Jihadists Are Afraid Terrorism Will Scare Away Children

Al Qaeda has to walk a fine line when recruiting kids through cartoons

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Muslim radicals are troubled by a new cartoon circulating on the Internet. But it's not for reasons you might think. This week, users at the elite terrorist forum Shumukh created a pro-Al Qaeda cartoon series to appeal to younger, would-be jihadists. But according to The Telegraph's foreign affairs correspondent Damien McElroy, some readers of the jihadist forum don't think it's suitable for children: "There was strong criticism of the cartoons on internet forums for jihadists. Users complained they made the scarf-wearing fighters look too 'scary' for children," he writes.  Maybe the protagonist militants should have had a talking animal sidekick?

The cartoon is believed to be published by Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical preacher who's lived in both Britain and the United States and Samir Khan, who was born in North Carolina, reports McElroy. "They are trying out new methods to make terrorism exciting to young people and even to children," national security analyst Noman Benotman tells him. So what's so spooky about this new cartoon? According to Will McCants, the editor of Jihadica, a well-respected militant studies website, "posters in Shumukh have said the demon glare of the mujahideen might scare kids a bit too much." It's true, they do kind of look like the bad guys:

Apparently, this cartoon series won't be Al Qaeda's first crack at animated propaganda. Adam Rawnsley at Wired has more on the group's first go:

In 2009, the group released a video, “Grandson of Muhammad bin Maslamah,” that contained a short computer animated recreation of its assassination attempt against Saudi Arabia’s deputy interior minister, Muhammad bin Nayef.  The animation was pretty crude and stiff, though — not at all like the  anime-style toons that Yammani’s post previews.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.