Western analysts speculate on the crucial role of the Internet in the propagation of the jihad, and how in many cases the Internet front takes second place only to armed confrontation. All the more interesting is the succinct definition of the role of the Internet taken from the point of view of the mujahid, as appeared on the al-Safinat forum [www.al-saf.net/vb] on November 28, authored by one Abu al-Asbat al-Athari:
“There is no doubt that the jihadi forums play a critical role in providing aid to the mujahideen on the battle field. Who could have thought that it would convey up to the minute statements from the mujahideen, as is happening now? Who could have thought that it would break the ring of steel that the Crusaders and Jews have attempted to erect in order to conceal the voice of the jihad, and cover up their humiliations on the battlefield?”
That role has progressively increased in importance, as groups such as al-Qaeda have been disappointed by the media coverage from the regional satellite channels, which, though relaying sections of the supplied audio or video tapes, fail in the eyes of the mujahideen to provide enough air time to fulfil their propaganda aims. The commentator on the al-Saf forum goes on to describe “the Zionist-Crusader domination of the world’s media” and the collaboration of the regimes in the Arab and Islamic nations in tarnishing the image of the jihad as a barbarian terrorism. “Few can escape from this infernal ring of steel, from this asphyxiating media siege,” he complains. “But the jihadi forums have emerged,” he says, “to break the ring | The [media controllers] are at a loss, confused as to what to do. They censored the sites, prosecuted their owners, expelling [the sites] from their servers.” All to no avail, however: “they were unable to shake them from [performing] their role, or turn them away from their objectives.”
Given the cat and mouse game that characterizes much of the media competition, the tendency now is for the major terrorist groups to seek a more permanent Internet base for distribution of news, statements and visual materials. This has been the stated aim of Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s Organization of al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers, when it announced that it was soon to initiate a permanent site for the distribution of news on its anti-U.S. operations in Iraq. Such a need was highlighted in particular by the London bombings last July. The authorities, al-Athari observes, were “sent into a panic |so that they had recourse to a final solution: pressurizing the servers to expel these sites.” If only it had stopped there, he laments, “but they went beyond this to strike at their own laws, and took a copy of the statements’ database of the al-Qal’a forum (may God bring it back to us) and recorded the [names of] its members and supervisors.”
“They carried out a massacre of the forums,” al-Athari explains. “What a great pity for the Ansar [forum], for Ikhlas, for al-Qal’a, for Islah, which was our solace for the loss of al-Ma’sada! |The vileness and depravity of it all! |Where’s that democracy you boast of? Where’s the freedom you sing about? The justice you claim?” The solution sought by al-Zarqawi may actually turn out to be counter-productive. Opponents of jihad will probably prefer that the jihadi websites attain some stability since sites that are forced to migrate continually are far more difficult to track.
For now, the al-Safinat commentator urges the participants to stand firm. “Be aware, dear friends, that on these forums you are aiding your brothers on the front lines | Every letter you write in support of your brothers is a jihad, every news item about them you circulate gains the Lord’s favor. O Lord, give us back our forums|” [www.al-saf.net/vb].