Bin Laden—tape cassette salesman

December 1, 2011

The Arab street, where low-tech still matters

This photo caught Money Jihad’s attention during routine research for an unrelated post.

Picture from day Osama died

Jenin, West Bank | Photo by AFP

It features pictures of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Yassir Arafat, and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal arranged in front of tape cassettes for sale at an Arab store in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Like the cavalier reference to sales of Hasan Nasrallah CDs and mugs in Lebanon, shops like this are so widespread that their existence rarely merits news coverage.  One source says that little cassette shops like this are nearly as plentiful as grocery shops.

Call it ‘retail jihad,’ in which the tape cassette, now considered a dinosaur by most Americans, still play an important role.

Of course the bigger problem than hundreds of thousands of dollars in retail cassette sales made by Islamists is a) the violent messages of Islamic supremacy in the tapes themselves, and b) the millions of dollars in zakat solicited on the audio tapes that go back toward supporting jihad.

Malcom Nance noted in An End to Al Qaeda that as important as the Internet and satellite television has become:

…the key to understanding why there has been such a rapid spread of populism within the Salafi world is that they already had a solid grounding in their message based on books, pamphlets, lectures, and letters.  These materials were spread by hand first, handed out at conferences, and made into cassette tapes and widely distributed throughout the Muslim world through supporting Islamic bookstores or charities.

The problem with tape recordings is that, unless somebody takes the time to transcribe, translate, tag, and upload the messages to the web, their content is largely unknown by Western audiences who may be likely to underestimate the importance of the old-fashioned technology in the Islamic world.

Cassettes have been used by the Muslim Brotherhood and have been found on captured terrorists even in the CD-driven West.

Bin Laden himself was an active cassette collector, maintaining a 1,500 tape collection in Kandahar before he fled Afghanistan in the early 2000s.  Recent analysis of the contents of those tapes by U.C. Davis professor Flag Miller opens new insights into Bin Laden’s history.


  1. Its true not only in Palestine, but also in India and Europe… In India you can get such cassettes even from Urdu libraries in Alighar Muslim universtiy or in Deoband Darul Uloom…

    In Europe, to be specific in Ulm…I haven’t seen bin laden photos on showcase, but the existance of urdu Jihadi cassette can be confirmed..

    • Hmm… In Ulm, are the Urdu cassettes just in general circulation or is somebody actually selling them?

      • In legal sense, it was selling…. but the price was so cheap, that i must call it circulation .. 1 Euro for 4 cassettes.

        literally they sell a lot of things here in Mosques (beside cassettes) for the ‘community’, surely such selling’s never pay sale tax, as they were not providing billings…

        but interesting was the cost, for example shawls in 2 Euros.. extremely cheaper… almost 20 times cheaper then market rate in cheap clothing store…

        what i observed was in Ulm some 4 years back, but during the time i heard from others, like from a person in Berlin, that the mosque he peaked into also sells cheap stuffs ( though jihadi cassettes were not confirmed by him in that talk )

  2. Perhaps sales by religious entities (incl. mosques) are a tax-exempt transaction in Germany? Still doesn’t excuse the content. And extreme under/over-pricing is a typical signal of illicit activity and/or money laundering.

    • I do not think that its tax exempted.. churches and temples have stores too, and they are not tax-exempted..beside even if it is tax exempted, still billing is mandatory…… but there is NO billing in churches…. I rather think its illegally sold.

      indeed, the same thought also came to me that such under pricing is somewhere interconnected with illicit activity and/or money laundering….. yet as no paper work is existent or filed regarding such stuffs from mosque, things arrives in air and disappear in air….

      a bit googling today morning brought me to this page from jihad watch.. I think almost every mosque in Germany sell cheap stuffs..


      The basement room was filled with racks of clothes; pants, dresses, shirts as well as hijabs were sold at very cheap prices (about a euro a piece!)……
      ….. She tried to explain that it was shopkeepers who donated the clothes. My question – “Why so cheap?” – was met with a simple answer: “Because they [the shopowners] are Muslim.”

      Though i may accept above quoted sentence, yet as a registered organisation (usually non-profit and religion) it is mandatory for them, as for other organisations, to maintain billings and paper work… which they are not doing, as when i was in Ulm…. they were providing no bill.

      even the flea market in Germany provided you a bill copy, so what excuse does mosques have ? and in side note, mosques rates are even far below the flea market rates,

      so in short, its a sort of parallel marketing system, on which a big countable percentage of population depends, and enjoys a completely tax exempted status… negative effect of it on market is not yet considered, though i think many will simply excuse it as charity work (even-though its illegal, beside discriminatory towards other communities)….

      So one issue is for sure that the content of cassettes ,

      • Good research, Puneet!

        If somebody sold me a product without sales tax, accepted only cash, and provided no receipt, I would be certain that the seller was not reporting their sales or their income to the government tax authorities!

  3. Given the message being promoted, sales tax should be the least of things with which German authorities should be concerned.

    • The German sales tax discussion was in reference to shawls, cheap clothes, etc. more so than cassettes, but point taken.

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