Profile Pictures".

Guest Lectures:

Presented guest lecture entitled "Islamic State's Visual Projection of Modern Stateness via Videos" at DCU Computer Sciences & other departments on 29 March, 2021.

Presented guest lecture entitled "ISIS & Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)" to International Master in Security, Intelligence and Strategic Studies (IMSISS) students on 25 February, 2021.

Presented guest lecture entitled “Islamism”at DCU to BA Economics, Politics & Law students on 28 & 29 March, 2019.

Presented guest lecture entitled “Projection of Statehood by the Islamic State”at DCU to MA Security Studies students on 22 March, 2019.

Presented guest lecture entitled “Maritime Security & Middle East” at Maynooth University to Irish Naval College cadets on 14 & 21 January, 2019.

Presented guest lecture entitled “Terrorism & ISIS”at Dublin City University (DCU) to MA International Relations students on 30 October, 2018.

Presented guest lecture entitled “Totalitarianism”at DCU to BA Economics, Politics & Law students on 24 October, 2018.

Summer Schools and Workshops:

VOX-Pol Summer School: Topics in Violent Online Political Extremism. Organised by Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Hungary from 4-9 July, 2016.

NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Terrorist Use of the Internet – Assessment and Response. Organised by Swansea University’s Cyberterrorism Project and VOX-Pol in Dublin, Ireland from 27-29 June, 2016.

Method52 Text Analytics Software Training Programme. Organised by the Department of Computing at the University of Sussex, Brighton, England, from 18-25 July, 2016.


Presented a video I made based on my PhD research entitled "Was the Islamic State a State?" and won the runners-up prize at DCU Tell it Straight 2019 competition held on 27 March, 2019.

Email Address: moign.khawaja@dcu.iekhawaja.moinuddin2@mail.dcu.ie

Twitter: @MoignKhawaja

Personal Interests: Travelling, Football, Cooking, Movies.