Understanding Online Radicalization: The Jihadi Magazines

And Mohamud further claimed to have authored a piece for Inspire Magazine, an al-Qaeda sponsored publication that continues in the footsteps of its homegrown counterpart, Jihad Recollections. Both magazines show the hand of Samir Khan, a graphics designer who moved from creating jihadi media in his parent’s Charlotte, NC, home to directing English-language publishing for al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula.

The magazines may fill the same role, but they represent two different phases of English-language jihadi development. Jihad Recollections is an attempt to raise English-language jihadi material up to the level of its Arabic counterparts. Inspire Magazine, by contrast, is so popular that it has inspired Arabic translations of its articles.

Inspire is glossy, sharp, and sophisticated. Its articles cover all aspects of jihad, ranging from the theological to “Open Source Jihad: How to make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom.” Osama bin Laden wrote for the magazine, supposedly authoring a piece about jihad and environmentalism called “The Way to Save the Earth.”

Since its inception, the magazine has functioned as a compact guide on how to train for jihad, how to send encrypted messages to terrorist leaders, and “What to Expect in Jihad.” Over time, it has shifted from recruiting for international jihads in Somalia and Yemen to promoting cheap and shocking attacks by lone wolves.

It is also a powerful medium for preachers like Anwar al-Awlaki who have used it to communicate new threats to the "disbelievers" and to deal with contemporary issues like this year’s Arab revolutions. Other Awlaki articles have attacked anti-extremist summits and the New Mardin Declaration, and promoted robbing disbelievers to solve al-Qeida’s growing economic crisis. Awlaki is even suspected of answering letters from the magazine’s readers.

The rise of Inspire shows the growing maturity of al-Qaeda inspired media in English. Alongside web forums, blogs, and social media, magazines are a key piece of the radicalization puzzle.