- By John HudsonJohn Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013.
If you thought 8-bit video games were only fodder for nostalgic Gen X’ers — think again. A new jihadi game that pits Islamic militants against the French Air Force in Mali is taking Islamic Internet forums by storm.
The primitive game, titled “Muslim Mali,” simulates aerial combat against French fighter jets, which have been waging a real-life offensive in Mali since January, and is designed to inspire fellow extremists to take up arms against the French. Once a user clicks “play,” an Arabic message appears with the words, “Muslim Brother, go ahead and repel the French invasion against Muslim Mali.”
If you’re curious, or have a latent desire to destroy French airplanes in 2-D, you can play it yourself here. But first, let’s explore some of the features. The home screen displaying the words “Muslim Mali” features a poem encouraging jihad against infidels.
After you click “play,” the setting changes to an expansive Malian desert. The first-person player appears in a stealth fighter jet draped in a black al Qaeda flag, while oncoming French forces appear in standard fighter jets that our defense procurement expert John Reed identifies as Su-47 Berkuts.
During my “research,” I found the game incredibly easy. The French jets are pathetically slow. What’s more, the al Qaeda craft can withstand 10 (!) direct missile hits before exploding. But if you’re really bad at the game, no worries: Upon dying, a message appears with the words, “Congratulations, you have been martyred.”
Perhaps the best feature is a special black button in the bottom-left corner that reads, “There is no God but God. And Mohammad is his messenger.” If you click it, it sends a pulverizing black laser of death at the enemy. Spooky, huh?
For a little background, the game first appeared on the Ansar Al-Mujahideen Arabic Forum, according to the jihadi monitoring service the Middle East Media Research Institute, which is currently hosting the game on its servers. The users who created the game, Ta’ir Al-Nawras 07 and Ghareeb Fi Al-Hayat, have been offering to teach others how to create such games. Impressively, the game uses HTML5 and can be played on a laptop or tablet device. It’s a brave new world, isn’t it?