Kinder, Gentler Fundamentalists

When the going gets tough, the tough get…flaks. In response to the lead story that Ben and I wrote for last week’s Observer (“Local Insurgents: ‘Islamic Thinkers’ Menace Gay N.Y.”), the Islamic Thinkers Society, a group of gay-bashing Muslim fundamentalists in Jackson Heights, have decided to project a kindler, gentler self-image with the power of PR. Here’s a recent excerpt from the group’s password-protected online forum:

“Insh’Allah a new team will be formed within the Islamic Thinkers Society that will refute false allegations, propaganda, false beliefs and ideas that are being spread by the kuffar [Ed.: ‘unbelievers’] and the people of misguidance [Ed.: ‘reporters’]…This is just an idea that a few brothers from ITS and other non-violent organizations came up with…”

Not a bad plan, though it may take a few dozen frenzied flaks to explain the group’s avowedly non-violent Bin Laden boosterism, their affection for animated images of stuff blowing up, and slogans like “Your Terrorists Are Our Heroes.” But wait! Somebody already has. At the end of his proposal, the group’s intrepid PR planner shared a favorite favorite quotation. I doubt that it will make the group’s official media kit:

“I would love to be killed in Allah’s cause and then be brought back to life, and then be killed and then again be brought back to life, and then be killed.”

Kumbaya, baby! Kumbaya. But…

Inspiring words aside, you can’t really blame the brothers of ITS for trying to burnish their brand. They’ve fallen victim to a recent spate of really bad press. On the same day our article ran (oh! the pain of a weekly deadline), The New York Times published a story tying the ITS to Al-Muhajiroun, a notorious group of British extremists. A week later, the Fox News Channel aired another report, which unearthed a bunch of unsubstantiated Internet rumours to connect the group with Al Qaeda.

And the branding campaign has already started with a scintillating screed: Observing the Observer.