Humane: Do Some Good
An Average American Named Mohamed
He manages a gas station in Minneapolis. He’s a husband and a father to four small children. He’s just an average guy living an average life in America. Except for one thing: he believes that it is his civic duty to counter the Islamic State’s barrage of online propaganda that is potentially poisoning his family, his community, and his country.
Rather than just sit around complaining about the young people who are falling prey to ISIS right in his own neighborhood, Mohamed Amin Ahmed is doing something about it. He’s creating cartoon videos to educate young people on the dangerous tactics that extremists use online to lure vulnerable youth to a life where violence is considered the best way to solve conflict, where women are subjugated into servitude, and children are taught to hate anyone who does not pledge allegiance to the Islamic State.
Minneapolis has the largest population of Somali-Americans in the U.S. Several young men in this city have been convicted this year of attempting to travel to Syria to fight with ISIS. Mr. Ahmed visits local schools and community centers to explain that joining ISIS will not help the citizens of Syria. He points out that beheadings, which ISIS routinely uses as a tactic to threaten local citizens into submission, is not a teaching of true Islam.
Mr. Ahmed spends a great deal of his time and resources to produce the counter-messaging cartoons. Last year he received $10,000 from a group of tech firms for his work, but that money will soon run out. It’s difficult to find grants that provide funds for anti-extremist projects. Mr. Ahmed is applying to the Department of Homeland Security and that process could take a while. It costs about $2,000 to make one video. He also would like to create an anti-extremist mobile app.
The article in the Wall Street Journal, August 28, 2016, where I found this story about Mr. Ahmed, went on to say:
The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London think tank that studied the effectiveness of Mr. Ahmed’s campaign, found his videos spurred young Muslims online to “debate the role of gender in Islam and the struggle of having multiple identities.” A video called “Be Like Aisha,” which focuses on Muslim female empowerment, had the highest number of engagements on Facebook, the study showed.
Mr. Ahmed has received death threats on his YouTube account. Of course, such threats will not silence him, as he stated in the WSJ story,
“I have life insurance. I’m not stupid,” he joked.
Here’s a YouTube presentation on Mr. Ahmed’s work, where you can hear him talk about his projects.