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Jihadists use Islamic Translation Center for spreading militancy

Islamic Translation Center, Al Qaeda, ITC, Arabic, Bangla, Burmese, Chinese, Pashto, Persian, Russian, French, German Portuguese, Norwegian, Indonesian, Italian, Rohingya, Hindi, Malayalam, Urdu, Punjabi, Tamil, Telegu, Haqqani Ulamai Keram, Islamic State, ISIS

Counterterrorism

Jihadists use Islamic Translation Center for spreading militancy

Islamic Translation Center (ICT) has emerged into the biggest force behind translating and distributing jihadist propaganda and hate materials of Al Qaeda, which already poses gravest threat to security of many nations. It may be mentioned here that ICT surfaced online since June 2021 to compete with Islamic State’s cyber jihadist activities. As Al Qaeda’s embryonic multifaceted archival translation arm, ITC took on the role of translating official Al Qaeda propaganda material into 29 different languages through its growing pool of pro-bono translators. These languages include Arabic, Bangla, Burmese, Chinese, Pashto, Persian, Russian, French, German Portuguese, Norwegian, Indonesian, Italian, Rohingya, Hindi, Malayalam, Urdu, Punjabi, Tamil, Telegu and many more.

ITC publishes translation of Al Qaeda’s “official content”, including attack claims, video releases, magazines, books, speeches of prominent leaders and ideologues and other literature. Although ITC is pro-Al Qaeda to demonstrate its neutrality, it describes itself as “an initiative that translates and publishes the lectures and essays of the Haqqani Ulamai Keram (Scholars) and the Mujahideen (Fighters) into different languages of the world”.

In an effort to catch up with pro-Islamic State propagandists hailing from diverse geographies, ITC mobilized Al Qaeda supporter communities, especially those located in India, to assume the role of volunteer translators, instructing them to harness their linguistic skills to translate official Al Qaeda literature into their regional/local languages.

It may be mentioned here that, pro-Islamic State media groups have established separate media wings for each language, allowing ISIS to communicate with various ethnic groups spread across diverse geographies. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) are in competition to attract new supporters and communicate their organizational propaganda across the globe.

According to counterterrorism experts, as the linguistic barriers, lack of human capital, and technical skills act as natural hurdles to sustaining a global network, these militant groups focus on reinforcing their translation capacity as a part of their global media communication strategy. Over the years the Islamic State’s official media apparatus and decentralized support communities have established a variety of unofficial translation propaganda initiatives. Academic insights by counter-terrorism researchers suggest that ISIS has taken the lead in diversifying its communication to a larger audience. It has been widely reported that the Islamic State Khorasan Province’s (ISKP) official mouthpiece, Al Azaim, has been internationalizing ISKP’s outreach by aggressively crafting propaganda material in Pashto and translating it into other regional languages to recruit Persian, Tajik, Uzbek, Russian Kyrgyz speakers. Shoring up these efforts is another pro-Islamic State archival translation website on the dark web, Al I’lam Foundation, that offers translation of official ISIS content in various languages ranging from Norwegian to Urdu to Kiswahili. Another prominent ISIS-aligned translation group Halummu specializes in translating official IS materials from Arabic and other languages into English.

At a time when ISKP’s Al Azaim media directed at recruiting Indian Muslims has only leveraged the potential of Hindi, Malayalam, and other South Indian languages, Al Qaeda’s official content is available in multiple Indian vernacular languages on the ITC website. Indian sympathizers of Al Qaeda expeditiously translated Ayman Al Zawahiri’s long-winded speech challenging the hijab laws in Karnataka in India, AQIS’s threat statement of launching suicide attacks in different Indian cities over Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s remarks about Prophet Mohammad and lectures of Osama Bin Laden into Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Assamese, Bengali, Odia languages. Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi comprise most of the Indian language translations on the website. These translated media releases were widely circulated on ChirpWire, encrypted applications like Telegram, and on Rocket.Chat server “Geonews” coupled with outlinks shared to other content-sharing websites like JustPaste.it, Archive.com, MediaFire, and cloud storage websites like MEGA.

Hundreds of thousands of ISIS activists on Twitter

While Twitter owner Elon Must has launched a war on fake accounts and impersonation on the platform, hundreds of thousands of the members, activists and supporters of Islamic State (ISIS) are looking for potential recruitment of jihadists through fake accounts. According to experts, violent extremists and jihadists have been waging an impersonation insurgency on the same platform.

Following Musk’s purchase, a Twitter account appeared and began retweeting Islamic State content while impersonating a fitness and Only Fans model with more than 304,000 followers on Twitter, 3.23 million followers on YouTube and more than 6 million followers on Instagram. The account is one of a pair, the other using an avatar of a lingerie model whose sole purpose is to amplify tweets, Twitter Spaces, and other content by Islamic State supporters on the platform.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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