Jihad Al-Ummah: Facebook's Main Jihadi Hub
In an effort to spread global jihad and win over new recruits, jihadi media activists are utilizing web-based social networks, particularly Facebook. The recent FBI arrest of Baltimore resident Antonio Martinez, AKA Muhammad Hussain, who expressed his wish to die as a martyr on his Facebook page, highlights the use of Facebook as a tool for propaganda, recruitment and indoctrination by jihad activists and jihadi media activists. In addition to declaring his desire for martyrdom on his page, Martinez is also associated with several jihad sympathizers.
Security and law enforcement authorities now have another virtual arena to deal with in their fight against online jihad, as social network jihad emerges to join the known jihad websites and forums.
Antonio Martinez, AKA Muhammad Hussain's Facebook profile
One of Martinez's postings declaring his wish for martyrdom
The first phase of social network jihad consisted mostly of "Facebook raids," or campaigns aimed at disseminating jihadi propaganda through existing Facebook channels. The second phase, which will be the focus of this report, has seen jihadists establishing a permanent Facebook presence by creating groups and virtual communities affiliated with leading jihadist websites. Thus, numerous features offered by Facebook have been used to promote the ideology of jihad and to spread its messages.
This series of reports aims to cover only the most important and influential virtual groups of the global jihad movement. This first part will deal with Jihad Al-Ummah, an online community that uses Facebook as a platform for jihadi propaganda, and will examine how this community utilizes to its advantage the features Facebook offers its users.
Jihad Al-Ummah's logo, which reads "The Media Jihad Brigade."
Jihad Al-Ummah – An Overview
Jihad Al-Ummah is likely the most important jihad community on Facebook, and arguably one of the most authoritative sources on the Internet outside the jihadi forums. The page is closely affiliated with the Shumukh Al-Islam forum, and serves as a two-way channel or hub for jihadi material: It distributes content from jihadi websites to Facebook users, and liaises between Facebook users and these same websites.
There are several indications as to the nature of this Facebook page. It uses the logo of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadi media group The Media Jihad Brigade –two rifles against a background with the inscription "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet." In the field designated by Facebook "Write something about yourself," Jihad Al-Ummah has a running count of the days since the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq, along with the motto that heads the Shumukh website – a clear indication of its affiliation with Shumukh.
The other Facebook groups to which Jihad Al-Ummah links on its Facebook page also indicate the nature of Jihad Al-Ummah; they include the fan page of Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, a page dedicated to the Islamic State of Iraq, and the Facebook page of the Salafi-jihadi website Minbar Al-Tawhid W'al Jihad [The Pulpit of Monotheism and Jihad].
Jihad Al-Ummah's Facebook wall
Affiliation with Shumukh Al-Islam
Jihad Al-Ummah's affiliation with the Shumukh Al-Islam jihadi forum goes beyond its posting of content from the forum. The team that operates the Jihad Al-Islami Facebook page is registered as a member of the Shumukh forum, and apparently has a good reputation and the respect of the jihadi forum's membership. This is shown by an 'Eid Al-Adha greeting posted by Jihad Al-Ummah on Shumukh on November 16, 2010, which read:
"'Eid greetings to the lions of jihad and to the preachers of monotheism, to the commanders of the monotheists of this era, to the lions in all the [battle]fields of jihad... It is with pleasure that on this occasion we, the administration team of the Jihad Al-Ummah Facebook page, wish our dear Islamic nation a blessed 'Eid Al-Adha. We would especially like to dedicate this blessing to its stars, masters, and beacons of glory, among them the emirs of jihad, its commanders and sheikhs on every frontier – first and foremost to our Sheikh Abu Abdallah Osama bin Laden, Dr. Aiman Al-Zawahiri, the venerable Sheikh Abu Yahya Al-Libi…" The writer continues, giving holiday greetings to a comprehensive list of Al-Qaeda-affiliated leaders worldwide.
Bringing the Jihadi Message to Facebook
Fulfilling its stated purpose of disseminating jihadi material, Jihad Al-Ummah posts videos, announcements, communiqués, articles and other media produced by the jihadi media groups, usually minutes after they appear on Shumukh. The administrators then tag selected "friends" in these posts, in order to disseminate them among Facebook users.
Postings on Jihad Al-Ummah's wall from the Al-Fajr media center, and from the Global Islamic Media Front
Bridging Between Facebook and Jihadi Websites
As mentioned, Jihad Al-Ummah serves as a link between Facebook users and the jihadi forums. One example of this is an open Q&A session, announced by Shumukh, with Sheikh Abu Walid Al-Maqdisi, leader of the Gaza based Salafi-jihadi group Jama'at Al-Tawhid W'al Jihad. Jihad Al-Ummah announced the session, collected questions written by its own members, and then posted them in the relevant Shumukh thread.
Jihad Al-Ummah's posting of the open Q&A session with Abu Walid Al-Maqdisi
Evidence of the involvement of Jihad Al-Ummah administrators in the global jihad world, and of their authoritative status, can be seen in correspondence between them and the widow of a suicide bomber, which they then posted on the Jihad Al-Ummah page. A November 14, 2010 post on Shumukh by a fairly senior member announced that one Makram Al-Majeri, aka Abu Al-Bara, a Swedish citizen of Tunisian origin married to a Swedish woman, had carried out a suicide attack in Mosul, Iraq. The local Swedish press reported that his widow, referred to only as "Anna," had received a phone call telling her that her husband had died "a martyr" in Iraq. Apparently, at this point, the widow, who also goes by the name Um Al-Bara, appealed to the administrators of Jihad Al-Ummah, asking for confirmation of his death and for any information of the circumstances in which he died. The administrators replied that they had indeed received credible information from the jihadi forums, and that they would try to find out more details and would then pass them on to her. It can be assumed that further contact was maintained via private channels. In any event, this incident proves that Jihad Al-Ummah is recognized as a credible, trustworthy source of information within global jihad circles.
The correspondence between Jihad Al-Ummah administrators and the widow of a suicide bomber
Dealing with Closures from the Facebook Administration
Facebook is apparently aware of the nature of the content on the Jihad Al-Ummah page; it has removed it several times. However, each time it was shut down, it was summarily reopened by its operators and rejoined by its hundreds of members. The page is always reopened under the same name, with its administrators obviously using different email accounts each time to register on Facebook. Apparently the news of the page's reemergence, and of its new web address, is spread by "tagging" those on a select list of trusted "friends" in posts added to the revived page.
It is noteworthy that Jihad Al-Ummah also maintains several mirror pages, with similar name and content. These pages are named (in English): Jihed Elummuh, Jehad ALummah, Jihed oummah, and Jiahed Al Ommah. It is possible that they were created by the team behind Jihad Al-Ummah, as backup in case the main page is closed down, or as a means to disseminate the new address after bringing the main page back online. It is also possible that these mirror pages were created by fans of Jihad Al-Ummah, using the Jihad Al-Ummah logo and name.
*R. Green is a research fellow at MEMRI.