“Holy shit” has never been more appropriately used.
Inspire is an English-language magazine allegedly published by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a strong fundamentalist foothold based in Yemen. The magazine first stirred up mainstream media attention in July when its first issue was released.
With the following issue hitting the Internet this week, the increasingly public profile of our underground enemy is piquing our national curiosity.
A conventional understanding assumes that jihadists rely on minimal resources, clandestine communication, and a secretive persona to successfully carry out acts of violence. What we find in the pages of Inspire is a streamlined set of essays, interviews, and features that, in concise and lucid English, synthesize a one-stop-shopping McJihad for Anglophone Muslims (apologies to Benjamin R. Barber).
The call to battle is unconcealed, stylized, and specific: AQAP is actively recruiting U.K. and U.S. Muslims for violent jihad. Catchy how-to essays like “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” are wedged between editorials by the likes of an American, Anwar al-Awlaki, alleged to have directly “inspired” acts of violence from 9/11 to the Fort Hood Shooting.
If the broadband Islamist war cry isn’t enough to stain your boxers, their perverted overlap of technical precision with religious ideology surely will. The magazine features extensive advice on how to manufacture and conceal bombs for specific purposes (e.g., nonmetal bombs for airplanes, pipe bombs for public places). It lauds underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s clever concealment of explosives, which went undetected by expensive security measures. The specifics of cost, technology, and furtive measures of these “operations” are outlined with empirical language.
Then they sprinkle in the crazy.
But through the blessing of Allah all security devices failed to display his explosive device.
Sewn into the magazine are these seamless transitions from coherent instructional manual to brainwashed religious text. The language builds a coherent progression towards an arresting, matter-of-fact assertion that nothing matters anyway because Allah is watching out for you. Yes, Inspire insists upon technical precision, but Inspire wants you to know that Allah will make the security devices go fuzzy.
If Osama bin Laden’s recent climate-change hullabaloo is any indication, Al-Qaeda is chock full of these intellectual non-sequiturs. In a tape released earlier this month, Al-Qaeda’s leader spoke about the floods in Pakistan:
Speaking about climate change is not a matter of intellectual luxury—the phenomenon is an actual fact. All industrialized countries, especially the big ones, bear responsibility for the global warming crisis.
Much of America’s reaction to this was predictable. Conservatives instantly equated Liberals with Al-Qaeda, Al Gore smacked his forehead, and we slipped slowly closer to hurling our own feces at each other. Bill Maher infamously reacted with, “How come a guy in a cave gets it better than every Republican voting in the Senate?” Everyone went a bit crazier.
Maher misses the point (albeit hilariously). Al-Qaeda’s veneer of scientific—or, at least, realistic—intellectualism belies the insanity at the corner of Islam and modernity. In a similarly themed message in Inspire titled “How to Save the Earth,” bin Laden says that “we know Allah has punished people with tsunamis due to the corruption of their hearts and deeds and their disobedience to Allah,” and goes on to liken Quranic floods to recent disasters. Bin Laden’s lamentations about the human cost of global warming are not rooted in scientific principles or granola consumption. Inspire is just one more vehicle hijacked by a catch-can ideology to support hatred.
Bin Laden rails against our inaction in reducing greenhouse emissions, not as a suggestion for policy change, but as a battle cry for violent anti-Western sentiment. His faux-alignment with the Liberal environmental agenda certainly makes for good Righty cannon fodder. But we know that the ideology of Islamist terrorists has little do to with science, reason, or liberal—small or big L—thinking.
Inspire serves as exhibit 1A of this reality. Yes, Al-Qaeda is modernized and actively recruiting. They pose a horrifyingly tangible danger and their broad-reaching profile only exacerbates this reality. Yet despite their fluency with technology, social media, and global politics, these people are archaically crazy.
As always, there is dissonance between the reactionary fervor of the news cycle and the long-standing truths that we are either too ignorant, or too privileged, to see. In an article responding to the first issue’s release, Thomas Hegghammer laments our hysteria at this sort of modernized jihadist propaganda. He posits that there is nothing “particularly new or uniquely worrying” about the content of Inspire. That it’s a “drop in an ocean of jihadi propaganda.”
Perhaps this is true, and our awe in the face of capable, brazen, communicative, well-spoken terrorists is an indication of epic insularity.
The fact remains, though, that Inspire shatters the unrealistic image that we’ve got them on the run, whether or not we ever did.