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.
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."