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Jihadi preacher’s channel gets deleted by YouTube for inspiring terror attack, journalist Rana Ayyub expresses solidarity with preacher

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Washington Post propagandist Rana Ayyub posted a coded tweet on Monday Morning, with the caption “4am at the Ayyubs”, attaching a pic of a decorated living room with a TV playing a video of a seemingly nondescript moulvi.

However, Indian twitter users noticed a connection between the figure on TV and cross border terror events that transpired in Texas, USA recently, raising alarm about the intent behind the tweet. Was it an broadcast of solidarity with islamists who will miss Israr Ahmed’s extremist preachings – that were so far easy to access, but now deleted by Youtube moderators?

Israr Ahmed’s flagrant antisemitism

According to a report by London based weekly The Jewish Chronicle, YouTube had recently removed the channel with 2.9 million subscribers that curated Israr Ahmed’s monologues that preached hatred and violence against Jews and their religion.

The investigative piece, published in the backdrop of a accountability crisis in the content moderation teams of Youtube, outlines how moderators failed to act on red flags raised on the incendiary content of islamist preachers like Israr Ahmed, Tariq Jameel from Pakistan and Wagdy Ghoneim from Egypt.

Youtube’s failure to moderate jihadi content

After a link between the Texas Synagogue attacker and Israr Ahmed’s channel was discovered by The Jewish Chronicle, a whistleblower from a content moderation firm provided evidence to the publication that youtube had not taken action on a report submitted by him on 28 October 2021, highlighting Israr Ahmed’s videos – 76 days prior to the terror attack. The perpetrator had watched Ahmed’s videos prior to taking four people hostage in a Texas Synagouge on January 15, as informed by persons close to the culprit to the publication.

After the whistleblower’s testimony was provided to Youtube, It removed the channels that curated Israr Ahmed’s content for violating their Hate Speech policies and supporting violent extremism. But the months long delay in their action against the content had direct real world consequences – the attack in Texas.

The Perpetrator of the Synagogue attack

Four people were taken hostage by Malik Faisal Akram, a British National with Pakistani roots in January at a Synagogue in Texas, USA. Washington Post reported that the culprit was already known by British Police and Intelligence services. The motive was established to be a prisoner release – that of Aafia Siddiqui, the notorious “Lady al-Qaeda”.

Before Akram was fatally shot by US Federal Bureau police, the hostages escaped without harm. Prior to the attack, Akram had watched inflammatory videos from Israr Ahmed’s youtube channel.

Reactions to the Suspension of Ahmed’s Channel

Since Israr Ahmed’s channel had millions of subscribers, mostly from the Indian Subcontinent, the deletion of the channel did not go unnoticed, and triggered discussion, outrage and condemnation among ‘moderate’ and radical muslims on social media, as reported by Pakistani site “The News” and Indian news site “Siasat Daily”, which caters for urdu speaking audiences. The owner of Israr Ahmed’s channel, the organisation Tanzeem-e-Islami posted on twitter that they would commence legal action to restore the channel.

Rana Ayyub’s solidarity tweet

Some Indian twitter users noticed Ayyub’s tweet which prominently featured the jihadi motivational speaker Israr Ahmed and assumed self radicalisation was a daily routine for “liberal Muslim” Rana Ayyub. However, the context of Israr Ahmed’s channel getting deleted recently for inspiring a terrorist event that happened across borders was only picked up by a few twitter users.

That Rana Ayyub would show solidarity to such a personality and openly tweet about a terror inspiring preacher does not come to a shock to most in light of Ayyub’s recent run-ins with the law. However, the international support for Ayyub’s actions, mostly from “Liberal”, “Journalistic”, “Freedom-loving” group of think tankers and vested interests flashes a spotlight on the agenda behind such actions.

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