There are two emerging Islamic religious figures from the West that have become especially popular with foreign fighters that have joined the rebel forces in the Syrian civil war. These two Westerners, American Ahmad Musa Jibril and Australian Musa Cerantonio, are popular with Western and European jihadists on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These foreign fighters look to these men for guidance and inspiration.
Yesterday we looked at Ahmad Musa Jibril, an American cleric from Dearborn, Michigan. Australian Musa Cerantonio was born into an Italian Catholic family as Robert Cerantonio. He claims he converted to Islam after a visit to the Vatican left him disillusioned with Catholicism. After his conversion he traveled to study Islam in Cairo. His status as a Western convert helped him to become popular on Islamic satellite television programs, which gave Cerantonio a global audience.
His most popular platform, other than his television programs, was Facebook. At times, he was critical of the terrorist group, ISIS, but he also referred to the group “as the best forces on the ground in Syria.” Cerantonio called for war against the United States. “If we see that Muslims are being killed by the tyrant leaders of the USA then we must first stop them with our hands (i.e. by force). This means that we should stop them by fighting them, by assassinating their oppressive leaders, by weakening their offensive capabilities etc. …This is not something that is beyond us at all.”
Cerantonio’s Facebook page was eventually taken down, but at the time it was removed he had about 12,000 subscribers. He used Twitter account earlier this month to announce that he was traveling to Syria. After he tweeted that he had arrived in the Middle East to join with the terror group, ISIS, he was actually discovered to have been living in the Philippines for about a year.
Australian authorities cancelled his Australian passport, which left him without proper travel documentation so he was arrested and is to be deported to Australia. There is now a Facebook page calling for his release that has more than 1,500 “likes.” There are no warrants for his arrest in Australia so he will probably be allowed to go free when he arrives.
Ahmad Musa Jibril and Musa Cerantonio have had much influence on the number of foreign fighters in the Syrian civil war. Their styles are different, but rather than competing for followers they have appealed to their audiences in different ways. This combination has encouraged their followers to consider fighting in Syria as honorable.
Ask God to give His wisdom and insight to counter-intelligence and counterterrorism organizations to enable them to have the information needed to stop or arrest those involved in recruiting others to becoming militant.
Social media has been used to encourage Westerners to join in the Syrian civil war. Pray that Western authorities will identify those who are inspiring others to jihad and terrorism and recognize legal ways to stop them from furthering their cause.
Jihadists are very successful in utilizing social media to spread a message of hate – pray the Holy Spirit will guide Christians and Christian ministries in ways to use this powerful tool to spread the message of the Kingdom of God. Declare His Lordship over all forms of social media!