In a fiery interview yesterday, the American-born Yemeni preacher linked to the suspects in the Fort Hood shootings and Christmas Day attempted airliner attack called on Muslim U.S. soldiers to kill their fellow servicemen.
Anwar al-Awlaki also revealed in the interview, made available by the by the Middle East media monitoring organization MEMRI, that he’s not too busy dodging drone attacks in Yemen to do some heavy reading of Washington think tank literature on the issue of moderate vs. radical Islam.
“Americans do not want an Islam that defends the causes of the Islamic nation ….They want an Islam that is American, liberal, democratic, peaceful and civilized,” Awlaki rails in the interview. The kind of moderate Islam favored by the United States “has been mentioned and promoted in some of their reports, for instance in a report by the Rand Corporation,” he says.”
The Rand report to which al-Awlaki was referring is this 2007 one “Building Moderate Muslim networks.” It argues that moderate Muslims need the organizational tools to counter radicals, who while constituting a tiny percentage of the population, “have influence disproportionate to their numbers.”
After the Fort Hood shoorting, the Times Square car bomb plot earlier this month for which a naturalized Pakistani American citizen Faisal Shahzad was charged, and other cases, U.S. officials are studying the issue of domestic radicalization more closely. One of the questions they are revisiting is whether the U.S. is less immune than previously thought from the kind of alienation and radicalization to which European Muslim communities have been viewed as more vulnerable.
Another recent RAND report by terrorism analyst Brian Jenkins notes 46 publicly reported cases involving 125 individuals of domestic radicalization and recruitment to jihadist terrorism in the United States between September 11, 2001 and the end of 2009. But the report notes, 13 of those cases occurred in 2009, indicating “a marked increase in radicalization leading to criminal activity, up from an average of about four cases a year from 2002 to 2008. In 2009, there was also a marked increase in the number of individuals involved.”
Still, Jenkins told me in an interview today, the number of those in the United States recruited to jihadist terrorism since 9/11 – about 131 to date – remains fewer than the number of English language Al Qaeda-linked websites, which Jenkins says now numbers about 200.
“Al Qaeda today has been placed under pressure by drone attacks, the dispersal of their training camps, their networks ripped apart in several countries as a consequence of terrorist attacks in provoked,” Jenkins said. “It does not have insofar as we know have the capacity for the centrally planned and managed terrorist attacks that it was carrying out in late 1990s and up through 9/11. But it remains determined and it is a much more decentralized threat and it relies on its affiliates in the field to carry out attacks and it is continuously issuing exhortations to individuals to do whatever they can wherever they can.”
“They are depending heavily on exhortation” involving English language websites and native-born American spokespeople — al-Awlaki in Yemen with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Adam Gadahn [in Pakistan], Omar Hammami with al-Shahab in Somalia – “constantly making the pitch – ‘don’t try to get to us in our training camps, but do whatever you can, wherever you can, wherever you are.’”