Homeland Security

As ISIS Caliphate Crumbles, al-Qaeda Coaxing Western Recruits to Syria

Twitter screenshot of the tallest Christmas tree in Baghdad, erected by a Muslim in solidarity with persecuted Christians.

A new English-language al-Qaeda magazine encourages westerners to leave their lands of “pointless TV shows, massive dance parties and endless fast-food restaurants” and come to Syria to fight for the terror group.

The call to action comes as the Islamic State’s declared caliphate is seeing its territory crumble, and the 50,000-strong Syrian Democratic Forces — an anti-ISIS, anti-Qaeda, anti-Assad coalition of Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian etc. men and women fighters — has entered the ISIS capital of Raqqa after a lengthy drive to retake the city.

Like ISIS recruitment materials that wooed foreign fighters in the early days of the caliphate, the article in the second issue of al-Haqiqa magazine paints “hijrah” to join the mujahedin in Syria as an obligation of Muslims.

They also appeal to would-be recruits on the basis of prejudice, telling them they’re not welcome in their home countries. “Islamophobia in the West is encouraged and the resulting violence against Muslims is being ignored or denied. To avoid daily humiliation lots of brothers and sisters conceal or even renounce their faith,” the article states. Plus, they add, “Jihad is a standing obligation until the end of the world.”

But the article, “Going Home at Last,” starts off on the note of emphasizing that the West is just too sinful to raise a mujahedin family.

“Picture yourself in any city center in the West. What do you see? Probably you imagine yourself standing in the middle of a shopping district watching lots of people going nowhere. You are surrounded by strangers who are not talking to each other, but walking like zombies while looking at the screens of their mobile phones,” the article says. “Or maybe the first thing that comes to mind are the flashing neon signs and immoral advertisements: buy this, buy that, buy more stuff you don’t actually need. And there’s the noise: loud music coming from bars and shops trying to lure people inside.”

“Picture yourself in the same city, but then on a Saturday night. What do you see? Probably lots of young men being irritable and aggressive, because they have been drinking or using drugs all night. They are trying to daze themselves to forget about their empty lives for a moment. In the meantime, they are insulting elderly persons and deliberately picking fights. Or they are staring at girls who dress provocatively and shamelessly: their short skirts and tight jeans are exposing their bodies while their make-up and their loose hair are deliberately there to get heads turned.”

These, the magazine argues, “are just some examples of the decadent West.”

“Is this where you want to spend your life? is this where you want to raise a family? The so-called western democracies say the people are in charge by letting them vote every so many years, but do these elections really make a difference? Every new government continues the same policy aimed at keeping the people dumb and under their control,” the article continues.

“…In these countries the individual is the center point of everything: they think they have the right to be happy, to be successful, to be important. The average social media account of a western individual is a fabricated anthology of their so-called perfect lives.”

Al-Haqiqa quoted a westerner identified only as Abu Muhammad “who is planning” to come to Syria to join al-Qaeda; he said he is college educated with a “good job” and home, and his friends started to fall away as he grew a beard and became more observant in his faith. “It’s not hidden from anyone today how difficult life in the West has become for Muslims,” the mystery recruit tells the magazine. “All you have to do is open the news. Even some of those who don’t believe in Hijrah and striving in Allah ‘s path have begun to consider migrating.”

The article vows that westerners migrating to Syria “will not be humiliated for being a Muslim” and will find “that people still talk to each other like humans” with “no more temporary distractions nor western temptations.”

On the logistics, al-Qaeda cautions that their “brothers” will want “someone to vouch for you which makes it possible for them to do their checks,” because “helping everyone without asking questions upfront could prove a serious security risk for them as well: there are spies everywhere.”

“Finding someone who is trustworthy for the brothers AND for you, may prove a complicated process. But once this is done and you are trusted, the brothers will help you with your travel plans. They will tell you who to contact and what to do. Only because of them you will cross the border into Sham safely, only because of them you will be received kindly,” the article adds, reflecting a more judicious process of accepting new recruits than ISIS. “Please don’t make the mistake to just go on your own.”

A separate article in the issue praises, without mentioning by name, Terry Holdbrooks, a former U.S. Army guard at Guantanamo who converted to Islam and was discharged in 2005.

“The Soldier’s friendliness towards the detainees (they called him ‘the nice guard’) earned him unwelcome attention from his fellow guards. Despite the bullying he started to study Islam which he knew nothing about. He needed to learn how the detainees could endure abuse and still smile, while he felt utterly miserable,” the article states, lifting quotes and passages without attribution from a 2009 interview Holdbrooks gave The Guardian.