The November special issue of Inspire, a slick new English-language Web magazine produced by Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, aims to do more than report the news. It wants to make news, by inspiring young American Muslims to kill their neighbors.
In addition to offering a wealth of fresh details about the attempted bombing of two U.S. cargo planes last month, the third issue of Inspire (the first issue came out in June, the second in October) also provides hard evidence of what many analysts once said was impossible—the growth of homegrown Muslim terrorism in America from a secondary nuisance into a major threat.
To bring down America, "we do not need to strike big," the editors of Inspire boast. "Attacking the enemy with smaller but more frequent operations" will "bleed the enemy"—a strategy of death "by a thousand cuts." One article claims that the recent effort to bomb FedEx and UPS cargo planes, which the magazine calls "Operation Hemorrhage," cost only $4,200: two Nokia phones at $150 each, two H-P printers at $300 each, plus "shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses."
The accompanying editorial package offers a canny blend of photos, feature stories, insider details, snappy news bits and verse-quoting theological justifications for terrorist attacks, all of it calculated to appeal to American Muslims who grew up on glossy magazines like Details and GQ. It is also notable for its collegiate sense of humor, which includes a mention of the fact that the plotters dropped a copy of Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations" into one of the bomb packages—a detail illustrated by a close-up of the novel's paperback edition. A photograph of Yemeni President Ali Saleh is accompanied by the caption "Yeah, keep scratching your head"; a credit at the bottom states "This ad is brought to you by A Cold Diss," a seeming attempt to appeal to the sensibilities of Muslim hipsters.
If Inspire feels so very American, that is because it is believed to be the work of two longtime American citizens—Samir Khan, a Saudi-born American who produced jihadist propaganda from his parents' basement in Queens, N.Y., before fleeing to Yemen in 2007, and Anwar Al-Awlaki, a supposedly "moderate" Islamist cleric who once ran a mosque in Virginia and was recently labeled "the most dangerous man in the world" at a public briefing by New York Police Department intelligence analysts. Targeted for death by a presidential order last May, Mr. Awlaki has reportedly inspired recent terrorist strikes against the U.S. and its allies, including Major Nidal Malik Hasan's rampage at Fort Bragg, in which the U.S. serviceman killed 13 fellow soldiers and wounded 32 others.
Available as a download from an array of websites, Inspire represents a shift among Western jihadists from following theological casuistry on YouTube videos and chat rooms to mobilizing individuals for violent jihad in their home countries. The magazine, whose title comes from a Koranic verse, "inspire the believers to fight," remixes old-school jihadist tropes for an English-speaking Western audience raised on videogames and consumer magazines. Feature stories, first-person narratives, and theological and strategic arguments are mixed with step-by-step instruction in the nuts and bolts of killing people with readily available objects. "If you are sincere in your intentions to serve the religion of Allah," one article advises, "what you have to do is enter your kitchen and make an explosive device." A recipe for making a simple but deadly bomb follows.
The most unnerving pages of the magazine for an American reader are those devoted to advice to the aspiring suburban jihadist, who is encouraged to attach large, sharp blades to the front of a pick-up truck "to mow down as many people as possible in a crowd" and to use other gruesome homemade devices to act upon fantasies of violent martyrdom.
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