The mujahideen have responded quickly to the February 17 address to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in which he conceded that the United States was lagging behind al-Qaeda in the propaganda war. The Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF) posted on the al-Ghorabaa forum on February 19 a declaration celebrating this now-acknowledged media superiority over the U.S. military, “even though we are only beginning” (https://www.alghorabaa.net/forums). Under the slogan “onwards to the aid of Islam through the media!” and taking up Rumsfeld’s illustration that today’s weapons of war include e-mail, digital cameras, handheld video cameras and cell phones, the GIMF put out a call for individuals skilled at photography by mobile phone and video camera to “spy on the enemy and expose his ignominy and shame, for us to publish to the masses.” The participants in the forum are to send the images to media organizations on web sites and forums—such as the GIMF and the Information Jihad Battalions—with the aim of “striking the enemy in images, audio, statements, poetry, flash and so on…which expose the real state of affairs, for this is their greatest weak spot.”
In a likely attempt to respond to the negative images of mujahideen disarray from events in Iraq, such as the growing indications of friction between Islamists and Iraqi insurgents, the GIMF declaration argues that they have entered the “path of unification, alliance, harmonization and cooperation.” Now “victorious in all arenas,” the enemies of God “will see and hear and read of things to alarm you and afflict you with paralysis and compelling doubt…you who make insult to the dignity of the Prophet!”
An example of this drive to unification was a posting on February 16 on the Bayt al-Maqdis jihadi forum. The forum’s Mujahideen Media Support Committee, “on the model of the convening of a Shura council for the Mujahideen in the Land of the Two Rivers,” issued a call for the formation of a Jihadi Forums Shura Council. The call was being made, it stated, “in response to irhab fikri (“intellectual terrorism”) waged by the West and their [Muslim] allies, via the media in its various forms” (https://www.baytalmaqdes.com). The measure aims to counter what the mujahideen consider to be the weakness of Arab and Islamic media organizations “that follow the infidel Western policies” and will “debate important issues relating to jihadi forums and outline the difficulties and dangers facing them.” To do this, the Support Committee suggests that each jihadi forum choose its representative on the Jihadi Forums Shura Council to engage in weekly discussion groups “on a section reserved for brothers acting as administrators on all Islamic jihadi forums.” This section is to be hosted on the al-Hesbah forum.
The two postings illustrate the main challenge facing the mujahideen: the propaganda war. While the mujahideen can claim success in manipulating the new internet media to their benefit—an advantage gained from their starting point as a struggle for ideas and their early consciousness of the internet as an open, poorly regulated battleground in this struggle—the failure to make propaganda gains on the main media continues to hamper their efforts at general radicalization. The common fear is of jihadist cohesion unraveling, whether from military failures or ideological competition in the form of Islamist political progress in democratic electoral systems—the “Crusader cancer”—which the jihadi forums must unite to confront (https://www.baytalmaqdes.com).