07 February 2010

Possible Home Grown Radicalization Ties to Abdulmutallab

I read an interesting piece from the Investigative Project on Terrorism's website concerning possible home grown radicalization ties to the Christmas Day bomber. Read the full piece here. Abdulmutallab attended a two week course in Houston, Texas put on by the AlMaghrib Institute, in August 2008. While there is no direct evidence of any radicalization, the rhetoric from the Houston based director/national dean of academic affairs, Yasir Qadhi, is quite telling. I don't want to rehash the entire piece from the Investigative Project on Terrorism, but one of Qadhi's statements jumped out at me, "(AMI is) Trying to carve out a Western society among conservative Muslims-for Muslims to integrate into Western society but maintain their Islamic identity." This statement puts a lot of pressure on the State Department to counter this with our own Counter Narrative program.

An Anonymous reader, of my counter narrative piece, posted a link to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization. Amm Sam, a primary contributor to their site, has a series of posts analyzing the British model for Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) and Daniel Benjamin's use of the language "Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)". Amm Sam is still producing posts on this topic and I encourage the al Sahwa readers to read his work, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5. One of al Sahwa's most experienced readers, Dr. David Ronfeldt, also weighs in on Amm Sam's posts. I want to thank the anonymous reader for bringing awareness to Amm Sam's posts, this is by far the most rewarding aspect of al Sahwa.

Dan P and I will put our heads together, once Amm Sam finishes his series, and attempt to put forth a feasible coarse of action for reducing home grown radicalization. Stay tuned.


  1. 做好事,不需要給人知道,雖然只是一件微不足道的事,但我相信,這會帶給我快樂。 ..................................................

  2. Those who feel rejected and are without a struggle are attracted to the vanguards of popular rejection who champion an seemingly impossible struggle. This aspect of human nature is why so many seemingly well-off individuals are self-radicalized and ultimately recruited.

    We have never consistently portrayed the Bin Laden movement for what it is; a death cult. Instead we have fallen into their propaganda trap of discussing Islam and U.S. foreign policy allowing them to take American words while displaying contradictory American actions. The strategic objectives of al Qaeda are irrelevant and it only adds merit to their arguments to address widely held grievances they claim to champion.

    Cooler heads acknowledge the legitimate grievances against Western governments in which the Bin Laden movement propagandizes. But a far smaller social network accepts the methods in which Bin Laden types choose to address those grievances. This network is the potential recruit pool, the sympathizers, and the supporters. Isolated from this network, Bin Laden's al Qaeda will die but a new movement or movements will emerge. Marginalizing and fracturing this massive non-lethal network is the key to winning.

    Islam and U.S. foreign policy are two topics to completely avoid for a counter-narrative program. Comparisons to other death cults around the world must be made instead. When As Sahab releases its first video to acknowledge these comparisons, adjust fire and drive the point home based upon the points in which they demonstrate the most sensitivity. Also follow the takfiri message boards to track the course of the debate.

    The greatest (and only) significant success we have seen thus far was displayed in the As Sahab production where al Qaeda felt in necessary to respond to the accusation that they kill more Muslims than infidels. Success is when we start framing their debate.

  3. Abu,

    Thank you for your post. I think that a counter narrative program can be formed by including comparisons to "religiously-minded" cults without detailing Islam; however, it may be difficult and unavoidable.

    Bin Laden is heavy on god-language just as Jim Jones was, and others. Religion and the false interpretation thereof generate recruitment, sympathizers, and supporters. As much as people may not voice it, I think most are in favor of a black-and-white William James philosophy: "You are either with us or against us."

    For a start on the takfiri message boards, you may find this exchange between the blog author and Asad'Allah worthwhile (as I did): http://occident.blogspot.com/. I am intrigued, but not surprised, by his answer; "Whatever the Qur'aan and Sunnah says, and what the classical scholars and Ulama [scholars] of Jihad say...that is my view."

  4. Dan,

    I completely agree that the mention of Islam is most likely unavoidable. What caught my eye was a segment of of Asad'Allah's quote, "...and what the classical scholars and Ulama [scholars] of Jihad say..."

    Therein lies the second half of the equation; the rulings of today's scholars of Jihad.

    As non-Muslims (or perceived as such), the American narrative should focus on the death cults tactics. Dr. Fadl is an excellent example of respected scholars of Jihad that propagate a counter narrative to the Bin Laden movement. More credible voices like that of Dr. Fadl are needed.


    "Death cult" portrayal in the West combined with former Bin Laden allies denouncing his methods in the Middle East is a two-pronged approach to countering home grown radicalization that terrorist recruiters will have tremendous difficulty in overcoming.

  5. Abu,

    The rulings of today's scholars is a point of contention to the extent that AQ leaders, such as OBL, claim themselves to have the legitimacy to issue fatwas on jihad. It is the personalization of jurisprudence and against the rich historical practice of dignified scholars who have trained to do so. OBL and others, through their actions, are saying that these scholars are illegitimate and do not know Islam; i.e. Asad'Allah's comment that there are "no civilians in jihad."

    Thus, the question remains: Is AQ Muslim, as they state they profess the "purest" form of Islam? The counter-narrative program, which Walid Phares is advocating, is needed to confront AQ and Jihadi Takfiris. Shall takfir be used as a part of the counter strategy? And if so, should it incorporate or rest on the basis of shari'a? How will this intersect with secular arguments?


  6. Dan,

    Take a look at the interview I posted today. It fits right into our discussion.


    Also, I am glad you brought up the Walid Phares article. I caught that the other day and thought it was brilliant. Back in December I had an article calling for ISAF operations to operate under fatwas and for NATO to have locals form sharia courts in order to approve target lists. A few friends of mine rolled their eyes, but most understood the justification. We need to operate within a host nation's rule of law. That does not always equate to the constitution alone. Here's the link.


    I will say this; we are definitely heading in the right direction. I would love to hear the opinions of a former AQ recruit. Nothing is more informative on cults than members that have left.

  7. Abu,

    I think your last point in the post, "Missing from Af/Pak COIN Strategy," is the most poignant:
    "Fighting against pashtunwali and Islam is a near-impossible venture. Instead use it to your advantage and try not to radically change the indigenous culture."

    The culture is constructed of ethnic subdivisions, which all require respectful interaction of expectations and boundaries. I always think of the "3 cups of tea" to establish trust.

    Concerning the shari'a courts, certain sects do not recognize fatwas as binding. Steve Emerson's Investigative Project notes the importance of statistics when building a strategy;
    "In 2003, 59 percent of Indonesians expressed confidence in Osama bin Laden. Now the number is down to 25 percent - a significant drop to be sure, but that is still over 57 million people in Indonesia who side with the Al Qaeda leader."

    Just as the Taliban wants popular support, so too do leaders; an edict authorizing actionable intelligence may not be popular with the people [at the time]. How do we help them "awaken" themselves? How do we convince them?

    Nance, per our discussion on his book, "An End to Al Qaeda," and you are right to move forward with the "cult." We should revisit structural issues, such as what elements of a franchise, conglomerate, and/or tribal makeup are intertwined in the matrix.

    (1) See David Ronfeldt's thoughts on his blog, "Visions From Two Theories;"

    (2) Also see my colleague, Josh's, posts on conglomerate theory on the SWJ here;

    (3) Lastly, one more intriguing read from SWJ entitled, "Jihad of the Pen;"

    *I posted these comments on Challenge COIN as well.