On Sunday night, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the Saturday arrest of Jose Pimentel, accused of attempting to build bombs intended to target city workers and military forces returning from abroad. One of the sources cited in Pimentel’s trajectory from unsettled citizen to unhinged al-Qaida sympathizer was Inspire, the al-Qaida magazine from which he allegedly learned how to craft a bomb in his Washington Heights home.
In light of Pimentel’s arrest, it is certainly worth revisiting this article from November 2010, written by Tablet literary editor David Samuels and theater critic Judith Miller, that looks at Inspire‘s subversive goals and unprecedented success in reaching potential young supporters.
Miller and Samuels write:
In addition to offering a wealth of fresh details about the attempted bombing of two U.S. cargo planes last month, the third issue of Inspire (the first issue came out in June, the second in October) also provides hard evidence of what many analysts once said was impossible—the growth of homegrown Muslim terrorism in America from a secondary nuisance into a major threat.
To bring down America, “we do not need to strike big,” the editors of Inspire boast. “Attacking the enemy with smaller but more frequent operations” will “bleed the enemy”—a strategy of death “by a thousand cuts.” One article claims that the recent effort to bomb FedEx and UPS cargo planes, which the magazine calls “Operation Hemorrhage,” cost only $4,200: two Nokia phones at $150 each, two H-P printers at $300 each, plus “shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses.”
Part of what Miller and Samuels argue makes the edgy publication so troubling is its modern, distinctly Western appeal to young readers—the readership targeted by the magazine—and the ease with which readers can join in:
Available as a download from an array of websites, Inspire represents a shift among Western jihadists from following theological casuistry on YouTube videos and chat rooms to mobilizing individuals for violent jihad in their home countries. The magazine, whose title comes from a Koranic verse, “inspire the believers to fight,” remixes old-school jihadist tropes for an English-speaking Western audience raised on videogames and consumer magazines. Feature stories, first-person narratives, and theological and strategic arguments are mixed with step-by-step instruction in the nuts and bolts of killing people with readily available objects. “If you are sincere in your intentions to serve the religion of Allah,” one article advises, “what you have to do is enter your kitchen and make an explosive device.” A recipe for making a simple but deadly bomb follows.