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Inspire: Purpose

“Our intent is to give the most accurate presentation of Islam as followed by the Salaf as-Sálih”[1]

Inspire magazine is the central mouthpiece of AQAP’s online propagation to an English speaking audience, particularly now YouTube, under pressure from the American and British governments, have banned the videos of Anwar al-Awlaki in November 2010.[2] The first issue appeared in July 2010 and they have appeared regularly since then. At the time of writing there are nine editions, the last appearing in June 2012. Its success depends on its ability to reach as many potential recruits as possible and al-Suri claims within Inspire that “spreading the legal, political, military and other sciences and knowledge that the mujahidun need”[3] is imperative to success. Inspire represents two developments in the relationship between the media and terrorist within the last decade or two, or more precisely since the advent of the internet. Terror groups utilise the media for three purposes. These are to “legitimate the movement, propagate the group’s message and intimidate opponents.”[4] Page has claimed that al-Qaeda is the “first guerrilla movement in history to migrate from physical space to cyberspace.”[5] Inspire is not the first online magazine that al-Qaeda has produced, it is however the first published in English. AQAP since 2008 has produced an Arabic magazine entitled Sada al-Malahim (The Echo of Epic Battles). This magazine highlights the main reason that AQAP has turned to the internet in its first editorial telling its readers

“Given the media blackout around the truths and victories of the mujahidin, the distortion of their reputation, and twisting concepts to show the violating invader of Muslim sanctuaries as a man of peace and his troops as security and peacekeeping forces…we rolled up our sleeves and combined our efforts to uncover the facts and truths [in order to] expose the enemies to the public.”[6]

The mainstream media presents a wholly negative view of al-Qaeda, what al-Qaeda call here a ‘distortion’ of their reputation and successes. This has destroyed the previous symbiotic relationship of the media and terrorist entities, whereby printing terrorist actions the media provided a sense of legitimacy. Within Inspire AQAP offer a reason for why this has occurred as “the current media [is] under the control of the Jews.”[7] With al-Qaeda widely condemned in the media in the west, but also by the serialisations of Dr. Fadl’s latest works in Pakistani and Bahraini newspapers, this symbiotic relationship has been lost. In addition to the rise of the internet and the unreliability of existing media outlets, this increased media effort by al-Qaeda can be seen as part of al-Qaeda’s “maturation as a terrorist organisation seeking to capitalise on its newly-founded brand recognition.”[8]

This brand recognition means al-Qaeda can now frame its actions in its own words by using the internet, bypassing the negativity of uncontrollable media outlets. This importance of the media is explored within in an article in edition seven of Inspire by Samir Kahn, an American who helped create Inspire. Titled ‘The Media Conflict’ the preamble to the article specifies the importance of the media to al-Qaeda.

“I remember his advice being spot-on as I stood there nearly two years ago in front of AQAP’s Amir, Shaykh Abu Basir, may Allah preserve him. ‘Remember,’ he said as other mujahidin were busy working on their computers in the background. ‘The media work is half of the jihad.’”[9]

The media clearly is important in al-Qaeda’s war on the west and Samir Kahn is sure that “a powerful media production is as hard hitting as an operation in America.”[10] In addition al-Qaeda can directly attack western representations of their actions. An example of this can be seen in the second edition of Inspire in the ‘Hear the World’ recurring feature. This feature lists “a collection of quotes from friends and foe.”[11] A quote from Barak Obama is one of the featured quotes. In a news conference it is claimed that he “ignores fact US has killed over a million Muslims in Iraq.”[12] Obama is quoted as saying “Our enemies are al-Qaeda…[who] have killed more Muslims than just about anybody on earth.”[13] This is claimed to be “just ridiculous.” The ‘lies’ and ‘deceit’ of the west is supported further in the next recurring feature ‘News Flash’ only two pages later. The FBI deleted the first edition of Inspire from certain websites, which is highlighted in the News Flash section. The editor of Inspire asks “Why are they so scared?”[14] These examples show how AQAP are using the magazine to discredit western representations of al-Qaeda.

“And Inspire the Believers to fight”

Inspire has one overarching purpose, that presents itself in myriad fashions. This purpose is rooted in Islamic tradition. Da’wah is an Islamic tradition from the time of Muhammed which literally means ‘making an invitation.’ The invitation is to Islam and AQAP utilising Inspire to this end. In the first editorial this is made clear when it is claimed that “our intent is to give the most accurate presentation of Islam…It is our intent for this magazine to be a platform to present the important issues facing the ummah today to the wide and dispersed English Speaking Muslim readership.”[15] Through Inspire, AQAP is clearly calling Muslims in English Speaking countries to their ‘most accurate presentation of Islam.’ The ‘accurate presentation of Islam’ that AQAP are calling its target audience to has jihad at its centre. This is clear throughout the magazines, but comes to the fore in an article in the second edition titled ‘O Hesitant One: It’s an Obligation’ and also in the Editorial of the ninth edition. The article in the second edition tells its reader it “is a brief letter of motivation to jihad.”[16] The reader is told that all mujahidin go through periods of indecision and that AQAP will continue to target their recruitment “even if it means having to preoccupy ourselves entirely with you instead of our enemies, we will preoccupy ourselves with you until you join us.”[17] In the Editorial of the ninth edition it is claimed that one of the purposes of Inspire is “to call for and inspire jihad in the English speaking world.”[18]

This communication with its target audience does not only go one way, the readership of Inspire is encouraged to communicate with the magazine. Every edition of the magazine has a page toward the end titled ‘How to Communicate With Us.’ Readers are encouraged to contribute “with any skills – be it writing, research, editing or advice – or have any questions…contact us at any of the email addresses.”[19] The first contribution of the readership comes in the second edition of Inspire from ‘Shaykh Ibrahim al-Banna’ who Inspire tells the reader is an ‘al-Azhar graduate.’ This demonstrates the importance of Islamic education to al-Qaeda, al-Azhar being one of the key universities of Islamic teaching in Egypt. Specifying that Ibrahim al-Banna is a graduate of al-Azhar thus gives his article legitimacy, but is still presented as a contribution from the magazines readership. This interaction comes to fore to a greater extent in the Fifth Edition of Inspire in another recurring feature titled ‘Inspire Responses.’ In this feature, AQAP respond to questions from Inspire readers. Both questions and criticisms are answered in this section, with the first ever response being to an email that criticised Inspire magazine. The response has three bones of contention with Inspire. Firstly it questions why Inspire distorts the news of the west. It asks if “your hatred for the West potentially clouded your judgement in reporting?”[20] It also asks if it is a contradiction on the part of AQAP to use western advances of the internet and a western medium of a magazine. It lastly asks how AQAP “accounts for the fact that your legitimacy within the Islamic community is not only called into question but nearly non-existent?”[21] The response printed claims that the west who distorts the news and that Obama is against Muslims. Secondly, using western technological advances is not a contradiction, AQAP “only hate the west for their foreign policies” not for their technology. To the last criticism that al-Qaeda has no legitimacy within the Islamic community, the response is in line with the wider theme of Da’wah. AQAP claim they are aiming to bring al-Qaeda’s vision to others therefore those who criticise al-Qaeda do not fully understand al-Qaeda.[22] This interaction shows AQAP value their readerships opinion and welcome further interaction.

The second question that is responded to in Edition Two highlights what Inspire is calling western Muslims to do. The questioner asks how he should go about joining the fronts of jihad in Afghanistan or Yemen. The answer is that there should be a “focus on planning out attacks in the West.”[23] Inspire looks to encourage its readership to attack within their own, Western localities. The formulation of this Individual jihad, is compiled in a serialisation of the work of Abu Mus’ab al-Suri.


[1] Yahya Ibrahim., ‘Letter from Editor’ in Inspire Edition One, p.2

[2]Lebovich, Andrew., ‘The LWOT: Awlaki videos banned from YouTube, in Theory; More arrests made for supporting al-Shabaab,’ in Foreign Policy, November 5th, 2010

[3] Inspire, Edition Six p.15

[4] Page, Michael., Challita, Lara and Harris, Alistair., ‘Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: Framing Narratives and Prescriptions,’ in Terrorism and Political Violence, 23:2 p.150

[5] Ibid, p.151

[6] Op Cit., Ibid,

[7]Inspire, Edition Four, p.10

[8] Braniff, Bill and Moghadau, Assaf., ‘Toward Global Jihadism: Al-Qaeda’s Strategic, Ideological and Structural Adaptations Since 9/11’ in Perspectives on Terrorism, 5:2 (May 2011) p.38

[9] Inspire, Edition Seven, p.8

[10] Ibid, p.9

[11] Inspire, Edition Two, p.5

[12] Ibid,

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid, p.7

[15] Inspire, Edition One, p.2

[16] Inspire, Edition Two, p.65

[17] Ibid,

[18] Inspire, Edition Nine, p.4

[19] Inspire, all Editions

[20] Inspire, Edition Five, p.9

[21] Ibid,

[22] Ibid, pp.9-10

[23] Ibid, p.11

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