Inspire: Online magazine published by al-Qaeda

Inspire (magazine)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Inspire is an English language online magazine reported to be published by the organization al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The use of the magazine is to increase the availability of their message without challenges to their value system. The magazine is one of the many ways AQAP uses the Internet to reach its audience. However, its message is also intended for the enemy. The magazine is a political warfare tool targeting the American and other Western governments, with the intent of inspiring homegrown terrorism. The tactic is used to generate over-reaction by the governments of its Muslim population with threats of individual jihadist attacks. Since AQAP lacks the 'Open Front' capabilities to assault the West, its tactic is to attack the West using covert operations run independently by radicalized individuals. They believe this strategy will eventually lead to an overt open front attack from Islam against the West. The magazine features the logo of the "al-Malahim Media", AQAP's media arm, and contains articles by and about AQAP members and the al-Qaeda core to promote "open source jihad".[2] It is an important brand-building tool, not just of AQAP, but of all al-Qaeda branches, franchises and affiliates.[3]


The magazine aimed at young British and American readers and provided translated messages from Osama bin Laden. The first issue appeared in July 2010.[4][5](click-thru to see PNG images of 3 pages of the magazine) A second edition of 74 pages was published in October 2010.[6][dead link] It confirmed the magazine was then produced by Samir Khan, an online propagandist who has since been killed, and most of the material was apparently written by him.[7] Various articles in the second issue encouraged terror attacks on U.S. soil, suggesting that followers open fire at a Washington, D.C. restaurant or use a pickup truck to “mow down” pedestrians.[8]

Inspire was not the first English language magazine published by Al Qaeda.[9] Federal authorities said that Samir Khan, a former American blogger who distributed terrorist propaganda material online with his earlier magazine "Jihad Recollections" before moving to Yemen and aligning himself with Al Qaeda, was the principal author of the magazine.[10] Indeed, the October 2010 issue included an article penned by Khan, entitled "I Am Proud to be a Traitor to America".[11]

Samir Khan was killed on September 30, 2011, in the U.S. targeted killing Predator drone attack in Yemen that also killed Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaki.[12]


According to Thomas Joscelyn, the chief purpose of Inspire is to spread AQAP's propaganda to the West. Inspire focused on what the United States counterterrorism officials call "the narrative". The magazine portrayed the West, and especially America, in war with Islam as part of a Zionist-Crusader conspiracy. Joscelyn continued by stating that it is a typical message by al Qaeda, and the words in the magazine, although partially true, are mostly mythology.[13]

While some[who?] do not believe Inspire magazine alone is enough to radicalize an individual, its aim is to inform and persuade a committed audience by distributing internal communications called "auto-propaganda" to strengthen morale, reduce dissent, or justify and legitimize an attack or controversial doctrine. It was also used to target an uncommitted audience to eventually win sympathy and support. Therefore, APAQ has the ability to represent themselves and their actions exactly as they wish. The controlled message is unfettered from the scrutiny of the local and international media.[14]

Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institute described the magazine as "clearly intended for the aspiring jihadist in the U.S. or U.K. who may be the next Fort Hood murderer or Times Square bomber".[citation needed] It was described by Michelle Shephard, author of Guantanamo's Child, and a reporter for the Toronto Star, as being an extension of the online Arabic magazine Sada al-Malahim(Echo of the Battle).[15]

The magazine was thought to be the work of Anwar al-Awlaki, an English-speaking cleric and al-Qaeda leader based in Yemen. Awlaki was on the United States' "kill or capture list".[16][17][18][19] An editorial by al-Awlaki, entitled May Our Souls Be Sacrificed For You appeared in the first issue.[20] In the article, al-Awlaki called for attacks against all those who had slandered the Prophet Muhammad, including all Western targets.[21] It was intended to help recruit more jihadists like Hassan and Abdulmutallab (the Underwear Bomber), both of whom Awlaki had called his "students."[22]

The magazine stated that its title came from a verse in the Qur'an, "Inspire the believers to fight"[23]and described itself as "A special gift to the Islamic Nation".[15] In the words of the editor, “This Islamic Magazine is geared towards making the Muslim a mujahid in Allah’s path. "Al Qaeda typically tries to portray its violence as a justifiable response [defensive jihad] to the supposed sins of the West and, in particular, American foreign policies.”[24] The magazine was first "discovered" online by the SITE Institute. When the first issue of the magazine was initially released, a technical error prevented most of the magazine's pages from loading properly.[19] An uncorrupted version of the magazine was released a few days later.[25]

The magazine encouraged its readers to submit their own material for publication: "We also call upon and encourage our readers to contribute by sending their articles, comments and suggestions to us."[20] The magazine’s production users were able to use multiple third-party sources (photos, videos, and etc.) to create content with ease. The use of mass media was also capable of doctoring content. The separation of form and content of the media and then the ability to ‘mash’ content together with little effort had the ability to create persuasive presentations that would catch the attention of the attended audience.[26]
[edit]Common themes

Inspire Magazine followed a common and strict theological premise. The ideas and strategies were centuries old as well as within the scope of new jihadism within the last century. They adhered to its most rigid interpretation. They were very religious and devout practitioners that interpreted every phase of Islam’s genesis as universally true. Walid Phares said: "Their ideology was born decades ago, but was inspired by doctrines from the Middle Ages."[27] They saw themselves as the correct interpreters of the Islamic faith and the in direct charge of reestablishing the Islamic Caliphate. To affirm their message to the readers, AQAP used several common themes. These themes were identified between editions such as conspiracy theories, defensive jihad, call to individual jihad, and what Muslims in the West should do. AQAP utilized a repetition of themes to create a singular voice of triumph, strength, and resolve. The identified enemy's position is illustrated from a point of weakness.[citation needed]

Underlying themes

AQAP used the following arguments based on the fallacy of irrelevant conclusion to support the common themes between each magazine. First, millions of Muslims killed by Americans; there must be payback. There were repetitions of conspiracy theories that America hated Muslims and have declared war against Muslims. There a paradoxes draw between the ideological (utopian) existence in Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) and the dishonorable mindless interpretation of Dar al-Kufr (House of Unbelief). Those in the House of Unbelief were also associated with the West which is also positioned inDar al-Harb (House of War). Dar al-Harb is the world outside the Islamic nation that is always in conflict. The outside world is in a state of jahiliyya (ignorance) which lives outside the rule of sharia law.Dar al-Islam is the part of the world that is under Islamic law and perpetual peace according to AQAP. The second theme is the justification and need of individual jihad against the West in order to attack the West overtly. There were continual messages and lessons on the verifiability of small cell or individual jihad that is permissible. This belief is mainly followed by the fatwa of Ibn Taymiyyahagainst non-Muslim rulers in the 14th century. The third repetitive message was to have faith and willingness to give one’s life to Allah in order to fight Harb al-Kufr. The rewards were divine intervention to be saved from pain. There was no pain with death in martyrdom. Finally, submitting to Allah required the highest honor of jihad to protect the ummah (Global Islamic Community). To promote the theme of umma, the magazine used the imagery and descriptions of guilt and cowardice and the need to redeem past acts in order to be with Allah. Martyrdom became a quick fix for past transgression, a sure ticket to paradise.[citation needed]

Conspiracy theories

The most common theme in the magazine was the alleged West’s collective war against Islam. “The magazine portrays the West, and in particular, America, as being in war with Islam as part of a Zionist-Crusader conspiracy.”[28] The injustices to Islam ranged from the portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad in cartoons to the ban of the niqab and burqa which Inspire magazine argued as an attack on the dignity of Muslim women. “It is not the niqab or the minaret that the West is against, it is Islam itself, and these are merely symbols of it.” The most common conspiracy was the targeting of women and children. These themes were a continuation of previous arguments by the leadership of al-Qaeda. “[T]heir theme is always the same: al Qaeda is merely retaliating for all the injustices the West and the United States in particular, has brought upon Muslims.”[29] Much like the theological tract that Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri released from al-Qaeda proper. AQAP used previous messages from their inspirational leaders to provide Muslims with reasons to hate and fight the West.[citation needed]

Defensive jihad

Declarations were made for Muslims to rise in defense of their Prophet, families, justice, and the umma. AQAP propagated that the U.S. was bombing of Yemen and categorically targeting women and children. Thus they used this alleged targeting as justification of Omar al-Faruq’s attack as retaliation. “Al Qaeda says that violence is just retribution for Western injustices and that Islam authorizes this position.”[30] In an interview of Abu Basir in the Summer 2010 periodical, Basir asserted the need to retaliate because of the greed of the Americans. The imagery attached along with the argument showed a progression of the argument. The first two photos showed Times Square and Muhammad bin Nayef, the Saudi Assistant Minister. Those photos were linked together in the argument as the problem. Below was the result, a dying or dead child. At the bottom was the "solution", a picture of Omar al-Faruq, in response to America’s transgressions, AQAP merely responded in defense. “Al Qaeda typically tries to portray its violence as a justifiable response [defensive jihad] to the supposed sins of the West and, in particular, American foreign policies.”[31]

Call to individual jihad

The articles inside Inspire were used to incite rage against non-believers and the West. The Recruiting pitch was based on the conspiracy theories and through the ideology of defensive jihad. The periodical explained what to expect in jihad and the theory of open front jihad and individual jihad. The arguments presented explained the difficulty of an open front engagement with American forces and the difficulty of traveling overseas to conduct jihad. Therefore, the solution for Muslims was individual obligatory (fard’ayn) jihad to attack while the Islamic nation was strategically weak. “[S]pontatenous [sic] operations performed by individuals and cells here and there over the whole world, without connections between them, have put the local and international intelligence apparatus in a state of confusion, as arresting the members of aborted cells does not influence the operational activities of others who are not connected with them.”[32]

"Open source jihad"

Inspire magazine promoted "open source jihad". This shifted away from al Qaeda’s traditional terrorist attacks to simple attacks by individuals using common items for weapons. The Summer 2010 issue advised making a pipe bomb using everyday materials ("How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom"). The Fall 2010 issue encouraged using one's car to "mow down" people in crowded places ("The ultimate mowing machine"). The Winter 2010 issue discussed how to blow up buildings. These provided individuals with simple ideas for terror attacks, without direct ties to al Qaeda or its affiliates. It had become too great a threat to travel abroad and receive training in al Qaeda training camps, and direct contact with al Qaeda members endangered the member and the aspiring terrorist. Therefore AQAP's "open source jihad" promoted attacks without the support of a physical community. Marc Sageman, a leading expert in the field, described this phenomenon as "leaderless Jihad".[33]While he considered this threat as "self-limiting" and one that would quickly die out, the difficulties in stopping the lone wolf attackers were great. Fortunately, law enforcement were very successful in identifying and stopping many of these attacks.[citation needed]

"Open source jihad" emerged as a necessary tactic as al-Qaeda leadership steadily vanished in the ten years since 9/11. With leader either dead or in jail, al-Qaeda had to consider new ways to attack its enemies.[34] Al-Qadea first splintered into "franchises" by country or region, then further degenerated into solo operators, mostly of dubious capabilities. [35] Inspire became an important al-Qaeda brand tool for recruiting informing and motivating these open source jihadis.

"Open source jihad" allowed for an emotional response to events and validation in smaller, less spectacular attacks, such as Arid Uka's attack on American servicemen in Germany on March 2, 2011.[36] Uka had no training except from the Internet, where he saw a fake video of American servicemen raping a girl.[37] Though the video was falsified al Qaeda propaganda, it was meant to elicit strong responses from their followers.[38]


Some scholars, such as Thomas Hegghammer (of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment) and Jarret Brachman, argued that the magazine was an unexceptional example of jihadist online literature and did not deserve the media attention it received.[2][25] Hegghammer wrote that "there is nothing particularly new or uniquely worrying" about the magazine's content, and its connection to AQAP is likely weak: "Without signals intelligence it is extremely difficult to determine the precise nature of the link between the editors and the AQAP leadership. Judging from the amount of recycled material in Inspire, I would be surprised if the AQAP connection is very strong."[2]

While the SITE Institute and at least one senior U.S. government official described Inspire as authentic, there was some speculation on jihadist websites and elsewhere that the magazine, due to its low quality, may have been a hoax.[39] This view was advocated, in particular, by Max Fisher, a writer for The Atlantic.[40] Fisher listed five reasons to suspect the publication was a hoax.[40] According to Fisher, the portable document format (PDF) file that contained the first issue also contained a computer virus. Fisher noted that the magazine contained an article by Abu Mu'sab al-Suri, noting that al-Suri had been in Guantanamo since 2005, and that whether he was actually tied to al Qaeda remained unclear.

Peter Bergen, the national security analyst for CNN, describing it as "a slick Web-based publication, heavy on photographs and graphics that, unusually for a jihadist organ, is written in colloquial English", on 31 March 2011 discussed the column of Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a leader of AQAP, in its fifth issue.[41]


Inspire magazine is a unique terrorist publication in that it was very specific in the audience in which it targets instead of publishing general ideological arguments to all Muslims. Studies in terrorism[42][33] have noted that most Islamic terrorist attacks on the West were from people living in the west, well educated, and young men with the average age of 26.[33] AQAP also knew this and targeted this demographic with their publication. While other publications been focused more on the ideological issues with complex theological arguments, such as Jihad Recollection, Azzam Publications, Qadaya Jihadiyya, and other non-English language publications, Inspire focused on action and appeals to youths in the modern, flashy style of Western magazines.[citation needed]

One example was in the use of imagery and text in the operations of Abyan in the Fall 2010 release. The images were of operations that attacked Yemeni troops at checkpoints, base ambushes, explosions, and cleaning the streets (killing the enemy). The photos showed images of action and carnage performed by the mujahid against the murtad. The captions told a story of victory for the holy warriors with little to no casualties. Images and message gave a story of invincibility and defeat of Yemen’s Special Forces. It also proclaimed support for AQAP within the community. The article targeted both audience demographics of Westerners (far enemy) and Yemenis (near enemy).[citation needed]
[edit]Future of AQAP and Inspire

STRATFOR forecasted that 2011 would be a year filled with grassroots jihadist activity.[43] Both its editor and Anwar al-Awlaki were killed in a targeted killing attack in September 2011.[44] The lossInspire's top promoters has dealt a serious blow to the power of the al-Qaeda brand.[45]

Al-Shamika (The Majestic Woman) was a new fashion and lifestyle magazine for Muslim women and suicide bombers published online by Al-Qaeda.


No comments: