From NBC's Robert Windrem
The world is indeed flat.
Al Hesbah is one of al Qaeda's main cyber mouthpieces. It has been cited numerous times by name in official communiqués issued by bin Laden's terror network, been featured in propaganda films produced on behalf of mujahideen organizations, including al Qaeda.
Its message boards offer key insights into the mindset of al Qaeda supporters and its collective knowledge base.
So those who follow al Qaeda took notice this week when members of the mujahideen took notice of the image of Barack Obama dressed as a Somali elder on the Drudge Report. Evan Kohlmann of Global Terror Alert, and an NBC News terrorism analyst, was among those who watched as the Al Hesbah message board lit up. Al Qaeda sympathizers cited the image as evidence that American political leaders, particularly Hillary Clinton, want to portray Islam as a political negative.
"In this case," Kohlmann said, "it would appear that the publication of the Obama photo, along with the insinuation of an intended negative political impact from being classified as 'Muslim,' has only served to antagonize the ranks of those who admire and support al Qaeda."
This discussion has been viewed several hundred times on the Al-Hesbah network, Kohlmann adds, and it has been among the top 40 most popular discussions on Al-Hesbah the past three days. Most of the discussions are about events in the Islamic world, particularly the conflict between the West and Islamic militants.
The discussion began with a post from a user apparently from Lebanon or Palestinian territories. He cited a news article (and accompanying photo) with the title, "Hillary Clinton's campaign distributes photos of Obama in Kenyan dress and accuses him of being Muslim." The author then immediately comments afterwards, "May Allah's curse be on all of them."
Almost immediately, users, such as "Abu Omar" and "Abdullah," reply in unison, "May Allah kill them." Another echoes the author's sentiments that "Allah's curse" should be "on all of them."
"Not only are they enraged by the implication that being Muslim is something to be ashamed of," Kohlmann added, "but moreover, they are nearly equally indignant about the much-rumored notion that Obama (who has repeatedly declared his faith in Christianity and his support for Israel) is somehow in league with them."
In fact, Kohlmann added, al-Qaeda supporters are so insistent about their hatred for Obama that they have gone as far as to portray him as an "Iranian agent" secretly sent to take over the United States and fight a war against Sunni Muslims.
One user, with a login that suggests Saudi nationality, claimed in his response, "Obama is actually of Persian-Iranian origin. Many of the Persians emigrated to Kenya after the fall of the Persian empire... . We ask Allah to destroy Obama, Kerry, Clinton, America, its allies, and its slaves."
"As far as they are concerned," Kohlmann said, "there is basically no difference between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or even George Bush."