In mid-July, a jihadist recruitment video featuring a young Canadian man grabbed attention in the West as it appeared designed to enlist Muslims living there.
The video resurfaced a few days ago, this time targeting a different audience: Indians.
Copies of the video online carry subtitles in two Indian languages, Hindi and Tamil, and a third language spoken in India and elsewhere in South Asia, Urdu.
Put up by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, a Sunni jihadist group that has seized large parts of Iraq, the video stars a young English-speaking man dressed in war fatigues flanked by a gun and a black flag asking Muslims to join the jihad.
His call to arms is not an angry, fanatical rant. Instead, it conveys a distinctive message: you don’t have to be a bloodthirsty killer to sign up for the fight.
“Before Islam, I was like any other regular Canadian,” says the bespectacled man, who calls himself Abu Muslim.
“Every person can contribute to the Islamic State,” he says. “If you cannot fight, then you can give money. And if you cannot give money, then you can assist in technology. And if you can’t assist in technology, you can use some other skills.”
Some are worried that the jihadist recruitment drive–aimed at attracting more foreign fighters to participate in conflict zones in Syria and Iraq—could reach more people in India’s more than 150 million-strong Muslim community.
A small number of Indians are already believed to have traveled to the countries to join the fighting, though there is no official count. A case of four Indian friends from a small town outside Mumbai who turned up in Iraq is being tracked by Indian investigators and closely followed in the national media.
Still, the number of Indians estimated to be fighting in Syria and Iraq is likely far lower than those of other nationalities. The U.K. government says about 400 British nationals are fighting with extremist groups in Syria. As many as 150 citizens and residents from Australia are thought to have left the country to join militant Islamic groups, according to intelligence agencies.
Ajai Sahni, a New Delhi-based terrorism expert, said Indian Muslims have been “only peripherally impacted” by the recruitment push because the community tends to have a more tolerant approach.
“Indian Muslims generally reject the extremist orientations of Islam,” he said. “Even in the fringes of the fringe, you won’t find that kind of fundamentalism.”
The propaganda video, titled “The Chosen Few of Different Lands,” appears to send a message to such Muslims. The protagonist describes his life before he traveled to Syria as that of a “regular, everyday” Canadian who had a good job and supportive family and friends.
“It’s not like I was some social outcast, wasn’t like I was some anarchist or somebody who just wants to destroy the world and kill everybody,” he says. “No, I was a regular person. And, mujahedeen are regular people too.”
He says that you can’t obey God fully unless you live in an Islamic state and asks Muslims how they can please God when they are living in countries where their taxes are being used “to assist the war on Islam.”
The video later shows the man fighting and being killed on the battlefield in Syria. The camera zooms in on his mangled corpse.
The subtitled videos were promoted on Twitter from an account that belongs to Al Isabah Media, which describes itself as the media unit of Ansar ut Tawheed Fi Bilad Al Hind.
Few details are known about this group or the people who run it, except that it supports ISIS. Al Isabah Media’s Twitter feed has, among other jihadi propaganda, subtitled videos of a widely-publicized speech in July by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who claims to be the leader of ISIS and the Islamic world.
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