YouTube is hosting hundreds of clips in which al-Qa’ida preachers incite viewers to commit acts of terrorism and violence against the West.
This is despite claims by the video-sharing website that it wants to restrict Islamist hate speech.
The clips urge followers to “die with honour” as suicide bombers and even to send their children to the “front line”. In one video a cleric states: “Striking terror is an obligation in the religion of Allah.”
The clips include sermons by Sheik Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s spiritual mentor, and Abu Qatada, described as al-Qa’ida’s European ambassador. Footage of Anwar al-Awlaki, the alleged al-Qa’ida mastermind behind the air cargo bomb plot and who inspired a Muslim student to try to murder a British MP, also appears on YouTube. One of his videos on the site which incites violence is called Constants on the Path of Jihad.
Last week YouTube said it would remove any content that incited violence. It said it had already deleted “a large amount” of Awlaki’s videos. But within days more inflammatory clips were on the site. Critics claim YouTube has been timid in dealing with Islamist propaganda but the website says it is doing all it can to balance public safety against freedom of speech.
Roshonara Choudhry, the student who was jailed last week for life for the attempted murder of the British MP Stephen Timms, told detectives she had been radicalised by YouTube videos of preachers. She said watching a video by Azzam had been a turning point because it made her realise that not only men could become terrorists but “even women are supposed to fight”. Yesterday, 36 of Azzam’s sermons, which are often spliced with footage of US and British troops being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, were still on YouTube.
In one, he says: “We are terrorists and terrorism is our way . . . prepare against them whatever you are able to . . . you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy . . . So striking terror is an obligation in the religion of Allah.”
Choudhry said she had listened to more than 100 hours of Awlaki’s sermons before buying two kitchen knives to murder Mr Timms in revenge for his support of the invasion of Iraq.
Awlaki’s online sermons are also said to have radicalised Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Detroit bomber, and the US army major who shot dead 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas last year.
One video by Awlaki, which was available on YouTube yesterday, justifies the murder of “at the very least one million women and children” in revenge for those who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr Timms said: “Roshonara Choudhry is serving a life sentence as a result of being influenced by this kind of material on the internet and it worries me that other vulnerable young people could be ensnared in the same way.
“I welcome the fact YouTube has taken down some videos, and I hope they will act quickly to deal with this material as well.”
A spokesman for YouTube said: “YouTube has community guidelines that prohibit dangerous or illegal activities such as bomb-making, hate speech and incitement to commit violent acts. We have removed a significant number of videos and will continue to remove all those which break our rules.”