Al-Khattab is the third member of RM to plead guilty for making online threats in the past few years, bringing the fringe anti-Semitic Muslim organization that justified terrorist attacks and other forms of violence for many years one step closer to its demise.
RM was mostly active in New York until the end of 2010, after which it was shut down and began operating as Islam Policy.
Al-Khattab, a.k.a. Joseph Leonard Cohen, cofounded RM in 2007 with Younes Abdullah Muhammad, and served as the group’s amir (leader) and “chief executive officer” until December 2009, when he announced that he was moving to Tetouan, Morocco.
The extent of Al-Khattab’s threats against the Jewish community on the RM site was jarring. They included a video encouraging viewers to seek out the leaders of Jewish Federation chapters in the U.S. and “deal with them directly at their homes;” directions to specific Jewish facilities alongside a link to a manual for constructing and using explosive devices and a message encouraging readers to “make EVERY attempt to reach these people and teach them the message of Islam;” and a poem listing ways that Jews can be hurt including throwing “liquid drain cleaner in their faces” and burning “their flammable sukkos while they sleep.”
Through its website, YouTube channel and associated online forums, RM was associated with a number of prominent and lesser known homegrown terrorists including Zachary Chesser, Samir Khan, Jose Pimentel, Carlos Eduardo Almonte, Mohamed Mahmood Alessa, and Colleen LaRose (“Jihad Jane”).
Al-Khattab was born in New York where he was raised as an observant Jew. He later lived in Israel. He claims that he converted to Islam following a series of online conversations focusing on rejection of Judaism and hatred of Jews.
Hours after his plea deal, Al-Khattab posted a message on his Facebook page stating that “My former views do NOT represent Islam,” calling those views “disgusting,” asking for forgiveness, and advising Muslim youth to “avoid the books of Ibn Taymiah, Muhammad Abdul Whahab, [Islamist ideologues] and anyone that supports them.”
Last year, al-Khattab released a 20-minute video on YouTube expressing his belief that he will be arrested and defending the statements he has issued online over the years.
The other leaders of RM, Younis Abdullah Muhammad and Zachary Chesser, were sentenced to prison in 2012 and 2011 respectively.