Self-Motivated Jihadists

The day after seven people were arrested in Miami for trying to raise an “Islamic Army” to wage jihad by mounting terror attacks against the Sears Tower in Chicago and other landmarks, FBI Director Robert Mueller pointed to a new terror threat: “These extremists,” he said, “are self-recruited, self-trained, and self-executing. They answer not to a particular leader but to an ideology. In short, they operate under the radar.”

The Miami plotters weren’t a sleeper cell of al Qaeda operatives. Yet according to the Justice Department, they “allegedly attempted to obtain the support of al Qaeda to achieve their goals and discussed this desire with an individual cooperating with law enforcement who posed as a member of al Qaeda. Believing they were dealing with that terrorist group, in March 2006, Batiste and other defendants pledged an oath of allegiance to al Qaeda and allegedly supported a plan to destroy FBI buildings in the United States by taking photos of the FBI Building in North Miami Beach, Florida, and other federal buildings in Miami-Dade County.”

The plotters were members of the Moorish Science Temple, a bizarre precursor to the Nation of Islam. While the Council on American Islamic Relations has asked the media to refrain from calling the group members Muslims, clearly it was the Islamic elements of the group’s theology that led them to begin plotting. According to the Telegraph, “the basic tenet of Moorish Science is that all black people are born as Muslims and are descended from the Moors, a nomadic North African tribe.” The Islam of the Moorish Temple has only a glancing resemblance to orthodox Sunni Islam, but the connection is real: the father of the accused ringleader, Narseal Batiste, has said that his son, according to AP, “was determined to study the Quran.” And their attempt to make contact with al Qaeda makes their allegiances abundantly clear.

Others recently have also operated below the radar, apparently motivated only by the same ideology that seems to have been the primary impetus of the Sears Tower plot. Last March, Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, rented an SUV and drove it through a crowded part of the campus, intentionally trying to hit people and wounding nine. In a series of letters to the student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, he explained that he acted in obedience to Koranic dictates: “Allah demands of believers to retaliate violently against persons responsible for attacking them or their fellow Believers around the world. ([Koran] 2:178-179, 5:45, 8:72, 9:38, 9:71, 42:39-42, 49:10)….Due to my religious motivation for the attack, I feel no remorse and am proud to have carried it out in service of and in obedience of Allah….Considering that I injured several people both physically and psychologically, who were also American taxpayers, I feel that I succeeded in obeying Allah’s commandment to fight against the enemies of His followers.”

This is the ideology to which Mueller was referring. And he’s right: there is no way to spot a Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar in advance. Anyone can read the Koran the way Taheri-azar did, and come to the conclusions he came to. But in part this is because American Muslim advocacy groups, for all their self-proclaimed moderation, have done little or nothing to combat the spread of the jihad ideology in American mosques. One might reasonably expect, if they really abhor that ideology as a twisting of Islamic principles as much as they say they do, that they would have developed and implemented comprehensive programs within American mosques to make sure that that ideology does not proliferate within them, and that they would have made it abundantly clear that that ideology is unwelcome and its adherents expelled and reported.

If they did this, Mueller and his colleagues would have a fighting chance to begin to make headway against this ideology. That they have not done so, and have not been called to account by government and law enforcement officials, as well as by the media, for not doing so, is an increasingly serious and glaring omission.