Beloved U.S. Imam Preaches Jihad
Scott Shane and Souad Mekhennet
The New York Times, May 8, 2010
Edited by Andy Ross
Anwar al-Awlaki is the imam of a mosque outside Washington. This lanky man,
with scholarly wire- rims and equal command of English and Arabic, sells
thousands of CD sets of his engaging lectures on the Prophet Muhammad.
American-born, he has a sense of humor, loves deep-sea fishing, and has
dabbled in get-rich-quick investment schemes. A few weeks before 9/11, he
preached in the United States Capitol.
Nine years later, from his
hide-out in Yemen, Mr. Awlaki has declared war on the United States.
"America as a whole has turned into a nation of evil," he said in a
statement posted on extremist Web sites in March. Though he had spent 21 of
his 39 years in the United States, he added, "I eventually came to the
conclusion that jihad against America is binding upon myself, just as it is
binding on every other able Muslim."
The United States government has
responded in kind. Mr. Awlaki has become the first American citizen on a CIA
list of terrorists approved as a target for killing. The designation has
only enhanced his status with admirers.
Mr. Awlaki said he was a
nonviolent moderate until the United States attacked Muslims openly in
Afghanistan and Iraq, covertly in Pakistan and Yemen, and even at home, by
making targets of Muslims for raids and arrests. He merely followed the
religious obligation to defend his faith.
The truth is more complex.
A product both of Yemen's deeply conservative religious culture, he
hesitated to shake hands with women. But even as he preached about the
sanctity of marriage amid the temptations of American life, he was picked up
twice by the San Diego police for soliciting prostitutes.
2000, Mr. Awlaki recorded a series of highly popular boxed sets — three,
totaling 53 CDs, devoted to the "Life of Muhammad" alone; others covering
the lesser prophets of Islam (including Moses and Jesus), the companions of
the prophet and an account of the hereafter.
Two future 9/11
hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi, prayed at Mr. Awlaki's San
Diego mosque and were seen in long conferences with the cleric. Mr. Alhazmi
followed the imam to his new mosque in Virginia, and 9/11 investigators
called Mr. Awlaki Mr. Alhazmi's "spiritual adviser."
In the records
of the 9/11 commission, a detective said he believed Mr. Awlaki "was at the
center of the 9/11 story." An F.B.I. agent said that "if anyone had
knowledge of the plot, it would have been" the cleric, since "someone had to
be in the U.S. and keep the hijackers spiritually focused."
American authorities rounded up Muslim men after 9/11, Mr. Awlaki grew
furious. After raids in 2002 in Virginia, he led a chorus of outrage: "This
is not now a war on terrorism, we need to all be clear about this, this is a
war on Muslims!"
In a bare lecture room in London, where Mr. Awlaki
moved after leaving the United States, he addressed his rapt, young
followers: "The important lesson to learn here is never, ever trust a
kuffar," he said, chopping the air, his lecture caught on video. "Do not
In 2004, Mr. Awlaki moved to Yemen to preach and study.
In 2006, he was imprisoned for 18 months by the Yemeni authorities. He used
his solitary confinement to study the Koran and to study Islamic
scholarship. He was enraptured by the works of Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian
whose time in the United States helped make him the father of the modern
anti-Western jihadist movement in Islam.
Today, from his mountain
hide-out, Mr. Awlaki sends out the occasional video message. No matter what
happens to him, his electronic legacy is secure.
Islam's Nowhere Men
By Fouad Ajami
The Wall Street Journal Asia, May 11, 2010
"A Muslim has no nationality except his belief"
Globalization and the doors for immigration flung wide open by Western
liberal societies have given Qutb's worldview greater power and relevance.
The Islamists are now within the gates.
In an earlier age the world
was different. Mass migration from the Islamic world had not begun. The
immigrants who turned up in Western lands were few, and they were keen to
put the old lands, and their feuds and attachments, behind them. Islam had
not yet put down roots in Western Europe and the New World.
dominant ideology was one of assimilation. National borders reflected deep
civilizational differences. Postmodernist ideas had not made their
appearance. Western guilt had not become an article of faith in the West.
Nowadays the Islamic faith is portable. It is carried by itinerant
preachers and imams who transmit its teachings to all corners of the world.
From the safety and plenty of the West they often agitate against the
economic and moral order that sustains them. Satellite television offers an
incendiary version of the faith to younger immigrants unsettled by a modern
civilization they can neither master nor reject.
authorities say Faisal Shahzad made 13 visits to Pakistan in the last seven
years. The path of citizenship he took gave him an American passport but
made no demands on him. In Pakistan, Shahzad's father was a man of high
military rank and of property and standing. The secular parents and the
radicalized children is a tale of Islam.
Pakistan was to be a state
for the Muslims of the subcontinent, but not an Islamic state in the way it
ordered its political and cultural life. The bureaucratic and military
elites who dominated the state and defined its culture were a worldly breed.
The British Raj had been their formative culture.
But the world of
Pakistan was recast in the 1980s under a zealous and stern military leader,
Zia ul-Haq. Zia offered Pakistan Islamization and despotism. This was the
Pakistan in which young Faisal Shahzad was formed. Pakistan is governed by a
trinity — Allah, Army, America.
The struggle against radical Islamism
is a long twilight war.
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