In Its Second Issue, Jabhat Al-Nusra Magazine 'Al-Risalah' Attempts To Steer Potential Western Recruits Away From ISIS

October 25, 2015

The following report is a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

The second issue of Al-Risalah, Jabhat Al-Nusra’s English-language magazine, includes a number of anti-Islamic State ((ISIS) articles, aimed mainly at steering potential recruits – young Anglophone Muslims who are considering joining a jihadi group in Syria – away from ISIS and persuading them to join Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN) instead. The articles, all written in the first person, are by British or other Anglophone JN members, to whom Westerners would naturally relate. One piece accuses ISIS of using chemical weapons against its rivals and against civilians, including JN. A second includes an interview with a British JN fighter who speaks of his experiences fighting in battles against ISIS and explains why JN is preferable to ISIS, and yet another includes personal testimony of an unnamed individual who defected from ISIS to JN.

Following are excerpts from these articles:


JN Fighter On ISIS Chemical Attack: "This Cancerous, Barbaric Group That Poses As An Islamic Movement[i.e. ISIS] Must Be Stopped"

In a piece titled "From The Khilafa With Love," an unidentified JN member relates what he says were his personal experiences in the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack by ISIS in Marea, a town near Aleppo. He wrote:

"A feeling of unease gripped us as our pickup truck passed through the check point leading into Marea. The streets were deserted and scattered all across this neighbourhood were pieces of shrapnel and specs of black chemical residue. Entering Marea felt like entering the belly of the beast... What a sad state of affairs that we are no longer watching our backs for surprise attacks from the kuffar but are instead guarding ourselves against those who claim to be the righteous soldiers of a supposed khilafa [caliphate].

From the Khilafa With Love"

"It was a ghastly sight, everything was in ruins and the question must be asked: Why have IS, who sit some five hundred metres away, attacked this place with chemical weapons? I thought a 'khilafa' was supposed to unite the Muslims under one banner, not divide us. It doesn't matter though, to them we are nothing but 'murtadeen' [apostates] and 'sahawat' [the Awakening movement, a pejorative term used by ISIS against rival Sunni groups]. Instead of defending the Muslims from Bashar [Al-Assad]'s soldiers who are approximately forty kilometres away, IS have left Bashar and instead directed their arrows towards the innocent Muslims. The oppressed have now become the oppressors.

"I got out of the car and walked around, assessing the damage and it wasn't long before we came across a shell that hadn't exploded. Chemical residue was everywhere, scattered across the walls and even on top of cars. We walked through a house that no longer had a roof and as I examined the wreckage I found a football and toys. How could the IS group do this? How could they attack innocent men, women and children like this? This is something that the kuffar do, not the Muslims. Is this bringing back izzah [glory] to our deen [religion]? No! Is this the long awaited, grand return to a khilafa upon the methodology of the Prophet Muhammad? I think not and many would agree with me.

"We wanted to visit the Marea hospital and see the people who had been affected by the blasts that had occurred five days earlier, however due to tightened security and a heightened sense of fear, we were denied access. I was in Marea for less than a day and upon returning home I was struck with illness. What I saw in Marea and my subsequent illness reminded me of how the Ba'athists, under Saddam al-Hussein, would bomb the Kurdish people with chemical weapons. And now we have a supposed Islamic State that's full of ex-ba'athists doing the same thing to the Muslims. So it really comes as no surprise that this town has been attacked in such a manner. This cancerous, barbaric group that poses as an Islamic movement must be stopped. It's time to stop calling them ‘our brothers’, for they will not hesitate in attacking us and chopping our heads off - all in the name of their illegitimate khilafa and for a man who has no right to call himself the khalifa."


ISIS Defector: A Dream Convinced Me To Join JN

In a piece titled "He Found You Lost and Guided You" (Koran 93:7), an unnamed JN member tells of his defection from ISIS to JN. He was influenced not only by his religious understanding, he said, but also by a dream: "...I joined IS about eighteen months ago and as soon as I enrolled, it wasn't long before I started to have my doubts about them. Sure, they were fighting jihad against Bashar [Al-Assad] and his allies, but I couldn't quite understand why they were killing the other Mujahideen and their persistence and great desire to make takfir on [i.e. declare as unbelievers] the other jihadi groups.

"So I prayed, consulting my Lord, knowing full well that He would guide me in my affairs. I cannot quite remember whether it was that same night or the night after, but as for the dream – that I remember clearly. I dreamt that I was standing in front of a mountain and as I looked up, I saw a man standing at the top of this mountain. He looked very beautiful and he wore an amamah (scarf or turban) and a pair of unique square-shaped spectacles. I looked up at him and he looked back at me and said: 'You and I are going to join Jabhat al-Nusra.'"

"He Found You Lost And Guided You"

Noting that following deliberation and prayer, he reached a decision to leave ISIS: "So we left. We packed our bags and told the ansar [local fighters] that we were going to tend to a few duties out of town. It was a very confusing time, and in light of what the scholars had said, we decided to withdraw from IS entirely instead of crossing over to Raqqah. We wanted to clear our heads, seek advice from the other Mujahideen and to think about the path ahead. A couple of weeks later, we ended up in a beautiful mountainous region of Syria known for it's refreshing winds and picturesque scenery. The leader of a small group that we became good friends with, allowed us to stay in his house and it was here that we started to properly research the fitna and gain other Islamic knowledge. We also did some training and enjoyed the time off – away from all the madness of takfir and spiteful discussions that many of the delusional soldiers of IS (that we personally knew) frequently engaged in.

"One evening, a car rolled up outside our house. One of the brothers had invited his European friend to come and visit him in our new residence. I sat there on my mattress waiting for the adhaan [call to prayer] to go for salah [prayer] when the European brother entered the room saying 'As Salaamu'alaykum.' I looked up to greet him and was slightly taken aback: subhan'Allah! It was him! It was the man from my dream and he was wearing an amamah [a headdress] and the glasses were exactly the same. After he had left, I told my companions who he was and they were very shocked..."


British Fighter: "Only Recently Are People Finally Starting To Wake Up To [ISIS's] Atrocities"

The third article, titled "A View From The Front Line," was an interview with a British JN fighter, "Abu Usama Britani," identified as "a twenty-three-year-old former Christian from Central London." In the interview, Abu Usama shared his experiences and his thoughts about the ongoing dispute between JN and ISIS. Accusing ISIS of treacherously attacking JN and other groups, he expressed pride in his participation in fighting ISIS:

"A View From The Front Line"

"Q: ...What happened in Halab [Aleppo] before Jabhat al-Nusra withdrew from the ribaat [guard] stations there? And why is there all this bloodshed?

"Abu Usama: ... Now a lot of people are calling this a fitna [strife] but in my opinion everything is very clear and it has been for quite some time. Only recently are people finally starting to wake up to their atrocities. IS have attacked our brothers with suicide bombers and have made their treacherous intentions very clear. It's very sad and what I don't understand is that whilst being smashed and battered by the Kurds in their own desert lands, they would rather concentrate their efforts here on the Muslims in Halab who have done nothing to them. This is all very strange.

"Q: A lot of people from the United Kingdom mistakenly believe that Jihad is synonymous with the IS group and as a result of this, with more or less no questions asked – they run towards IS without understanding. As you're from the UK, why didn't you also go to IS?

"Abu Usama: Alhamdulilaah [praise Allah], I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by knowledgeable brothers during the fitan [strifes] created by IS and I had many unsound opinions which were cured by the texts and correct understanding of scholars and scholarly Mujahideen. I see that most British emigrants to Syria joined IS because of its slick media productions and newly found global status which has been boosted by the non-believers.

"Q: Can you tell us how Dawlah [i.e. the Islamic State] has changed since its arrival in Syria to now? What are some of your experiences with them?

"Abu Usama: To be honest I used to be a big fan of IS although I was with Jabha [Al-Nusra]. But they became increasingly intolerant to anyone outside of their group. They would snatch bases, academies and weapon depots and started to kill the leaders of this jihad with suicide belts. It's bewildering how many of these guys were amongst us and had bay'ah [were bound by an oath of fealty] to our leaders, I remember tens of them, maybe even hundreds. Sometimes we would discuss issues regarding Jaish al-Hur [Free Syrian Army] and Ahrar [al-Sham] and it became increasingly evident that our ‘brothers' were planning to betray us and our jihad by increasing the enmity between the Muslims.

"Q: A lot of brothers don't want to fight Dawlah. Why are you fighting them?

"Abu Usama: I am fighting them because they are an entity of aggression against the Ummah and exhibit khariji behaviours [behavior typical of the Kharijites] which must be suppressed. I believe that they must be fought so that we can protect the Muslim blood."

The Cyber & Jihad Lab

The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

Read More