August 21, 2014
They’re hoping to use black disenchantment as a recruiting tool.
You can understand if President Obama would rather talk about the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq, where he has scored some victories, than talk about the unholy mess in Ferguson, Mo. Surprisingly, though, ISIS militants are following developments in the St. Louis suburb, and some of them would rather focus on that. According to interviews and social media, members of the group and sympathizers with its jihadist ideology are closely tracking the events in the St. Louis suburb, where protesters and police have clashed. In it, they see opportunity.
Partly, the focus is strategic: Officers in Ferguson have used military transports and weapons similar to those used by U.S. troops in Iraq. But militants are also claiming vindication — that their arguments about American oppression were right all along. “Well this clearly shows that all this talk about democracy and equality of people in the west is just hypocrisy,” said Abu Sameer after a private autopsy sought by the family of Michael Brown showed that the 18-year-old had been shot at least six times. Abu Sameer lives in France and identifies himself as a member of the Islamic State, a group that has conducted a campaign of mass killings and other atrocities in northern Iraq.
The Islamic State and other jihadist movements are using the events outside St. Louis as propaganda against the West. One argument they’ve been making for years is that racism and discrimination are rampant in some parts of the West, and they’re hoping the Ferguson riots could help recruit black Americans. “In Islam there is no racism, and we think black people will wake up and follow the example of Malcolm X and others who understood that this way is the only way to justice,” said Abu Mansour, who lives in Germany and is also a follower of the Islamic State.
All of the jihadists interviewed said Brown’s death confirms their beliefs that blacks are seen as second-class citizens by whites and especially by the police. “I think that blacks in the U.S. will look more towards Islam,” said Anjem Choudary from Great Britain, co-founder of the banned “al-Muhajiroun” group. (Choudary’s teacher, Omar Bakri Muhammad, was barred from Britain and is currently in a Lebanese jail for his alleged support of jihadist movements in Syria and Iraq.) “The only way of life today that does not look at race is in fact Islam. Islam only distinguished people by whether they are Muslim or not. The color of their skin does not play a role,” Choudary said in a phone interview.