Jihad in the Amazon.com

Amazon Marketplace used to spread message of Anwar al-Awlaki
Anwar al-Awlaki / AP

Anwar al-Awlaki / AP


Online retail giant Amazon.com is profiting from the sale of speeches and writings by one of the world’s most notorious terrorists despite objections from those who argue the website is facilitating the dissemination of jihadist propaganda.

The works of terrorist mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki are easily purchased in print, CD, and on Kindle e-readers via Amazon’s site.

Al-Awlaki’s materials are not being sold by Amazon directly but via third parties in the Amazon Marketplace, which acts as a clearinghouse for books, videos, and CDs. Amazon acts as an intermediary and facilitates the sale, taking a portion of the proceeds in the process.

Amazon has failed to remove the writings following multiple appeals from United States terrorism experts who argue that the international online store is aiding the spread of terrorism.

Al-Awlaki, who served as al Qaeda’s chief recruiter and planner until he was killed in 2010 by a U.S. drone strike, has inspired jihadi terrorists across the globe with his writings and lectures, which continue to be widely disseminated in the Arab world.

Al-Awlaki preached to three of the 9/11 hijackers, according to reports. He also helped plan the unsuccessful 2009 Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner and had extensive contact with the Fort Hood shooter prior to the 2009 attack that killed 13 people.

Al-Awlaki’s writings and lectures have long been bootlegged and circulated to young Islamic extremists who are looking for direction.

One of his final works was called “44 Ways to Support Jihad” and has been described as “a practical point-by-point guide to pursuing or supporting holy war.”

This step-by-step terrorist manual can be purchased along with al-Awlaki’s other works on Amazon.

Jihadi shoppers can purchase a CD titled “Allah Is Preparing Us for Victory: Collection of Writings” by Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki for $45. The disc includes “44 Ways to Support Jihad,” as well as the “famous” eponymous lecture.

Amazon includes a description of the contents:

This e-Book is a collection of the most popular published writings by the controversial Imam Anwar al-Awlaki (aka Awlaqi). The first is the famous lecture: “Allah is Preparing Us for Victory”. The second is an underground document obtained by investigators in February of 2009, entitled “44 Ways to Support Jihad.” The third document is entitled, “Method of Establishing Khilafah,” an essay by Anwar Al-Awlaki. The fourth is called, “A Call to Jihad.” Finally, included is an intelligence brief on Anwar al-Awlaki.

A four set audio book titled “The Lives of the Prophets” is also listed on Amazon but is currently unavailable.

Amazon offers an electronic copy of al-Awlaki’s State of the Ummah, which serves as a call to arms for would-be terrorists, for reading on the Kindle.

“And what is the matter with you, that you fight not in the cause of Allah,” al-Awlaki states in the book, which is a transcription of one of his 2009 lectures.

“In the lecture, Anwar al-Awlaki gives the audience a much needed reminder, using the Quran and Hadith [statements made by the Islamic prophet Muhammed], to give a solution to the humiliated Ummah [Islamic nation],” the book says. “Remind us that ‘our honour [sic] is in our religion.’”

Terrorism experts from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) have tried for months to pressure Amazon to remove al-Awlaki’s teachings, which they argue could be used to promote terrorist attacks against the U.S.

However, the online site has yet to heed their call despite a series of e-mail messages between Amazon and MEMRI earlier this month.

A MEMRI representative first informed Amazon in late December that al-Awlaki’s radical manifestos were being sold.

Amazon executive customer relations representative Janel Smith offered a generic reply, according to the e-mail correspondence.

“Thanks for sending these [links] to me; I’ll make sure they’re forwarded to the correct team internally,” Smith wrote, according to the email chain obtained by the Free Beacon. “We appreciate your business and hope to see you again soon. Thanks again for the information!”

MEMRI followed up with Amazon several weeks later to see if action had been taken to remove the writings.

Smith again offered a generic reply.

“I can confirm that your feedback was passed to the appropriate departments. However, I don’t have any more information for you,” Smith wrote to MEMRI.

“If you do have any other suggestions or feedback about a product listed on our website, you can submit feedback at the bottom of every product detail page,” Smith added. “Just look for the blue ‘Feedback’ or ‘Suggestion Box,’ or you can contact our customer service by clicking the ‘Contact Us’ button from any help page on our website.”

Amazon did not respond to multiple Free Beacon requests for comment.

The organization’s guidelines regarding such content are vague.

“If Amazon.com determines that the content of an item is prohibited, we may summarily remove or alter it without returning any fees the listing has incurred,” the organization states. “Amazon.com reserves the right to make judgments about whether or not content is appropriate.”

“Some items that may not be sold include any products which may lead to the production of an illegal item or illegal activity,” the guidelines state, though it is unclear if that pertains to terrorist activities

MEMRI maintains Amazon could be culpable in arming would-be terrorists with jihadi ideology.

Executive director of MEMRI Steven Stalinsky says his organization warned Amazon that al-Awlaki’s materials have motivated terrorists to take action.

“We informed them that there had been many cases of Western youth arrested over the past year with these same publications,” he said.

Asked if Amazon has a First Amendment right to sell such controversial materials, Stalinsky sidestepped the argument, instead insisting the company has a moral responsibility.

“There’s pure text in here calling for violence and jihad against the West,” he said. “There’s a call to action in here and there’s multiple cases of people being arrested with these materials involved in attempted terrorist attacks, and they’re making it really easy for someone to get this material.” 

“They should be more responsible,” he said.

Adam Kredo   Email Adam | Full Bio | RSS
Adam Kredo is senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Formerly an award-winning political reporter for the Washington Jewish Week, where he frequently broke national news, Kredo’s work has been featured in outlets such as the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Politico, among others. He lives in Maryland with his comic books. His Twitter handle is @Kredo0. His email address is kredo@freebeacon.com.