An ISIS jihadist, who says he was in the aerospace engineering program at Ryerson, continues to promote his extremist opinions on social media.
Mohammed Ali, who goes by the name Abu Turaab, created a new Twitter account on Thursday after the site suspended his original one. In his first tweet from his latest Twitter account, Ali said, “help me spread my new account.”
He also created a new account on ask.fm — a website on which people can ask questions anonymously — which has since been suspended.
According to an expert who tracks Canadians who have joined ISIS, Ali’s sophisticated use of social media isn’t unusual for young, radicalized Muslims.
Amarnath Amarasingam, a post-doctoral fellow at Dalhousie University’s Resilience Research Centre, says most of the new generation of mujahedeen (jihadists) are quite savvy when it comes to their social media presence.
He says their goal is to reach out to other interested individuals and help them migrate, either by giving them information about how to get across the Turkey-Syria border, or to give them advice and encouragement.
“Some individuals may not want to leave their loved ones behind for the sake of jihad,” says Amarasingam.
“So some of the online rhetoric is designed to give them encouragement to migrate anyway, to help them understand that jihad is (the) greater cause, that the rewards of the afterlife are greater than the ones that can be obtained here.”
Amarasingam has been in touch with Ali for about a month as part of his work with the research team, which is studying and talking to Canadian foreign fighters.
He says Ali also uses the instant messaging app Kik and an encrypted chat messenger, Surespot.
Before his ask.fm account was taken down, The Ryersonian asked Ali about how he was recruited by ISIS.
“Recruited? I came on my own accord. I didn’t even know anyone when I left,” he said.
The Ryersonian also asked Ali what he studied when he attended the university.
“Study probably isn’t the right word. Aerospace Engineering,” he said. Ali also said that before wanting to join ISIS, he wanted to become an astronaut.
Amarasingam says Ali attended Ryerson in 2008 for about a year but was expelled for having low grades.
It was after his expulsion that Ali started trying to find himself and practise his faith.
Ali gave The Ryersonian cryptic responses to questions about when he attended Ryerson and whether he graduated, such as “Don’t worry.”
He also said that he isn’t actively fighting for ISIS and doesn’t miss his old life.
Other ask.fm users questioned Ali about his life in the Islamic State, as well as his opinions on certain topics.
In his answers, he talked about marriage in the Islamic State and that he doesn’t consider Shiite Muslims to be real Muslims.
Ali also replied to one person saying they can “buy” a Yazidi (Kurdish) slave and that he thinks 15 or 16-year-old Muslims are old enough to join ISIS.
His ask.fm account was suspended just a day after Ali created it.
To The Ryersonian’s knowledge, this is the second of Ali’s accounts to be removed by the website.
Ask.fm owner Valerie Combs said in an email that any “hate based or extremist organizations with a record and clearly stated intention to commit terrorist or violent criminal activity are prohibited from maintaining a presence on ask.fm.”
Combs says that when ask.fm is made aware of any account promoting terrorist activity, celebrating violent acts or recruiting young people, it is immediately suspended and its contents are made inaccessible to the public. She says ask.fm makes the content available to police to help monitor extremist behaviour.
It’s not yet known what Ali does for ISIS, though he did say on his ask.fm page that he is “not actively fighting.” His Twitter account has also been suspended at least three times, but he’s been quick to return to the social media platform each time.
In its terms of service and rules, Twitter says, “You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities. International users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content.”