Mohamed Amin Ahmed (BA ‘20, speech communication) received this year’s US State Department Bureau of Global Public Affairs the Citizen Diplomacy Award in recognition of his leadership in strengthening relationships and advancing US foreign policy priorities globally.
Founder, chairman, and executive director of Average Mohamed, Ahmed works to counter violent extremism, engaging his audience in a meaningful discussion about Islamic values and ideals. In creating and launching his cartoon “Average Mohamed,” Ahmed has helped to spread democratic ideals to a global audience and is recognized as a citizen diplomat who has helped counter anti-democracy narratives and intolerance.
Ahmed answered a few questions about his work and how it led to his receiving the award:
During the Obama administration, Mohamed Amin Ahmed, who runs an anti-extremism nonprofit in Minneapolis, had considered applying for federal grants to support his efforts to make cartoon videos seeking to debunk the Islamic State’s appeals to children.
But he decided not to apply after learning that the funding was tied to a requirement that he report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
Mr. Ahmed is now creating videos to target followers of QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory. He said he was planning to apply for the new round of government grants, which are no longer linked to law enforcement.
“We’re trying to help and not be part of the surveillance state,” Mr. Ahmed said.
Mohamed Amin Ahmed launched a counter-extremism organization in 2014, as Somalis in the US began leaving to join ISIS; to compete with slickly produced ISIS videos, he made cartoon videos of Average Mohamed (5:00); why funding is better than big awards, like State Department’s 2020 Citizen Diplomat (10:45); how he hopes to reach up to 200 million people (12:55) and deals with death threats (17:20); why research always trumps anti-Muslim hyperbole (20:45); the problem of bullying and hate crimes against Muslim women (25:48); why younger Somalis today self-identify as black before Arab (28:30); and bringing Average Mohamed to EU, Africa and beyond (32:05).
Who better to tell you than Average Mohamed himself, Mohamed Ahmed. This week’s interview gives you a great insight in to what Mohamed does with his counter ideology organization dedicated to stopping extremism and hate. Average Mohamed uses pop culture, social media platforms like Facebook & YouTube, as well as other mediums to promote peace, democracy and anti-extremism. His outreach has put him in front of tens of thousands of youths across America and his videos have been seen millions of times worldwide.
In a veto-proof vote, the Minneapolis city council voted to defund and dismantle the city’s police department. Many have rightly pointed out that such a move would cause more suffering and death to the city’s black communities (as well as the entire population).
When asked what would happen without a police department to call, say, during a house invasion, city council head Lisa Bender even went so far as to say that white residents should just realize that even being able to call the police in this situation is a function of their white privilege. Apparently Bender believes they should let it happen for the greater good.
Yet, there must be a better way to address the issue of police brutality, the issue that triggered the protests and rioting in the first place. To this end, we spoke to Mohamed Ahmed, a Somali American based in Minneapolis, ground zero for today’s current events.
Minneapolis (CNN)Rep. Ilhan Omar’s controversial comments about Israel and Jews have driven a wedge through her Democratic Party in Congress.
But in her home district in Minnesota, her words are bringing some Jewish and Muslim activists, constituents and leaders together … in denunciation.
MINNEAPOLIS — When Mohamed Ahmed’s third-grade daughter was assigned a school report about an African-American she admired, she chose to study her newly elected congresswoman, Ilhan Omar.
“She’s a hero to my daughters,” said Mr. Ahmed, who like the congresswoman is Somali-American. “She’s an idol. They look up to her. They aspire to be her.”
Internet companies have been criticized for not doing enough to block extremist rhetoric on their sites. And though several have stepped up efforts to remove violent and hateful content, ISIS propaganda continues to proliferate on social media.
Now, Google’s parent company Alphabet, with the help of Facebook and Twitter, is experimenting with another approach to combating radicalization online, whether it’s ISIS supporters or white supremacists.
Last October, three video campaigns – Average Mohamed, ExitUSA and Harakat – targeted users of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in the United States, United Kingdom and Pakistan.
On the same day experts at a conference in Minneapolis discussed the scope and scale of extremist social media messaging, Twitter shuttered 235,000 accounts promoting terrorism.
As many as 90,000 tweets are sent daily supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to estimates. Most experts believe the most convincing counternarratives come not from institutions such as the State Department, but from individuals — especially if they’re everyday citizens.
Like Mohamed Amin Ahmed and his cartoon creation, “Average Mohamed.”
It’s a series of short cartoons countering the extremist media so many Muslim young people encounter. The animation — which can be watched on averagemohamed.com, YouTube and several social media sites — features Average Mohamed negating the nihilist violence of ISIL and other groups with what Islam truly represents. Cartoon titles include “A Muslim in the West,” “The Bullet or the Ballot,” and “Identity in Islam,” among others.
One Muslim man in Minnesota is on his own personal mission to undermine ISIS.
Mohamed Ahmed works as a gas station manager in Minneapolis. But he’s dedicated much of his time to creating cartoons that explain Islam — and why ISIS is wrong.
He’s the creator and voice of a cartoon character he calls Average Mohamed. For the past four years Ahmed has been producing these online cartoons to try to counter the ISIS message.
In Minnesota in particular, with its large Somali community, ISIS has had the most success in finding recruits. The state leads the country in the number of people seeking to join the terrorist group.
Ahmed, who came to the U.S. from Somalia 20 years ago, is betting that plain-speaking Average Mohamed can help stem the flow. He spoke with NPR’s Rachel Martin about why he’s so dedicated to this cause.
Sometimes, Mohamed Ahmed gets death threats. But that’s to be expected when you’re taking on Isis.
“I say a prayer, and I hope nothing bad happens,” said Ahmed, a 40-year-old gas station manager in Minneapolis who spends his free time producing anti-Isis cartoons. “If you’re going to blow off the people who kill and behead others, you expect the same thing coming back.”
Between 2006 and 2011, nearly 30 young Somali-Americans from Minneapolis left the US to fight with al-Shabaab, a terrorist group in east Africa. Recruiters for the group had turned to the Minnesota city, home to the largest Somali community in the US, as a source for young recruits.
Average Mohamed doesn’t have a super hero costume or powers, yet his mission is no less ambitious than that of mainstream heroes: to stop Islamic State and extremism.
Somali-American Mohamed Ahmed was waiting for a constructive conversation about extremism to happen and finally resolved to take the matter in his own hands.
He created Average Mohamed, a cheerful cartoon character aimed at children aged 8 to fourteen and designed to catch indoctrination at the point of inception.
Global Post – Meet ‘Average Mohamed,’ a gas station manager who’s using cartoons to fight ISIS recruitment
The 39-year-old Somali-American businessman by day has turned activist by night, creating the website “Average Mohamed.” It’s a series of animated cartoons voiced by Mohamed Ahmed (Average Mohamed) to rebut Islamic extremists recruitment videos.
“It takes an idea to destroy an idea and my concept was to create ideas.” says Ahmed, who was frustrated that the ideology Islamic extremists peddle was not being effectively countered. “The cartoons offer talking points to parents, mosque leaders, youth activists and law enforcement that they can use to thwart the narrative of extremists.”
Mohamed Ahmed, a gas station manager who moonlights as an anti-terror propagandist, is ready to launch another strike against Islamic State terrorists.
He’s just waiting for his tax refund to do it.
Frustrated by a slick social media campaign on the Internet by the Islamic State that authorities say has helped lure dozens of young Muslim Americans to the fight in Iraq and Syria, Ahmed has already poured thousands of dollars of his own money over the last six months into producing a series of animated cartoon messages to rebut the extremist group’s messaging.
Huffington Post – YouTube’s Battle Against ISIS
“Muslims are the biggest recipients of propaganda, and we have to fight back with our own,” said Mohamed Ahmed, a Somali-American gas station owner in Minneapolis who used his savings to launch “Average Mohamed,” a cartoon series aimed at kids. One of the first episodes, titled “Islamic State Job Description,” has the 40-year-old doing a voiceover: “Your job description is to commit genocide against Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and Jews; terrorize innocent women, men and children like your family, into blind obedience; behead unarmed innocent people you round up; destroy World Heritage sites, mosques, tombs and shrines. … Not exactly Disney World or an action film like the propaganda says it is, is it?”
Huffington Post – ‘Average Mohamed’ Cartoonist Launches YouTube Attack On The ISIS Propaganda Machine
MINNEAPOLIS (RNS) Mohamed Ahmed, a gas station manager who moonlights as an anti-terror propagandist, is ready to launch another strike against Islamic State terrorists.
He’s just waiting for his tax refund to do it.
Frustrated by a slick social media campaign on the Internet by the Islamic State that authorities say has helped lure dozens of young Muslim Americans to the fight in Iraq and Syria, Ahmed has poured thousands of dollars of his own money over the last six months into producing a series of animated cartoon messages to rebut the extremist group’s messaging.
ST. PAUL, Minn. – A Minneapolis man is waging a war for young Muslims’ hearts and minds from a studio thousands of miles from the Middle East.
Mohamed Ahmed has launched AverageMohamed.com. The website offers cartoon videos aimed at countering the messages terrorists use to lure disaffected youths into extremism.
Ahmed says he started his videos out of frustration. He uses bright, simple cartoons aimed at kids ages 8 to 16 and featuring an easy-to-understand message.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — In the war for young people’s hearts and minds, Mohamed Ahmed hopes to use cartoons to dissuade a generation raised on “The Simpsons” and “South Park” from taking up arms for the Islamic State group and other extremist causes.
Ahmed, a convenience store manager from Minneapolis, has launched AverageMohamed.com, a website offering homemade videos aimed at countering the messages and images terrorists use to lure disaffected youths into holy war.