Thursday, July 1, 2010

Al-Qaeda Gets Glossy New Lifestyle Mag – in English

The man in the lower picture is possibly Ken Brigley ~ who was beheaded in Iraq.

Just in time for a wave of (mostly-thwarted) homegrown U.S. terrorism: al-Qaeda has apparently launched a new magazine to move politically-frustrated Muslim youth in the West down the road of violent extremism. Think of Inspire as a lifestyle rag for the conspiracy-minded takfiri, filling the inexplicably vacant media space between O: The Oprah Magazine, Popular Mechanics and the al-Qaeda book Knights Under The Prophet’s Banner.

The magazine itself has a hefty feature well, reports the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, consistent with what any ambitious editor would want to see in a rollout issue. Osama bin Laden himself offers his thoughts on “How to Save the World”: blow stuff up when people disagree with you about what’s Islamic! His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri shares his insights on what’s going down in Yemen. But the anchor is a message from Anwar al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born preacher who’s become al-Qaeda’s biggest draw as an online propagandist. So much so that the Obama administration reserves unto itself the right to kill Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, without due process of law.

And then there are some promising front-of-the-book experiments. “What to Expect in Jihad” is self-explanatory. “The AQ Chef” gives you a step-by-step on “How To Make A Bomb In The Kitchen Of Your Mom.” And that threads the needle for the apparent purpose of launching Inspire: getting frustrated Muslim youth to buy into al-Qaeda’s holistic conspiracy theory that the crises of the modern era are attributable to a nefarious American/Jewish alliance against True Islam, and then giving them the tools to murder people.

The twist is to get Muslims living in America and other Western countries to subscribe — Najibullah Zazi, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (educated in Britain), Faisal Shahzad, Major Nidal Malik Hasan — in order to send the message that nowhere is safe for the Americans. That’s a huge, preoccupying concern for John Brennan and the rest of the Obama counterterrorism team. Online and viral media is the most efficient distribution mechanism for the extremist message, which is why al-Qaeda’s as-Sahab media unit is so prolific. And as-Sahab products run the gamut of information offerings, from high-production-value online films to cellphone videos, serving as both a recruitment tool and a rapid-response messaging shop to respond to the numerous attacks from Muslim clerics on al-Qaeda’s Islamic credentials. In its creation of a distributed virtual training camp for propaganda, recruitment and development of al-Qaeda’s bench, as-Sahab is the literal version of Lifehacker.

Which makes Inspire look anomalous. It’s not, apparently, online yet. Ambinder reports that a virus corrupted an attempted upload on extremist websites on Wednesday. And it’s not apparently an as-Sahab product: it bears a banner of al-Malahem Media, the publishing arm of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a franchise of al-Qaeda that trained Abdulmutallab on putting bombs in his underwear. And that’s even more fishy: al-Jazeera’s Gregg Carlstrom tweets that it’s not al-Malahem’s typical logo.

“It is difficult at this point to confirm its authenticity,” says Marc Lynch, a George Washington University political science professor who specializes in Arabic-language media. For one thing, al-Qaeda PDF uploads tend not to be corrupted by viruses. That’s not to say it couldn’t be a glitch — what magazine editor hasn’t experienced the pain of technical difficulties on Launch Day? — but for now, Lynch cautions, “we shouldn’t leap to any conclusions about what this means for al-Qaeda strategy.”

In other words, don’t cancel your subscription to Technical Mujahid just yet. That magazine, at least, is not afraid to be service-y.


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