District of Columbia National Guard members from the 273rd Military Police Company support local law enforcement at a Lafayette Park protest in Washington, D.C., on May 30, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chevonne Blackman, 715th PAD)

Using George Floyd Protests, al-Qaeda Makes Play for Christian Supporters

Al-Qaeda’s general command is trying to take advantage of protests against the killing of George Floyd in a communique issued to a Western audience that encourages rebellion within the United States as the government is “subjugating and killing poor, impoverished Christians, the helpers of Jesus.”

The terror group released the four-page statement, “A Message for the Oppressed Masses in the West,” in English and Arabic, addressed to those “who have risen up in revolt in America” and other Western countries.

“We, like the rest of the world, witnessed the horrendous torture and suffering that George Floyd experienced at the hands of his arrogant killers before he breathed his last,” al-Qaeda said, adding the hashtag for George Floyd and his last words “I can’t breathe,” and calling the protests across the country “a matter of great satisfaction for us.”

The terror group added that from their “lofty standpoint” and “as a part of humanity that has for too long endured the oppression of a merciless, inhumane Western ruling elite,” protesters should “persist in your defiance.” They added that “the state of our nation today is no different from that of Jesus Christ,” and compared the U.S. government to the Roman Empire while invoking the crucifixion.

Then al-Qaeda shifts to the blame game as they try to use current events to woo followers. “Perhaps the heavy-handed treatment and repression that your are unfortunately experiencing today is the price of your deafening silence on the crimes and injustice of the leadership in your countries,” the terror group continues. “And as you sow, so shall you reap.”

They call for the overthrow of Western governments from within and warn that “Allah punishes those who fail to live up to their duty” to wage rebellion. They then quote Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew to underscore their claim and slam “specifically the Jews who rejected him,” adding, “It was Islam that affirmed the truth of the message of Christ.”

The al-Qaeda message then makes a pitch for Westerners to convert to Islam, as “we believe that the majority of the American people believe in the existence of the Almighty God” and “this is why we wish for them the best of both worlds,” aka national success and “deliverance in the Hereafter.”

The terror group calls for “all-out revolt” against the government and the “narrow class of capitalists and financiers that holds the reins of the global economy,” claiming that al-Qaeda’s war against the United States “is aimed at bringing an end to injustice and oppression” and is “similar to your reaction” against the killers of George Floyd.

Al-Qaeda has previously tried to capitalize upon protests that are based on goals of ending systemic racism and encouraging police reform. The summer 2015 issue of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine tried to appeal to protesters in the African-American community in an article vowing to “take practical steps to avoid targeting you in our operations” if people of color would in turn fight the government and try to stop U.S. aid to Israel. In the piece tagged “The Blacks in America,” al-Qaeda featured a photo of Abraham Lincoln next to the headline, “The Rights of Blacks: Their State and Challenges.” The terror group also used Michael Brown’s high school graduation photo in the article, and talked about the in-custody death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and the Charleston church massacre. Brown had been shot by police in Ferguson, Mo., the previous year.

Al-Qaeda said they sympathized with “the oppression and injustices directed towards you” but insisted they were still justified killing blacks in terror attacks: “We advise you to move out of big cities that represent the economy, politics or military strength of America like New York and Washington.” The article then encouraged revolt starting with demonstrations and the “second approach” of “forming small groups that will be responsible for assassinating, targeting these racist politicians.” The terror group said they would “bring to you military consultation” via the magazine, as “one may refer back to the previous issues to find appropriate military ideas.”

Al-Qaeda isn’t the only group to attempt to capitalize on officer-involved shootings, though: the Ferguson shooting and subsequent protests unfolded soon after the declaration of the caliphate, and as ISIS carved out its online operations relying on adherents who to this day push messaging and conduct recruitment on social media they hijacked hashtags being used by activists tweeting about the shooting. “Hey blacks, ISIS will save you,” said one tweet, while another vowed to “send u soldiers that don’t sleep” if protesters vowed allegiance to ISIS; another message that circulated online “From #IS 2 Ferguson” said that “we heard your call, we are ready to respond.” And a nearly hourlong 2016 Al-Shabaab video tried to convince African-Americans to come join their ranks and flee “racial profiling and police brutality” in the United States.

How Islamist Extremists and White Supremacists Try to Exploit Civil Unrest

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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