‘Ask Zawarhi’ — apparently not a joke

Noticed this piece in the news today … at first I was sure it was an April Fool’s Day joke, then I saw it was reported in December initially, and posted here on April 2 anyway. Anyway …

“Ask Zawarhi” responses coming soon from Qaeda leader”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Al Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawarhi’s responses to Internet questions submitted by the public will be released soon, probably within the next three days, a terrorism monitoring service said on Wednesday.

The questions were solicited in December offer al Qaeda-linked Web sites that carried an interview with Osama bin Laden‘s second-in-command. They covered topics including al Qaeda’s plans for Palestine, opportunities for women in the militant network and whether Muslims should deal in gold instead of dollars…

Now assuming this is real … which it seems to be — what a bizarre turn of events. And it’s worrying on several levels. The likes of Al Quaeda have always shown an unfortunately good understanding of the Internet and this kind of guerilla marketing online — much more so than the US government with its million-dollar PR budgets. And it’s not like we’re going to see Bush answer questions online any time soon.

Though I do wonder whether Zawarhi will answer critical questions about his group, or even hostile questions, and especially questions from non-Muslims. I suspect yes, because this is all about PR for them, no matter their beliefs.

It goes back to that idea in fiction that no villain you create should truly think of themselves as evil, because it’s just not how it works. People don’t act evil for its own sake — they truly think that what they’re doing has a rightness and purpose, no matter how abhorrent or wrong the rest of us think it is. Al Quaeda is clearly no different.

But the jokes do come up from this as well … we wonder if Zawarhi can answer questions on your love life, or has a prediction for who will win So You Think You Can Dance, or has an opinion on the upcoming US elections …

… Come to think of it, I’m sure he has an opinion on that. And really, I suspect it’s the complete opposite of what most people somehow assume.

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