MINNEAPOLIS (RNS) Mohamed Ahmed, a gas station manager who moonlights as an anti-terror propagandist, is ready to launch another strike against Islamic State terrorists.
He’s just waiting for his tax refund to do it.
Frustrated by a slick social media campaign on the Internet by the Islamic State that authorities say has helped lure dozens of young Muslim Americans to the fight in Iraq and Syria, Ahmed has poured thousands of dollars of his own money over the last six months into producing a series of animated cartoon messages to rebut the extremist group’s messaging.
The cartoons, which Ahmed posts on his averagemohamed.com website and YouTube, star a character named Average Mohamed, a plain-spoken Muslim who speaks out against his religion’s being misinterpreted by terrorists.
The bearded and gap-toothed Average Mohamed argues that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is “about genocide” and quotes the Quran in making the case that Muslims who see suspicious activities should alert authorities.
Ahmed said his target audience is kids ages 8 to 16. He has latched onto the idea that it will take a bunch of Average Mohameds to beat ISIS, which on Tuesday (Feb. 3) posted grisly footage on the Internet of militants burning alive a Jordanian pilot who had been held captive by the group.
“It takes an idea to destroy an idea,” said Ahmed, who plans to produce a cartoon to address the attack on France’s satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo as soon as he can scrounge up enough money. “The value of peace is worth it. We’ll take all risks to defend democratic values.”
Ahmed, 39, a father of four young children, is just one of many Muslim parents and leaders in the U.S. who are struggling to find the answers to cure what they see as a plague of Islamic radicalization.
Mohamed Amin Ahmed has created a series of cartoon shorts called “Average Mohamed.” The cartoons are meant to counter the Islamic State’s efforts to recruit young Muslims in the United States. He is pictured at the 24th Street Mall, a Somali mall in Minneapolis.
Even before the most recent attacks, law enforcement officials and community activists throughout the U.S. had been jolted by the dozens of Americans who have sought to join the Islamic State.
Just days after the Paris attack, law enforcement officials announced the arrest of Christopher Cornell, an alleged ISIS sympathizer from Green Township, Ohio. Cornell, who was arrested after buying two semiautomatic rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, had told an FBI source that he wanted to stage an attack on government buildings in Washington.