From jihad to pop culture, Islamists present new face on Web

Thu Aug 14, 2014 9:32am EDT
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By Peter Apps

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The jihadist calling himself Abdullah caused a brief stir on the Internet this week - but not, to his disappointment, because of his backing for Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

Instead, his comments posted on Twitter over the death of U.S. actor Robin Williams went viral, prompting a blizzard of facetious questions about his film tastes.

Until recently, Islamist militant websites were a largely dark and hidden corner of the Internet, rarely seen by outsiders beyond the intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Increasingly, however, groups like the Islamic State - a former al Qaeda affiliate until recently known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - are using the same platforms as everyone else, often in English.

Other militant Islamist Twitter users also weighed in on Williams, most welcoming his death, in part because of a 2002 satirical sketch in which he lampooned jihadists. Some also mentioned his visits to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While Abdullah said he hoped the actor was now burning in hell, he exchanged tweets with another militant about their mutual enjoyment of Williams' 1995 children's film "Jumanji".

He then found himself in multiple conversations about his movie taste, revealing his favorite Disney film was "The Lion King". Website Buzzfeed collated a list of that and similar tweets from other jihadists, further fuelling the conversation (here) "

This is kinda awkward," Abdullah tweeted in successive messages. "I'm actually worried that people will start to follow me because they wanna hear about my favorite movies instead of reporting jihad." "I'm here to report news, not rate romantic comedies."   Continued...

A militant Islamist fighter uses a mobile to film his fellow fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014.  REUTERS/Stringer