When a young American, barely into adulthood, coolly explained in a videotaped confession why he decided to join al Qaeda, one thing he said in particular could indicate that the threat we face is both broader and deeper than realized.
The video, which was recorded by Saudi officials and shown to jurors in the U.S. after being approved by a judge, shows now 24-year-old Abu Ali explaining his motivation for joining al Qaeda—and eventually plotting to assassinate George W. Bush. (It was first shown publicly by NBC News, shortly after Ali was convicted late last month.)
Because Abu Ali pursued religious studies in Saudi Arabia—after graduating as valedictorian from the Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia—his case has generally not been considered one of homegrown terrorism. Yet while it is impossible to pinpoint one exact moment where the al Qaeda operative was radicalized, the seeds of his poisonous beliefs were likely sown in the United States, not overseas.
And the indoctrination that ensnared Abu Ali could be taking place in mosques and Islamic schools in large cities and small towns.
Making Ali’s experience more ominous is what inspired him to wage holy war against his home country. It doesn’t appear to have been—as least as his primary reason—a taste for blood or a lust for violence. As Ali explained, he was approached in 2002 by an al Qaeda recruiter in Saudi Arabia and asked to join the Jihad, and “I immediately accepted because of my hatred of the U.S.”
More baffling than how he could hate the country of his birth so much that he was willing to give his own life to help destroy it is his reason. What drove Ali into the arms of al Qaeda was rhetoric that can be found across the United States, not to mention Europe and the Arab world.
It is the kind of thing uttered by Arab leaders, retired U.S. State Department officials, and most pervasively, by college professors. His pathological hatred stemmed from “what I felt was [the U.S.’s] support of Israel against the Palestinian people.”
Forget for a moment that European and Arab “support” for Palestinians has mostly consisted of condoning or even funding Islamic terrorist organizations while propping up the hopelessly corrupt Palestinian Authority. Even forget for a moment that much of what he knows about Israeli-Palestinian issues is undoubtedly pure propaganda. What had this young man convinced of Jihad almost before his contact with the al Qaeda recruiter was rhetoric that is not only protected by the First Amendment, but also not outwardly solicitous of violence.
As radical as Wahhabism, the Saudi-sponsored strain of Islam, is known to be, the Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia almost certainly does not explicitly encourage violence of its students or endorse holy war. But if listening to the Saudi royal family is any indication, Ali learned the very sentiments he cited as his justification in the Islamic school.
Most Americans remember former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani returning a $10 million check in October 2001 after the donor, Prince Waleed—now in the news for $20 million gifts to each Harvard and Georgetown—blamed the U.S. for bringing 9/11 on itself because of its foreign policy, specifically with respect to Israel. And Prince Waleed is the “moderate” of the Saudi family.
The contempt and hostility fostered in young Abu Ali does not seem isolated to Muslims studying at the Saudi Academy. The bipartisan Freedom House earlier this year released a 67-page report that detailed venomous and incendiary materials found in a dozen prominent mosques across the U.S. Though there was at least one explicit call for violence, the report’s more troubling finding was that the materials routinely fomented animosity toward—and encouraged dissociation from—Jews, Christians, and secular government. In short, almost everything not Muslim.
Worth mentioning is that all the materials were sanctioned or sponsored by the Saudis.
Found in the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., just miles from the Saudi Academy, was the following: “To be dissociated from the infidels is to hate them for their religion, to leave them, never to rely on them for support, not to admire them, to be on one's guard against them, never to imitate them and always to oppose them in every way according to Islamic law.”
Abu Ali is not the first American to sign up for Jihad against his home country. There have already been two full-blown, homegrown terror cells busted up in the U.S.: one in Lodi, CA, and the other in Northern Virginia. Both cells contained operatives born and raised in the U.S. These are just the terrorists about which we already know.
Who else is out there? More important, if Saudi vitriol is allowed to fester or even spread, how many more Abu Alis will there be?
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