The image here is a DVD cover of a recording of Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri, a top jihadi strategist. He is described as “min alma‘ mufakkiri al-qa‘ida tamma rasd khamsat malayin dular min qibali al-hukuma al-amrikiyya lil-qabd ‘alayhi” (“one of al-Qa‘ida’s brightest thinkers for whom the American government has offered a sum of 5 million dollar for his capture”). The cover portrays the recording as “jalsa ma‘a shabab bilad al-haramayn; min akhtar ma qila ‘an al-wad‘ fi bilad al-haramayn wa-mustaqbal al-haraka al-jihadiyya” (“a meeting Saudi youth; one of the most interesting accounts of the situation in Saudi Arabia and the future of the jihadi movement”).
Religious leaders are seen as pious individuals who possess proper religious training and credentials, and thus are considered the chief religious ideologues of the jihadi movement. Their firebrand sermons and sensationalist writings, distributed throughout the Muslim world, are key motivational tools used for recruiting and inspiring jihadi activists. It is therefore not surprising that such leaders are common motifs in jihadi imagery and are used as symbols of the religious piety espoused by the jihadi movement. Their images serve to religiously legitimize jihadi groups and promote activism along purely Islamic lines. As a strategic leader, the figure serves as an example of someone who is both a religiously pious individual and a militarily successful jihadi commander doing God’s work.