[Reader-list] Jihadi Cool: Terrorist Recruiters' Latest Weapon - by DINA TEMPLE-RASTON

Pawan Durani pawan.durani at gmail.com
Tue Mar 30 12:29:50 IST 2010

March 26, 2010

With so many terrorism cases emerging in the U.S. in the past nine
months, experts are trying to understand why so much is happening now.
One explanation has less to do with religion than with adventure. The
latest wave of jihadists traveling to Pakistan and elsewhere for
training may have been motivated by a sense of jihadi cool.

The recent Jihad Jane case may be the latest example of this trend.

Colleen LaRose, 46, was a housebound woman from the Philadelphia area.
She converted to Islam, but investigators say she was never connected
to any particular mosque. Even her live-in boyfriend says he didn't
know she was Muslim.

And yet, she is accused of calling herself Jihad Jane in Internet chat
rooms, and soon after her conversion allegedly went trolling for
people who might join forces with her to wage jihad on behalf of other

Recruitment More MTV Than Mosque

That's a far cry from what is seen as the traditional route to jihad.
It used to be that jihadi recruitment videos opened with the call to
prayer and readings from the Quran.

These days, many of them are decidedly less religious. They look more
like something that would appear on MTV.

If you type "jihadi rap videos" into any Internet search engine,
you'll find dozens of videos with thumping bass lines and forced
rhymes about beheading non-Muslims and making them pay for the
indignities they have leveled against Islam.

Traditionally, jihadi recruitment videos opened with the call to
prayer and readings from the Quran. Now, they look and sound more like
something that would appear on MTV and seem to be targeting people
with resentments and who are seeking thrills.
The productions are clearly aimed at young people nursing resentments
and looking for thrills. One video raps about the "angels in green,
helping the mujahedeen" while cutting to photographs of prisoner abuse
at Abu Ghraib and homemade videos of holy warriors firing
rocket-propelled grenades in the desert and shooting up cars with
machine guns.

'A New Generation Of Lazy Muslims'

Intelligence officials say there is a wave of young people who are
attracted to the adventure of jihad but would like to skip all the
rigors of Islam, such as reading the Quran and fasting.

"I think what we are seeing is sort of what I like to term a new
generation of lazy Muslims," says Arsalan Iftikhar, a human rights
lawyer and the former national legal director of the Council on
American-Islamic Relations.

"These are people who might not be theologically devout or even have a
sound religious foundation, but they are using this new jihadi cool to
justify criminal acts of terrorism," Iftikhar says.

Experts who study these kinds of movements say that while religion may
be an initial motivation to sign up, in the fullness of time, it
becomes less important.

Seeking Adventure

Consider the case of the two dozen young Somali-Americans from
Minneapolis who were recruited to join a militant group in Somalia a
couple of years ago.

Initially, investigators say recruiters used a religious pitch.
Ethiopians — who were largely Christian — had invaded Somalia, a
Muslim country. The young Minnesotans were told it was their duty,
both as Somalis and Muslims, to go to Somalia and fight there for an
Islamist group called al-Shabab.

We have ethnographies where they actually ask militants what drew you
to this movement. The top three answers were motorcycles, guns and
access to women. You had to go pretty far down the list to get to
religious motivation.
- Christine Fair, Georgetown University
When the Ethiopian troops withdrew, FBI officials say the pitch
changed. Recruiters told the young men that going to Somalia would be,
in their words, fun. The young men would get to shoot guns. They would
become jihad warriors. It would be cool.

Christine Fair is a professor at Georgetown University who is an
expert in these kinds of religious movements. She says jihad chic is
not so unusual.

"We have ethnographies where they actually ask militants what drew you
to this movement," she says. "The top three answers were motorcycles,
guns and access to women. You had to go pretty far down the list to
get to religious motivation."

The Web And Jihad Warriors

The Internet appears to have made signing up for a holy war infinitely
easier — and because it is open to all comers, the standards have
dropped. People who might not have even considered becoming a Muslim,
much less turning to jihad, can do both with just the click of a

That's what officials think happened with Jihad Jane. They allege that
she trolled the Internet while she was housebound, caring for her
boyfriend's ailing father, and that signing up for a holy war was
something that attracted a lonely woman. It gave her something to
belong to, officials say.

"Just putting my human hat on, I don't think it is remotely remarkable
that Jihad Jane happened," says Fair, who is also a fellow at West
Point's Combating Terrorism Center.

"In fact, if you sort of think about misfits — I'm a social misfit so
I feel somewhat comfortable saying this — the Internet is one of the
best places for social misfits to reside," Fair says. "They can be
whomever they want to be, so I am just surprised we haven't had more
Jihad Janes."

This is not to minimize what is going on for the past year on the
terrorism front. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, 2009 was the busiest year
for U.S. counterterrorism officials. They prosecuted more than a dozen
cases; the annual average is generally one-third of that.

FBI Director Robert Mueller says the Internet is partly to blame for
speeding up the recruitment process. He says the Web now not only
radicalizes young Muslims but helps connect them to organizations that
launch attacks. Jihadi cool may be a different motivation for taking
up arms, but it isn't necessarily any less lethal.

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