The five young northern Virginia Muslims arrested in Pakistan for trying to join jihadist groups offer an intriguing example of role reversal. Instead of jihad terrorists training in the Middle East to come to the United States, a la Muhammad Atta and co., this group started out in the U.S. and went over there. Nor are they the only examples of America’s brisk new export trade in jihadists — there are also the Somalis who have been streaming home from Minneapolis to join the jihad in their homeland.
Both Somalia and Pakistan have so many jihadis that they have no need to import more, but in both countries right now jihad is a growth industry.
Among the many lingering questions about this case is that of how these five young men fell in with jihad groups in the first place. The local Muslim community professed anguish and puzzlement about how it could have happened. Ashraf Nubani, an attorney for the mosque the five attended, said of their relatives and fellow worshippers: “There’s shock and disbelief in these families and in this mosque.” Mahdi Bray of the Falls Church-based Muslim American Society, sounded a plaintive note: “We want to know: What did we miss? We saw these kids every day. In hindsight, what could we have done?”
The five frequented an Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) mosque in Alexandria, Virginia, where the youth leader, Mustafa Maryam, insisted: “Our group never talked about politics.” Essan Talawi, an imam at the mosque, said that “the teachings of this mosque are the Koran, moderation, tolerance and peaceful interaction with our neighbors and other faiths.”
They would have us believe that these young men turned to violent jihad at the same time and spontaneously. But there is every reason to think otherwise.
Talawi may have had in mind a very different idea of “moderation, tolerance and peaceful interaction” from the one that generally prevails in the U.S. According to Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project, at ICNA’s Annual Conference in 2001, ICNA president Zulfiqar Ali Shah led the crowd in a chant of “our way, our way, is jihad, jihad.”
Did Shah mean jihad as an interior spiritual struggle, that concept so beloved of smiling Muslim spokesmen in the U.S. and Europe? Not quite. One of his predecessors as ICNA president, Muhammad Yunus, wrote in 1991 that “the ultimate purpose of Jihad is to establish an Islamic system of government and to establish the truth of Islam in state and society. An endeavour that is not restricted to certain countries but the ultimate goal is to establish Islam all over the world and to bring about a world Islamic revolution, because the message of Islam is for all mankind.”
And Shah spoke out on behalf of violent jihadists worldwide: “Whether they are brothers in Palestine or Kashmir, they belong to the Muslim ummah and we are united with them in their struggle. We stand for them and we are for their support and for the victory.”
These events — especially the conversion of these young men into jihadis — must be placed in the context of the fact that in a captured internal document of the international Islamic supremacist organization known as the Muslim Brotherhood, the forefather of Al-Qaeda and Hamas, the Islamic Circle of North America is named in “a list of our organizations and the organizations of our friends.” The same document says that the Brotherhood’s mission in the U.S. is “a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
If such things are taught at the ICNA mosque in Alexandria, then the mystery of what moved these young men to travel to Pakistan to try to join the jihad against American forces in Afghanistan is solved. And if such things are being taught, as surveys conducted by the Center for Religious Freedom and the Mapping Sharia Project show that they’re being taught in other mosques in the U.S., then existing sedition laws ought to be brought to bear on these mosques to shut them down. Otherwise, we will inevitably one day experience the fruit of these jihadist teachings not in far-off Pakistan, but right here in the U.S.A.
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