Adam Gadahn: Al Qaeda's American Voice

  • May 1, 2010

Adam Gadahn (born Adam Pearlman) was born in 1978 in Oregon and grew up on a farm in Orange County, California. His parents reportedly changed their name to Gadahn in reference to Gideon, the Biblical warrior who defeated the enemies of Israel. Gadahn’s mother was raised Catholic. His father, born Jewish, grew up atheist and later converted to Christianity. 

Gadahn and his three younger siblings were home-schooled and joined several Christian home-school support groups, which he attended for nearly eight years. Gadahn would later criticize these Christian groups for their “blind dogmatism and charismatic wackiness” in an essay he wrote titled Becoming Muslim after his conversion to Islam. He also revealed in the essay, which was posted on the Muslim Students Association (MSA) Web site at the University of Southern California, that he left Christianity after learning “that belief in the Trinity, something I find absolutely ridiculous, is considered by most Christians to be a prerequisite for salvation.”

As a teenager Gadahn became very interested in death metal, a genre of music that was derived from heavy metal and often expresses violent themes in its lyrics. In 1993, Gadahn formed a one man band called Aphasia, which reportedly featured a photo on its cover of a corpse being cremated from the Holocaust. 

Gadahn’s involvement with death metal music reportedly created a rift between him and his parents, and he moved in with his paternal grandparents. In his essay Becoming Muslim, Gadahn expressed regret over this issue. “I had become obsessed with demonic Heavy Metal music, something the rest of my family (as I now realize, rightfully so) was not happy with… My relationship with my parents became strained, although only intermittently so. I am sorry even as I write this.” 

In 1995, soon after he moved in with his grandparents, Gadahn converted to Islam. In Becoming Muslim, he describes his path to Islam, which began when he discovered he did not believe in Christianity. Gadahn claimed that his knowledge of Muslims, which he was familiar with because his father was a halal butcher, led him to research the religion further. Muslims, he wrote, “were not the bloodthirsty, barbaric terrorists that the news media and the televangelists paint them to be.” 

Gadahn joined an Islamic discussion group at the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove. In addition to studying the Quran, the group reportedly discussed their hostility toward Jews. According to an observer of the discussion group, they spoke about “Jews who are running America. Jews who are running Israel.” 

Haitham Bundakji, the mosque’s president at the time, gave Gadahn a job as a security guard, but later fired him because he was found sleeping on the job. Bundakji also banned the discussion group from meeting at the mosque because of their extreme views (members reportedly called Bundakji “Danny the Jew” because of his interfaith efforts). In 1997, Gadahn was arrested and pleaded guilty to an assault charge, after punching Bundakji in the face at the mosque. Gadahn was sentenced to two days in jail and 40 hours of community service. He served his jail time, according to court documents, but did not perform his community service, leading to a warrant for his arrest, which is still active today.

Two mosque members – Khalil Deek and Hisham Diab – reportedly pushed Gadahn to follow a radical interpretation of Islam. The men recruited Gadahn to work for an Orange County charity called Charity Without Borders, a charity shut down by California’s Department of Justice after the September 11 terrorist attacks for further investigation. U.S. officials allege that the charity funneled money to extremists in the Middle East.

Deek and Diab have alleged ties to several terrorists, including Abu Zubaydah, a suspected Al Qaeda member and close associate to Osama bin LadenAbu Musab al-Zarqawi, former Al Qaeda in Iraq leader killed by U.S. forces in June 2006, and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence in prison for conspiracy to blow up New York landmarks in 1993.

Gadahn may have established a relationship with Zubaydah through Deek and Diab. In the late 1990s, Gadahn traveled to Pakistan and worked closely with Zubaydah, according to the FBI. Later Gadahn reportedly made his way to Al Faruq, an Al Qaeda terror camp in Afghanistan where he translated Al Qaeda military manuals from Arabic to English. Gadahn, who is believed to be hiding in Pakistan, reportedly made his last phone call to his parents a few months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, and informed them that he married an Afghan refugee and was expecting a baby.

In His Own Words 

Gadahn’s videos demonstrate his anti-Semitic and anti-Christian views and are marked by threats against America and its allies. In addition, Gadahn often encourages non-Muslims to convert to Islam and place their trust in the “mujadhideen who are fighting the Americans.” He has warned that when Jesus returns he will “force the followers of other religions to enter Islam or else.”

In 2002, Gadahn narrated his first propaganda piece for Al Qaeda, an audio translation of an Osama bin Laden speech. In his first video appearance, released in October 2004, he referred to himself “Azzam al-Amriki” (Arabic for Azzam the American) and covered his face with a checkered scarf and sunglasses. In the video, Gadahn acknowledged that he had joined “a movement for waging war on America and killing large numbers of Americans” and threatened new attacks that will make the streets of America “run red with blood.” Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s second in command, referred to Gadahn in a video released on September 2, 2006, as “our brother Azzam the American,” explaining that Gadahn “talks to you as one concerned about the fate which awaits his people.”

March 7, 2010 video:
  • “I am calling on every honest and vigilant Muslim in the countries of the Zionist-Crusader alliance in general and America, Britain and Israel in particular to prepare to play his due role in responding to and repelling the aggression of the enemies of Islam. This is the golden, once in a lifetime opportunity to reap the rewards of Jihad and martyrdom we have been waiting for...”
  • “As you start to make your plans, you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that military bases are the only high-value targets in America and the West. On the contrary, there are countless other strategic places, institutions and installations which, by striking, the Muslim can do major damage to the Crusader West and further our global agenda and long-range strategic objectives.”
  • “We must keep in mind how even apparently unsuccessful attacks on Western mass transportation systems can bring major cities to a halt, cost the enemy billions and send his corporations into bankruptcy.”
June 13, 2009 video:
  • “Responsibility for the continuation of the suffering of the Palestinian people begins in the White House and ends in the palaces of the leaders who collude with the Jews and Christians in suffocating you with the oppressive blockage and burning you with white phosphorous.”
  • “Zio-Crusader interests everywhere are legitimate targets for us, and by striking them, we aggravate the enemy's wounds, bleed his crumbling economy, lighten the load for our brothers the Mujahideen in the land of Ribaat, and bring victory and conquest closer – with Allah's permission.”
  • “…know that your brothers the Mujahideen are with you, not just with our hearts, no! But with our weapons, funds and Jihad against the Jews and their allies everywhere.”
April 13, 2009 video:
  • “The enemy isn’t represented by the Jews and treasonous rulers alone. No, the most important member of this satanic alliance is the unbelieving West.”
October 4, 2008 video:
  • “Muslim brothers in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and the region… unite to restore the glories of your forefathers and hasten, Allah willing, the Zionist-crusader enemy and the establishment of the Islamic state…”
  • “The enemies of Islam are facing a crushing defeat, which is beginning to manifest itself in the extending crisis their economy is experiencing.”
January 6, 2008 video:
  • “The pivot on which the war today between the Muslims and their enemies revolve – Muslim Palestine, which will remain Muslim in spite of Bush and his puppets, in spite of racist tendencies of the Jewish occupiers and in spite of conspiracies like the Mecca Accord and the Annapolis Conference.”
  • “Our defensive Jihad against you will remain our duty as long as there remains even one Muslim in American captivity. That’s why it is incumbent upon you to take the steps necessary to force the regime in Washington to free each and every one of them, wherever they are and whatever their supposed crime.”
  • “Oh Allah, give us victory over the Jews, Americans and their allies.”
  • “Regrettably, Christianity today…is nothing but various combinations of Jesus worship, Mariolatry, iconolatry, cross-worship, saint-worship, and even pope and priest worship, not to mention blatant idolatry…”
  • “We raise an urgent appeal to our mujahideen brothers in the Muslim Palestine, the Arabian Peninsula in particular, and the region in general, to be prepared to receive the crusader butcher Bush on his visit to Muslim Palestine and the occupied Peninsula at the beginning of January. They should receive him not with roses and applause but with bombs and booby-traps. God is your master, and they have no master.”
August 5, 2007 Video:
  • “We shall continue to target you at home and abroad, just as you target us at home and abroad.”
  • “Years of bitter trial and experience have revealed the danger [embassies] pose and shown that the only way to deal with them when they refuse to leave of their own accord is to expel them by force.”
May 29, 2007 Video:
  • “Bush, the die has been cast, and the blood has been spilled, and there was no way to undo what you have done. There are, however, some steps you can take to curtail your losses and prevent the number of American casualties at home and abroad from rising even higher...”
  • “End all support, moral, military, economic, political, or otherwise, to the bastard state of Israel, and ban your citizens, Zionist Jews, Zionist Christians, and the rest from traveling to occupied Palestine or settling there. Even one penny of aid will be considered sufficient justification to continue the fight.”
  • “Cease all interference in the religion, society, politics, and governance of the Muslim world. And leave us alone to establish the Islamic shura state, which will unite the Muslims of [the] earth in truth and justice. A single word of American protest shall be silenced by a thousand Islamic bombs.”
  • “We don’t negotiate with baby-killers and war criminals like you…you and your people will, Allah willing, experience things, which will make you forget all about the horrors of September 11, Afghanistan and Iraq, and Virginia Tech.”
September 11, 2006 Video:
  • “All the brothers who took part in the raids on America were dedicated, strong-willed, highly motivated individuals with a burning concern for Islam and Muslims.”
  • “In hindsight, everything that Al Qaeda was doing was preparation for the Manhattan and Washington raids, and the expected crusader invasion.”
September 2, 2006 Video:
  • “We disbelieve in and reject every false god, whether it be a rock, or a human being, or a government with its polytheistic constitution, courts, and laws, or an international organization like the United Nations, with its international laws, tribunals, and treaties of unbelief, and its Security Council, whose resolutions never fail to side with the Zionist Crusaders fascists.”
  • “To America and the rest of Christendom, we say: Either repent of your misguided ways and enter into the light of truth, or keep your poison to yourself, and suffer the consequences in this world and the next. But whatever you do, don’t attempt to spread your misery and misguidance to our lands. Muslims don’t need democracy to rid themselves of their home-grown despots and tyrants. What they do need is their Islamic faith, the spirit of Jihad, and the lifting of foreign troops and interference from their necks.”
July 8, 2006 Video:
  • “It’s crucial for Muslims to keep in mind that the Americans, the British, and the other members of the coalition of terror have intentionally targeted Muslim civilians and civilian targets, both before, as well as after September 11.”
  • “And nor have we mentioned their [Western government’s] unconditional support for the butchery and terrorism of their dear friend and ally, Israel, which I imagine everyone knows about.”
  • “I’m not saying that we should go and slaughter their women and children one by one, like they did ours, at Haditha, and Ishaqi, and Mahmudiya, and God knows where else, even if some of our legal experts have permitted that…But what I am saying is that when we bomb their cities and civilians, like they bomb ours, or destroy their infrastructure and means of transportation, like they destroy ours, or kidnap their non-combatants, like they kidnap ours, no sane Muslim should shed tears for them.”
September 11, 2005 Video:
  • “The call has gone out and the era of jihad and resistance has dawned in all its glory. As Sheikh Osama [bin Laden] has told you repeatedly, your security is dependent on our security.”
  • “Yesterday, London and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Allah willing. And this time, don’t count on us demonstrating restraint or compassion.”
  • “…we love nothing better than the heat of battle, the echo of explosions, and slitting the throats of the infidels.”
  • “When it comes to defending our religion, our freedom, and or brothers in faith, every one of us is Mohammed Atta…”
October 27, 2004 Video:
  • “Fighting and defeating America is our first priority…”
  • “People of America… you too shall pay the price for the blood that has been spilled.”
  • “The magnitude and ferocity of what is coming your way will make you forget all about September 11th.”
  • “The streets of America shall run red with blood… casualties will be too many to count and the next wave of attacks may come at any moment.” 

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