Usama bin Laden’s “Letter to America” Goes Viral on Social Media
Usama bin Laden, the Islamic jihadist who organized the 9/11 attacks against Americans over 20 years ago, has been back in the headlines this week after his “Letter to America” picked up attention on social media.
But those promoting it appear to be glossing over the deranged conspiracy theories and threats that the terror honcho pushes in the diatribe.
The Influence of TikTok
The two-decades-old piece of jihadist propaganda was wiped from The Guardian’s website earlier this week due to a surge in attention — “without full context” — it was getting after some influencers on TikTok began talking about it. Some users said it changed their worldviews. Others went as far as to say they realized bin Laden “was right.”
Part of bin Laden’s letter blamed America for supporting the “Israeli oppression of the Palestinians” and “the occupation” in the Holy Land.
TikTok said the number of videos promoting the content is small and “reports of it trending on our platform are inaccurate.” The company said it was proactively and aggressively removing content and investigating how it got onto the platform.
Extremist Rhetoric and Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories
But the letter, unsurprisingly for something penned by a terrorist mastermind, is packed with extremist rhetoric, threats of violence, anti-Semitism and other language that would typically fall afoul of left-leaning online communities.
In the rambling tirade, bin Laden justifies al-Qaeda’s attacks against the U.S. because “you attacked us” and “You attacked us in Palestine.”
“The blood pouring out of Palestine must be equally revenged,” he threatens, before accusing the U.S. of occupying “our countries” and starving Muslims.
Asking rhetorically “what do we want from you?” he answers: “The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam” before excoriating America for not being an Islamic theocracy.
“You are the nation who, rather than ruling by the Shariah of Allah in its Constitution and Laws, choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire. You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator.”
“It is the religion of Jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah’s Word and religion reign Supreme,” he claims.
He also calls for the end of “immortality and debauchery.”
“We call you…to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling’s [sic], and trading with interest.”
The now-deceased terrorist dives headfirst into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, alleging that “the Jews” control “your policies, media and economy.”
“As a result of this, in all its different forms and guises, the Jews have taken control of your economy, through which they have then taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense,” he says.
Soon after, he accuses the U.S. of trading “sex in all its forms” before tapping into fringe conspiracy theories about HIV/AIDS: “Go ahead and boast to the nations of man, that you brought them AIDS as a Satanic American Invention.”
He issues an exhaustive list of demands in terms of global policies and reducing the American footprint abroad, before threatening the U.S. in no uncertain terms.
“If you fail to respond to all these conditions, then prepare for fight [sic] with the Islamic Nation,” he said.
Implications and Criticisms
While the online influencers calling on Americans to “read” the letter have expressed how it changed the way they view the world, few if any have addressed the actual content of the terrorist propaganda they are urging people to read.
Charles Cooke, a senior editor at National Review, was one of many who were critical of the revisionism Bin Laden’s work is being given — saying that “one would have thought that at least some of it ought to have been reflexively, presumptively, self-evidently abhorrent to the nobody-purer-than-me TikTok crowd.”
“What is it about those ideas being expressed by someone foreign — someone who can plausibly (albeit stupidly) be cast as a victim — that causes otherwise exquisitely sensitive people to completely gloss over them?” he asked.
“In quotidian American politics, the most inconsequential of sentiments are routinely cast as being a part of the ‘white, male, cisgendered hegemony.’ But Osama bin Laden starts talking about the evils of homosexuality and fornication, about the fusing of church and state, and about ‘complete submission to His Law,’ and it’s just…ignored,” he said.
Usama bin Laden’s “Letter to America” has gained attention on social media, particularly on TikTok. While some users claim it has changed their worldviews, the letter is filled with extremist rhetoric, threats of violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. TikTok has responded by removing content and investigating how it was uploaded to the platform. The letter raises important questions about the influence of terrorist propaganda and the need for critical analysis. It also highlights the importance of promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim to create a more peaceful and inclusive world.
SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?
- SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
- SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities
- SDG 5: Gender Equality
- SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being
2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?
- SDG 16.1: Reduce violence and related death rates
- SDG 10.2: Empower and promote the social, economic, and political inclusion of all
- SDG 5.1: End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls
- SDG 3.3: End the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other communicable diseases
3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?
- Number of videos promoting extremist content on social media platforms
- Number of users influenced by extremist content
- Number of hate speech incidents reported on social media platforms
- Number of measures taken by social media platforms to remove extremist content
Table: SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
|SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions||16.1: Reduce violence and related death rates||– Number of videos promoting extremist content on social media platforms
– Number of hate speech incidents reported on social media platforms
|SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities||10.2: Empower and promote the social, economic, and political inclusion of all||– Number of users influenced by extremist content
– Number of measures taken by social media platforms to remove extremist content
|SDG 5: Gender Equality||5.1: End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls||– Number of hate speech incidents reported on social media platforms|
|SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being||3.3: End the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other communicable diseases||– Number of measures taken by social media platforms to remove extremist content|
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