Mohamed Ahmed, a run-of-the-mill, 39-year-old Somali-American gas station manager in Minneapolis, has a secret identity in his off-hours: countering recruitment by Islamic extremists.
On his website, Ahmed explains that “Mohamed is the most common name in the world. I set up AverageMohamed.com to talk plainly to Humanity. The issue of extremism is one that directly affects us all.”
He touts his ordinariness as an asset, saying that fighting extremism “will take an average guy,” to contradict the “average guy who turns average people into extremists.” (RELATED: $1.3 Billion Later, Government Can’t Tell If It’s Beating ISIS At Propaganda)
His main project is making short animated videos, which he finances out of his own pocket. In one, a cartoon version of Ahmed tells viewers, “Committing suicide is a path to hell.” In another, he mocks ISIS radicals, saying that their “job description” includes “genocide against Muslims, Christians, Yezidi and Jews” and to “empower unelected self-nominated murderers, bloodthirsty individuals, as leaders.”
He frequently leans on Qur’anic verses and Islamic tradition to bolster his arguments, which are targeted toward teenagers and twentysomethings — the most easily radicalized demographic.
Ahmed’s work encapsulates many of the frustrations in Minnesota’s Somali community, the largest in America. Several young Somali-Americans from the Twin Cities have been detained for trying to leave the country and join jihadi organizations, especially ISIS in Syria.
Minnesota law enforcement has spent years trying to combat radicalization among local Somalis and other Muslims, working together with Islamic leaders. The Twin Cities area has been selected for a pilot Department of Justice program taking preventive measures against radicalization, according to USA Today.
Since January’s terrorist attacks in France, Western governments have dedicated significant attention to efforts termed “countering violent extremism.” The White House will host a summit on the topic on Feb. 18, and has invited representatives of the Twin Cities’ Somali community to participate. The new strategy, which involves addressing the root causes of radicalization and working alongside families and religious leaders, may be patterned after a similar “intervention”-based program in the U.K., called “Channel.” (RELATED: New French Anti-Jihad Campaign: ‘You Might Be A Terrorist If…’)
In the meantime, as a humble small business owner and a Muslim, “Average Mohamed” may enjoy the most credibility of all in the effort to keep Western Muslims from becoming jihadi extremists.
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