"Sheikh" Abdullah Faisal: Ideologue of Hate

Chapters

Faisal
  • Sheikh Abdullah Faisal was an influential Islamist extremist and charismatic preacher whose fiery speeches in Britain and the U.S. attracted and influenced followers in both countries
     
  • Faisal founded Revolution Muslim, a U.S.-based group focused on recruitment and disseminating Faisal’s brand of jihadi-salafi extremism to Americans
     
  • Revolution Muslim promoted messages that legitimized violence against American — and more specif- ically Jewish — targets. The organization was by far the most influential Islamist extremist group in the U.S., inspiring a range of domestic extremists and attempted terrorists
     
  • Faisal was arrested in August 2017 and is currently in Jamaica, fighting extradition to the U.S.

“[The]United Snakes of America is the most racist country in the world. The white man in America is a dictator because he suffers from white supremacy. He goes to countries and tries to dictate how the country should run and operate.”

“Any Mujahid [religious fighter] who doesn’t give his bayah (allegiance) to Dawla (ISIS) is a fake Jihadi and his death will b in vain. So please b warned.”

“Our females make us proud by joining IS (The Islamic State, or ISIS).”

“When you see that the Dawla cut off the heads of Shi’as you will think that’s extreme, these people are crazy…first of all, the classical scholars did not consider Shi’as as Muslims…you don’t know what the Shi’as believe and you don’t know why the Dawla is so harsh against the Shi’as.”

“The Jews are the most racist people in the world because they reject Muhammad in the name of racism.”

“The Jews wrote a book called the Talmud. This book is the most racist book. The book states that the Goy (non-Jews) were created to work as slaves for the Jews.”

“Another example is if a Muslim man cannot find a Muslim woman to marry and he has the option of marrying a Christian or a Jew he should marry the Christian and shun the Jew because Allah said those who hate Muslims the most are Jews and Pagans.”

“Allah made takfeer [declaring an individual as a non-believer] on the Gays in the Quran.” “Therefore, Allah didn’t give Gays the right to be Muslims.”

“In the Hadith below of ibn Abbas the Holy Prophet (saw) has commanded us to kill all homosexuals who are caught in the act.”

“However, Allah has made takfir [declaring an individual as a non-believer] on the Jews and Christians and said they are the worst of created creatures in the Ayah below:

“To call Jesus(as) God, like Christians, is shirk [the sin of practicing idolatry or polytheism].”

On August 25, 2017, the District Attorney’s Office for New York County issued an indictment for “Sheikh” Abdullah Faisal, who was living in Jamaica. He was soon taken into custody by Jamaican authorities on request for extradition to New York City.1 Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance explained the indictment’s significance.

Sheikh Faisal has dedicated his life to terror recruitment. Through his lectures, website, and videos, he incites untold numbers of people around the world to take up the cause of jihad… The defendant also served as the fulcrum of a recruitment effort that encouraged individuals to carry out acts of terrorism in the name of the Islamic State and connected them with other radical supporters who were willing— or already in the process—of doing the same in countries around the world.2

From 2007 – 11, Sheikh Faisal was the “religious sanctioner” for the foremost Islamist extremist group in the U.S., called Revolution Muslim. From December 2007 through May 2011, Revolution Muslim, based primarily in New York City, brought Al-Qaeda’s ideology to the United States and, with it, a rabid anti-Semitism.

Revolution Muslim promoted messages that legitimized violence against American — and more specifically Jewish — targets. The organization was by far the most influential Islamist extremist group in the U.S., inspiring a range of domestic extremists and attempted terrorists. In 2012, federal prosecutor Gordon Kromberg, who prosecuted the cases of Yousef al-Khattab, Jesse Morton and Zachary Chesser, all figures at the core of Rev- olution Muslim, stated: “It is amazing from the perspective of time to look back at Revolution Muslim. In our pleading we listed … 15 different defendants … who engage[d] in terrorism or attempted to engage in terrorism [and] all were connected to Revolution Muslim.”3

Even as we at the NYPD were actively monitoring and investigating Revolution Muslim, ADL’s Center on Extremism (COE) always provided comprehensive threat documentation and analysis. It was very helpful to have another set of eyes watching the group online—and capturing evidence of the explicit threats that appeared on its web site. The COE intelligence-gathering capability and expertise helped law enforcement secure the ul- timate arrests associated with Revolution Muslim. As a result of work by the NYPD, the federal authorities and the COE, Revolution Muslim, and hopefully Abdullah Faisal as well, will no longer exert influence.

Mitchell D. Silber, former Director of Intelligence Analysis at NYPD Intelligence Division

Oren Segal, Director, ADL Center on Extremism

Charismatic preachers in the Islamist extremist world are a puzzle dilemma for researchers, policymakers and law enforcement officials engaged in countering extremism, who struggle with questions regarding their particular significance and the role their online presence plays “strengthening the charismatic bond” between extremists.4 Charismatic preachers such as Abdullah Faisal typically operate within the law, or at least on the border of free speech and unprotected speech-related crimes, where they help embed radicalized Westerners within a network that facilitates contact with Islamist extremist recruiters.

“Sheikh” Abdullah Faisal, one such charismatic preacher, was one of the most important, influential and deadly English-language “ideologues of hate,” before 9/11. Faisal supported bin Laden and Al-Qaeda even before the September 11th attacks and was quick to align with ISIS as soon as they officially split from under Al-Qaeda’s control. In many ways, Faisal was “ISIS before there was ISIS.”5

ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) has long been concerned about Faisal and has followed his activity since 2007, when his hate speech first entered the American sphere, through his arrest in 2017.6 This case study provides a unique, multifaceted examination of Faisal’s actions, and explores his personal history, and notes his longstanding impact. Better understanding an ideologue’s means and methods can help law enforcement, intelligence and non-governmental entities, like ADL, continue to identify, publicize and (hopefully) disrupt future charismatic preachers who call others to violent extremism.

This study is authored by Mitch Silber, who was the director of intelligence analysis at the NYPD during Rev- olution Muslim’s active era, and Jesse Morton (aka Younus Abdullah Muhammad, as he will be referred to throughout this paper), a founder of Revolution Muslim. Today, Morton is a former extremist. He deradicalized after he was arrested in May of 2011 in Casablanca, Morocco for his leadership role in Revolution Muslim and for making threats against the writers of Comedy Central’s South Park.7 Today, they work together at Parallel Networks, a nonprofit dedicated to combating the violent extremism Jesse espoused alongside Abdullah Faisal, which Mitch and ADL fought against.

On March 7, 2003, Sheikh Abdullah Faisal was found guilty in the United Kingdom for soliciting the murder of Jews, Americans and Hindus, and on two charges of using threatening words to stir up racial hatred.8

Faisal’s conviction can be traced back to events in December 2001, when, in a totally unrelated action, police officers in Dorset, England, stopped the car of a criminal suspect who was wanted for rape, assault, causing bodily harm and making threats. The suspect had allegedly assaulted two women, aged 17 and 19.9 While searching the vehicle, police discovered several CD’s produced and distributed by “Sheikh” Faisal.

In the subsequent months, investigators purchased Faisal’s CD’s from Islamic bookshops in London. They eventually searched Faisal’s home and found the cover of a CD showing the World Trade Center in flames, a translated version of Osama bin Laden’s Declaration of War against the Americans, as well as other provocative material. During the interrogation, Faisal told UK police that he’d “been in the United Kingdom for some 10 years,” that he had traveled around the country giving the lectures and that his “talks were sometimes attended by a 100 people and sometimes by 500.”10

The investigation also turned up recordings of two lectures issued after 9/11 that incited support for Al-Qaeda. In one of them, Faisal encouraged British Muslims who were fifteen and older to seek out weapons training programs during school vacations and to assume a “jihad mentality. In his speeches he said that non-Muslims, including Hindus and Jews, should be killed like «cockroaches.» 11

Faisal was ultimately brought to trial, where prosecutors played tapes of him calling to “[k]ill the pagans wherever you find them. You can use biological warfare and chemical warfare, providing you use them against the soldiers of the disbelievers.”12 It was almost certainly a reference to a fringe fatwa issued by jailed Saudi scholar Nasr Fahd on behalf of Al-Qaeda.13 During the long trial, Faisal claimed that the Quran itself was on trial.14He asserted that suicide bombings were “permissible” but explained, “I don’t legitimize suicide bombings against civilian targets.”15

One of his followers attempted to bribe the judge,16 and supporters, including Al-Muhajiroun members and Abu Hamza al-Masri, protested outside the Old Bailey courthouse.17 On March 7, 2003, Faisal was found guilty for soliciting the murder of Jews, Americans and Hindus, and on two charges of using threatening words to stir up racial hatred. He was sentenced (originally) to nine years.18 Despite the threatening statements found on the cassettes, no link between Faisal and direct recruitment could be substantiated. However, as Peter Clark, head of the Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist branch, stated after the conviction, “We will never know how many  of those young, impressionable people whom Faisal spoke to then went abroad to areas of conflict or training camps and have never returned... as a result of listening to him.”19

In this single sentence, Clark identified one of the most challenging aspects of combating “ideologues of hate”— their role is rarely operational, but it is certainly inspirational. In fact, the trial documented Faisal’s heavy ideological influence but left no proof of the man facilitating actual engagement in violence, either domestically or abroad.

For example, the trial documented Faisal’s intimate connections to James Ujaama.20 Ujaama, who was also an American disciple of Abu Hamza, was ultimately convicted in the U.S. for setting up a jihadi training camp in Ore- gon.21 Detectives were unable to prove that Faisal had influenced Richard Reid (the ”shoe bomber” then serving life in the United States), or Zacharias Moussoui (the alleged 20th 9/11 hijacker).

At trial, additional evidence of Faisal’s influence emerged: From 1999 until his arrest, Faisal gave talks at a Tipton community center outside London, where he “spoke mainly about the duty of Muslims and the situation in Af- ghanistan and then started saying how it was a Muslim’s duty to go there and fight.”22 Three of the young Britons in attendance, apparently impressed by Faisal’s exhortations, traveled to Afghanistan in the weeks after 9/11. By Faisal’s trial, they were detainees in Guantanamo Bay.

On July 7, 2005, during Faisal’s incarceration, terrorists attacked the London Metro, killing 52 people. The bombers were alleged to have been influenced by Faisal’s preaching in Beeston, north of London. Three of the four bombers, Mohammed Siddique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer and Hasib Hussain, grew up in the community, and an imam in Beeston reported that Khan had listened to Faisal’s audio tapes and asked questions.23 Germaine Lindsey, the fourth bomber, was also a Faisal acolyte. At Faisal’s eventual appeal hearing, Tory MP Patrick Mercer explained, “Lindsay is believed to have attended at least one lecture and to have listened to tapes of other lectures by him.24

But how was it that a Jamaican convert to Islam had such a toxic effect on young British and American Muslims? In order to better understand this phenomenon, it is helpful to go back in Faisal’s history.

Like so many other conversion stories, “Sheikh” Abdullah Faisal’s’ own journey into jihadi-salafi Islam25 is unique and complex. Born in 1963, Trevor William Forrest was raised in a single-parent household in Jamaica. His mother, an evangelical Christian, was a devoted proselytizer for the Salvation Army. Trevor’s personality was shaped, at least in part, by his mother’s hard work and devotion. Her commitment to the Salvation Army impacted her son’s studious nature and heightened his keen interest in religion — though he resented the Salvation Army’s military structure and history as an “arm of British colonialism.26

A bright student, Trevor was known throughout his community as “the dictionary.” He read extensively and was drawn to the radical black nationalism of activists like Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. In school, his business administration teacher introduced him to Islam, a faith he found the “most articulate and profound.27” Just a few months later, at the age of sixteen, Trevor converted and changed his name to Abdullah Ibrahim el-Faisal. He immediately immersed himself in Islamic studies28.

Faisal soon met Abdullah Hakim Quick29, a fellow Jamaican and graduate of the University of Medina in Saudi Arabia. Quick fused black nationalism and a politicized orthodox Islam.30 He taught apocalyptic viewpoints and Illuminati and Freemasonic conspiracy theories.31 After Faisal completed a six-week course on fundamentalist Islam in Trinidad and one year of Arabic studies in Guyana, the Saudi government, on Hakim Quick’s recom- mendation, awarded Faisal a scholarship to study at Muhammad ibn Saud University in Riyadh. He would spend seven years there and was on the verge of earning a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies when the First Gulf War erupted in 1991. Faisal departed from Saudi Arabia soon thereafter — “just as the Americans were occupying the Holy Sanctuary.”32

Faisal did not return to Jamaica when he received his degree. Instead, he followed the advice of a few of his fellow Saudi students and a wealthy teacher, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Rajhi, and relocated to the United Kingdom.33 The suggestion to use his visa and enter the United Kingdom to preach salafi Islam34 was seconded by his old friend Hakim Quick, as well as another Jamaican convert; Abu Bilal Phillips.35 Phillips, a graduate of the Uni- versity of Medina was also a student of Muhammad Qutb,36 Syed Qutb’s37 brother. They recommended Faisal embed in the Southeast Asian community,38 but the newly-appointed cleric settled instead in South London and started preaching at the ultraorthodox Brixton Mosque in 1992.39

A year later, Faisal claimed that a congregation of mostly African and Caribbean Muslims that numbered 60 in 1987 had grown to 4,000 members.40 His Saudi backers issued him a regular stipend. While there, Faisal adopt- ed increasingly combative and militant religious views that put him at odds with the apolitical Saudi-aligned salafists at Brixton Mosque. This, along with the realization that he was listening to the lectures of Abu Hamza al-Masri,41 the hook-handed extremist cleric who went on to lead the notorious Finsbury Park masjid,42 led to his removal.43 In 1994, Faisal departed from the Brixton Mosque, having bitten the Saudi hand that had educated him. This marked the beginning of his drift towards hate.

Faisal left Brixton with no mosque affiliation and no organization of his own, but he soon found a niche preaching throughout Britain, where he received the honorific title “Sheikh” from his growing number of adherents.

“Salafis of Brixton— You are Jews!”

Following his removal from the Brixton Mosque, Faisal took a more extremist turn, and began to label his fellow Muslim co-religionists who didn’t adopt his fringe extremist, violent views, as hypocrites, disbelievers and “Jews.” Essentially, he sought to shame them in their observance of an apolitical Islam and threatened anyone not adopting his views with excommunication (takfir) from Islam.

After his removal from Brixton Mosque, Abdullah Faisal relocated to Tower Hamlets in East London and embedded in the Southeast Asian Muslim community there. He started with a small table for preaching (dawa stall) and was soon giving Friday sermons and lectures throughout the borough. Faisal became a traveling cleric, speaking in Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry, Maidenhead and London. Every Saturday he would address followers at the Jagonari educational center in Whitechapel, which received assistance from the European Development Fund and Tower Hamlets council. His fiery speeches and widespread travels allowed him to build up a national following. Islamic bookstores sold recordings of his lectures on CDs. Faisal apparently had no qualms about these CD labels honoring him as a “sheikh,” despite the fact that he clearly does not qualify for the title by any rigorous religious salafi standard.

In the late 1990’s, the Taliban were ruling by sharia in Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden made his initial proclamation of war against America during a CNN interview with Peter Bergen.44 Faisal celebrated these developments repeatedly in his lectures. In retrospect, it’s clear that although Faisal’s influence in the realms of inciting and recruiting would not be exposed for years, it was actually quite apparent from the beginning.

Shortly after the release of a 1998 sermon by Sheikh Hudhaifi, the chief imam of the Great mosque of Medina and an opposition activist against the ruling family in Saudi Arabia gave a joint sermon that chastised the Shiites, Jews and  Americans. Faisal translated a recording of it for one of his Saturday sermons, pausing from time to time to offer vitriolic explanations and elaborations.45 The congregation’s revolutionary zeal is apparent in the recorded question and answer session.

Towards the end of the Q & A, a question was posed to Faisal from the female (sisters) section, criticizing the discussions as “just talk” and urging brothers to “take up arms and fund each other to go for jihad.” Sheikh Faisal’s answer was matter-of-fact. He explained, “The brothers have already started (...). Not because we don’t broadcast that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

Faisal preached, and his associates facilitated travel and raised money. It was a method of recruitment that allowed him to be vocal while preventing legal consequence, a model that was already popular with Britain’s radical imams, who played a leading role in radicalization and recruitment throughout the late 1990’s and into the onset of the War on Terror.46 As he gained notoriety, Faisal grew ever more extreme. He and his peers, such as Abu-Hamza al-Masri and Omar Bakri Muhammad, set a foundation upon which the jihadi-salafi interpretation of Islam would gradually take root in the West.

After his split from the Brixton Mosque, Faisal continued to reject Saudi-aligned apolitical salafist views in public and private. His apparent resentment culminated in 1999 when he gave perhaps his most infamous lecture, “The Devil’s Deception of the Saudi Salafis.”47 It was a verbal takfir (excommunication) even most hardcore jihadists would reject. For Faisal, there was no difference between the regime leaders and any salafi who supported the regime; explicit or implicit support was tantamount to disbelief in Islam altogether. In his diatribe, Faisal outlined the general disagreement between Saudi-aligned salafis and the jihadi movement and then went on to issue his own ruling:

"Salafis are major hypocrites (kuffar)… Salafis they will fight and kill for King Fahd who dismantled the Sha- riah…Therefore you are not allowed to pray behind a Salafi…. They are mega hypocrites…How can they be true believers when they take sides with people who dismantle the Sharia, and they sell their religion, they exchange their religion, for money, pomp and glitter of the life of this world? And any woman who is married to a Salafi, she has to disassociate herself from him, and make baraa’ (disassociation with hate) from him. How can she cohabit with a man who betrays Allah Ta`ala, His Messenger, Al Islam, and the Muslims?"

The majority of British Muslims found Faisal’s position to be ultra-extreme. Nevertheless, impressionable, young British Muslims — particularly those with minimal understanding of Arabic or the religion — supported him, largely for his controversial views and their own vulnerability to revolutionary views. After issuing the tape, he grew in popularity. However, Faisal’s consistent adoption of the most extremist positions would eventually be rebuked, not merely by the Saudi-aligned salafists at Brixton but by those who had been his jihadi-salafi allies among Londonistan’s extremist clerical set.

In the late 1990’s, Faisal accompanied the Jordanian Al-Qaeda preacher, Abu Qatada, to debates around greater London with the salafis back at the Brixton Mosque. During one of them, Faisal’s old friend Bilal Phillips asked Faisal to make his stance on the salafis clear. So, Faisal stood and pronounced explicitly, “Salafis of Brixton: You are Jews!” At the request of Abu Qatada, Faisal went on to clarify that they had certain characteristics of the Jews. After reading a translation of “The Devil’s Deception of the Saudi Salafis,” Abu Qatada requested a public debate. In it, Qatada emphasized that Faisal’s characterizations of these salafis was too general.48.However, Faisal refused to alter his position. And because much of the audience was dependent on Faisal’s translation of Abu Qatada’s Arabic into English, many of them believed Faisal was the victor.

Having attracted widespread attention for his stance regarding other salafis, Faisal grew increasingly extreme. Notably, he held grudges against Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada from that point forward. For example, upon his release from prison in late-2007, Faisal informed an acolyte and associate that he had “destroyed Abu Qatada,” and that “Abu Hamza is not a scholar. He was a bar bouncer in Britain and is trained as an engineer.”49

As a result of these tensions, Abu Hamza penned a treatise, “Beware of Takfir”50, warning that Faisal was entering into Kharijism, an extremist sect that Islamic scripture warns about repeatedly. Abu Hamza pointed out that only a year earlier Faisal had stated in a lecture entitled “The Way of the Sahaaba” that “[m]any of them [Saudi-Salafis] (...) just blind [sic]follow their sheikhs. But we don’t call them kuffar.” After documenting his pro- gression, Abu Hamza warned that if Faisal, “refuses to be corrected (...), he should be ostracized.”51

To put Faisal’s actions into historical context, one has to return to the aftermath of the first Gulf War. In 1994, Sheikh Abdul Aziz ibn Baaz, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued an edict permitting the Saudi regime to engage in peaceful relations with Israel. It generated controversy and ushered in a new era of turmoil among Islamists in the Middle East. At the time, Bin Laden was still in Sudan, and he issued an open letter to Bin Baaz.52 The Mufti’s position was also criticized by Yusef al-Qaradawi and other lesser-ranking scholars in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Gulf. As a result of their critical stance, many were imprisoned, and their books and lectures confiscated.53 Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a preeminent jihadi-salafi scholar,54 who authored the seminal work Millat Ibrahim55 (1994), soon declared the Saudi Arabian regime itself a kuffar56 (disbelievers) and issued a criti- cism of Bin Baaz.57

Baaz’s edict became a galvanizing topic for the jihadi salafi movement, who had now turned on the Saudi estab- lishment clerical class as well. Jihadi-salafists bickered among themselves about the criticism.58 It was this splin- ter that would birth Al-Qaeda and lead Bin Laden to adopt Ayman al-Zawahiri’s “far enemy” strategy, a platform that suggested “tyrannical” regimes in the Muslim world could not be brought down until the United States was rendered incapable of defending them.

So, Faisal went a step further and labeled Sheikh Abdul Aziz ibn Baaz, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia a kaafir (disbeliever) as well. In a lecture entitled “Towards Liberating the Holy Lands,” Faisal said:

The Imam of the Prophet’s Mosque [Hudhaifah], Alhamdulillah, he (...) is not like Bin Baaz who supports the regime. So, he is sincere, we have to make du`aa for him. And I would like to reiterate the point that the regime is a kaafir regime. And the army who supports the regime (...) [a]nd the scholars who support the regime, [a]nd the Salafis who support the scholars, they are also kaafirs.

Faisal’s increasingly extremist discourse only multiplied his following among those least educated in Islam. While ostracized by some, Faisal continued to travel throughout the U.K. speaking and selling CD recordings for two pounds each, while appealing to a specific subset of Britain’s Muslim population. Faisal issued verdicts that labeled 95% of Muslim disbelievers.59 He continued to provoke the Brixton salafis with provocative titles such as the “Devil’s Deception of the 20th Century House Niggers,”60 and issued several anti-Semitic lectures, including “No Peace with the Jews.”61

He translated and endorsed Osama bin Laden’s Declaration of War against the Americans,62 a fatwa that claims killing “the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.”63

In the years before 9/11, Faisal had laid a foundation for Al-Qaeda support amongst English-speaking Muslim youth.

While Faisal was incarcerated, from 2004–07, advancing technology in online communications proved crucial to maintaining jihadi influence and relevance. At the start of the war in Iraq in March 2003, Al-Qaeda strategists had already created a “virtual university of jihad”64 online. Additionally, Al-Qaeda operational leader Sayf al-Adl was authoring a master plan for Al-Qaeda that envisioned an “Eye-Opening Stage,” from 2003–06. The goal of the three-year plan was to spread the brand and vision of Al-Qaeda and establish the necessary ideological awareness infrastructure to wage a global “electronic jihad.”65

In Iraq, Jordanian jihadist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi witnessed firsthand the power of propaganda and the prospects of the Internet. His group, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, was one of the earliest jihadi groups to utilize the Internet. They had a website that was “state-of-the-art by 2001 standards,” which “printed videos onto CD format for manual distribution across the Middle East.”66 It was a method that had been common in Britain and was familiar to Faisal. More importantly, though, Al-Qaeda developed its own online media outlet, As-Sahab (the clouds).67 Meanwhile, a widely disseminated tract (translated into English) further encouraged “performing electronic jihad” and called it a “blessed field which contains much benefit.”68

By the July 7, 2005 London bombings, Zarqawi was advancing a barbaric approach that sought to create civil war. Ayman al Zawahiri, then deputy to Osama bin Laden, scolded Zarqawi and stressed that, “We are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our global Muslim community (ummah).”69 Meanwhile, a manifesto from Al-Qaeda’s chief strategist, Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, was making the rounds on jihadist forums. Al-Suri’s 1,600-page tome, “A Call to Global Islamic Resistance (Dawat al-Muqawamah al-Islamayyah al-Alamiyyah),” argued for a decentralized system, rather than top-down, hierarchical structure (nizam, la tanzim, which means “system, not organization”). This would require a shift from command-cadre terrorism to leaderless resistance, “individual operations and (...) operation of small, completely independent cells, so that they will not be linked, except by the mutual objective, a common name, the methodology of belief, and the way of education.”70

Suri’s strategy called for diffused proselytization (dawa) departments to publicize “the focus of the call, its political and jurisprudential methodology, its educational methodology, its dynamic methodology, and to spread this to all levels of the ummah.”71 Al-Suri’s revolutionary strategy helped widen “the appeal of jihadism to new audiences, especially among young, well-educated Westernized Muslims who seem to be motivated more by a mixture of leftist radicalism and militant pan-Islamic nationalism than by religion.”72 Before long, Western counterterrorism officials were explaining that homegrown attacks by “lone wolves” or “terrorist wannabes,”73 now represented the primary domestic threat. Now anyone, anywhere, could play a role in Al-Qaeda’s global jihad. The English language world was a ripe audience for this type of content.

Faisal, who served his time in Britain’s notorious Belmarsh prison,74 claimed that he had radicalized hundreds of fellow inmates and complained of suffering at the hands of “white kuffar at war with Islam because Islam will end white rule.”75 Faisal ended up serving four years before he was paroled on condition of his deportation to Jamaica.

In May 2007, Faisal was released. Upon his arrival in Jamaica, he was met by two followers at the Kingston airport. One of them, a 27-year supporter, told the Jamaican press, “We will give him a platform for teaching, because there are many persons waiting to hear from him.76” Soon after Faisal’s arrival, the supporter facilitated a phone call between Faisal and Younus Abdullah Muhammad,77 (former extremist and co-author of this report), a convert to Islam and preacher with a New York-based Al-Muhajiroun-offshoot, the Islamic Thinkers Society. Younus had established written correspondence with Faisal through an intermediary while Faisal was in Belmarsh. Through a Skype call, Younus informed the “sheikh” of plans to bring his radical message to the United States and explained that the conditions were ripe for positive reception.78 Mitch Silber (another co-author) describes the law enforcement community’s concern regarding Faisal’s return: “With Faisal coming to this side of the Atlantic and the transnational power and reach of the internet, the NYPD was concerned about the adverse effect that Sheikh Faisal might have on New Yorkers who were already radicalizing to violence.”79

Faisal instructed Younus to await his directive but to prepare to initiate a new Muslim movement. During subsequent conversations, Faisal told Younus that he was planning a return to proselytizing soon, but that Younus would have to be patient. “I was in America once and the Muslims there are open to the message, but it is not time now,”80 he explained.

Over the next few months, Younus and Faisal’s communication continued, and Faisal took it upon himself to tutor Younus, offering him personal instruction in radicalization techniques. According to Faisal, effective recruiters (da’eee) neededemod to know the jihadi-salafi ideology thoroughly. Faisal stressed that comprehending the actual currents of jihadi-salafi thought required that the student master the work of two scholars, Ibn Tamiya and Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab, and then apply their works and principles to modern jihadi scholars from the post-Afghan-Soviet war period. He emphasized that Younus’ academic background as a current student at Columbia University’s graduate school for international affairs (SIPA) could be a major asset, but he must master the religion (deen) as well. To encourage Younus, Faisal referred him to Islamic (theological) literature, and instructed him on the roots of jihadist interpretation of Islam, religious principles, politics and global jihad.81

Younus informed the leader of the Islamic Thinkers Society, Al-Muhajiroun’s offshoot in the U.S., that Sheikh Faisal had been released, and recommended that they consider incorporating Faisal’s work into the organization. However, the group’s leader, a close confidante of one of Faisal’s rival London clerics, Omar Bakri Muhammad, was opposed, due to Faisal’s “content.” As a result, Younus began to consider alternatives, and Faisal soon gave Younus permission to start an independent organization. Faisal encouraged Younus to utilize the method of radicalization he had taught him, while Younus encouraged his “sheikh” to consider exploring the use of the internet and emphasized that the organization would concentrate on offline and online dawa to “show people that Islam requires physical action.”82

In December of 2007, Younus recruited his best friend, Yousef al-Khattab,83 to co-found Revolution Muslim. The organization would be dedicated to unabashedly promoting Al-Qaeda’s message in the U.S. and the English-speaking world generally. Younus explained that they were going to adopt the “street dawa” model of Al-Muhajiroun with aggressive proselytization in public but would also harness the power of social media. New interactive social media contributed to a mounting “violent jihadi online milieu.”84 They soon collaborated with others to found RevolutionMuslim.com, a website that would become a key hub in the English-language jihadi-salafi network.85

Weaponizing Web 2.0

The Revolution Muslim website launched in January 2007, featuring articles penned by Younus—several of which made takfir (excommunication) of the ruling family in Saudi Arabia — a video entitled “Oil, Occupation and the American Dream,86” which outlined the U.S.’s “imperial project” in the Muslim world, and a call for donations with a request list for a “Laptop for Sheikh Faisal- In order to develop online study circles, or halaqa’s.87 From the outset, the website incorporated external links to radical material, hand-written articles, vitriolic videos and commentary from Yousef and recycled lectures from Faisal’s time in Britain alongside newly recorded Q & A sessions.

Viewers were invited to submit their questions, providing an interactive component. Soon, Revolution Muslim launched an online forum.88

The triumvirate at the organization’s core proved ideal for propagating the hateful jihadist ideology. Younus penned lengthy articles that laid out an organizational platform. He positioned Yousef as the organization’s leader (amir). They developed a newsletter, Radical Review, for distribution outside mosques after Friday prayers. A key leader from the Islamic Thinkers Society set up the website utilizing a template turned over by StreetDawa. com, a former gateway organization from the U.K. The new template included an AK-47 in the upper right-hand corner that would activate inspirational nasheeds (jih90

adi anthems) and short Q & A clips of recordings between Younus and Faisal. Meanwhile, Yousef initiated interactive social media accounts on platforms such as YouTube, Blip.tv, Myspace and on the most popular radical web forums, such as Islamic Awakening and Ahul Hadith. As Yousef described it, “Everything we did was basically open. (…) That’s basically what it was all about.89

On Fridays, Yousef and Younus would recruit outside New York City mosques after services. A group member would film Younus preaching about jihad as Yousef handed out copies of the newsletter and Sheikh Faisal CDs. Each Friday, the group collected several hundred dollars in donations. These efforts generated new content for the website and kept the organization running. Revolution Muslims soon expanded its network and rapidly developed as a hub for radicalization and recruitment in the U.S.

Faisal quickly became a prominent presence in the U. S., and because Revolution Muslim was protected by that country’s less restrictive speech laws, the group was able to circumvent anti-terror legislation in other countries. Revolution Muslim quickly attracted a large following throughout the English-speaking world.

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Terrorizing the Disbelievers

By 2009, Revolution Muslim was attracting quite a bit of attention in the U.S. Younus had graduated from Columbia and moved to Saudi Arabia to teach at Muhammad ibn Saud University, Faisal’s alma mater. CNN aired an interview with Younus and Yousef90. In it, Yousef stated that he loved Osama bin Laden more than he loved himself and Younus made the following comments:

Reporter: You’re commanded to terrorize the disbelievers?

Younus: The Koran says very clearly in the Arabic language . . . this means “terrorize them.” It’s a command from Allah.91

Concern about terrorism in the U.S. was increasing as incidents and attacks continued: Carlos Bledsoe shot two members of the military outside the Army recruiting office in Little Rock;92 Major Nidal Hassan fatally shot thirteen people at Fort Hood;93 Umar Farouk Abdul Muttallab attempted to detonate an underwear bomb on a flight from Europe to Detroit;94 and Najibullah Zazi and two accomplices attempted to carry out suicide bombings on the New York City Subway system.95 Arrests for terror-related charges were on the rise96 and Revolution Muslim and Faisal were consistently cited by terrorists as inspiration. Both Farouk Abdul Muttalab Faisal, the 2008 underwear bomber, and Faisal Shehzad, the 2010 Times Square bomber, claimed to be influenced by Faisal’s English-language lectures.97

Consequently, concern within the American counterterrorism community increased significantly. “Faisal is focused on propaganda,” one U.S. counterterror official in Washington told the Daily News. “But the last few  years, he’s dabbled in operational things like recruitment and facilitation.” Mitch Silber, coauthor of this report and then-head of the NYPD’s intelligence analysis division, explained that “[t]he number of American wanna-be jihadists has increased since more English speakers landed on the scene. It’s more effective . . . than someone ranting in Arabic pointing a finger at Western audiences.” Terrorist expert Evan Kohlmann stated that Faisal aspired to be a new Awlaki but was “willing to say things that would make even Awlaki turn pale.98

Faisal and Revolution Muslim: Inspirational, not Operational

With Revolution Muslim, Faisal helped establish an enduring template for propaganda and recruitment that “firmly established the Internet as a tool to rapidly radicalize, train and connect a growing, but small number of disenfranchised or unstable young people to violence.”99 Revolution Muslim helped lay a foundation for what would later be termed “open source jihad,” as defined in Inspire, the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) English magazine that Revolution Muslim helped establish100 as “America’s worst nightmare [allowing] Muslims to train at home instead of risking a dangerous travel abroad.”

In April 2010, Revolution Muslim initiated threats against the writers of South Park, the satirical television, show for portraying the Prophet Muhammad. The threats reverberated around the globe, and it became apparent that the controversy was likely to lead to criminal charges. A woman in Seattle started a Facebook page, “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.101” In reaction, Pakistan shut down Facebook temporarily,102 and Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, now embedded with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, issued the first edition of Inspire magazine.103

In May 2010, a few weeks after the “South Park scandal,” Revolution Muslim held a demonstration in Times Square.104 Late that afternoon, just a few blocks from the demonstration, smoke poured from an SUV. Within hours, it was identified as a failed car bomb. Because the SUV was parked in proximity to Viacom, owner of Comedy Central, links between Revolution Muslim and the attempted attack were investigated.105

Within 48 hours, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American who had traveled to Pakistan to train for the operation with an Al-Qaeda aligned organization,106 was apprehended and charged as the perpetrator.107 Shehzad soon claimed responsibility and mentioned to investigators that he was radicalized online through the lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki and Sheikh Faisal, “the only two clerics who have got it right.”108 When questioned about his links to Shahzad, Faisal explained that he has a way of influencing people but denied direct responsibility, saying, “[t] here are people who are inspired, and they take things into their own hands.”109

 

Faisal’s Independent Platform: Authentic Tauheed

As pressure increased on the cofounders of Revolution Muslim, Faisal needed a platform to amplify his message, expand the group’s reach, and maintain his activity in the event the Revolution Muslim outfit was shut down. Paltalk was the answer. Paltalk is a free downloadable program that allows users to communicate via video, chat and voice. Listeners could post freely during the lectures over a public chat service, and the platform also facilitated more private avenues of correspondence.

In July 2010, Revolution Muslim announced the creation of a new website called “Authentic Tauheed.”110 The site centered around Sheikh Faisal, but its main purpose was to provide access to live 24-7 Paltalk discussions, with contributors from the Revolution Muslim website, alongside interactive lectures from radical clerics.111 Paltalk, in an era before Google+ hangouts, was a unique live blog with audio capability. Lectures were promoted over RevolutionMuslim.com and sent out to their growing email list. Lecture times were promoted in New York City, London and Sydney. In fact, Faisal started giving lectures three times a day. The website was an immediate draw among individuals who were interested in the jihadist narrative. Within months, Faisal recognized the power of Paltalk. He sent Younus, who had then fled to Morocco to avoid prosecution,112 an email (see below):

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Soon, their audience and network overlapped with the new Authentic Tauheed enterprise. Conferences drew a larger audience because they were formatted to include several preachers commenting on a specific issue. On July 31, 2010, for example, Authentic Tauheed coordinated a conference entitled “Ghazatul Washington” — the Battle for Washington.113 The event included Abdullah Muhammad, who was residing in Morocco, Anjem Choudhary from Shariah4UK; Abu Waleed from Salafi Media in the UK; Omar Bakri from Lebanon; and Abdullah Faisal from Jamaica. It was a means of documenting jihadi unity and it enhanced the already evolving online jihadi network.114

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On May 21, 2011, three weeks after Osama bin Laden was killed, Younus was arrested in Casablanca and charged with solicitation of murder over the “South Park” scandal.115 While Younus awaited extradition back to America, Revolution Muslim associates Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were killed in Yemen by a drone strike.116

Eventually, counterterrorism specialists reported that the organization “appeared to have some connection to almost every formal terrorism investigation they opened.”117 From September 11, 2001 to May 2009, there were 21 cases of homegrown violent jihadist plots or attacks in the United States. From May 2009 to August 2010, seven of the 23 terrorism cases in the United States were connected to Revolution Muslim.118 From May 2009 to November 2010, arrests were made connected to 22 independent cases.119

In 2012, a federal prosecutor told a judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, “It is amazing from the perspective of time to look back at Revolution Muslim. In our pleading we listed 15 different cases, different defendants in fourteen different cases of individuals who engaged in terrorism or attempted to engage in terrorism all were connected to Revolution Muslim.”120

Revolution Muslim effectively closed shop in mid-2011, as the Arab Spring was still unfolding. The Arab Spring seemed a compete rejection of the jihadi-salafi platform and was widely framed as an endorsement of democracy. Al-Qaeda was viewed as diminished,121 and the West was contemplating an end to the War on Terror.122 According to John Brennan, President Obama’s assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, it was the “most profound change in the modern history of the Arab world, and Al-Qaeda and its ilk have been left on the sidelines(…).”123 Jihadists, however, saw this power vacuum as an opportunity.

While Al-Qaeda accurately assessed the instability created by the Arab Spring and shifted to a population-centric strategy aimed at winning over the “hearts and minds” of the masses, fissures were developing between it and the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI)124 regarding the nascent rebellion against Basher al Assad in Syria. The ISI called on jihadists everywhere to fill with violence the vacuum left by pro-democracy movements. These rifts set the stage for the future official split between Al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria.

When faced with divisions in the jihadist movement, Faisal always sided with the most extremist faction. Faisal promoted the idea that the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen “are fake,” saying “none of these are ‘Islamic’ because they brought about governments to appease the west,” that “those who died in these revolutions, died as democrats” and that “we can only rejoice when these bring about sharia.” He continued preaching this message over his Paltalk platform as hopes for Middle Eastern democracy slowly died.

With Revolution Muslim disbanded, Faisal concentrated on developing his Authentic Tauheed platform, turning it towards Syria and Iraq. He endorsed and frequently promoted the belief that it was permissible to kill civilians.125 His audiences were small (25–50 people in any given lecture), but the speeches were recorded and preserved for posterity on AuthenticTauheed.com. Additionally, Faisal established profiles on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.126

By mid-2012, it became apparent that the uprisings against Bashar al-Assad in Syria were “becoming more radicalized: home-grown Muslim jihadists, as well as small groups of fighters from Al-Qaeda, are taking a more prominent role and demanding a say in running the resistance.”127 Faisal, by then, was hardly in the media and had found himself a sort of refuge in his native Jamaica. As images of Syria flooded social media, Faisal was quietly grooming the next generation of Western youth, who would go on to support ISIS. By the time ISIS announced its caliphate, the association network Faisal helped establish through Revolution Muslim hit a tipping point and Authentic Tauheed had become its own hub in an expanding jihadi online social network.

On June 28, 2014, ISIS announced itself as a caliphate and called on Muslims around the globe to support it.128 Ten days later, in the month of Ramadan, Faisal gave a lecture on Paltalk entitled the “Importance of Hijra.” In it, he blatantly encouraged followers to join the caliphate,129 emphasizing that those living in the West tend to make excuses for not going, that they have a passport, but they don’t leave because they fear poverty, and that they “worry about their bellies and their private parts.”130

A few weeks later, Faisal gave a lecture called “Is the Caliphate Valid?” In it, he explained to his audience that ISIS’s proclamation of the caliphate was the fulfillment of prophecy.

If you are blessed to witness this prophecy you should of said al-hamdu’lilah (praise god), and you should have cried tears of joy instead of condemning the khilafah and casting doubts on the khilafah and instead of bad mouthing the mujahideen who brought back the khilafah by Allah’s permission with the blood of the saliheen (righteous) and shuhadaa (martyrs). You should have cried tears of joy instead of jumping on the bandwagon of the hypocrites.131

Anyone who rejected the caliphate and failed to support it was “behaving like a Jew” and was a hypocrite. He said, “There is no doubt that he (Bagdadhi) is the legitimate caliph and it is incumbent upon you to give your bayah (allegiance).” Later Faisal added, “So take up arms, take up arms, O soldiers of the Islamic State! And fight, fight!”

On September 6, 2014, Faisal headed yet another conference, “Al-Khilafah: Allah’s Governance on Earth.” He participated with a group of English language jihadi ideologues in the West (primarily London) that included of Abu Walid (salafimedia.com), Abu Baraa (Anjem Choudhary’s underling) and Abu Abdullah (formerly Abu Hamza al-Masri’s bodyguard and student). With the demise of Revolution Muslim, the older Al-Muhajiroun network based in London reactivated and ultimately served as the connective tissue for an overwhelming number of ISIS foreign fighter social media accounts.132

Besides Faisal, two of the clerics who spoke at the conference have been known to incite extremism. One, Atila Ahmed from London (also known as Abu Abdullah) was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison in 2008 on charges of soliciting murder. The second, Mizanur Rahman from London (also known as Abu Baraa), was convicted in the UK for hate speech and solicitation to murder in 2006. Remarks during the conference ranged from endorsement of ISIS to anti-Semitism and anti-LGBT statements.133

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Ad for the Authentic Tauheed conference supporting ISIS

Faisal maintained a fairly high profile on social media,endorsing the Islamic State on Twitter and Facebook with tweets such as: “Our females make us proud by joining IS,” and “Any Mujahid (fighter) who doesn’t give his bayah (allegiance) to Dawla (ISIS) is a fake Jihadi and his death will b in vain. So please b warned.”134 It was clear that Faisal had endorsed the Islamic State.

In fact, when other Muslim scholars publicly criticized the barbarity of the Islamic State in February 2015, Faisal took it upon himself to defend the Caliphate and produced a series of lectures called “Debunking the Letter of the Wicked Scholars to Amirul Muhmineen.”135 It was a reaction to an open letter issued by hundreds of leaders and scholars around the Muslim world rebuking Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The open letter emphasized the idea that it is forbidden in Islam to kill civilians. To this, Faisall responded, “War is a dirty business. There is no such thing as a clean war.” Then, echoing his own lectures, Faisal cited a fatwa from Ibn Uthaymeen, a Saudi scholar, explaining that:

Uthaymeen said if they are killing your women and children and the only way to stop them is to kill their women and children to deter them, you are allowed to do that136. This fatwa went viral over the internet and then YouTube took it down, but it was too late[.]

Faisal ended by explaining that ISIS was “[s]urgically removing various cancers from the body of the ummah (global Islamic community).” Faisal frequently instructed his administrators to post links to the fatwa’s recording on YouTube and would scold those who did not accept it, saying things like, “Anyone that cannot handle the fatwa of bin Uthaymeen, it means that you have a disease of hypocrisy in your heart.137

Ideologue and Recruiter for the Islamic State

As territory under ISIS’s control gradually decreased, Faisal continued proselytizing on their behalf. On March 18, 2017, Faisal release a new message, “Can the Khilafa Survive.” The message condemned Jews and claimed that Christians had organized 68 nations to fight the caliphate, “the biggest coalition of human history.” He repeated Ibn Uthaymeen’s fatwa, saying that in response to coalition airstrikes in Mosul and Raqqah, “you are allowed to kill their women and children.”138 A few months later, in one of his final lectures, Faisal vehemently stressed his authorization to kill civilians, craftily utilizing Ibn Utahymeen’s rhetoric to justify and encourage terrorism in Western countries by Muslim citizens.139

Yet, because he personally never sought media attention in the manner of Al-Muhajiroun or Revolution Muslim, Faisal remained mostly off the public’s radar. Nevertheless, his influence remained significant.

Faisal developed a system of anonymity, giving moderators on the Authentic Tauheed website account names such as AT1, AT2, AT3 and so on. It was the same system that ISIS supporters would go on to utilize on Twitter.140 Yet, Faisal’s speech was protected and, therefore, he remained free, though his apparent influence and links to terror-related cases remained clear.

Faisal crossed the line into terrorism again with his specific call for emigration to ISIS’s caliphate (hijra). On August 25, 2017, the District Attorney’s Office for New York County issued an indictment for “Sheikh” Abdullah Faisal, and his arrest came after a year-long investigation by the NYPD Intelligence Bureau and Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Counter Terrorism Program, during which an undercover officer communicated remotely with Faisal. According to the NYPD, Faisal sent the officer propaganda material from official ISIS channels and offered to help him travel to the Middle East “to support foreign fighters abroad.”141

He was soon taken into custody by Jamaican authorities on request for extradition.142 The indictment alleged that Faisal had engaged a confidential informant online and agreed to connect the informant with contacts in Raqqa — essentially engaging in recruitment. After the informant confirmed his ostensible desire to join ISIS, Faisal suggested that the undercover officer enter into a marriage with someone residing in ISIS-controlled territory in order to facilitate travel abroad. The indictment alleged that Faisal began directing Muslims to join ISIS as early as July 2014 and noted that after issuing the lecture “The Importance of Hijra,” Faisal emailed an individual with the subject line “dawla numbers.”143

Faisal’s arrest and conviction may very well prove to be the demise of the notorious cleric. Cyrus Vance explained the indictment’s significance.

Sheikh Faisal has dedicated his life to terror recruitment. Through his lectures, website, and videos, he incites untold numbers of people around the world to take up the cause of jihad… The defendant also served as the fulcrum of a recruitment effort that encouraged individuals to carry out acts of terrorism in the name of the Islamic State and connected them with other radical supporters who were willing — or already in the process — of doing the same in countries around the world.144

Three days after Faisal’s arrest, on August 28th, 2017, a 22-year-old New Yorker from Queens was arrested on charges of attempting to materially support the Islamic State. The Authentic Tauheed page appeared in the “like” section of his Facebook profile. In June, Parveg Ahmad traveled to Saudi Arabia, allegedly to celebrate an Islamic religious holiday, but when he attempted to travel to Syria. He was deported back to the United States and arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport. It is still not entirely clear the extent to which Faisal’s works impacted Ahmed, but his public endorsement of Faisal’s website and social media activity is notable.145

For now, Faisal, currently in Jamaica, has been removed from the playing field. Today he is fighting extradition to the U.S. If he is convicted in the U.S., however, it is likely that he will face a lengthy prison sentence. After Faisal’s arrest, New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill stated:

Sheikh Faisal has used his influence and direction to groom and inspire terrorists (…). His arrest for his efforts to recruit people for ISIS, a terrorist group that has plotted attacks against New York City, should bring an abrupt end to his global outreach in support of terror groups such as al-Qaida and ISIS.146

Faisal’s arrest may be of greater significance than most imagine. Although Faisal never garnered the level of public infamy of Anwar al Awlaki, Omar Bakri, Abu Hamza or Abu Qatada, he remained the last active charismatic preacher from the early post-9/11 period, and the one who was uniquely able to transition his support from pre- 9/11 Al-Qaeda to the self-declared Caliphate of the Islamic State in 2014. His longevity amplified his influence and impact.

In 2015, an ISIS foreign fighter posted a list of influential jihadi scholars who support ISIS, including six from the West: Omar Bakri, Anjem Choudhary, and Minazur Rahman from Al-Muhajiroun, Musa Cerantonio147, Ahmed Musa Jibril148 and Faisal.149 Everyone but Faisal has been removed from the recruiting sphere.

Unfortunately, it is likely that regardless of any criminal sentence, Faisal’s influence will continue. His preaching and lectures will be preserved indefinitely online, and the network he developed will continue to exert influence — directly or indirectly. To further illustrate this point, it is worthwhile to review a case that offers a picture of the network and influence surrounding him.

Keonna Thomas of Philadelphia, was 33 years old on April 4, 2015, when the Department of Justice filed a criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania. The complaint alleged that she had attempted to “travel overseas to join, fight with, and martyr herself on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).150

Thomas lived a double life: The quiet mother of two was also an online propagandist for ISIS. She ran a prolific Twitter account under the names “Fatayat Al Khalifah” and “Young Lioness.”151 The FBI’s complaint revealed that from August 2013 until her arrest, Thomas was in touch with three high profile individuals: Mujahid Miski (born Muhammad Abdullahi Hassan), a US permanent resident that had joined Al-Shabaab in Somalia in 2008, Shawn Parsons (known as Abu Khalid al-Amriki), a Trinidadian that joined ISIS in Raqqa, and “Sheikh” Abdullah Faisal.

She eventually planned for travel overseas via direct correspondence with Mujahid Miski. In the interim, she continued tweeting support for ISIS, her desire to travel and to attain istashaad (martyrdom for the cause). Soon after her correspondence with Miski, she engaged in yet more conversation with Shawn Parsons, whom she went on to marry in an online ceremony. In December 2014, Parsons contacted Thomas to let her know that he had made it from Trinidad to Raqqa. Parson’s mother would later tell investigators that her son had radicalized online but that she thought his wife played a role in his recruitment.152 Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the radicalization of the “Young Lioness,” however, lies in her connection to Faisal.

Electronic communications between Thomas and Faisal reveal her desire to travel for “the cause” and the steps she took to do so, including the fact that she requested travel advice from Parsons after their marriage. Such exchanges suggest that Faisal exerted an ideological influence on Thomas and that he knew and influenced Parsons as well.

It is clear that Faisal influenced Keonna Thomas directly, but the connections to Parsons and Miski indicate an indirect influence on a constantly mutating, ever-expanding Western jihadist network. Faisal’s intimate connection to Parsons is far from the only case that documents his Caribbean influence.

The number of Trinidadians that joined ISIS has long puzzled policy-makers and counterterrorism officials. With a population of just 1.3 million, Trinidad and Tobago have the highest percentages of citizens who have travelled to fight for ISIS. This expanding network is, at least in part, a consequence of Faisal’s influence. For example, we know that a five-person group of Trinidadians that traveled to Syria in 2013 were radicalized by Faisal’s online lectures. According to Umar Abdullah, a moderate imam in Trinidad who knew them, they fell prey to Faisal and his online lectures, which influenced their readings of texts. “Verses that led toward jihad would be referenced to in a way to justify their actions,” he says.153 Abdullah calls Faisal “Sheikh Google,” and if his lectures remain online, it is likely Faisal’s legacy will continue to affect Caribbean Muslims.

As for Keonna Thomas, she was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. At the sentencing hearing, she explained, “I’m not an evil or malicious person. I’m just someone who, I guess, at one point was impressionable.”154 Thomas’ case, like so many others, contests the degree to which those engaging propagandists are “brain- washed,” and the degree to which their engagement is a result of their own agency. Regardless, it seems evident that without her connection to Faisal, she may not have made the same choices.

Today, the West’s predominant charismatic jihadi preachers from the early days of the War on Terror have been removed from the streets of London, Yemen, Jamaica and other locales, but the ideas they espoused remain and will continue to exert influence, both directly and indirectly. One remaining question is whether others will step in to replace these now-absent ideologues of hate.

A potential early indicator of what was that a few days after Faisal was arrested, an Authentic Tauheed administrator announced on her Facebook page that “in’sha’Allah Abu Nusayba [one of Faisal’s primary students] will be able to make some time to teach on Paltalk.” Clearly Faisal’s influence will continue.

 

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As of late 2015, more than 20,000 foreign fighters had arrived in Syria, at least 7,000 of them were nationals from Western Europe and North America.155 While the dynamics between recruit and recruiter, and teacher and student, are as complex as the individual radicalization process, it is crucial that we continue to gain a better understanding of the nature of radicalization hubs (online and physical world) and the role that ideologues can play in encouraging, legitimatizing, and even connecting Western recruits to overseas battlefields.  Though the threat from ISIS has ebbed, it would be a mistake to assume that the overall jihadist threat to the West has subsided permanently.

Understanding and interrupting the processes associated with an individual’s radicalization remains a key component of preventing, countering and addressing the core causes related to terrorism. Notably, only a limited body of scholarly work focuses specifically on the role of radicalization and recruitment agencies and agents. The literature tends to diminish the vital interplay between individuals and the charismatic preachers that form the center of hubs for radicalization. Better understanding the nature, role and influence of charismatic preachers is crucial to expanding knowledge of how and why some impressionable individuals go on to engage in violent extremist action.156

Extremist mosques were once the heart of real-world radicalization; today, hubs have largely gone online. Faisal took full advantage of this transition, first with Revolution Muslim and then ultimately via AuthenticTauheed.com and related platforms. However, as open online communication continues to be further restricted on social media, jihadi ideologues sympathizers and supporters will likely migrate to alternative and encrypted platforms.

A data-driven study of online ISIS activity suggests that “operational pro-ISIS and protest narratives develop through self-organized online aggregates, each of which is an ad hoc group of followers of an online page created through Facebook or its global equivalents.” This suggests a further decentralization of the message associated with the demise of charismatic preachers. Nevertheless the study’s authors identified the role of radicalization hubs where they concluded after mapping the ISIS online network that” instead of having to analyze the online activities of many millions of individual potential actors world-wide interested parties can shift their focus to aggregates, of which there will typically be only a few hundred.”157 These aggregates comprise the radicalization hubs in an alternative online reality, and all too often have revolved around the views of a specific extremist preacher. As a result, Counterterrorism analysts attempting to identify would-be jihadists would be well advised to identify ideologues of hate and track their online presence, whether on open platforms or via encrypted networks.

Finally, Faisal’s story highlights the role of a jihadi ideologue in both the political and religious spheres158 and shows the ways in which an individual’s personal and political grievances can ultimately be used to mobilize them to action. Faisal represents the epitome of the charismatic preacher phenomenon; he used ideas and propaganda to mobilize individuals into action.  His case highlights the importance of recognizing the role that hate speech can have in facilitating progression along the continuum between radical ideas and terrorist behavior.  Faisal’s arrest is certainly a step in the right direction.  Unfortunately, in the same way Anwar al-Awlaki exerts influence “beyond the grave,”159 Faisal’s legacy is likely to continue to have reverberative, lasting effects going forward. 

As we learn more about extremists, we are often left wondering: where does their hate come from?  In the case of Sheikh Faisal, there is a clear ideology at the root of his anti-Semitism, anti-Christian, anti-Shiite and anti-gay worldview. 

Like other great religions, Islam has liberal, mainstream, conservative, orthodox and ultra-literalist-extremist currents.  Faisal clearly adheres to an “ultra-literalist-extremist” interpretation of Islam called jihadi-salafi.160 Key themes that drive this narrative and the mobilization to violence include:

Anti-gay.  Faisal’s anti-gay stance is similar to that of other orthodox Muslims and has roots in the Old Testament’s story of Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah shared with Judaism and Christianity.  Faisal notes, “There is no such thing as a gay Muslim.”  “Therefore, when you come ‘Out of the closet’ and say, “I am gay,” you have left the fold of Islam.”161

Where Faisal differentiates himself is not in his anti-gay stance, but rather in his direction to followers that homosexuality is ground for exclusion from Islam and more disturbingly, excommunication.  “Allah made takfeer [declaring an individual as a non-believer] on the gays in the Quran.”162

And then there is Faisal’s dictate regarding what should be done to gay people, or “people of Loot” [biblical Lot].  “Ibn ‘Abbas said: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Whoever you find doing the action of the people of Loot [Lot], execute the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.”163

Anti-Christian.  The rise of Islam followed Christianity, and some Muslims saw themselves in competition with the older religion.  While Muslims revere Jesus (Issa) as a prophet, early Islam found reasons to critique Christianity in order to distinguish themselves, and to give the new religion an air of superiority. 

Historically, Muslim jurists trying to denigrate Christianity have focused on the idea of the trinity (the Christian belief in God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost). Faisal, citing previous Muslim scholars, claims that worshipping the trinity constitutes polytheism.  Faisal notes, “To call Jesus(AS) God, like Christians, is shirk [the sin of practicing idolatry or polytheism].” “Also, shirk [polytheism/idolatry] is believing in the ‘trinity.”164

And for those Christians who don’t believe the teachings of Islam, Faisal says, “Verily, those who disbelieve (in the religion of Islam, the Qur'an and Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) from among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) and Al-Mushrikun will abide in the Fire of Hell. They are the worst of creatures. (Al-Baiyinah 98:6)”

Anti-Shi’a Muslim.  Sunni Islam and Shi’a Islam have been locked in a sectarian battle for centuries.  As a result, religious (primarily Sunni) jurists have found religious reasons to provide legitimacy for the political battles for power and control in the Muslim world.  Faisal didn’t have to reach far to find these arguments against his fellow co-religionists.

“There is no doubt that there is a big fitna (hardship and animosity) in the ummah between the sunnis and the shia.  We cannot pretend it doesn't exist.  The word 'shia' was mentioned in the Qur'an.  Allah (swt) told you not to become a shia.”165

Sunni Salafi Muslims believe that Shi’a Muslims revere and visit the graves of former religious leaders, which allows Sunnis to argue that Shi’a are “worshipping” a being other than G-d/Allah.  “So, they elevate their imams above Allah.”166

And Faisal’s prescription for Shi’a Muslims is excommunication and death, which is what ISIS has done. “When you see that the Dawla [ISIS] cut off the heads of Shi’as you will think that’s extreme, these people are crazy…first of all, the classical scholars did not consider Shi’as as Muslims…you don’t know what the Shi’as believe and you don’t know why the Dawla is so harsh against the Shi’as.”167

Anti-Semitism.  Clearly some of Faisal’s most venomous hate is directed at Jews.  The origin of his hatred of Jews is two-fold.  First, de-contextualized early Islamic rationales are used today to denigrate Judaism. And Second, the anti-Semitism imported into the Middle East from Europe during World War II has metastasized and been politicized as Israel was founded and fought wars against Arab states.

Faisal uses both elements to lambast Jews.  First, is his religious critique that “[t]he Jews wrote a book called the Talmud. This book is the most racist book. The book states that the Goy (non-Jews) were created to work as slaves for the Jews.”  He continues, “Allah has made takfir [declaring an individual as a non-believer] on the Jews and the Christians many times in the Quran”168

Second, he makes the modern political, anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist critique, where he invokes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In this critique he claims, “I was taught the protocols of zion [sic] in Univ. Hence I would recommend it as an excellent source of knowledge.”169

And finally, mixing Islam’s rivalry with Judaism and more recent European anti-Semitism, Faisal suggests the following treatment of Jews: “There is a Quranic verse where Allah (SWT) pronounced Jews and Christians as Kuffar (apostates) even before the hujjah (in this context, punishment for not following Islam) was established against them.”170 

Support for ISIS.  Many of the aforementioned themes converge in the Islamic State’s efforts against its enemies.  On March 18th, 2017, Faisal released an audio message, “Can the Khilaafa Survive (Audio),” where he lists the “many enemies of the caliphate,” including the Jews. Faisal says, “I don’t think the Jews would be happy with a caliphate. I can’t see the Jews being happy with a caliphate.” The other enemies, he says, are the Christians. “Christians put together sixty-eight nations to fight the caliphate…the biggest coalition of human history.” 

Calling those coalition members “Crusaders,” Faisal commands followers to “fight them ‘til there’s no more fitnah.” Fitnah is an Arabic word meaning trial, affliction or distress. Finally, about coalition airstrikes in Raqqah and Mosul, Faisal states, “If the kuffar [unbelievers/infidels] kill your women and children, you are allowed to kill their women and children.”  Ultimately, he suggests the only way to control the caliphate’s skies is to “shoot down the planes of the kuffar” with surface-to-air missiles.171

  1.  “Just In: Abdullah Faisal arrested on Extradition Warrant.” Jamaican Gleaner, August 25, 2017,http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20170825/just-sheikh-abdullah-el-faisal-arrested-jamaica-extradition-warrant
  2. Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. “Radical Cleric Sheikh Faisal Indicted for Recruiting Supporters and Facilitating Efforts to Join Islamic State.” August 25, 2017, https://www.manhattanda.org/radical-cleric-sheikh-faisal-indicted-recruiting-supporters-and-facilitating-efforts-j/
  3. https://ctc.usma.edu/nypd-vs-revolution-muslim-inside-story-defeat-local-radicalization-hub/
  4. Angela Gendron. “The Call to Jihad: Charismatic Preachers and the Internet.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, April 6, 2016, pp. 44-61. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1057610X.2016.1157406?journalCode=uter20 .
  5. Goldman, Adam; Shane, Scott. “A Long-Pursued ISIS Preacher is Finally Charged in New York.” The New York Times, September 1, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/01/us/abdullah-faisal-Al-Qaeda.html?mcubz=0
  6.  
  7. Callimachi, Rukmin. “Once an Al-Qaeda Recruiter, Now a Voice Against Jihad.” The New York Times, August 29, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/30/us/al-qaeda-islamic-state-jihad-fbi.html 
  8. Sue Clough, John Steel, “Cleric who poisoned the young drip by drip.” The Telegraph, February 25, 2003. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1423022/Cleric-who-poisoned-the-young-drip-by-drip.html
  9. British Broadcasting Corporation, “Cleric supporter jailed for rape.” BBC.com, July 4, 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/3045904.stm
  10. Faisal v. Royal Crown, 2004-EWCA Crim 456, https://kyleorton1991.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/judgment-in-appeal-crown-v-el-faisal-4-march-2004.pdf
  11. “Former Revolution Muslim Imam Encourages Support for ISIS,” ADL.org, September 10, 2014 at https://www.adl.org/blog/former-revolution-muslim-imam-encourages-support-for-isis
  12. South Wales Evening Post January 25, 2003 Cleric’s 'Kill the Pagans' Videos
  13. Nassir Fahd, May 21 2003. “A Treatise on the Legal Status of Using Weapons of Mass Destruction Against Infidels, “The fatwa was endorsed by another radical cleric, Ali al–Khudair, one of the leading religious supporters of Al-Qaeda. https://archive.org/stream/NasirAlFahd/NasirAl-fahd TheRulingOnUsingWeaponsOfMassDestructionAgainstTheInfidels_djvu.txt
  14. Sue Clough, “Preacher claims Jewish deceit killed astronaut.” The Daily Telegraph, February 7, 2003.https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1421296/Preacher-claims-Jewish-deceit-killed-astronaut.html
  15. “Muslim cleric guilty of soliciting murder,” The Guardian, February 24, 2003.
  16. Judge Peter Beaumont, the Common Sergeant of London, was outraged after receiving an anonymous letter halfway through the trial. It is understood a figure of £50,000 was mentioned in the letter.
  17.   The Guardian. “Muslim Cleric Guilty of Soliciting Murder.” February 24, 2003, https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/feb/24/race.world
  18. British Broadcasting Corporation “Hate preaching cleric jailed.” BBC.com, March 7, 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2829059.stm
  19. Sue Clough, John Steel, “Cleric who poisoned the young drip by drip.” The Telegraph, February 25, 2003. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1423022/Cleric-who-poisoned-the-young-drip-by-drip.html
  20. The Guardian. “Muslim Cleric Guilty of Soliciting Murder.” February 24, 2003, https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/feb/24/race.world
  21. https://www.justice.gov/archive/opa/pr/2004/February/04_crm_086.htm
  22. Sunday Mercury. Cleric Who Lured Tipton Suspects.”  March 9, 2003.
  23. Robert Sutcliffe, “Police to investigate claims imam praised 7/7 bombers.” Yorkshire Post February 13, 2006. https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/police-to-investigate-claims-imam-praised-7-7-bombers-1-2603970
  24. Tom Whitehead, “Evil cleric: my human right to stay in Britain.” The Express, April 13, 2007. https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/4346/Evil-cleric-My-human-right-to-stay-in-Britain
  25. A salafi Muslim is a member of a strictly orthodox Sunni Muslim sect advocating a return to the early Islam of the Koran and Sunna.  Practically, Salafism can be divided into three branches: quietist Salafism, whose adherents shun political activism and concentrate on “cleansing” and teaching Islam in all its “purity”; political Salafism, which does concentrate on political commitment as an integral part of Islam through contentious debates, parliamentary participation, and founding political parties; and Jihadi-Salafism, whose followers seek to overthrow supposedly apostate regimes in the Muslim world through violent jihad. Although the term “Salafism” is heavily contested among Salafis—with adherents of one branch often not allowing the application of the label to be applied to the other branches—its various ideas and manifestations show that Salafism is quite a diverse phenomenon. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, at https://www.google.com/search?q=definition+salafi&oq=definition+salafi+& aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.4375j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
  26. As explained to author on numerous occasions
  27. Williams,  Paul H. “A biography of international intrigue.” Jamaica Gleaner, June 11, 2007. Retrieved from: http://web.archive.org/web/20070614222155/http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20070611/news/news1.html
  28. As told to the author shortly after his release from prison in May 2007.
  29. Talib e Ilm, “Sheikh Abdullah Faisal.” http://www.talibeilm.net/sheikh-abdullah-faisal.html
  30. See for example his lectures entitled, “Islam, Slavery, and the African,” “They Came before Columbus,” “Untold Stories of History,” “History: Islam in North America,” and others.
  31. See for example online sermons such as: “Islam and the New World Order,” “The Truth about Holidays,” “The Signs of the Last Day,” “The Devil’s Deception in the New World Order,” and others.
  32. As discussed in his lecture ‘The Devil’s Deception of the Saudi Salafis’
  33. Al Rajhi Endowment, “About the waqif (the person making the endowment)” Last updated: April 26, 2018. http://www.rajhiawqaf.org/en/aboutus/Pages/About%20The%20Waqif.aspx
  34. "Judgment in Appeal of Crown v. El-Faisal, Supreme Court of Judicature, Court of Appeal" (PDF). 4 March 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 May 2012. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  35. Abdullah Faisal. “My Life in Prison.” Authentictauheed.com, June 23, 2011. http://e.4shared.com/linkerror.jsp?cau=del
  36. After his older brother was executed in Egypt, Muhammad moved to Saudi Arabia where he continued espousing his brother’s ideas.
  37. for a detailed biography of Syed Qutb see http://www.stephenhicks.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/murr-qutb.pdf 
  38. Abdullah Faisal. “My Life in Prison.” Authentictauheed.com, June 23, 2011. http://www.authentictauheed.com/2011/06/96-my-life-in-prison.html
  39. Inge, Anabel. “Extreme Islam: What makes a young British woman turn to Salafism?” Independent, November 27, 2016. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/young-british-salafi-women-a7436611.html
  40. The Sunday Times (London) February 28, 1993, Sunday Caught between the book and the look
  41. Abu Hamza al Masri, “Beware of Takfir,” 2004. https://archive.org/stream/BewareOfTakfir_201707/Beware%20of%20Takfir%2
  42. Dominic Casciani. “Hearts and Minds: London’s Street Battle with Al-Qaeda.” BBC. September 9, 2001, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-14844988
  43. Jacob Olidort. The Politics of “Quietist” Islam. Washington D.C., Doha:Brookings Institute, 2015. https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-politics-of-quietist-salafism/
  44. Peter Bergen, Holy  War Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Bin Laden (New York: Free Press, 2001)
  45. Abdullah Faisal. “Sheikh Hudaifi Khutba.” 1999. Available at: http://www.islamicline.com/abdullahfaisal.html
  46. International Centre for the Study of Radicalization. “Recruitment and Mobilisation for the Islamist Movement in Europe.” Pp 29-40. December 2007, http://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/1234516791ICSREUResearchReport_Proof1.pdf 
  47. “Devil’s Deception of the Saudi Salafis by Sheikh Faisal.” TheSheikhFaisal, posted November 22, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ_7BTA6MxM
  48. “Debate between Sheikh Abu Qatada and Sheikh Faisal on Takfir.” Archive.org video, 2:03:28, posted by “Sheikh Abu Qatada.” https://archive.org/details/iarchive_qatada (accessed on April 26, 2018).
  49. Conversation with author in December 2007
  50. Abu Hamza al Masri, “Beware of Takfir,” 2004. https://archive.org/stream/BewareOfTakfir_201707/Beware%20of%20Takfir%20#page/n1/mode/2up
  51. Ibid
  52. Usama bin Laden. “Open Letter for Shayk Bin Baz on the Invalidity of His Fatwa on Peace with the Jews.” December 29, 2004, https://scholarship.tricolib.brynmawr.edu/bitstream/handle/10066/10339/OBL19941229.pdf?sequence=5
  53. Youssef M. Ibrahim, “Muslims Argue the Theology of Peace with Israel” The New York Times, January 31, 1995. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/01/31/world/muslims-argue-the-theology-of-peace-with-israel.html
  54. Nelly Lahoud. “In Search of Philosopher-Jihadis: Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s Jihadi Philosophy. Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions. December 17, 2009, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14690760903192057
  55. Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. “Millat Ibrahim.” (1994). Translated into English by Tibyan Publications, https://www.kalamullah.com/Books/MillatIbraheem.pdf
  56. Al-Kwashif Al Jalyieh, “The revealing lights Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi” Uploaded on February 19, 2008. Available at: https://archive.org/details/ALKAWASHEF
  57. Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, “The Saudi state and the position of Ibn Baz and Ibn Uthaymeen towards it.”  http://religiondocbox.com/Islam/73648061-The-saudi-state-and-the-position-of-ibn-baz-and-ibn-uthaymeen-towards-it.html 
  58. Combating Terrorism Centre at West Point. “Criticism of Sheik Bin Baz.” Available at: https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/criticism-of-sheikh-bin-baz-english-translation-2?
  59. Abdullah Faisal. Devils Deception of the Murjia. (2002)
  60. Abdullah Faisal. Devil’s Deception of the 20th Century House Niggers. (2003).
  61. Abdullah Faisal. No Peace with the Jews. (2000), available at http://www.islamicline.com/abdullahfaisal.html
  62. Osama Bin Laden, “Declaration of War.” Translated by Sheikh Faisal. Available at: https://archive.org/details/DeclarationWar_SheikhFaisal
  63. Osama bin Laden. “Declaration of Jihad against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holiest Sites.” February 28, 1998. CTC Sentinel,  https://ctc.usma.edu/app/uploads/2013/10/Declaration-of-Jihad-against-the-Americans-Occupying-the-Land-of-the-Two-Holiest-Sites-Translation.pdf
  64. Yassin Musharbash. “Al-Qaeda’s Online University: Jihad 101 for would-be Terrorists.” Der Spiegel. August 17, 2006, http://www.spiegel.de/international/al-qaida-s-online-university-jihad-101-for-would-be-terrorists-a-432133.html
  65. Hanna Rogan. “From ’Abu Reuter to ’Irhabi 007: Al-Qaeda’s Online Media.” University of Oslo, November 2007,  Strategieshttps://www.duo.uio.no/bitstream/handle/10852/24259/THE_JIHADIST_ONLINE_MEDIA_STRATEGY_19xNOV%5B1%5D.pdf?sequence=1
  66. Fishman, Bryan H. The Master Plan: ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Jihadi Strategy for Final Victory. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.
  67. Phillip Sieg. “The Al-Qaeda Media Machine.” Military Review. May-June 2008, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/milreview/seib.pdf 
  68. Muhammad bin Ahmad  As-Saim. “39 Ways to Participate in Jihad.” At-Tibyan Publications, https://www.cia.gov/library/abbottabad-compound/2D/2D06F676D114500575E4A970D5915C33_39_WAYS_(LAST_PART).pdf 
  69. Letter from Al-Zawahiri to Al-Zarqawi. July 9, 2005. Available at https://fas.org/irp/news/2005/10/letter_in_english.pdf and https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/zawahiris-letter-to-zarqawi-english-translation-2
  70. Abu Musab as-Suri. “The Call for a Global Resistance Islamic Resistance, https://ia802700.us.archive.org/23/items/The-call-for-a-global-Islamic-resistance/The-call-for-a-global-Islamic-resistance.pdf
  71. ibid
  72. Lia, Brynjar. Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al-Qaida Strategist Abu-Mus’ab al-Suri. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  73. Sageman, Marc. Leaderless jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, 2008.
  74. James Brandon. “The Danger of Prison Radicalization in the West.” CTC Sentinel. December 2009, Vol. 2, Issue 12, https://ctc.usma.edu/the-danger-of-prison-radicalization-in-the-west/
  75. Abdullah Faisal. “My Life in Prison.” Authentictauheed.com, June 23, 2011. http://www.authentictauheed.com/2011/06/96-my-life-in-prison.html
  76. Ingrid Brown, “Deported cleric to preach here.” Jamaica Observer, May 27, 2007. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/123546_Deported-cleric-to-preach-here
  77. author’s experience
  78. Rafaello Pantucci. “We Love Death More than you Love Life: Britain’s Suburban Terrorists.” (2015). C. Hurst and Co.
  79. Mitch Silber interview with author, December 30, 2017.
  80. Ibid.
  81. Ibid.
  82. Ibid.
  83. Anti-Defamation League. “Revolution Muslim Leader Sentenced to 2.5 Years for Threatening Jews.” April 25, 2014, https://www.adl.org/blog/revolution-muslim-leader-sentenced-to-25-years-for-threatening-jews
  84. Maura Conway. From al-Zarqawi to al-Awlaki: The Emergence and Development of an Online Radical Milieu CTX: Combating Terrorism Exchange 2(4), 2012. Special Issue on ‘Social Media in Jihad and Counterterrorism.’ Available free-to-access online at https://globalecco.org/documents/10180/12998/vol2no4FINALweb.pdf/be7d4639-64c8-486f-bf38-fbea219e6baf.
  85. Mitch Silber interview with author, December 30, 2017.
  86. “Oil Occupations and the American Dream.” YouTube. sheikhfaisal. January 18, 2008, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0fUYPmceEg
  87. Revolution Muslim. “Sheikh Faisal.” January 21, 2008. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20080121174917/http://revolutionmuslim.com:80/
  88. Mitch Silber interview with author, December 30, 2017.
  89. Dina Temple-Ralston. “‘Revolution Muslim’ A Gateway for Would-Be Jihadis.” NPR, October 3, 2010. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130519592
  90. Secular2009Return4. “Revolution Muslim Brothers: Allah commanded us to TERRORIZE the Infidels.” YouTube video, 2:42. Posted [May, 2010] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=670qHZBM5Is
  91. United States vs. Jesse Curtis Morton, “Statement of Facts,” 1:12cr35 (Alexandria Division, 2012) https://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/case_docs/1905.pdf
  92. cite
  93. Billy Kenber, “Nidal Hasan sentenced to death for Fort Hood shooting rampage.” The Washington Post, August 28, 2013. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nidal-hasan-sentenced-to-death-for-fort-hood-shooting-rampage/2013/08/28/aad28de2-0ffa-11e3-bdf6-e4fc677d94a1_story.html?noredirect=on
  94. Scott Shane, “Inside Al-Qaeda’s Plot to Blow Up an American Airliner.” The New York Times, February 22, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/us/politics/anwar-awlaki-underwear-bomber-abdulmutallab.html
  95. Department of Justice - Office of Public Affairs. “Najibullah Zazi Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Use Explosives Against Persons or Property in U.S., Conspiracy to Murder Abroad and Providing Material Support to Al-Qaeda.” The United States Department of Justice - Justice News, February 22, 2010. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/najibullah-zazi-pleads-guilty-conspiracy-use-explosives-against-persons-or-property-us
  96. New America Foundation. “Part I. Terrorism Cases: 2001- Today.” Terrorism in America After 9/11 https://www.newamerica.org/in-depth/terrorism-in-america/part-i-overview-terrorism-cases-2001-today/
  97. U.S. Department of the Treasury. “Treasury Sanctions Jamaica-based ISIS Recruiter for Terror Support.” Department of the Treasury Press Center, December 5, 2017. https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0231.aspx
  98. Alison Gendar, James Gordon Meek,  “Jamaican Imam Abdullah el-Faisal wants to be next  terror big, U.S. fears.” Daily News, November 22, 2010.
  99. Brian Levin. “The Original Web of Hate: Revolution Muslim and American Homegrown Extremists.” American Behavioral Scientist 59, no. 12 (2015): 1609-1630.  
  100. Al-Qa’ida Organization in the Arabian Peninsula. Inspire Magazine, vol. 1, Summer 2010. Available at: https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/aqap-inspire-magazine-volume-1-uncorrupted.pdf
  101. Brie Ripley, “The vanishing of Molly Norris.” The Seattle Globalist, February 9, 2015.  “http://www.seattleglobalist.com/2015/02/09/molly-norris-draw-mohammed-cartoon-charlie-hebdo-seattle/32674
  102. Richard Allen Greene, “Pakistan blocks Facebook over ‘Draw Mohammed Day’.” CNN World, May 19, 2010.  http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/05/19/pakistan.facebook.ban/index.html
  103. Al-Qa’ida Organization in the Arabian Peninsula. Inspire Magazine, vol. 1,  Summer 2010. Available at: https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/aqap-inspire-magazine-volume-1-uncorrupted.pdf
  104. RNYC2006, “Revolutionmuslim.com Dawah in Times Square May 1st, 2010.” YouTube video, 10:05. Posted [May, 2010]  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hBG775gWQ4
  105. Nick Allen, Gordon Rayner, “Times Square car bob: police investigate South Park ink.” Telegraph, May 2, 2010. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/7668606/Times-Square-car-bomb-police-investigate-South-Park-link.html
  106. Matthew Weaver, “Faisal Shahzad due in court over Times Square car bomb.” The Guardian, ay 2, 2010. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/may/04/us-man-arrested-times-square-bomb
  107. William K. Rashbaum, Al Baker, “Smoking Car to Arrest in 53 hours.” The New York Times, May 4, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/nyregion/05tictoc.html?pagewanted=all&mcubz=0
  108. Dina Temple-Reston, “Jamaican Imam Said To Inspire Times Square Suspect.” NPR, May 19, 2010. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126962091 
  109. Dina Temple-Reston, “Jamaican Cleric Uses Web to Spread Jihad Message .” NPR, May 25, 2010. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127117312
  110. H. Perez, “Attempted VBIED Attack at a Military Recruiting Center [Baltimore, Maryland].” Open Source Assessment, December 19, 2010. Available at:  https://info.publicintelligence.net/CFIX-MD-VBIED.pdf
  111. ibid
  112. Jesse Morton, Mitchell Silber. “NYPD vs. Muslim: The Inside Story of the Defeat of a Local Radicalization Hub.”  CTC Sentinel 11, no. 4 (2018).  https://ctc.usma.edu/nypd-vs-revolution-muslim-inside-story-defeat-local-radicalization-hub/
  113. Logan’s Warning. “Paltalk July 31st: Global Islamic Conference, Plotting Word Domination.” Logan’s Warning, July 27, 2010. http://loganswarning.com/2010/07/27/paltalk-july-31st-global-islamic-conference-plotting-world-domination-/comment-page-1/
  114. Mitch Silber interview with author, December 30, 2017.
  115. RNYC2006, “Revolutionmuslim.com Dawah in Times Square May 1st, 2010.” YouTube video, 10:05. Posted [May, 2010]  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hBG775gWQ4 
  116. Robbie Brown, Kim Severson, “2nd American in Strike Waged Qaeda Media War.” The New York Times, September 30, 2011. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/01/world/middleeast/samir-khan-killed-by-drone-spun-out-of-the-american-middle-class.html
  117. Dina Temple-Ralston. “The Jewish Kid From New Jersey Who Became a Radical Islamist.” NPR, April 25, 2014. http://www.npr.org/2014/04/25/306533963/the-jewish-kid-from-new-jersey-who-became-a-radical-islamist
  118. Cruickshank, Paul. The Growing Danger from Radical Islamist Groups in the United States. CTC Sentinel. 3 (August 2010) : 4-10.
  119. Jerome P. Bjelopera, “American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat.” Congressional Research Service, January 23, 2013. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/R41416.pdf
  120. United States vs. Yousef al-Khattab, “Sentencing Hearing,” (Eastern District of Virginia, April 25, 2014). https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4574405/23/united-states-v-al-khattab/
  121. Daniel L. Byman. “Al-Qaeda’s Terrible Spring.” Brookings, May 25, 2011.  https://www.brookings.edu/articles/Al-Qaedas-terrible-spring/
  122. Peter Feaver. “Obama: The War on Terror is over, Long Live the War on Terror.” Foreign Policy, May 23, 2013. http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/05/24/obama-the-war-on-terror-has-ended-long-live-the-war-on-terror/
  123. The White House - Office of Press Secretary. “Remarks of John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on Ensuring al-Qa'ida's Demise — As Prepared for Delivery.” The White House - Office of Press, June 29, 2011. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2011/06/29/remarks-john-o-brennan-assistant-president-homeland-security-and-counter
  124. David Gartenstein Ross and Nathaniel Barr. “How Al-Qaeda Survived the Islamic State Challenge.” Hudson Institute, March 7, 2017, https://www.hudson.org/research/12788-how-Al-Qaeda-survived-the-islamic-state-challenge
  125. Sheikh Abdullah Faisal. “(Notes) Tafsir Surah Anfal (5): Islam Wipes Out What Came Before.” Authentic Tauheed, June 23, 2014. http://www.authentictauheed.com/2014/06/tafseer-surah-al-anfal-islam-wipes-out.html
  126. Personal experience, Author Jesse Morton.
  127. Neil MacFarquhar and Hwaida Saad. “As Syrian War Drags On, Jihadists Take a Bigger Role.” New York Times, July 29, 2012, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0DE2D61230F933A05754C0A9649D8B63&pagewanted=all
  128. Matt Bradley. “ISIS Declares New Islamic Caliphate. Wal Street Journal, June 29, 2014, https://www.wsj.com/articles/isis-declares-new-islamist-caliphate-1404065263
  129. Abdullah Faisal. “The Importance of Hijra.” July 12, 2014, https://archive.org/details/TheImportanceOfHijrah
  130. http://www.authentictauheed.com/2014/07/notes-importance-of-hijra.html
  131. AuthenticTauheed.com, “Notes and Audio: The Importance of Hijra.” July 9, 2014, https://archive.org/details/IsTheCaliphateValid
  132. Jytte Klausen, “Tweeting the Jihad: Social Media Networks of Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 38:1, 2015. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1057610x.2014.974948
  133. “Former Revolution Muslim Imam Encourages Support for ISIS,” ADL.org, September 10, 2014 at https://www.adl.org/blog/former-revolution-muslim-imam-encourages-support-for-isis
  134. ibid
  135. AuthenticTauheed.com. “Notes and Audio: Debunking the Letter of the Wicked Scholars to Amirul Muhmineen.” February 14, 2015, http://www.authentictauheed.com/2015/02/notes-debunking-letter-of-wicked.html
  136. People of Knowledge. “The Abrogation’s in Qur’an - Sheikh Ibn Al-Uthaymeen.” YouTube, posted June 14, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLb4qo4xWXk&list=PL-lpfPU4Pzf6exJ2p-VCXx4xrz5l90id6&index=2
  137. AuthenticTauheed.com. “(Notes) Tafsir Surah Anfal (5): Islam Wipes out What Came Before It.” June 23, 2016, http://www.authentictauheed.com/2014/06/tafseer-surah-al-anfal-islam-wipes-out.html
  138. Anti-Defamation League. “Faisal Indictment is Significant Blow to ISIS Propaganda.” ADL.org , August 30, 2017, https://www.adl.org/blog/Faisal-indictment-is-significant-blow-to-isis-propaganda
  139. Ibid
  140. Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes. “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa.” George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, February 2015, https://extremism.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2191/f/downloads/ISIS%20in%20America%20-%20Full%20Report.pdf
  141. Anti-Defamation League. “Faisal Indictment is Significant Blow to ISIS Propaganda.” ADL.org , August 30, 2017, https://www.adl.org/blog/Faisal-indictment-is-significant-blow-to-isis-propaganda
  142. “Just In: Abdullah Faisal arrested on Extradition Warrant.” Jamaican Gleaner,  August 25, 2017,http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20170825/just-sheikh-abdullah-el-faisal-arrested-jamaica-extradition-warrant
  143. Livern Barrett.” El-Faisal was busy Recruiting for ISIS say US Authorities.” Jamaican Gleaner, August 29, 2017, http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20170829/el-faisal-was-busy-recruiting-isis-say-us-authorities
  144. Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. “Radical Cleric Sheikh Faisal Indicted for Recruiting Supporters and Facilitating Efforts to Join Islamic State.” August 25, 2017, https://www.manhattanda.org/radical-cleric-sheikh-faisal-indicted-recruiting-supporters-and-facilitating-efforts-j/
  145.   Anti-Defamation League. “Faisal Indictment is Significant Blow to ISIS Propaganda.” , August 30, 2017, https://www.adl.org/blog/Faisal-indictment-is-significant-blow-to-isis-propaganda; United States vs. Parveg Ahmad, “Affidavit in Support of Arrest Warrant,” (Eastern District of New York, August 25, 2017). https://extremism.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2191/f/AhmedPCriminalComplaint.pdf
  146. Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. “Radical Cleric Sheikh Faisal Indicted for Recruiting Supporters and Facilitating Efforts to Join Islamic State.” August 25, 2017, https://www.manhattanda.org/radical-cleric-sheikh-faisal-indicted-recruiting-supporters-and-facilitating-efforts-j/
  147. Graeme Wood. “The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State.” 2017. Random House.
  148. The Americans with Charlie LeDuff. “American-born cleric an inspiration for ISIS militants, takes Protection with the 5th Amendment.” Fox Detroit, April 2, 2015, http://www.fox2detroit.com/news/americanborn-cleric-an-inspiration-for-isis-militants-takes-protection-with-5th-amendment
  149. “List of Scholars & Ustaz Who Support/Allegiance to Islamic State.” October 24, 2014, available https://justpaste.it/IS_Scholars
  150. United States vs. Kheonna Thomas, “15-417 M Criminal Complaint,” (Eastern District of Pennsylvania, April 3,  2015) https://extremism.gwu.edu/sites/extremism.gwu.edu/files/Thomas%20Criminal%20Complaint.pdf 
  151. ibid United States vs. Kheonna Thomas, “15-417 M Criminal Complaint,” (par. 9 and 10) (Eastern District of Pennsylvania, April 3,  2015) 152 Julien, Joel.  “Mom: his wife convinced my son to join ISIS.”  Trinidad Express, November 23, 2015.  
  152.  https://www.middleeasteye.net/essays/caribbean-caliphate-trail-trinidadians-fighting-808370626
  153. http://www.fox2detroit.com/news/americanborn-cleric-an-inspiration-for-isis-militants-takes-protection-with-5th-amendment
  154. “List of Scholars & Ustaz Who Support/Allegiance to Islamic State.” October 24, 2014, available https://justpaste.it/IS_Scholars
  155. Peter R. Neumann. “Foreign Fighter Total in Syria/Iraq now Exceeds 20,000; Surpasses Afghan Conflict in the 1980’s.” International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation. January 26, 2015 http://icsr.info/2015/01/foreign-fighter-total-syriairaq-now-exceeds-20000-surpasses-afghanistan-conflict-1980s/
  156.  
  157. John Horgan. “Discussion Point: The End of Radicalization?” National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. September 28, 2012, http://www.start.umd.edu/news/discussion-point-end-radicalization
  158. N.F. Johnson, M. Zheng, et Al. “New Online Ecology of Adversarial Aggregates: ISIS and Beyond.” Science, June 17, 2016, http://andrewgelman.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/New-Online-Ecology-of-Adversarial-Aggregates-ISIS-and-Beyond.pdf
  159. Scott Shane. “The Enduring Influence Anwar al-Awlaki in the Age of the Islamic State.” .  CTC Sentinel. July 2016, Vol. 9, Issue 7, https://ctc.usma.edu/the-enduring-influence-of-anwar-al-awlaki-in-the-age-of-the-islamic-state/
  160. Graeme Wood, What the Islamic State Really Wants,” The Atlantic, March 2015.
  161. “Faisal Indictment Is Significant Blow to ISIS Propaganda,” ADL.org, August 30, 2017 at https://www.adl.org/blog/Faisal-indictment-is-significant-blow-to-isis-propaganda
  162. Ibid.
  163. Ibid.
  164. Ibid.
  165. “Why We Hate the Shia,” Authentic Tauheed at http://www.authentictauheed.com/2014/07/notes-why-we-hate-shia.html
  166. Ibid.
  167.  “Faisal Indictment Is Significant Blow to ISIS Propaganda,” ADL.org, August 30, 2017 at https://www.adl.org/blog/Faisal-indictment-is-significant-blow-to-isis-propaganda
  168.  “Faisal Indictment Is Significant Blow to ISIS Propaganda,” ADL.org, August 30, 2017 at https://www.adl.org/blog/Faisal-indictment-is-significant-blow-to-isis-propaganda
  169.  “Former Revolution Muslim Imam Encourages Support for ISIS,” ADL.org, September 10, 2014 at https://www.adl.org/blog/former-revolution-muslim-imam-encourages-support-for-isis
  170.  Ibid.
  171.  “Faisal Indictment Is Significant Blow to ISIS Propaganda,” ADL.org, August 30, 2017 at https://www.adl.org/blog/Faisal-indictment-is-significant-blow-to-isis-propaganda
     

Additional ADL Resources:
 

Faisal

https://www.adl.org/blog/al-faisal-indictment-is-significant-blow-to-isis-propaganda

https://www.adl.org/blog/former-revolution-muslim-imam-encourages-support-for-isis

 

Revolution Muslim

https://www.adl.org/blog/revolution-muslim-leader-who-threatened-jews-pleads-guilty

https://www.adl.org/news/article/revolution-muslims-web-of-influence

https://www.adl.org/blog/revolution-muslim-leader-sentenced-to-25-years-for-threatening-jews

https://www.adl.org/blog/revolution-muslim-leader-yousef-al-khattab-anticipates-arrest

https://www.adl.org/blog/younes-abdullah-muhammad-pleads-guilty-to-threatening-south-park-creators

https://www.adl.org/news/article/new-jersey-men-arrested-for-attempting-to-join-somali-terrorist-group

https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/adl-applauds-fbi-for-securing-guilty-plea-in-terror-case-adl-assisted-in

 

Zachary Chesser/Abu Talhah al-Amrikee

https://www.adl.org/sites/default/files/documents/assets/pdf/combating-hate/Abu-Talhah-Al-Amrikee-An-Extensive-Online-Footprint-2013-1-11-v1.pdf