MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities man is using cartoons to undermine extremist recruitment efforts here in Minnesota.
Mohamed Ahmed is the man behind a series of cartoons known as “Average Mohamed.”
Ahmed produces the cartoons to combat extremist ideology and prevent young Muslims from leaving to join terrorist organizations.
For Ahmed, creativity takes shape at his computer.
He spends hours working on his latest cartoon script, a passion project that has a much bigger purpose.
“What it does is it goes against radicalization and concepts of extremism,” Ahmed said.
Four years ago, Ahmed created the cartoon character meant to counter terrorist recruitment efforts in Minnesota.
“Our role is to do three things: promote peace, promote democracy and the democratic institutions, and the third concept is anti-extremism,” Mohamed said.
Using plain talk and animation, the videos reject extremist ideology in a way kids can understand.
“This is the generation of ‘Family Guy’ and ‘Simpsons.’ They’re used to getting their messages from cartoons,” Ahmed said.
He works with clergy and other members of the Muslim community in crafting the message for each cartoon. Each video specifically undermines elements used in recruitment addressing racism, Islamophobia and the glamorization of radicalization.
“I’ve had kids tell me, look, I saw a video of a suicide bomber, until I saw your video I thought suicide bombers go to heaven, and we tell them point-blank, using our own religion, they go to hell,” he said. “That’s a very powerful statement.”
Mohamed may refer to himself as average, yet many feel the task he’s taking on is extraordinarily important.
In addition to the videos, Mohamed talks to student groups. He sees the videos as a way to start that conversation.
The cartoons have been watched more than a million times in 130 countries, and Mohamed says he could have further reach with more help.
He pays for the majority of them out of his own pocket.
If you’d like to help Mohamed, you can donate to his project here.