The captions from top to bottom quotes a famous statement from UBL: “aqsamtu bi-Allah al-‘azim lladhi rafa‘a al-sama’ bi-la ‘amad” (inaccurate and partial quote of Q 13:2) (“I swear by God almighty who raised the heavens without supports”); and “lan tahlam amrika wa-la man ya‘ish fi amrika bil-amn” (“America and those who live in America will never sleep [lit. dream] in safety”).

The armor-clad swordsman in the image also appears in other images produced by or for Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (JTJ)/al-Qa’ida in Iraq, with minor variations (see, e.g., Image #200). The black banner bearing the text of the shahada (Islamic testimony of faith holding that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger) appears three times (including in the recognizable logo of JTJ/Islamic State of Iraq).  According to prophetic tradition (hadith), the black flag was the battle flag of the Prophet Muhammad and it was carried into battle by many of his companions.  The image of the black flag has been used as a symbol of religious revolt and engagement in battle (i.e., jihad). In the contemporary Islamist movement, the black flag with the shahada is used to evoke notions of jihad and of reestablishing the Islamic Caliphate.

In the bottom left corner is a representation of the World Trade Center’s burning twin towers, a visual reminder of the most lethal attack masterminded by Usama bin Ladin. On the right, Bin Ladin is seen raising his pointer finger in a gesture performed during the utterance of the shahada. Jihadi propaganda often marks important jihadi operations/violent events in order to establish these events as key milestones that shape the current jihadi movement. Usually, these events are reinterpreted as illustrations of the effectiveness of the violent jihadi struggle and its success in targeting its enemies. In particular, jihadi propaganda often displays examples of jihadi victory against much stronger and more powerful (Western) forces as evidence of the imminent victory of jihadist Islam over Western imperialism and secularism.

More Information
Group Name AQ/AQI (JTJ/ISI)
Group Type Jihadist Group
Dominant Colors Yellow, Orange
Secondary Colors Black, White
Isolated Phrases / Mottoes / Slogans 1) shahada 2) aqsimu bi-llah al-`azim lladhi rafa`a al-sama' bi-la `amad 3) lan tahlam amrika wa-la man ya`ish fi amrika bil-amn 4) qadimun
Image Number 0370
Groups Region of Operation Global
Groups Country of Operation Iraq (ISI/JTJ)
Weapons Cold Weapons and Defensive Armor, Sword / Crossed Swords, Shield, Body Armor (including Gas Mask, Helmet)
Body Parts Pointer Finger, Face / Bust
Air Analysis Yellow Sky
Air Clouds / Fog, Sky
Liquid Sea / Lake
Fire Light Rays / Light, Smoke
Geopolitical Symbols Non-country Flag, Symbol of party, movement or company, Slogan
Geopolitical Analysis Black flags. Jama`at al-tawhid wal-Jihad (JTJ) aka AQI logo - globe with open Qur'an in front and black banner on rifle mast.
People Group Leader / Influential figure, Operational Leader, Operative / Warrior (=mujahid), Man / Men
People Analysis Usama b. Ladin (AQC. ) and armor clad warrior.
Religious Textual References Quranic Text, Quranic Citations, Text manipulation, Shahada, Use of Calligraphy
Religious Textual References Analysis Partial and inaccurate quote. La ila illa Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah
Religious Symbols Black / White / Green Banners
Fauna Horse
Topography Mountain, Horizon, Man-made Structure / Landmark
Topography Analysis Twin Towers and smoking skyline.
Visual Themes The horse and rider motif is common in Islamic imagery and jihadi visual propaganda.The importance of the horse in both pre-Islamic Arabia and Islamic culture is evidenced by pre-Islamic poetry, hadiths (prophetic traditions or reports) and other genres of literature ascribing horses with the positive qualities of chivalry and bravery in battle. For example, the beginning of the Qur’anic sura 100 talks about “running horses” that appear as galloping through the world toward the final goal, namely, Judgment Day. Horses are also symbolic of the first generation of Muslims and that generation’s successful military campaigns, and thus are often employed to evoke specific Salafi religious sentiments with regard to the military victories of Muhammad and his companions. The rider emphasizes the element of human agency in jihad, and is a way to enhance the traditional symbol of a horse and flesh out notions of aggression and the call to jihad. Overall, the horse and rider motif places current jihadi activities within the same unfolding dialectic as the jihad of early Islam.

Images of mountains (lower parts of the image) are also a common motif in jihadi visual propaganda and may allude to regions with completed or ongoing operations, such as Afghanistan, Chechnya and Kashmir. More generally, however, mountains are used to evoke divine omnipotence, eternity and grandeur, as is the case in this image.

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