by Giuseppe Valiante
The Vancouver Sun
Page from the first edition of Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Inspire magazine was released on Sunday, according to SITE Intelligence, a US service that monitors Islamist websites.
OTTAWA — An English-language jihadist publication released online this month is another sign that al-Qaida or copycat groups are becoming increasingly adept at packaging their message for a young western audience, experts say.
The magazine, called Inspire, includes content that advises young people of what to expect when joining a jihad, or holy war, instructions on how to make bombs with household ingredients, messages from Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and even delves into the debates on the Muhammad-cartoon controversy and the banning of the niqab face veil in France.
The message is not new — most of the magazine’s content has been online for months if not years. What’s impressing scholars is how well the magazine relates to young Muslims who think through a western paradigm. Aside from the glossy, high-quality production value of the publication, heavy religious themes are absent and violence is justified through political, moral and legal arguments.
“By and large, this is a more sophisticated effort,” says Raymond Ibrahim, associate director of the Middle East Forum and author of The Al Qaeda Reader. “Al-Qaida is quickly mastering the art of propaganda.”
Another example is a jihadist video he said he watched around the time of the FIFA World Cup explaining how Muslims should think of jihad as a soccer game.
Inspire claims to have been produced by Al-Malahem Media and distributed by “qaedat al-jihad of the Arabian Peninsula.”
Al-Malahem is a media agency associated with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and is mainly active in Yemen. While qaedat al-jihad translates into “the Arabian Peninsula’s base of Jihad,” says Ibrahim.
Other writers around the world doubt the magazine’s authenticity, citing a number of reasons, including the fact that the magazine pdf file at times either doesn’t load properly or has been embedded with a trojan virus.
However Ramsay and Ibrahim say it matters little whether the publication was created by al-Qaida or its many sympathizers.
The magazine takes itself seriously, they say, offers information on how to make bombs and furthers the cause of the terrorist group.
Governments — including Canada’s — should be concerned regardless of the magazine’s authenticity, says Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at University of British Columbia.
What’s worrying, Byers says, is that the magazine serves as an effective tool in recruiting the most dangerous threat from a security perspective: English-speaking youth with western passports who can move from the West to the Islamic world with relative ease.
However, Ibrahim said he noticed a trend in the magazine that Western governments might be able to use to their advantage: several articles imply that Islamists are easily discouraged.
“Knowing what to expect in Jihad is vital in order to avoid confusion, shock and even depression,” says one article; another begins with the words, “Don’t be sad . . .”
“This may be an indication that novice jihadists are often quickly discouraged. If so, the West should capitalize on this weakness,” Ibrahim said.