A Minneapolis man is leading an effort to prevent the radicalization of young Muslims. Cartoonist Mohamed Ahmed is the man behind a series of cartoons known as “Average Mohamed,” which he began creating four years ago with the goal of educating Somali youth in Minnesota and beyond.
“What it does is it goes against radicalization and concepts of extremism,” Ahmed told local station WCCO-TV in a recent interview.
Since launching the project, Ahmed has made 25 short animated videos featuring the main character, Average Mohamed, who addresses a range of topics, including Muslim identity, free speech, and justice. Each episode aims to combat extremist ideology and prevent young Muslim from joining terrorist organizations abroad.
Ahmed said he created Average Mohamed 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,” he told WCCO.
He believes the simple language and cartoon format of the clips resonates with young American Muslims who grew up on shows like “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons.”
“They’re used to getting their messages from cartoons,” he explained.
Ahmed works with local clergy and other Muslim community leaders to brainstorm content ideas for each cartoon. As his videos continue to gain traction, gaining more than 1 million views in 130 different countries, Ahmed has been invited to speak at schools, community centers, and youth organizations.
The project has sparked important conversations regarding religious interpretation and the legitimacy of extremist groups like Al-Shabab and ISIS.
“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.”
Up until now, Ahmed’s videos have been mostly self-funded. He has launched a fundraising campaign to advance Average Mohamed’s mission further. To learn more and to donate, click here.