A Saudi radical Muslim group, the Brigade of the Two Holy Mosques, sent a threat last Wednesday to the House of Saud and its subjects: “We are warning anyone who cooperates with the authorities or gives the tyrants information leading to the arrest of one of the mujahidin. He will be liquidated.” The next day, a man identifying himself as “Daleel Al-Mojahid” (Guide for the jihad warrior) and claiming affiliation with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda issued his own warning to those participating in last weekend’s Loya Jirga council in Afghanistan: “We . . . assure you and send you our coming news that we will start killing all the (loya Jerga) council that is due to start elections, we have sent them all messages warning them that if any of them show up in the elections they will be killed directly on our hands.”
Both of these threats were delivered through the Internet. Paradoxical as it may be for a movement generally regarded as anti-modern, in the World Wide Web radical Muslims have found their most congenial method of communication. It satisfies their need for secrecy and concealment more effectively than any other medium, and allows them to transmit messages around the globe instantaneously. Al-Qaeda itself, as well as other terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hizballah, operates websites that not just to issue threats and other public statements, but to, in the words of the Net watchdog site Internet Haganah, “distribute official messages and communiqués; recruit and indoctrinate new members’ communicate with forces that are distributed globally; and train in methodology and educate in ideology.
The sprawling and anarchic nature of the Web makes it easy to operate: just put up a site, run it until it is closed down, and then put it up again somewhere else. One reason why these sites are often closed down is a man named Aaron Weisburd, who operates Internet Haganah (http://internet-haganah.co.il/haganah/, plus many mirror sites to ward off persistent attacks by jihadists). Internet Haganah describes itself as “a volunteer effort to research, report on, and stop the use of the internet as a communications and propaganda tool by Islamist terrorist groups, their supporters and apologists.”
Weisburd and his colleagues “inform Internet service providers when they are doing business with terrorist organizations, and when those groups are violating their terms of service. . . . Due to the fact that our opponents’ sites tend to be in blatant violation of their hosts’ terms of service, as of October 2003 Internet Haganah volunteers have gotten more than 300 terrorist-supporter sites shut down.” Among these have been sites with direct or indirect affiliations with terror groups including Al-Qaeda, Al-Muhajiroun, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Popular Resistance Committee and many others.
Recently Daleel Al-Mojahid posted videotapes of explosions in Iraq, represented as attacks on American troops, at his Yahoo group. He already had a collection of Arabic-language bomb-making manuals at the site. When I asked Weisburd if he generally notified law enforcement officials when he found evidence of terrorist activity or related illegalities, he responded: “I do my level best to keep law enforcement informed. However, sometimes when you try and talk to them it’s like talking to a wall. I come upon information that ought to be referred to law enforcement once or twice a month. You may get an agent who is very interested, but is then assigned away to another case. Or you may draw an agent who is indifferent to the problem, or even one who is unwilling to work with civilians. And in general, the system is not equipped to work with civilians. Some agencies are more on top of things than others. It’s really hit-and-miss. To get people’s attention I try to pass it along through a number of different channels.”
Three of Weisburd’s notable successes:
• Maac.ws and qawim.org. Weisburd described these Arabic-language sites as “linked to al-Qaeda at the clerical level.” Internet Haganah notified the sites’ host, Amana Technology in Canada, which took them down. These Arabic-language sites offered a glimpse into the Al-Qaeda command structure. Rather than operating according to a strict hierarchical structure in which orders are given on high and obeyed down the line, on these sites, Weisburd says, articles would feature “a cleric citing hadiths to argue that it is permissible to use WMDs against the United States.” It appeared that that would be enough to move others in the organization to take the initiative to develop and carry out a plan.
• Alerhat.com, another Arabic-language site. It featured an Arabic language forum that was frequently visited by supporters of Al-Qaeda, along with pages dedicated to pirated software which contained over 1,000 serial numbers for a huge range of software — as well as instructions on how to stage cyberattacks against Internet Haganah websites. The Arabic name of the site was nothing if not forthright: “The Islamic Terrorist Forum.”
• Al Neda, the primary site of Al-Qaeda, which (like many others) goes down but keeps popping back up. Most recently (late November) it was installed behind a legitimate site, “most likely,” says Weisburd, “without anyone’s permission.”
There are also numerous radical Muslim sites in English, which can be just as illuminating of the jihadist mindset:
• Al-Muhajiroun. www.muhajiroun.com is the present Internet home of this British organization, which openly declares its intention to work to reestablish the Caliphate — the single political, religious, and military leader who will rule the Islamic world as the successor of the Prophet Muhammad — “in order that Islam dominates the World (Izhaar ud-Deen) and becomes the World order.” Al-Muhajiroun is headed by the flamboyant Sheikh Omar Bakri, who gained international attention last September for advertising at this site a conference, to be held on September 11, celebrating “The Magnificent 19” — that is, the hijackers of 9/11. The conference was spoiled by all the advance publicity it ended up receiving, but Bakri has never retracted his stated goal: “I want to see the black flag of Islam flying over Downing Street” — that is, the flag of jihad. In fact, Bakri’s daughter is named the Black Flag of Islam.
In service of the organization’s goals, one of which is “to persuade Muslims to implement Islam and to persuade non-Muslims to embrace Islam or to accept it as a political way of life and a solution for their problems,” this site contains leaflets proselytizing for Islam and explanatory material about contemporary issues. One is a lecture by Bakri entitled “Al Walaa wal Baraa’” — that is, Allegiance and Enmity. Bakri asserts that “the driving force behind all questions [having] to do with: ‘are you british or Muslim? Etc’ is Al Walaa wal Baraa’.” (Spelling and punctuation is as in the original.) He explains that as Muslims, “we hate the kuffar [unbelievers] as a matter of Deen [religion] for the sake of Allah (swt), it is nothing personal. We do not hate the jews for their noses or the way they look; Allah (swt) is the one who created their looks, our hate for them is for the sake of Allah alone.”
On violent jihad Al-Muhajiroun is uncompromising: “The Muslim, if he does not get the honour to participate in the battlefield with the mujahideen [jihad warriors], he should be engaged on speaking about the jihad, promoting the jihad and Mujahideen, and if you are not able to engage on establishing the khilafah [caliphate], you should be speaking about the obligation of khilafah, and preparing for the khilafah.” Even more strongly, Bakri declares: “The Prophet (saw) said, ‘I have been ordered to fight people until they say laa ilaaha illallah [there is no god but Allah] and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.’ Those who do not fulfill this kalima [word, referring here to the Muslim confession of faith, which is in italics above] and its conditions or those who negate it cannot remain in the camp of Imaan [faith in Allah], rather they must be removed and put in the camp of kufr [unbelief].”
In line with this, a press release at the site entitled “Ramadan: The Month of Jihad” contains this statement: “Far from Iraqis being ‘happy with their liberation’ as Bush and Blair like to sell to the world, a truer reflection of Iraqi (and Muslim) feelings was recently expressed by an Iraqi following 2 US soldiers having their throats cut and being dragged from their car in Mosul: ‘This feast (i.e. Eid Al-Fitr signifying the end of Ramadan) we feast on the blood of Americans!’”
An article justifying suicide bombing says, “We seek for the kuffar [unbelievers], only for Allah to send calamities on them, or to punish them ourselves. . . . There is no difference between the one who wants to sell himself to his lord with a plane or by receiving a bullet or receiving a sword, or by becoming a bullet for the sake of Allah.” At least some of Bakri’s students take his teachings to heart: Asif Mohammed Hanif, a British citizen who was Bakri’s student in England, killed three people in a suicide bombing attack at a bar in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2003 (he had moved about freely in Israel by posing as a peace activist). Hanif’s accomplice and fellow Bakri alumnus, Omar Khan Sharif, failed to detonate his bomb and escaped, although his body later washed up on a Tel Aviv beach. Commented Bakri: “There is no way for me to condemn the self-sacrificing operation that took place in Palestine against occupying forces.”
• Maktab Al Jihad (www.maktab-al-jihad.com), which Internet Haganah terms “everyone’s *favorite* site for keeping track of ‘Jihads around the world.’” This site, which Weisburd says is operated from Malaysia (one of the few places remaining in the world where open jihadists can get and keep Internet access with only slight fear of being shut down by authorities), is built around the sermons and writings of Abu Hamza Al-Masri, the one-eyed, hook-handed former imam of Britain’s notorious Finsbury Park mosque, where shoe bomber Richard Reid, admitted Al-Qaeda conspirator Zacharias Moussaoui, and other suspected terrorists once worshiped. Most of Abu Hamza’s writings and other articles at the site center on jihad and Sharia. This site also contains a news section, keeping up with jihad activity in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, and Israel; a section on “Other Jihads” currently contains news from Kashmir, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Yemen, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. Also featured are articles with headlines that sound as if they came right out of a college antiwar publication: “US ‘planned attack on Taleban’ long before 911”; “The Bush Administration’s Top 40 Lies about War and Terrorism”; “Kill People, Kill Media, Kill Freedom: New hallmarks of the United States”; “US plans for executions at Guantanamo.” Also: “Call from Maktab Al Jihad to UN & all Countries: Do not send soldiers to Iraq to Help the USA.” Another article is full of paranoid speculations about 9/11: “As the second anniversary of the alledged [sic] attacks on the World Trade Centers and Pentagon approach, why have so many relevant questions been stonewalled or lied about?”
• Daleel Al-Mojahid. This Yahoo group got nationwide attention for this threat posted in early November (again, spelling and punctuation as in the original): “this is the last call for muslims in newyork,the east side, and LA to start leaving. the mojahideen are now ready to teach the US a lesson it will never forget inshalaah. alaaaaaaah akbaaaaaar.” And a week later: “alaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah akbaaaaar alaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah akbaaaaar time is closing ............ time is closing..........gods hands are moving the mojahideen............here we come bush...here we come to teach you who are the mojahideen (the terrorests of god).....alaaaaaaaaaah akbaaar. alaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah akbaaaaaar daleel_almojahid. alaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah akbaaar.” Similar warnings appeared on other Islamic sites.
As any Muslim who heeded the warning to leave New York, Washington, and Los Angeles will now have been away from home for over six weeks, we may be forgiven for concluding that Daleel Al-Mojahid and the others were crying wolf, or that the plans of which they spoke were foiled in some way. On the other hand, he did get hold of footage of apparent bomb attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq before it was widely publicized, so maybe the Afghan tribal leaders who participated in the Loya Jirga shouldn’t rest easy just yet.
Responding to numerous requests from alarmed readers who came across Daleel Al-Mojahid’s November threats, Weisburd traced him back to the United Arab Emirates, where he was posting from the American University of Sharjah. Recent reports indicate that Daleel, who also reportedly moves about on the Internet under the name Salaah Aldeen (Prayer of the religion), no longer posts from the University, but still operates from a telecommunications company in Dubai. When complaints compel Yahoo to shut down his Yahoo group, he simply establishes a new site with a slightly different name: the group has gone from daleel_al-mojahid_ to daleel_al-mojahid_1 to daleel_almojahid. Weisburd doesn’t believe that he is actually highly placed in Al-Qaeda, but he may have a genuine connection to the organization.
• Jihad Unspun (www.jihadunspun.net) is a slick site offering “a clear view of the U.S. war on ‘terrorism’” — that is, a rather predictable series of rehashes of the radical Muslim line that Osama has been smeared and misunderstood, Bush is the real terrorist, and so on. Unlike the sites above, Jihad Unspun doesn’t seem to be operated by a terrorist group or by people with ties to terrorists. However, its sympathies quite clearly lie with them. The site is operated by a Canadian former “publishing entrepreneur and in later years, also web developer,” Khadija Abdul Qahaar — “formerly Bev Giesbrecht.” In a lengthy personal statement about her conversion to Islam, she writes: “While Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida is an effective fighting force, the facts are that there are now multiple, diverse groups threatening US interests . . . There can never be peace as long America continues to perpetrate acts of aggression against Muslims, either directly in invading our lands or by facilitating puppet regimes or hiding behind the transparent veil of the United Nations, whether it be in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya or anywhere on the globe.” She also calls for the implementation of Sharia: “And when we as individuals come to the realization that man’s laws will always fail us and that only Gods laws can bring peace and harmony, then, and only then, we will make true progress. The solution lies in Islam.”
• Clear Guidance: www.clearguidance.com. This is a broad-range site containing material on virtually every aspect of Islam. It even carries an article by the Saudi Sheikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid (who has gained notoriety for preaching that Muslims must “educate their children to Jihad . . . . and to hatred of the Jews, the Christians, and the infidels”) entitled “An Example of the Dangers of Internet Chat between the Sexes.”
Any moderate Muslim who happens by will be confronted with articles in praise of Osama bin Laden’s intellectual mentor, Abdullah Azzam, and Sayyid Qutb — two of the key theorists of modern Islamic radicalism. It’s hard to imagine anyone getting sentimental about these fierce men, but tribute articles honoring them are part of a section entitled “We Will Never Forget You,” which is headed by a rather incongruous bit of doggerel written in semi-dialect: “It’s kinda hard wit you not around / Hope you in Heaven smilin' down / Watching us while we pray for you / Everyday we pray for you / Till the day we meet again / In my heart is where I keep you friend / Memories give me the strength I need to proceed / Strength I need to believe.” (Bold and underlining as in the original.)
Qutb, according to an article here, “was an outstanding personality from amongst the great figures of Islamic thought, from the men of the contemporary Islamic Awakening.” This “outstanding personality” wrote a manual of jihadist theory entitled Milestones (which is also available in numerous places on the web). In it, Qutb warned that “those who have usurped the authority of God and are oppressing God’s creatures are not going to give up their power merely through preaching; if it had been so, the task of establishing God’s religion in the world would have been very easy for the Prophets of God!” Those who have “usurped the authority of God” are those who dare to govern societies according to laws other than those of the Sharia. Therefore, says Qutb, Muslims must “strike hard at all those political powers which force people to bow before them and which rule over them, unmindful of the commandments of God.” Osama himself couldn’t have said it better.
Clear Guidance also contains heavily-travelled readers’ forums, which show that few moderate Muslims actually do come by. Posts frequently quote Azzam, Qutb, and other radical thinkers as respected authorities, heap contempt on non-Muslims, and exult in the deaths of Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moderators frequently warn those posting not to express radical sentiments, but they manage to slip through anyway. Many have been preserved for posterity at the anti-jihadist site www.clearguidance.blogspot.com, which is devoted to documenting the extremism at the Clear Guidance forums.
One poster corrected the posting of a news article about last week’s suicide attack in Moscow: “martyrdom operation NOT suicide bomb attack!” Another, posting from Arizona, quipped: “I’m slightly offended by this. Honestly, that was a Mercedes! What a waste.” Still another said that this bombing was “Just like the Operations by the Mujahideen which brought down in a breath taking manner the two idols of New York.” On a different thread, a poster asked where he could find a videotape of “a bunch of people dancing and the dance floor collapsing. LOL.” Another explained: “It was like a year ago, at a jewish wedding in filisteen [Palestine], where they where dancing and doing all sort of stuff, so the whole floor they where dancing on totally colapsed, and the funny part is, they where filming the whole thing, and a while after, the film was shown all over the news.” Yet another: “And that clip was hilarious!”
Early in 2003, this was posted on a Clear Guidance forum: “I always thought (and still think) it’s a great idea to join the US ground forces for a simple reason: they’re all getting shipped off to the Middle East for FREE! So, you go there, free, with US equipment and weapons, yada yada yada, then when you get there, you change sides and fight the kufar [unbelievers]! After changing your uniform of course! And while you’re at it, you can sabotage some of their stuff from the inside!” The writer, “El-Masri,” claimed to be Ahmed Eissa, head of the Muslim Student Association at Green Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. When the messages were posted at the popular news commentary site “Little Green Footballs,” Eissa denied that he had written them, claiming to have been the victim of a hacker, although many nagging questions were left unanswered.
Clear Guidance, according to the monitoring blogspot, is currently hosted by PC Warehouse & Supplies in Cincinnati, Ohio.
• Islamic Awakening (islamicawakening.com) is a similar site with a similar discussion board. In a discussion of jihad, a poster named Saleem exclaimed, “This website is starting to get on my nerves, why are u guys so radical, if you love Jihad so much, why don’t you go and take part instead of blabbing, and the sisters on this website are starting to scare me, how can a women, who Allah (swt) like a flower [sic], have so much hatred and violence in her, what is happening to our Muslim sisters”. An answer from a poster calling himself “Mujahid”: “Jihad is the measuring stick between the sincere and insincere. If a Muslim can sit and wish for peace with the ones who are slaughtering our people then he has already neglected the duty of Jihad. Brothers don’t waste your time debating with Kuffar [unbelievers] and apostates 9/11 was all the Dawa [preaching of Islam] they need. Now the whole world knows of Islam and the fate that awaits the Kaffirs [unbelievers] Allah u Akbar”. A woman, Amani, weighed in on Saleem’s deplorable sexism: “muslim women are allowed to have hatred and violence in them too u know. muslim women joined their men for jihad at the time of the Propet [sic] (S.A.W) in case u didnt know.”
• Sound Vision (www.soundvision.com) used to host similar forums, but when they started to get attention they were taken down. According to Weisburd, Sound Vision “tries to teach Muslims how to do good PR. That’s why they had to take down their forums. The company does commercial marketing and PR work for a Who’s Who of American corporations.”
But anyone who wants to go behind the PR can go to the other sites listed here, and to dozens of others that are currently available on the Web. The Clear Guidance and Islamic Awakening discussion boards indicate just how effective the theological appeals of Al-Muhajiroun, Maktab Al-Jihad and the others have been in turning the hearts and minds of young Muslims toward radicalism. The results of all this activity are likely to reverberate far beyond the artificial world of the Internet.