A self-proclaimed “blonde tattooed Texas girl” recently converted to Islam and decided to partake in the hashtag #MuslimApologies that was trending on Twitter. This simple action took the Texan from unknown to an ISIS Twitter propaganda tool in the matter of days. How exactly did this unknowing new Islam convert become a tool for ISIS recruiting? The answer lies within the single tweet the girl decided to post.
Jennifer Williams is not what you typically think of when you think of Muslim faith. In fact, she is probably the opposite of all things you imagine when you think of a person following Islam. Jennifer notes in here self-written blog post on New Republic that you would never suspect she was Muslim.
“If you were to pass me on the street, you would never suspect I’m a Muslim: I don’t wear hijab. I have platinum blonde hair and blue eyes. And I am heavily tattooed. I grew up in Texas and was raised Southern Baptist. I use the word “y’all” a lot—and not ironically. But I am Muslim.”
Williams discusses her fairly recent conversion to Islam and how the girl, who on all accounts is an unlikely convert, came into her new faith
“Several years ago, I realized that although I had long studied, analyzed, and written about Islamic political theory and how jihadist ideologues like Osama bin Laden use the Qur’an to justify their heinous acts of violence, I had never actually read the Qur’an. So I read it — and what I found in its pages changed my life. I found answers to questions about faith and belief and morality that had been plaguing me since my youth. I found the connection to God I thought I had lost. And three years ago, I converted to Islam.”
Though Jennifer has been a practicing Muslim for three years, it is a single tweet that she made on September 23 that caused the girl to rise to fame in ISIS circles, which she notes is a “problem.”
“Last Monday, I had 60 followers on Twitter. Today, I have more than 4,300. Not to brag or anything, but that’s more than Benjamin Wittes; more than Bobby Chesney; more than Jack Goldsmith; more than my boss, Daniel Byman. But here’s the problem: A healthy number of them are Islamic extremists, including no small number of supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). A lot of them live in Saudi Arabia.”
What was the tweet that garnered so much attention?
— Jennifer Williams (@jenn_ruth) September 24, 2014
The tweet has now been retweeted over 11,700 times and favorited over 7,000 times. Williams notes that she detests ISIS and extremists interpretations of her religion.
“I detest the twisted interpretations of Islam espoused by the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS just as much today as I did before I converted—in fact, probably more so, since now I see it not only as a sick bastardization of a beautiful religion, but a sick bastardization of my beautiful religion.”
However, this hasn’t stopped ISIS from using her tweet as a propaganda tool. Williams noted that a “disturbing trend” was taking place. Of the thousands of people who were retweeting and following her, many of them had the black flag of ISIS as their Twitter profile photos. Others had pictures of themselves holding swords, standing in front of the black ISIS flag. Williams was now famous in Saudi Arabia, and her tweet is being used as a propaganda tool.
“A friend of mine, Aaron Y. Zelin, who works at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and runs the fabulous website Jihadology, emailed me to let me know that my conversion-story tweet was being used as propaganda by Salafis in Arabic-language social media circles.”
Williams says she is frustrated that her seemingly harmless tweet is now being used as a tool to convert people to extremist views of her faith.
“I, for one, do not appreciate having my conversion story used to attract more people to a repugnant ideology that spawns suicide bombings and beheadings.”
Unfortunately, though Williams has tweeted follow-up tweets noting she does not approve of or condone the actions of Islamic extremists, it has not stopped her tweet from spreading in the wrong crowds. The tweet continues to go viral in the very circle she despises.
For the women unlike Williams who won’t convert to Islam, the situation is even worse. ISIS has puts price tags on their heads and says they want to sell them as sex slaves.