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Conversations with a Terrorist By: Joe Kaufman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, June 08, 2004

As a columnist for FrontPage Magazine who gravitates toward controversial subjects, I get my share of responses, sometimes from unexpected quarters. In April of 2003, I received an e-mail from someone calling himself “Ismail Royer.” At the time, I didn’t realize the importance of this correspondence: I had just been contacted by a terrorist.



Randall Todd “Ismail” Royer, a native of St. Louis, converted to Islam at the age of 19, at the impetus of an acquaintance and a “singing bird.” He began attending mosque and, in 1994, took a position with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a self-proclaimed Islamic civil rights group. CAIR, at the time, was an upstart created by three leaders from the extremist Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP).


It was in this same year (1994) that Royer quit college to enlist with the Bosnian army, which was actively recruiting foreign Muslim fighters from around the globe to help battle the Serbs. He says, about the members of his unit, that they were “the most beautiful people I've ever met in my life.”


These “beautiful people” included leaders from the Lashka-e-Taiba, a violent terrorist group headquartered in Pakistan, with operations in numerous other countries, particularly India. It was his actions relating to this organization that led Ismail Royer to receive 20 years behind bars.


According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in January 2004 Royer pleaded guilty to charges of a violent nature, including “aiding and abetting the carrying of an explosive during the commission of a felony.” In his plea agreement, Royer admitted to helping co-defendants Masaud Khan, Yong Ki Kwon, Muhammed Aatique and Khwaja Mahmoud Hasan in gaining entry to a terrorist camp in Pakistan operated by Lashkar-e-Taiba, where they received weapons training. Royer also admitted to helping co-defendant Ibrahim Ahmed Al-Hamdi gain entrance to the Lashkar-e-Taiba camp, where Al-Hamdi received training in the use of a rocket-propelled grenade, training he would use to carry out the Islamist assault on India.

Royer's actions took place on Sept. 16, 2001, just days after 9/11. “Three other individuals attending that meeting -- Yong Kwon, Muhammed Aatique, and Khwaja Hasan (all of whom pled guilty) -- stated that they went to the Lashkar-e-Taiba camp to obtain combat training for the purpose engaging in violent jihad in Afghanistan against the American troops that they expected would soon invade that country,” Justice Department officials said.

For his role in the worldwide Islamist jihad, Royer received 20 years in prison. But before all this, he read my articles and wanted my attention....



While I didn’t know exactly with whom I was conversing with – his name meant nothing to me – I did know about the organization he belonged to.


The e-mail address Royer was using to write to me was “communications@masnet.org.” I had found myself on the site masnet.org before. It was (and is) the homepage of the Muslim American Society (MAS). It turns out Royer was then the Communications Director of MAS.


Considering the find (or rather him finding me), I couldn’t pass up the journalistic and “counter-terrorist” opportunity to ask a few questions.


E-mail Subject #1 – Muslim American Society (MAS)


I began by asking his background with radical Islam.


Kaufman: “How did you get involved in MAS?”


Royer:  “I applied for the job!”


Kaufman: “Are you concerned at all with groups it affiliates with?”


Royer:  “Such as...?”


Royer was either ignorant of the fact that the organization he was working for had major radical connections or he was just playing stupid. Being that he would soon be convicted of acting as the ringleader of an al-Qaeda affiliated group, one would presume that he knew precisely what the Muslim American Society represented.


The MAS holds its annual conventions in conjunction with the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). As reported in the January 30, 2004, edition of the New York Daily News, the ICNA “is under FBI investigation for terror ties.” Also, according to the report, both the MAS and ICNA “have held conferences featuring speakers accused of terror ties and have published material supporting suicide bombings against Israel.”


One of these published works, a series of fatawa (religious edicts) found in the March 2002 edition of the MAS’s The American Muslim, calls suicide bombing against Israelis “justifiable.” The piece, entitled “Questions About Palestine,” states, “Martyr operations are not suicide and should not be deemed as unjustifiable means of endangering one’s life…In martyr operations, the Muslim sacrifices his own life for the Sake of performing a religious duty, which is Jihad against the enemy…martyr operations are totally different from the forbidden suicide.”


And an article in the July 4, 2003, edition of The American Muslim, entitled “Reaching the Roots of Terrorism,” justified terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, as “a reaction to injustice.”


The MAS, which has been named as being part of the DALLAS/FORT WORTH TERRORIST NETWORK, was founded via individuals associated with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).


In a news report put out by Indianapolis’s WTHR 13, counter-terrorism expert, Steven Emerson, is quoted as saying, “ISNA has sponsored extremists, racists, people who call for Jihad against the United States.” And the report itself stated, “We found about a dozen charities, organizations or individuals under federal scrutiny for possible ties to terrorism that are linked in some way to ISNA – ties sources tell us have also placed ISNA under the federal microscope. ISNA has provided convention booth space and helped raise money for a number of Islamic charities later linked to terrorism by the federal government….”


E-mail Subject #2 – Muslim Brotherhood (MB)


The topic of  conversation between Kaufman and Royer shifted to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood after Sheikh Mustafa Mashour was assassinated. Royer either was truly naive as to the nature of the Brotherhood or was a gifted manipulator of the truth.


Kaufman:  “Do you condemn the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which your organization says it mourns the death of its leader?”


The press release on the MAS website read, “MAS Mourns Loss of Sheikh Mustafa Mashhour:  Supreme Guide of Muslim Brotherhood pioneered balanced Islamic activism.”


Royer:  “I'm not sure why I would condemn the Muslim Brotherhood. They're not on any list of terrorists, and the group is so broad and decentralized that to object to the actions or ideas of what one loosely-related individual or group does is not neccessarily [sic.] to object to what another group or individual does.”


Kaufman:  “The fact that you don't condemn the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that has been responsible for the murders of leaders in the Egyptian government, is a very telling sign. And of course it would account for you not being aware of groups in your organization (MAS) that you should be concerned about.”


Royer:  “I think you're confusing the MB with Gamaat Al-Islamiyya.”


The Muslim Brotherhood, may have been thought of by Royer to be a kindhearted, peace-loving organization, but the reality was something totally different. And my so-called “confusion” of the Brotherhood with Gamaat Al-Islamiyya (a.k.a. Egyptian Islamic Jihad) was no confusion at all. With this in mind, I presented Ismail Royer with the following from the United States Council on Foreign Relations, TERRORISM: QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:


The basic sentiment of today’s Muslim extremists has flourished in the Islamic world for decades.  It can be traced at least to the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood, a political force that began in Egypt in 1928 with the goal of restoring Islamic laws and values in the face of growing Western influence… The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Wahhabi radicals in Saudi Arabia both arose out of an Islamic religious movement called the Salafiyya, which believes that the practice of Islam has become corrupted and must be reformed to reflect the seventh-century form of Islam practiced at the time of the Prophet Muhammad.  This brash interpretation of Islam would eventually influence a new generation of violent, radical Muslim groups, including the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad—the last of which assassinated Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981.


Kaufman:  “Did you read what I sent you about Muslim Brotherhood?  What do you think about that?  Do you shrug that off as nothing?”


Royer:  “I did read it. The fact is that there are many views on the Muslim Brotherhood. And it's misleading to present that as ‘the’ view of CFR, which comprises scholars of many different stripes and opinions…The group (Muslim Brotherhood) isn't perfect; you'll find extremist Republicans as well. The fact that they've retained their moderation under an oppressive middle eastern regime like that of Mubarak strikes me as quite impressive.”


If this were not the view of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), then why would the group include the content of the passage I quoted to Royer so prominently on its website?


In addition, saying that the Muslim Brotherhood “isn’t perfect” -- when considering all of the terrorist organizations the Brotherhood has spawned, including all the ones previously mentioned in addition to HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- is a reckless understatement.


And lastly, Royer’s compliment of the Muslim Brotherhood (“quite impressive”) -- in association with his denouncement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has had his life threatened on numerous occassions, including a failed assassination attempt in 1995 by those associated with the Brotherhood -- is appalling and shows a total lack of respect for human life and well-being.



E-mail Subject #3 – Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)


In the course of our contact, Ismail Royer, apparently having knowledge of my past criticisms of the organization, voluntarily brought up the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).


Royer:  “Your complaints about CAIR are disenguous.” [sic.]


Kaufman:  “My complaints about CAIR are genuine, because I am using fact. Do you support CAIR? Are you a member of CAIR?”


Royer:  “I worked at CAIR in 1994, and then from 1997 to 2001.”


Kaufman:  “While you worked there, did you know of CAIR’s affiliation with the Islamic Association for Palestine? And for that matter, Hamas? Do you support those groups?”


Royer:  “IAP isn't a ‘terrorist group,’ regardless of the claims of Steven Emerson. CAIR has no affiliation with HAMAS, unless one wants to use Emerson's tenuous claims. No, I don't ‘support’ HAMAS, whatever that means. As for IAP, if they're trying to get out a Palestinian point of view, then more power to them, but I find find [sic.] them rather nationalist for my taste.”


The so-called “tenuous claims” that Royer has accused Steven Emerson of making have been confirmed by numerous other credible sources. That said, CAIR’s ties to Hamas are many.


Previously mentioned, CAIR was formed by three individuals from the Islamic Association for Palestine or IAP. As stated in Congressional testimony: “The first manifestation of Hamas’ presence in the United States was the creation of the Islamic Association for Palestine for North America in 1981. Founded by Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, IAP has served as a Hamas support organization in the United States by publishing Hamas communiqués, distributing Hamas recruitment videos and hosting conferences raising monetary and popular support for Hamas.”


At CAIR’s inception, in June of 1994, the group received $5,000 from the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) to open up a headquarters in Washington, D.C., CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad, who has professed his support for Hamas, called the $5,000 a “modest donation.” The HLF, whose Chairman, Ghassan Elashi, was also a founding board member of CAIR’s Texas chapter, was shut down by the United States for financing Hamas. The FBI called HLF “Hamas’ largest fundraising entity in the U.S.”




Just short of two months following the e-mails, Royer and ten of his colleagues were indicted, charged with “conspiring with a foreign terrorist group to engage in jihadist combat in foreign nations friendly to the United States.” That foreign group was Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), a team of Kashmiri separatists that regularly commit acts of terror against Indians. And the indictment read that the conspirators had “an intent to serve in armed hostility against the United States.”


The eleven became known as the “Virginia Jihad Network,” and a number of convictions (including Royer’s) resulted.


Of course, Ismail Royer’s e-mails to me didn’t let on to anything as sinister as this. However, they did say something about the man. They painted a picture of a man who was in severe denial about the true nature of radical Islamist organizations. He was, in other words, the perfect recruit for Islamist terrorism; Royer’s resume, which included a job as a researcher for the extremist American Muslim Council (AMC), made him a ideal candidate to take the next step from radical Islam to the world of terror.




In a May 12, 2003, piece he had written in defense of Sami al-Arian (entitled “Al Arian case: Misplaced priorities”), Royer stated, “law enforcement should at least keep tabs on people suspected of being responsible for violence overseas.”


The irony of this statement is apparent, since at the time of its publication, Royer was in fact being watched by law enforcement for the exact same reason.


But just as in the e-mails he had sent to me, Randall Todd “Ismail” Royer was creating an illusion. On one side was his ‘perfect’ life as a well-doer in the cause of Allah, while on the other was a twisted terrorist reality. Unfortunately for him, even he can’t deny cold prison walls. Because of his work, many more credulous American Muslims may one day follow him to prison...or an early grave.

Joe Kaufman is the Chairman of Americans Against Hate and the founder of CAIR Watch.

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