Extremist Muslims are seeking to reach and influence non-Arabic speaking audiences by setting up English-language pages on existing Arab websites, reports Memri (Dec. 4), an Israeli news service that monitors and analyzes Middle Eastern media.
One of the apparent goals of the Islamist forums and blogs in English is to erode support among the Western public for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The English-language Islamist forums and blogs also frequently quote reports from the Western media that cast doubt on the effectiveness of the war on terrorism and of Western policies in general, such as reports suggesting that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan could jeopardize, rather than promote, the security and prosperity of Western countries.
Occasionally, the English-language forums and blogs post messages addressed particularly to Muslims living in the West encouraging them to play an active role in online activity in support of jihad. One example is a message entitled “A Dream and Reflections,” posted Oct. 5, 2007 on the Al-Ekhlaas forum (http://ekhlaas.org/forum/) by an individual calling himself Anbar Bikr.
The message castigates Muslims in the West for being too passive in their support of jihad. It further states that visiting jihadist websites is not enough, and urges Muslims to establish “an Islamic media [network] that will slap the West in the face,” emphasizing that Western freedom of speech allows them to do so at no risk. The Islamists are not only recruiting Muslims in the West for media jihad; some of the postings in English explicitly call on Muslims in the West to carry out martyrdom operations. Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor (December 28) reports that terrorist specialists see jihadist groups increasingly targeting young people, including teenagers, for their cause.
Security analysts find that in both Western and Arab countries, younger jihadists are being recruited over the Internet, or inspired to act on their own—apart from a centralized group—through exposure to militant Islamic literature and videos. Jonathan Evans of MI5, the British security service, recently said that teenagers as young as 15 and 16 have been implicated in “terrorist-related” activities as a result of a deliberate strategy by radical Islamic groups. Shortly before Benazir Bhutto was killed in late December, a 15-year-old boy was arrested for allegedly trying to blow himself up at a rally for the ex-prime minister.
In November, the first minor to be potentially tried for war crimes was detained for killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan and conspiring with Al Qaeda. But analysts say that these youthful operatives are making the jihadist terror network more diverse and unpredictable. Some observers, such as Gabriel Weimann, who wrote Terror on the Internet, says there are more than 5,000 jihadist websites, though others say that “serious” Al Qaeda-inspired sites number in the hundreds.