Politics & Policy

The Making of an American Terrorist

In light of Fort Hood, a quick look at the evolution of Islamic extremism in America.

Much has been written already about what happened at Fort Hood last week. But to understand why it happened, it may be useful to start by reminding ourselves that the shooting was the first act of suicide terrorism on American soil by a homegrown Islamic extremist.

The question is how Hasan became a terrorist. It is a question of seminal relevance given the strong probability that homegrown terrorism might well be a greater threat to homeland security in the future than foreign jihadists will be. And the fact is that the U.S. government, under both President Bush and now President Obama, has studiously avoided acknowledging the threat, let alone addressing it in a systematic way. Yet, Washington’s tolerance of the intolerable will not make the problem go away. Only a week before the massacre at Fort Hood, the FBI killed one and arrested a dozen radicalized African-American converts in Detroit who believed in and trained for violent jihad against fellow citizens. Another half-dozen would-be American terrorists were neutralized by law enforcement recently; most had been radicalized in the U.S. long before they reached out to foreign jihadists for training and support.

To understand the nature of the problem, a quick look at the origins and evolution of Islamic extremism in America and its sponsors is essential. Radical Islam made its first appearance in America in 1963 at the University of Illinois with the founding of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) by group of Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al-Muslimin) immigrant activists with money from the Saudi front organization Muslim World League (MWL). In the decade following the founding of the MSA, many of today’s self-proclaimed leading Islamic organizations were spun off from it and began acting independently — though neither the ideological nor the organizational ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and its Saudi paymasters were ever severed. These included the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), and a number of smaller groups.

In the 1990s, this network was augmented with a number of other radical-Islamist organizations affiliated with the Brotherhood, such as the Muslim Political Affairs Council (MPAC) and the above-ground incarnation of the clandestine Brotherhood, registered in 1993 as the Muslim American Society (MAS). What they all had in common was adherence to the hate-filled Wahhabi-Salafi Islamist ideology and a visceral dislike for America and the West, leading at least some of them to see their ultimate objective as “destroying Western civilization from within,” as an internal Brotherhood document put it succinctly. To understand the magnitude of the problem, it is worth recalling that as early as the period of 1980 to 1985, according to the Muslim World League Journal, some 60 American Islamic organizations were financed by Wahhabi interests. In 1991, the Brotherhood counted 29 American Islamic organizations among its allies; the MSA, which openly lionizes Osama bin Laden, now boasts over 1,000 college chapters in North America.

With the help of huge inflows of mostly Saudi money, these radical networks, which should more appropriately be seen as branches of the same organization run by a few dozen individuals through a system of interlocking directorships, have made radical Islam the dominant idiom of the American Muslim establishment, despite the fact that most American Muslims are well-integrated, economically prosperous, and not given to extremism. Taken together, this network, which controls a majority of American mosques, Islamic cultural centers, charities, and schools, is nothing short of an Islamist fifth column radicalizing large numbers of American Muslims and increasingly capable of infiltrating our government and key institutions including the military. Unfortunately, neither the U.S. government, nor the FBI, nor the military understands that what this fifth column is engaged in is not religion but political sedition and the subversion of our constitutional order under the guise of religion — both of which are prohibited under current U.S. law.

A gentleman by the name of Abdurahman Alamoudi provides a typical example of the Islamist modus operandi. In October 2004, he was sentenced to 23 years in prison for terrorism-related activities, and he is currently serving his sentence in a federal penitentiary. Prior to that, Alamoudi had been a kingpin of the Islamist network as a key official in a dozen top Islamist organizations and five charities suspected of funding terrorism. Despite that, Alamoudi evidently enjoyed unimpeded access to the White House under Presidents Clinton and Bush, and also served as a State Department “goodwill ambassador” in the Middle East and a U.S. Information Agency speaker abroad. Most important, as a founder of an organization called American Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council (AMAFVAC), this radical Islamist became the first exclusive endorsing agent for Muslim chaplains for all branches of the U.S. armed forces and was able to place Islamist extremists in the military virtually at will.

It is within this vast subversive enterprise that Major Hasan, like thousands of others, became radicalized and eventually a terrorist long before the war in Iraq came along to annoy him. It is not difficult to trace his transformation into a mass murderer by simply looking at the institutions in which he was indoctrinated. First, at Dar al-Hijrah in Falls Church, Va., one of the largest and most radical mosques in the country, where his mentor was Imam Anwar al-Aulaqi, an American-born jihad and suicide-bombing advocate; and then at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, Md., under Imam Faizul Khan, yet another Muslim extremist, a key figure in the Washington, D.C., Islamist scene and an official at both ISNA (an unindicted co-conspirator at a terror-finance trial) and the Saudi front MWL.

All of the above information is easily accessible to anybody with an Internet connection. Yet, the U.S. government, our counterterrorism organs, and the military all refused to recognize or act upon it, and twelve young Americans have paid the ultimate price. Whether this was the result of sheer incompetence or obsequious political correctness or both, the American people have the right and duty to ask their representatives to conduct a broad investigation of this catastrophic failure and take appropriate measures to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. And do it soon. If not, the next suicide bombing in the homeland is not a matter of if, but when.

– Alex Alexiev is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.


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