In its latest effort to reach Western audiences, Al Qaeda has released its first-ever English-language magazine that provides detailed bomb making instructions and calls on followers to "destroy" America.
The media wing of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, released the inaugural issue of Inspire via the internet on July 11, 2010. While Al Qaeda has previously released English-language videos and statements, Inspire marks the first time the international terrorist network has published a magazine in English.
Federal authorities have reportedly claimed that Samir Khan, a blogger who distributed terrorist propaganda material from the U.S. for several years, is the magazine's principal author. Khan, who was born in Saudi Arabia and grew up in New York and North Carolina, reportedly left the U.S. for Yemen in October 2009.
According to the editor's note, the 67-page magazine aims to provide a "platform to present the important issues facing the ummah [Muslim community] today to the wide and dispersed English speaking Muslim readership."
The featured article is written by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric living in Yemen who distributes radical online lectures encouraging American Muslims to attack non-Muslims and Western interests. Al-Awlaki's article, entitled "May Our Souls be Sacrificed for You!" calls for "the execution" of those who have promoted the "defamation of Muhammad."
Al-Awlaki specifically targets a Seattle-based artist who started a campaign – "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" – in opposition to the threats against the creators of South Park for satirizing issues surrounding the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. "This snowball rolled out from between her evil fingers," al-Awlaki writes. "She should be taken as a prime target of assassination along with others who participated in her campaign."
Al-Awlaki, whose previous messages have inspired several American Muslim extremists to carry out terrorist attacks in the U.S. and join terrorist groups overseas, argues that the Western political system and all who support it share responsibility for promoting the "defamation of Islam." All Western interests, according to al-Awlaki, are therefore permissible targets. "This would make the attacking of any Western target legal from an Islamic viewpoint," al-Awlaki argues. "Assassinations, bombings, and acts of arson are all legitimate forms of revenge against a system that relishes the sacrilege of Islam in the name of freedom."
Inspire blends al-Awlaki's incitement to violence with practical instructions on making explosives. An article entitled "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom" provides step-by-step instructions on making an explosive device using household ingredients such as sugar, match heads, Christmas lights, batteries and a clock. "In one or two days the bomb could be ready to kill at least ten people," the article reads. "In a month you may make a bigger and more lethal bomb that could kill tens of people." According to the author, the bomb-making instructions not only "relieve" readers "of the "difficulty of traveling to us," but also enable "individual work inside the West such as the operations of Nidal Hassan and Faisal Shahzad."
Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged gunman who killed 13 people at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas in November 2009, is singled out as a hero throughout Inspire. One article urges "every soldier working in the crusader armies and puppet governments to repent to Allah and follow the example of the heroic mujahid brother Nidal Hassan [sic]; to stand up and kill all the crusaders by all means available to him." Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian man who attempted to detonate a bomb on a transatlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009, is also depicted a hero throughout the magazine.
Other articles in Inspire detail the ways to conceal online and digital messages by using encryption software and what to expect when traveling abroad to become a mujahid, or Muslim warrior. The magazine also includes statements and communiqués previously released by various Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's second-in-command. In another article, AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi explains that all the branches of Al Qaeda "want to win the race of destroying the idol (i.e., America) and to have the greatest share in that effort."
Al Qaeda's agenda of eliminating the Jewish state is also reiterated throughout Inspire. An article entitled, "From Here We Start and in al-Aqsa We End," calls for Muslims to divest from Israel and "cut aid to the Zionist Crusade and kill those of the Crusaders whom we find in our land." The article also urges followers to "destroy the Western interests until Europe and America stop their support of the Jews." As another tactic, followers can attack Israel by holding demonstrations, "followed by explosions and civil disobedience by military rage."
Inspire is among an increasing number of Al Qaeda materials published for English-speaking audiences. In recent years, Al Qaeda's media wing has released numerous English videos featuring Adam Yahiye Gadahn, an American Muslim convert from California who joined Al Qaeda in the late 1990s. Other Al Qaeda recordings and statements, including those featuring Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, are simultaneously released in Arabic with English subtitles and translations.
Like Al Qaeda, other Muslim extremist groups have increased efforts to appeal to Western audiences by releasing English materials online. In the summer of 2009, for example, the media wing of Al Mosul Islamic Network, an apparent Internet-based group created to provide a forum for English translations of extremist material, released the inaugural issue of its own online magazine, Defenders of the Truth. The previous spring, Al-Fursan Media, an apparent collaboration of online terrorist sympathizers, released an English-language publication entitled Jihad Recollections.