Islamic jihadists worldwide have launched a barrage of recruitment messages amid the latest unrest in Ferguson, Mo., using Twitter accounts to call on African-Americans and others in the United States to join their cause.
Some messages urge direct revolt against the U.S. government, while others evoke the names of former black leaders – among them Malcolm X – in a bid to convince people of color that living under an Islamic caliphate is in their best interests.
“March against tyranny and arm yourselves against the true terrorists of our time: the US government,” says a tweet from a prominent Dutch jihadist in Syria going by the name of Israfil Yilmaz, and carrying “Ferguson Rising” and “Ferguson Decision” hashtags.
Another tweet from a user going by the name of Abu Hamza As Somaal says: “My fellow black community know that #Jihad is the only thing that will bring justice, respect and honor in (the) Ferguson decision.” This message is followed by the hashtag “Islamic State.”
The U.S.-based monitoring firm SITE Intelligence Group, which has been collecting the messages, said they began emerging in large numbers in the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer involved in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an African-American.
“Users characterized the decision as the result of America’s racism while claiming jihad and revolution to be fitting responses,” the group says in a statement accompanying the tweets.
“Some jihadist supporters even appeared to openly acknowledge the use of Ferguson as a means of recruitment.”
A message from a user identified as Abu Dhar Al Amirki appeared to directly address African Americans by encouraging people to travel to the IS-declared Caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
“In the Islamic state there are no racist, there is no difference between black and white,” the message said.
Similarly, another user tweeted: “Make hijra (meaning migration) to islamic state oh people of furgosan here we don't see the colour of skin but only the colour of your heart.”
References to statements by Malcolm X – the controversial African American Muslim minister who was a member of the Nation of Islam before leaving to embrace Sunni Islam – feature prominently in many of the jihadist tweets, SITE says.
One ran a graphic citing Malcolm X’s claim that Islam was “one religion that erases from its society the race problem…”
Steven Edwards is a New York-based journalist. Follow him on twitter @stevenmedwards