“Jihabees”: Stopping Jihadist-Wannabees

Muslim communities and law enforcement agencies should follow Virginia’s example and work together to stop radicalisation

Wajahat Ali

The arrest of five American Muslims in Pakistan allegedly conspiring to join the terrorist groups Jaysh Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba exposes a troubling phenomenon of domestic radicalisation, but also highlights an evolved, proactive Muslim American community seeking partnership to curb extremism.

The five young, American born, basketball loving, community service volunteers from Virginia allegedly join a growing number of jihadist-wannabes, or “jihabees.” Despite appearing mild mannered, well educated and seemingly assimilated, these “jihabees” are often hijacked by an appealing and delusional narrative extolling the heroism of martyrdom which is promoted by extremists, who successfully use the internet for global recruitment and indoctrination. The justification for their criminality is rationalised by a perverse misunderstanding of their religion which is anchored by a growing resentment towards those state actors committing what they see as anti-Muslim violence and oppression.

Recently, the disturbed army major Nidal Hasan killed 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood allegedly retaliating against the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which he often referred to as “war on Islam”.

Furthermore, two US Muslim men were convicted of plotting to aid terrorists by filming landmarks around Washington DC and sending the clips as potential target sites to terrorists abroad.

These isolated examples of imported radicalism nonetheless fuel the latent prejudices of a minority convinced their 4 million Muslim American neighbours represent a treacherous fifth column of stealth jihadists ready to spontaneously ignite. Despite the visible existence of millions of practising American Muslims who belie this stereotype by never engaging in terrorism, let alone felonies or misdemeanors, a study by the Pew Research Centre found that 38% of all Americans say Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions. Continue reading