Al Qaeda may be producing a new English-language magazine intended to lure recruits – a glossy online product that might be described as a mix of “Jihadists Illustrated” and “Popular Jihad Science.”
It is called Inspire, and it features articles such as “What to Expect in Jihad” and “How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” according to pages posted on the website of the Atlantic Monthly.
Is it for real? Some experts are wary, considering that the online magazine does not yet appear on actual jihadist websites. But Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been talking about the publication in its own communications, noting that it was coming, according to the Atlantic post.
The article titles might seem perilously close to ones that could be thought up by the satirical publication The Onion. But an attempt at English-language outreach such as this would fit in with the evolving nature of Al Qaeda’s use of the Internet.
For many years, Al Qaeda central leaders have been a bit behind the curve in their use of advanced technology, according to a recent report by Daniel Kimmage, an independent consultant and a senior fellow at the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University. While Osama bin Laden and others early on recognized the power of Web-based distribution of audio and videotapes, their communication strategy has remained static.
“The group has largely stuck with its traditional forum-based media distribution strategy and has done little to alter its core message to respond to shifts in public opinion,” writes Kimmage.
But while Al Qaeda central may be stuck on Web 1.0, associated groups appear to have forged ahead into more modern and interactive communication techniques, according to an article in the most recent issue of a counterterrorism journal produced by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the US Military Academy at West Point.
The growth in Web 2.0 tools such as file-sharing portals and social networking sites has resulted in an explosion of user-generated jihadist content outside the usual sites. Rising stars in the jihadist movement, such as the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, have celebrated this development and urged followers to engage in more active and creative ways of spreading the word.
“As a result of these varying legitimizing mechanisms, the ‘media jihad’ has gradually gained respectability and has become a legitimate endeavor in itself,” notes the article in the CTC journal Sentinel, which was written by British jihadist expert Dr. Akil Awan.
The new English-language Al Qaeda magazine has on its cover a quote from Anwar al-Awlaki: “May Our Souls Be Sacrificed for You!”
Web 2.0 media outreach has helped rejuvenate jihadist ideology and spread the word to possible new recruits all around the world, notes Dr. Awan.
But the downside for Al Qaeda is that radicalized Muslims may be able to satisfy their desire to engage in jihad by reading about it, instead of actually travelling to Pakistan for training – in much the same way that people read travel magazines for a few minutes of escape, though they have no intention of traveling to Bali or Bahrain.