It’s a cold evening in the city of Pullman, Washington. Most kids are watching the football team blow another game at Martin Stadium or drinking heavily somewhere on a dark and undoubtedly cold street on one of the four hills that make up this section of the Palouse region.
Me, well I’m not doing either. Much like the days of yore when I would wander my hometown in Canada whilst my peers were at a hockey game or watching the rather goofy game of Canadian football, I was doing something different, emailing an Al Qaeda member.
Yep. I imagine the Men in Black will kick in my door any day now. But that’s what I’ve been doing in my free time. With the media focused on the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the launching of Al Qaeda’s newest franchise has seemingly flown under the radar. On September 4th, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the formation of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. With a couple of attacks under its belt in Pakistan, I decided to email branch spokesman Usama Mahmood with a list of questions, as the writer in me was curious about how this new group would manage to gain ground in a country that is primarily Hindu.
After messaging back and forth with a couple of militant groups on Twitter, I obtained the man’s Gmail account and began to type up several thought provoking and fairly good questions.
“While the global media has been focused on the rise of IS in Iraq, AQIS has flown under the radar a bit as Al Qaeda’s newest affiliated organization. Some have said the launch of the group is an attempt to show Al Qaeda is still relevant within the global jihadist movement. Is it a serious organization, or a PR opportunity? And what do you say to those who say the group is not likely to make an impact in a largely Buddhist and Hindu region of the world?”
“Now, I’ve seen reports that claim that the leader of AQIS has never appeared anywhere without a means of concealing his identity. Why is that? Other militant commanders do not shy away from presenting themselves in videos. Is he hiding something that would damage his credibility in the jihadist scene, as some have suggested?”
“Moving back to the group’s goal of fighting for disenfranchised Muslims in the Indian subcontinent, I’m curious, what does a non-oppressed Muslim in the region look like to you? Are they now in charge of the nation that they live in, or are they still a minority but living with greater rights in harmony with the majority population?”
With much trepidation and anxiousness in my heart, I finished my email and nervously clicked send on my yahoo inbox. And a few days later, as I signed on to check for a reply, I found…
Two weeks later, there was still….
Then, finally, after 3 weeks I received a reply. Attached to the email from Mr. Mahmood was a document, he advised me to examine it for the answers to my questions. I clicked on it and to my dismay found a generic press release. Though it was not what I expected, I learned something from this interview venture. Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist movements are not going away any time soon. Though our leaders claim they are repeatedly “decimated” or “shadows of their former selves”, the reality is anything but. Things may change one day, but I won’t see it.
*Note to the NSA, I don’t and never will support the goals of these people. Please don’t deport me.