‘O Mujahideen in the West’: Interview with Hurras al-Tawheed

Within Jihadi propaganda, terrorism in the West against ‘the crusaders’ or ‘the infidels’ features prominently. The AQAP-produced magazine Inspire specialized in calling for action and advising al-Qaida supporters on how to attack in addition to providing religious justification. The latest issue of Inspire was published in summer 2017, and since then a string of new magazines and supporter organizations calling for terrorist attacks has emerged. One such example is the Wolves of Manhattan magazine that has so far published three issues. 

In February 2022, another new magazine started to be shared on encrypted platforms carrying the title ‘O Mujahideen in the West’. Until now, the group behind the magazine, Hurras al-Tawheed, has published six issues and a Ramadan special issue.

Initially, the magazine did not stand out for its calls for jihad in the West. What really caught my attention was how it positioned itself within the Jihadi current and its way of communicating. Although disseminated through well-known al-Qaida channels and praising al-Qaida pioneers, it made it explicit that its objective was to unify al-Qaida and Islamic State sympathizers in the West, to settle their internal differences and animosity to enable a unified covert military front threatening Western security. 

With regard to communication, its format and style of writing was short and concise, and the editor even explained why. Since it was addressed to the youth, it should not be long, dry and boring since no youth would ever read it. Instead, it should offer brief justifications for attacks and simple recipes for how to conduct them.

These emphases of the magazine were intriguing, and they prompted me to make contact with Hurras al-Tawheed, which agreed to an email interview telling me more about itself, its propaganda, and its raison d’être. I should add that Hurras al-Tawheed responded to every single one of my questions, providing long and seemingly honest answers.

Besides elaborating on the above issues, the interview offers exciting insights into al-Qaida’s online ecosystem, the state of Jihadi supporters in the West, and not least the origin and structure of Hurras al-Tawheed.

Below you find the entire interview.

Question: To begin with can you tell me about the origins of Hurras al-Tawheed? It first appeared online on Rocket.Chat in mid-February. Was this the beginning of the group?

A: Hurras Al-Tawheed was established before February but was a closed group online, it did not have have any online presence and kept everything between close brothers only. The step towards going online was due to the members thinking that we should try to invite other Muslims to Jihad before seeking our martyrdom, because Allah says:

“So fight, [O Muhammad], in the cause of Allah ; you are not held responsible except for yourself. And encourage the believers [to join you] that perhaps Allah will restrain the [military] might of those who disbelieve. And Allah is greater in might and stronger in [exemplary] punishment.” 

[sūrat l-nisāa (The Women) Verse 84]

That is why in February we took our first leap into “Al-Qaeda rocket chat”.

Question: Is it exclusively a media unit or is it better understood as a group with a structure and a political objective?

A: Hurras Al-Tawheed started as something really humble and small, however after the release of our first magazine, our inboxes where full of supporters in the West filled with excitement and joy over the magazine. Even though the magazine was really primitive at first, but it still manage to garner people from the West and Alhamdulillah to the East. Because of this, we were motivated to try making another magazine and see how it is received, and by the grace of Allah, many brothers and sisters came to us with joy and happiness. 

In the midst of this excitement, an Al-Qaeda media worker contacted us and asked us to explain who we are and if we are the one who makes the magazine or not, which we said that his claim was positive, and gave us advice in how to further structure our group, and we followed their example and showed our gratitude for their advice.

It is narrated on the authority of Tamim ad-Dari that the Prophet () said:
“The Religion is sincerity.” We said, “To whom?” He said “To Allah, to His Book, To His Messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and their masses.”

[Sahih Muslim 55a]

By the grace of Allah, we were bombarded with positive comments and saw the joy of the believers, and decided to start gathering people for the sake of Allah. We never planned it to go this far, but by the will of Allah, we saw many people wishing to help in any way they could, from seniors and majority from the youth, sick and strong. The Structure of Hurras Al-Tawheed became established, and here it is:

Hurras Al-Tawheed, with the help from Allah have 3 departments:

  1. Al-Hijra
  2. Al-Jihad
  3. The Media

Al-Hijra: This department has the task of guiding the Muhajireen to their destination, giving them tips and guidance in how to reach their destination as safe as possible, and try to establish a network in these different countries with different groups to accept the Muhajireen we send. All praise is due to Allah, we have sent many Muhajireen to their destination and we ask Allah to grant us more chances to be a service for the Ummah. As this is the second most neglected duty of a Muslim.

Al-Jihad: This department is for soldiers who wants to attack the Disbelievers where they feel the most safest, in their own home country. Main task of this department is to gather weapons which is easily acquirable and can be used by the lone wolf during his operation. Grant the lone wolves 1 to 1 conversation in who to attack and how to go about it. What do expect during the operation and how to win against the fear. If possible, fund the operations and do our part so we can get a share of his or her blessed attack.

The Media: This is our biggest department, we have translators from the West to the East, willing to give their time to translate different works and try to spread the message of Hurras Al-Tawheed. Alhamdulillah, the magazine has become longer and more detailed, and increased in quality, due to so many contribution for its success. We appreciate any Believer who helps us, no matter how insignificant it seems, it is big in the movement of Jihad. All praise and glory is due to Allah alone.

Question: Also can you tell me more about yourself? I just know that you are the spokesperson of Hurras al-Tawheed and it appears that you are the ‘face’ of HAT publishing all its messages. Hence, it is relevant to know more about yourself.

Answer: We did not see it appropriate to talk about the spokesperson too freely as media attention is coming our way, and we do not want to put our brother in any position of harm, however here is an explanation of him:

Abu Yahya Al-Khurasani, is one of the co-founders of Hurras Al-Tawheed, he has been here since the beginning and was picked by the members to be the one to drive the group forward. We deemed him to be a good leader with great vision. If we have any disagreement with him, he is quick to listen and make our stands together stronger. 

Here are some of our members and what they think of Abu Yahya:

Abu Ibrahim:

I have known Abu Yahya for more than a year now and i have come to like his maturity, leadership skills, and character as a whole. I think he would be best suitable for the spokesperson role because of these reasons

Abu Abdullah:

Abu Yahya is the most fit to be the spokesman from us due to his experience and great managing skills. He has faith in his choices and is well respected, Allahuma Barik. He obeys the orders of the emir and doesn’t go against him unless it’s advice. He knows who he is addressing and how to address them. His hate and anger doesn’t overcome him, which is essential when being a spokesman.

Abu Luqman:

Abu Yahya is a brother I deem to be the best person in the position of spokesman, he is a brother who thinks deeply before speaking. He is a person I have much trust in due to his skill and experience. Allahuma barik. He knows when and how to speak, and doesn’t allow emotions to have an impact on him when speaking. I believe these are important qualities a spokesperson needs, and therefore believe he is best fit for the position of spokesman.

Question: I came to know of Hurras al-Tawheed because of the magazine ‘O Mujahideen in the West’. What can you tell me about the magazine?

A: The magazine “O Mujahideen in the West” is an effort from Hurras Al-Tawheed to make the Muslims in the West to understand that they have been fooled about Islam and they want to white-wash Islam, to be make Islam more inclined and tolerant towards modern filth, such as feminism, liberalism, pro-sodomy etc. To quote from the Qur’an and Sunnah and show them the statements of our great scholars and what they think we should do in our time and situation. The war around the world, which as instigated by the Disbelievers, and how to solve this by using the sword and do not neglect the duty of Jihad. 

We chose English as our main language, as it is the most widely spoken around the world, especially the lingua franca of the West. Many thing Jihad is an exclusive club for the Arab speakers, this is wrong, by reading our magazine, you will be quick to realize that there is so much a “english-speaker” can do, or any other language. A sword has one function, and no language barrier will stop you from using it.

Question: For me the striking part about the magazine and HAT’s general statements are the explicit calls for action in the West. You write that you “want to open the doors to hijrah and Jihad” for people in the West. Is such operations the primary objective of the group?

A: The main work of Hurras Al-Tawheed is to facilitate Jihad and HIjrah. The most neglected duties of the Ummah. It could be that the Believer feel agitated about the war crimes of the West and wish to do an operation here, or feel the urgency to return home to the land of Jihad and help the groups there to fight against the apostates and disbelievers. These are the main objectives of the group Alhamdulillah. 

Question: Operations in the West have since 2015 mainly been associated with the Islamic State and in recent years, very few attacks have occurred, and only a handful can be associated with al-Qaida. Is it your objective to promote new attacks carried out by supporters of al-Qaida?

A: Hurras Al-Tawheed has not made the magazine exclusive to Al-Qaeda supporters, it is for every Muslim who resides in Western countries to do an attack. May it be Tandhim Dawlah or Tandhim Al-Qaeda. We want to be among those who try to revive the movement of Jihad in the West, if blood is what we have to pay, so be it. Lone wolves does not need any association with a group to earn his place in Jannah. So let any of the two groups spread terror, and use our magazine if needed. 

And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged.

[sūrat l-anfāl (The Spoils of War) Verse: 60]

Question: At some point you write that HAT is based in the West as well. What can you say about this?

A: With this we mean that we have not taken our leap and made an official base, but we are residing in different Western countries, physical support is needed, we will try to provide one. We are entirely online, if Allah will that our Hijrah department continues to send Muhajireen, we will take talk to our contacts and let them know that we wish to take the next step, however this is all in the Hands of Allah. Success does not come without Sabr, we have given it before and we can continue give Sabr by the permissions of Allah.

Question: Another interesting point is a thing mentioned in issue 3 of the magazine. You write that you “have understood that the youth are used to short and quick information” making you follow the mantra ‘Quick – Simple – True’. This is the reason why the magazine was initially short and absent of long articles. In your view, what does this say about the youth nowadays and also the new generation of Jihadis?

A: Initially the magazines were and we were going to keep it short. Just show how to make different bombs and let the reader use the magazine as a recipe book. We were criticized due to it and we did not care about the blame of the blamers, however, many Believers looked forward to the magazine and said that they wait eagerly for the next issue. Many said that they were re-living the experience of “inspire” magazine from Al-Malahim. We saw how important another “inspire” magazine was needed in the West and English speakers so we decided to put more effort into the magazine, hence why the quality of the magazine increased by the grace of Allah alone. We try to make them easy to read and try to not bore the reader with too much of the same content. We try to make this magazine more engaging, by introducing “Sawt Al-Muwahid”, so the any Muslim can try to tell their own story. 

We had no plan on being the new Inspire magazine, however we are happy that we got many readers from Inspire magazine who shares them around. Our team finds joy in reading the great feedback from the Believers who enjoys reading our work. This motivates us even further to make more and more content for them to enjoy. 

Question: The latest issue (issue 6) is 44 pages and issue 5 was 16 pages. Why this change and is this an indication that HAT is growing bigger with more capacity to produce its media publications?

A: As mentioned previously, our media team is growing by the grace of Allah, and this has made it more viable for us to produce more and satisfy the demand.

Question: In the magazine (issue 4) you also write that HAT is not an al-Qaida magazine and that the group is not against the Islamic State. But HAT is present on the al-Qaida Rocket.Chat server and promotes historic al-Qaida leaders. How should this be understood?

A: Hurras Al-Tawheed has not given any official pledge of allegiance to any group, we want the Muslim in the West to forget this Fitnah which came from Sham. We do not see the need for a lone wolf to worry what group to affiliate himself with, rather we want him to fully dedicate his or her life to Allah and do an operation for the sake of the entire Ummah, not for a group. So we will help the lone wolf no matter what his affiliation with is, unless we disagree with the operation.

If an operation does not bring a lot of benefit, we will guide the lone wolf Mujahid and tell him to pursue other missions, if he does not take our advice, we will take our distance from him or her, and we try to free ourselves from the crimes for those who fight for the sake of their own desires.

Question: Relating to the questions above, you write about the fitna between al-Qaida and the Islamic State that split the Jihadi movement. These tensions are still vividly present in much of the Muslim world where these groups are active, but you write that this Ramadan should be used as an opportunity to “unite and forgive” among Jihadis in the West. Can you say more about this project and how you see the milieu in the West develop in the future?

A: As for the groups in the East, there have been multiple times to settle the dispute between the groups but sadly it usually ends with bloodshed. For the believers in the West, constantly hearing these two groups fighting each other while they could have entirely focused the invaders, brings sadness to the Ummah. So for the Believers in the West, what we can do is try to sow the seed of unity in them, so the animosity between these groups decreases and eventually with the help from Allah,  in the future, the youth of these groups will eventually seek unity rather than disunity. We have been criticized by side of Dawlah and the side of Al-Qaeda. We understand that this is not easy to achieve, and many have cursed and insulted us by trying. 

what good idea comes without consequences of dogs barking? We do this for the sake of Allah, if this brings no benefit to the movement of Jihad, than we ask Allah to make us understand, and make us move to other important issues. For now, Hurras Al-Tawheed wants the supporters to not bring any harm to each other in the West, all the focus should be at the Disbelieving criminals.

Question: Are you attempting to forge a middle group similar to the efforts of sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi?

A: Shaykhuna Abu Muhammed Al-Maqdisi, May Allah grant him and his family the best in this world and the next. We Hurras Al-Tawheed has high respect for our shaykh who has exhausted his tongue in trying to guide the Mujahideen around the world. As mentioned previously, making such “middle group” is not easy and it will need a lot of sacrifice. As we know that there was an effort made to settle the dispute among Dawlah in 2014 and sadly those who tried to settle the dispute where executed. May Allah grant them martyrdom, Amin.

Question: In issue 5 you focus on killing prison guards. How come you see this as particularly important?

A: By Attacking the guards, and focusing our fire at the prison guards, it will make the Disbelievers more wary in imprisoning Muslims, and will waste more money to upgrade their security. There are many guards who abuse the Believers in prisons, and we do not want these Criminals to live life without justice. Many prisons around the world are torturing innocent people, especially scholars. We Hurras Al-Tawheed want to make it easy for the lone wolves, and give them a legitimate target, which is attacking prisons at the best of their ability. Killing guards on their way home, or on their way to work. Weaken their mentality and grant anxiety to the guards and make them rethink before abusing another Muslim. 

Incite the believer to do more “prison break” operations, such as the operation to save Shaykh Khalid Batarfi (May Allah preserve him).

The reason why these scholars are in jail is because the government knows that if the youth listens to them, their reign will collapse and justice will prevail. So targeting prisons and guards around the world. As long as 1 Muslim is inside that prison, we hope that a lone wolf will pick his weapon and seek revenge for that single Believer. These operations are not exclusive to the West, rather we want Saudia to be the most prepared for these attacks. The scholars told the apostate government to not ally with the Invaders, the leaders of Saudia does what it does the best, bowing down to other than Allah, and the scholars were taken to jail and tortured, where they are still inside and suffering. 

Question: In addition to HAT, you established the media wing al-Bidayah. Does this imply that HAT is evolving more into a group of mujahideen with a separate institution dedicated to media as one part of HAT activities? (…) Announcement came on 13 March, but now two months later, no videos have been issued. Why is that? What kind of videos can be expected?

A: In the intial message, Abu Yahya made the message really clear that Al-Bidayah will take its leap into videomaking, however it will take time. How long? Allah knows best. Jihad will last until the Day of Judgement, so there is no need for hastiness. Whatever Allah has willed, will happen. I am not allowed to give further details of Al-Bidayah.

Question: Most recently you started collaborating with TTP’s Umar Media. Is this because HAT sees itself as the global Jihadist movement or because there is a special relation with the group in Pakistan?

A: Hurras Al-Tawheed wants to use all of our resources to help the Mujahideen around the world. We know that Urdu translators are needed, and we had no issues in helping our brothers in Umar Media in translating some of their messages. This does not mean we have given our pledge of allegiance, however it means that any group who wants our help, we will be willing to give our time and effort to help them in whatever task they ask of us. Alhamdulillah, by the grace of Allah, we have established contacts in different parts of the world, however I was told to refrain to mention anything until official messages had been made.

We ask Allah to deliver our message and make it easily understood by the masses. O Allah bring victory to Islam and the Believers!

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Tore Hamming

Tore Hamming is a senior fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, King's College

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