20 July 2011

Individuals claiming to ‘support and serve’ Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda, have said that they are in the ‘final stages’ to creating a cartoon movie in order to teach children the history of al-Qaeda and to inspire them to commit acts of terrorism. 


The news of the planned movie was announced by ‘Abu al-Laith al-Yemeni’ on the Arabic-language al-Shamouk jihadist website on Sunday. His statement read:


‘The cartoon movie ‘Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’ is a very exciting story that tells the facts about who let down the Islamic religion and the Prophet, and how the Arab leaders are agents of the West and other Islamic issues.  It aims to catalyse the youth and the children to follow the steps of Islamic jihadist figures.  It includes real incidents and features heroic actions by the mujahideen in the Prophet’s peninsula. 


‘These incidents include raids, armed engagements and assassinations. This movie is a religious effort to educate our sons and youth about how to live a noble life under the shade of the Sharia. It’s an alternative to the poison that is broadcast by other TV channels broadcast to our children and youth.’


The movie makers released four images from the planned cartoon movie (which will apparently be in Arabic) and asked for feedback from other forum users, particularly over whether the movie is Islamically permissible. Most online users supported the movie concept in principle but some complained that the images made jihadists look like monsters. Others suggested that the movie avoid using the specific name ‘Al-Qaeda’ for fear of alienating potential supporters. It is not possible to verify how much of the cartoon movie has been completed so far.


Two of the four images released so far:






In response to the cartoons, Noman Benotman, a senior analyst at Quilliam and a former leader of the jihadist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), said: 


‘Whether or not this movie actually appears, this shows a significant development in al-Qaeda’s attitude to the media and to recruitment. They are trying out new methods to make terrorism exciting to young people and even to children. This underlines that they now see the internet and new media as being crucial to their cause.  


‘However, al-Qaeda’s plan may backfire. Many Muslim parents will see this as a direct attempt by al-Qaeda to create divisions within families and to undermine the authority of parents. In addition, this cartoon idea may be evidence that al-Qaeda can no longer attract new followers in much of the Arab world. The al-Qaeda brand is discredited and it is not clear that gimmicks like this will be enough to save it. 


‘Civil society groups and pro-democracy movements in the Middle East should take notice of al-Qaeda’s efforts. Online cartoons can be useful in getting complex messages to a wide variety of audiences, including people who don’t read newspapers or attend political events. It may be that Muslim democrats can adopt aspects of al-Qaeda’s cartoon idea to help create a better grassroots understanding of democracy in Muslim-majority countries.’