Six American citizens and one U.S. permanent resident were charged in North Carolina with, according to the Justice Department, “conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad.” The indictment centers around the activities of an American convert to Islam, 39-year-old Daniel “Saifullah” Boyd (a drywall contractor who was apparently the ringleader of this group). It reveals yet again the international scope of jihadist activity – giving the lie to the common Leftist assertion that various jihads around the globe are isolated nationalist insurgencies with no connection to one another.
Above all, in the words of U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding, “these charges hammer home the point that terrorists and their supporters are not confined to the remote regions of some far away land but can grow and fester right here at home.” How did seven American citizens, with their leader a convert to Islam, get the idea that supporting terrorists and participating in terrorist training was consonant with their religion – and was, indeed, a religious obligation? Holding didn’t say. But that is the question that must ultimately be answered, and policy formulated accordingly, if homegrown jihad activity of this type is to be prevented in the future.
It all started in 1989, when, according to the indictment, Boyd went to Pakistan and Afghanistan, attended jihad training camps, and fought alongside jihadists in Afghanistan. He didn’t leave Central Asia until 1992. His wife Sabrina Boyd has pointed out indignantly that in Afghanistan in the late Eighties, Boyd was battling the Soviet invaders “with the full backing of the United States government.” Indeed. But at that time the U.S. was aiding the Afghan mujahedin against the Soviets – and once they drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan, those same mujahedin quickly dashed hopes that the U.S. had won over their hearts and minds, hewing closely to the jihadist perspective that both the Soviet Union and the United States represented Satanic superpowers at war with Islam. If Boyd was fighting alongside the Afghan mujahedin in the late Eighties and early Nineties, that hardly constitutes evidence that his commitment to America was strong, or that his commitment to jihad was weak.
Besides Pakistan and Afghanistan, Boyd also visited another jihadist hotspot, Gaza, in March 2006. According to the DOJ, he went there with one of his sons (two of whom are among the seven suspected North Carolina jihadists), in order to introduce the young man to “individuals who also believed that violent jihad was a personal religious obligation.”
Then a year later, Boyd and some of the others who have just been indicted went to Israel “in an effort to engage in violent jihad, but ultimately returned to the United States after failing in their efforts.” But Boyd didn’t give up: in February 2008, he “allegedly solicited money to fund the travel of additional individuals overseas to engage in violent jihad” and plotted with two others among the seven who were indicted, Anes Subasic and Hysen Sherifi, to send mujahedin to prime areas of jihad activity around the world, and to fund their activities. Sherifi traveled in July 2008 to yet another hotbed of contemporary jihad, Kosovo. Meanwhile, Boyd and the others were allegedly conspiring, according to the DOJ, “to provide material support and resources to terrorists, including currency, training, transportation and personnel. The defendants also conspired to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad during this period. The object of the conspiracy, according to the indictment, was to advance violent jihad, including supporting and participating in terrorist activities abroad and committing acts of murder, kidnapping or maiming persons abroad.”
Sabrina Boyd, however, maintains her husband’s innocence: “We’re an ordinary family. We have the right to justice, and we believe that justice will prevail. We are decent people who care about other human beings.” However, that is not in dispute. The question is whether Boyd, his sons, and the other accused plotters cared about other human beings enough to wish to impose their vision of divine law – Islamic Sharia – upon them by violence, in accord with traditional tenets of the Islamic faith. Appearing to militate against this idea was the Boyd family’s unremarkable normality. A neighbor reported that “they were great neighbors. We never had any trouble with them. Their kids played with our kids.” Another added: “We never saw anything to give any clues that something like that could be going on in their family.” But from the looks of the indictment, the group never had any plans to wage jihad in suburban North Carolina. However, the fact that they were there at all should give law enforcement officials pause.
Owen D. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI, declared: “The threat that extremists and radicals pose to America and our allies has not dulled or gone away. These arrests today show there are people living among us, in our communities in North Carolina and around the US, that are honing their skills to carry out acts of murder and mayhem.” Yet Harris and other law enforcement officials have shown little public interest in the question of exactly how converts to Islam and other Muslims in the U.S. come to believe that violence and hate are integral requirements of their religious observance. Until that changes, as time goes by Americans will be introduced to many, many more people like Daniel “Saifullah” Boyd.