The new face of radical Islamic Jihadists (or Osama bin Laden clone) is Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American born Muslim cleric, now hiding in Yemen.
He's the latest face of Islamic inspired terrorism, but surely not the last. For like the Hydra, a tiny aquatic creature, when a radical Islamist jihadist leader is slain, a new "head" (or leader) is sure to take his place.
Awlaki is presumed to have influenced Faisal Shahzad, the would be failed Times Square bomber, Umar Abdulmutallab, the failed Christmas Day bomber on the plane landing at Detroit's International airport, and Nidal Malik, the accused killer of 13 people at the Fort Hood, Texas military base.
Curiously, Awlaki was far from radical in his early preaching or in his CD recordings and was critical and condemning of the 9/11 attacks. Though born in the U.S. and here till the age of 7, he was raised in Yemen and attended a prestigious private school in Sana, the Yemini capitol, until arriving back in the U.S. in 1990 as student at Colorado State University. Interviews with students, former colleagues and neighbors who knew him as a student in the early 1990's, as an Imam in Denver in the mid and late 1990's and lastly in Virginia in 2000 to early 2002 confirm his moderate Islamic preaching. The radical conversion and transformation appears to have occurred "As the American authorities rounded up Muslim men after 9/11, he had grown furious. After raids in March 2002 on Muslim institutions and community leaders in Virginia"he led a chorus of outrage, noting that some of the targets were widely viewed as moderates."
He was quoted as saying at the time, "So this is not now a war on terrorism, we need to all be clear about this, this is a war on Muslims"Not only is it happening worldwide, but it's happening right here in America that is claiming to be fighting this war for the sake of freedom."
Awlaki left the U.S. shortly after, settling in London, England with his radicalism pretty much confirmed. While addressing some "rapt young followers"he urged them never to believe a non-Muslim, or kuffar in Arabic. The unbelievers are plotting to kill this religion. They're plotting night and day."
He left London in 2004, (having a difficult time supporting himself), and traveled to Yemen. While there he was imprisoned for 18 months by Yemini authorities for intervening "in a tribal dispute." According to "a Yemini man who knows Mr. Awlaki well, he said he was different after that-harder."
As to his "influence" on the three radicals (mentioned earlier in this piece) it has all been indirect from "audio and video clips that his followers have posted to the Web, a mix of religious stories and incitement, awaiting the curious and the troubled."
So what are we to make of Awlaki and his radical transformation from preaching "against vice and sin, family values and the scripture to becoming a radical Jihadist extolling terrorism against the U.S.?
Could it be our policies of preemptive war and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq? Our drone attacks in Pakistan (Yemen?) that maims and kills innocents,( along with the targeted killing of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders)? What of our resort to torture, the rendition and indefinite detention of suspects often without charges, our support of Arab and Muslim dictators who oppress their own people, not to mention our unequivocal support and favoritism toward Israel in its subjugation of the Palestinians?
If we deny our complicity in creating and fomenting much of the radicalized jihadist terrorism plotted and perpetrated against us (as well as our Western allies) we are like ostriches with our head in the sand.
Instead of ending our unnecessary wars, we widen them exacerbating and radicalizing ever more jihadists willing to die in defense of Islam and seeking revenge by targeting and killing (or attempting to) Americans anywhere.
Out plaints of "we're not at war with Islam" ring hollow. Our present course insures more of the same.
 From Condemning Terror to Preaching Jihad", by Scott Shane and Souad Mekhennet, "The New York Times", May 9, 2010.
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