Rolling Stone confirms our worst suspicions about the message of Showtime’s “American Jihad.”
Many of the nuggets from “AMERICAN JIHAD” that are pulled out in the Rolling Stone review spotlight the obscurantism that ruins “American Jihad.” Both the reviewer and the reviewed turn away from ever blaming Islam for anything.
“The attacks last year in Orlando and San Bernardino, and the failed attempts in New York and New Jersey in September, were all committed by individuals inspired to some extent by al-Awlaki who had no direct contact with foreign terrorist group (or at least any evidence of one).”
It may be true that Omar Mateen, and Tashfeen Malik were inspired by al-Awlaki “to some extent,” but these people were influenced to a greater extent by having been born into a culture, a society, and a family that believes in, and practices jihad.
See: “Document Reveals Omar Mateen’s Father Tied to Radical Islamist Groups,” by The Investigative Project on Terrorism
See: “Female San Bernardino suspect went to religious school”, by Jane Onyanga-Omara, USA TODAY
News reports about New York/New Jersey bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami stress “overseas radicalization,” not Anwar al-Awlaki.
“Ninety percent of them [American jihadists] have been male, but other than that they don’t have a lot in common.”
It is a significant point that they were all Muslims, but neither Rolling Stone, nor the makers of “American Jihad” want to see the truth about the cause of jihad, and they turn away every time they come upon it.
“People are being radicalized in their bedrooms by the Internet.”
But they are not. We are not talking about the Unibomber here. All the data says otherwise. Muslims are radicalizing other Muslims. We keep hearing about these “hot spots,” such as Birmingham, Molenbeek, and now Kyrgyzstan. Muslims are the driving engine in radicalization, not the Internet.
“‘The west will eventually turn against its Muslim citizens’ — seems prescient and even powerful.”
Awlaki was called the “rockstar jihadi,” so it should come as no surprise that Rolling Stone thinks he is kind of neat. However, Awlaki was not just waxing lyrical. He was following in a time honored Islamic tradition that includes, in addition to Muhammad, names such as Uthman Dan Fodio, the Mahdi, and Ibrahim Sori.
Although pitched over the heads of non-Muslims, what Awlaki was saying is “One day Muslims will rise against the citizens of the West.” Those Muslims who are stepped in Islamic traditions such as jihad knew exactly what he was saying.
If Americans were allowed to arm themselves with the truth, they would also recognize Awlaki’s message for what it is, rather than admiring, embracing, or defending it.
But neither Rolling Stone nor “American Jihad” know how to talk or think about Islam and jihad. So, even when F.B.I. special agent Ali Soufan makes an appearance in “American Jihad” and says we have to address the ideology that inspires jihad, this idea is never returned to in “American Jihad” or the Rolling Stone review:
“Combat the narrative, if we don’t kill the ideology, we’re going to continue to play a game of whack-a-mole.”
Instead, we are told to turn this over to a panel of experts, as if that were something we have not tried before. The problem is that we have tried this before. We are trying it now, and it is not working. The problem is the over-regulation of free speech concerning Islam.
This is a call to allow the makers of “American Jihad” to make the movie they wanted to, but were not permitted to because of the presence of Muhammad Magid.
Free speech is the life’s breath of a society. Without it we will find more and more examples of a deep aversion to the truth, as if it were an electrified fence whose confines grow ever small over time.
The solution going forward is to treat Islam no differently from any other faith in this country. This policy will allow us to spot the bad Muslims among the good Muslims. Because the supremacists have as their life’s mission, to ensure that Islam is dominant, and so they will inevitably overplay their hand. It is by this that we will know them, and find ourselves.
“‘American Jihad’: Why New Doc Is Essential Viewing in Trump Era,” Rolling Stone
New film on homegrown terrorism shows how the Internet is the real engine of radicalization – and how Trump’s policies will only make things worse
By Tessa Stuart
It takes an internet connection and about 10 months, on average, to turn an American kid into a terrorist. Home-grown radicals are on average 26 years old. Ninety percent of them have been male, but other than that they don’t have a lot in common. They’re white, black, brown; from rich, poor and middle class families.
And, despite the Trump administration’s hysterical fears of foreign-born terrorists, they – American citizens or legal green card holders — have committed the vast majority of the 400 or so terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11.
He was a charming kid with a bright future. But no one saw the pain he was hiding or the monster he would become.
One of the disturbing takeaways from American Jihad, the new Showtime documentary from director Alison Elwood and Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions, is how fully the government has failed to recognize the threat embedded in emergent channels like YouTube and Twitter, and how ineffectual their usual methods are on the rare occasions they do.
Through interviews with reformed jihadis, the families of young indoctrinated men and experts on extremism, the film traces the influence of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American cleric killed by a 2011 drone attack in Yemen. Al-Awlaki has been dead for six years, but he lives on on YouTube where his inflammatory lectures continue to rack up views and inspire terrorist plots in the United States.
The attacks last year in Orlando and San Bernardino, and the failed attempts in New York and New Jersey in September, were all committed by individuals inspired to some extent by al-Awlaki who had no direct contact with foreign terrorist group (or at least any evidence of one).
Not a single one of those attacks – nor the Boston bombing or the Fort Hood shooting – would have been stopped by the travel ban the Trump administration stubbornly continues to pursue. As Peter Bergen, the only Western journalist to interview Osama Bin Laden, puts it in the film: “Let’s say we banned all immigration tomorrow, that wouldn’t solve the problem. People are being radicalized in their bedrooms by the Internet.”
The Trump administration’s misguided policies are not only not addressing the problem, they’re exacerbating it. By driving a wedge between Muslim-Americans and the rest of the country, they’re increasing the kind of isolation that drove those attackers to seek out the extreme message al-Awlaki preached in the first place and making the things al-Awlaki said while he was alive — like “The west will eventually turn against its Muslim citizens”— seems prescient and even powerful. There’s evidence the travel ban is already being used as a recruiting tool by the individuals who have have stepped into al-Awlaki’s old role.
Imam Anwar Al Awlaki at the Dar al Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, in 2001. At the time he was persuing a doctorate at George Washington University.. In background are students at the Islamic School. For a story on non-Muslims reaching out to Muslims
That would be bad enough, but as American Jihad carefully illustrates, the FBI is woefully ill-equipped at recognizing a potential threat. Field officers, acting on a tip that Omar Mateen spoke enthusiastically about al-Awlaki’s teachings at his mosque, open and closed an investigation in the Pulse nightclub shooter. “I don’t believe he will go postal,” one would write, before Mateen committed the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.
The bureau likewise blew a tip they had from Russian intelligence on Tamerlan Tsarnaev before he carried out the Boston bombing in 2013. Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan had an ongoing email correspondence with al-Awlaki about how he could support the jihad – a correspondence the FBI monitored, and used to conclude he was not a threat before Hassan shot up his army base in 2009, killing 13, wounding 32.
The inevitable question American Jihad confronts is: how do you begin to fight a virus spread through social media? Censor the YouTube videos, shut down the Twitter accounts? More will only pop-up to fill the void. To have a chance at succeeding, any strategy has to take a much wider view, according to Ali Soufan, a former special agent for the F.B.I. “If we don’t combat the narrative, if we don’t kill the ideology, we’re going to continue to play a game of whack-a-mole,” he says in the film.
And what if someone you know – your child, as was the case for several of the film’s subjects – is at risk? “Right now, if you’re a family member worried about your kid, you got nothing,” Seamus Hughes, Deputy Director of the program on extremism at George Washington University, says in the film. “You do nothing kind of hope it’s a phase, teenage angst, they grow out of it. Or you call the FBI and potentially talk to your loved one behind prison bars for the next 25 years.”
If there’s any good news in the film, it’s that, as Hughes goes on to say, there are solutions – it’s just that we haven’t tried them. “We’re talking about small numbers of individuals that are drawn to groups like ISIS: 105 people in the last two years. These are manageable numbers in terms of one-on-one interventions. You can have a bench of religious leaders – properly vetted – intervention specialists, social workers, mental health professionals [to whom] you can say: I’ve got a guy down the street… can you help me out?” Hughes suggests. “We haven’t done that.”
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