ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A daily newspaper warns that Jews and Christians are engaged in "genocide" against Muslims. A Web site says children should love guns instead of cricket. A video shows a child beheading a militant accused of betraying his comrades.
Despite government promises to crack down, hate-filled jihadist propaganda is thriving in Pakistan, especially in print and on the Internet. Critics say it is contributing to the demonization of the West and the "Talibanization" of Pakistan.
Hard-line religious propaganda is still far from the mainstream in Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in this volatile region. Liberal programming prevails on Pakistan's booming private TV channels. But as in other Muslim countries, the call for jihad, or holy war, against the West is gaining resonance amid widespread anger over the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Some of the most vitriolic material is produced by affiliates of groups supposedly banned after al-Qaida staged the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, severed his government's ties with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
"I feel it has increased and the tone has become more hostile," said Mohammad Shahzad, who runs a media monitoring service in Pakistan for clients that include think tanks and embassies. "The level of extremism and fanaticism has gone up."
Shahzad said there are no statistics on the output of extremist groups. However, examples are plentiful.
Tayyabat, a magazine for women published by Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which was listed as a terrorist organization by Washington last year, says Pakistan's alliance with the U.S. amounts to surrendering to an America bent on killing Muslims.
"A white flag will not put out the fire from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They are thirsty for the Muslims' blood," an article in February said.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa conducts extensive charitable works in Pakistan, but it also has well-established ties to the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which fights Indian troops in the divided Kashmir region.
A government ban on the al-Rashid trust in February for alleged links with Islamic extremist groups has failed to stop the associated Daily Islam newspaper from publishing in Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city. Its content is not overtly militant, but often inflammatory.
"Jews, Christians and their allies are engaged in genocide of Muslims but Islam is spreading and its enemies are losing their nerve," a recent article said.
Abdullah Muntazir, spokesman for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, defended the group as a peaceful organization exercising its right to freedom of expression. He argued that anyone publishing anti-American material in Pakistan is immediately accused of "promoting jihad."
But many observers say Pakistan's military-dominated government is doing too little to prevent extremists from publishing incendiary material that potentially drums up recruits and donations for militant attacks in Pakistan, neighboring Afghanistan and beyond.
"There are laws against hate speech. They haven't even applied those," said Samina Ahmed, an analyst for the International Crisis Group. "The fact that there are no curbs on them or that the government backs down the moment there is the slightest resistance on the part of Islamic organizations has encouraged them to circulate their message."
Pro-Taliban forces appear entrenched in Pakistan's border regions, which are used by militants as a haven and recruiting ground for attacks on NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Islamist activists there issue draconian social edicts such as threats to barbers for trimming beards, and shops selling music CDs and movies often are attacked.
But the boldest challenge to the government's authority is in the affluent and cosmopolitan capital, Islamabad, where firebrand clerics have launched a vigilante campaign against vice.
Last month, the clerics and students at the Red Mosque kidnapped an alleged brothel owner and forced her into a public confession. They then set up a court to impose their version of Shariah, or Islamic law, and threatened suicide attacks if the government tries to intervene.
In broadcasts on an illegal FM radio station, Red Mosque prayer leader Maulana Abdul Aziz has reportedly warned that his students would soon visit Islamabad residents to persuade them to burn "satanic things" such as TV sets.
He also threatened action against diplomats' wives, claiming they are walking in revealing dresses around the Pakistani capital.
"We warn them to cover themselves like Muslim women before coming out from their houses. Otherwise, they will learn soon how to cover their body," Aziz said.
Tariq Azeem, Pakistan's minister of state for information, defended the government's record against extremist media. He said any media promoting violence, including suicide bombings and sectarian attacks, are "totally illegal and will not be tolerated."
Some action has been taken. Markets in key cities such as Peshawar and Karachi that openly stocked jihadist videos a year ago no longer do so.
Yet some merchants still whisper they can get such videos on request.
And there has been a surge in the production of videos promoting the stepped-up Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. In a shocking example last week, a video obtained by The Associated Press showed a boy beheading a Pakistani militant accused of betraying a top Taliban leader.
Azeem said the availability of the Internet and the ease with which pirate radio operators can change frequencies make it impossible to clamp down completely.
A Web site affiliated with the al-Qaida-linked group Jaish-e Mohammed, which was banned in 2002, still lavishes praises on those who wage jihad.
One recent post by a writer called Abu Khabib Mardanvi urged youngsters to shun the "dirty and useless game" of cricket and opt instead for militancy. "I pray that God may stanch the love of the bat from the hearts of today's youth and bless them with love for the gun," he wrote.