02:34 - Source: CNN
From wannabe rapper to hardcore jihadi

Story highlights

Jihad rap is being used by terrorists for recruiting

Neo-Nazi groups have also borrowed the rap to spread their views

CNN —  

It’s a strange brew – jihad and rap. Strange, but powerful.

Rap videos supporting the Islamist ideals of jihad are popping up all over the Internet. They have names like “Blow by Blow” and “Dirty Kuffar.”

The videos espouse an us-against-the-world mentality, with a heavy infusion of Islamist extremism.

The songs have been doing the rounds for some time. But they’re getting renewed since the Paris attacks last week.

That’s because long before Cherif Kouachi and his brother killed 12 people in the attack on Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris, he was a petty thief and an aspiring rapper.

Recruiting tools

In 2005, France 3 TV featured Kouachi in a documentary about recruiting young Islamic extremists. In it, the reporter says Kouachi prefers rap and pretty girls to attending mosque.

That’s before he was radicalized and received training in the Middle East

While it’s not clear if he ever rapped about jihad, Kouachi was certainly part of a culture of Muslim youth in Paris who felt marginalized in society.

The development is alarming to security analysts, who see the videos being used as a recruiting tool.

“This is an effort … to make these groups more approachable to potential recruits in places the Britian or France or America who are susceptible to rap videos but who might feel that the beheading videos we’ve seen in the past are too extreme,” said Philip Mudd, a CNN counterterrorism expert.

Raging against non-believers

In “Dirty Kuffar” by Sheikh Terra and featuring Soul Salah Crew, there are shoutouts to Osama bin Laden and fundamentalist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

The video also rages against Kuffar, non-believers. Prime examples are Ronald Reagan, Tony Blair and George W. Bush.

Blow by Blow” was created by Alabama native Omar Shafik Hammami.

He was on the FBI’s most-wanted terrorist list before he was killed in Somalia in 2013.

His rhymes stick to jihadi propaganda. “Land by land, war by war, only gonna make our black flag soar.”


Still, it seems like a bit of a stretch – the excesses often exhibited by hip hop, especially in some videos, paired with the sparseness of fundamentalist Islam.

Amil Kahn, who has written extensively about the crossroads of rap and jihad, thinks he knows where the appeal comes from.

“They are saying they are the good guys,” he said. “They are fighting for justice for people who are oppressed, and rap is also and has been historically a form of getting that idea across to people.”

Not unprecedented

Jihadists aren’t the first to borrow the genre for their own purposes.

Neo-Nazi groups have used white power rap as a recruitment tool, especially in Germany

For now, jihadi rap videos exist only on the very extreme edges of the genre and only a relatively small number are out there.

In 2012: Iranian rapper faces death threats, bounty over song

But not surprisingly, industry leaders like L. Londell McMillan, publisher of The Source, a magazine that focuses on hip-hop culture, aren’t exactly enamored with the notion that terrorist groups are hijacking the art form.

“For me personally, whether it’s jihadi rap or gangster rap, I’m very upset with how rap is being used in any way that is harmful and hurts people,’ he said.

Rapping for al Qaeda in Syria