Jamaican Cleric Uses Web To Spread Jihad Message

www.scpr.org - 25 May 2010

Young Muslims in the U.S. are becoming radicalized in a new way: on the Internet. Radical clerics such as Abdullah Faisal are directing young Muslim men to take up violent jihad. Faisal, who recently set up shop in Jamaica, has alleged ties to terrorist plots around the world.

A pattern is emerging about the way young Muslims in the U.S. are becoming radicalized. It is happening on the Internet. Young men are finding radical clerics on the web and at their direction taking up violent jihad.

Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American who is accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square earlier this month, says he was radicalized by the Internet. Intelligence officials tell NPR that one of his inspirations is Sheik Abdullah Faisal, who recently set up shop in the Caribbean.

Radicalizing young men like Shahzad used to be a process that took months and generally required one-on-one recruiting, officials say. Now the radicalization process appears to happen at breakneck speed, just with the click of a mouse.

Linked To Plots Around The World

Faisal is one of the best known radical clerics on the Internet today. NPR set up an interview with Abdullah Faisal weeks ago. But when he arrived to speak to us in Montego Bay last week, he demanded money for the interview. NPR refused. So he declined to speak on tape.

But what he revealed in a conversation provided a peek into the mindset of an internet cleric who is dancing along the line between free speech and incitement.

He is a compact man who, on this day, wore a pale blue button down shirt, jeans and a blue skullcap. Faisal, 46, is a Jamaican convert to Islam and is the island's most infamous Muslim -- largely because of his alleged connections to terrorist plots around the world.

While no one has accused him of playing a direct role in attacks, he has ties to shoe bomber Richard Reid, the so-called 20th Sept. 11 hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui, and one of the suicide bombers in the 2005 London bombings.

More recently his name was raised in connection with Shahzad, the Times Square bombing suspect, a Pakistani-American man who allegedly tried to ignite a car bomb in Times Square on May 1.

Open Supporter Of Violent Jihad

Abdullah Faisal said he had a way of influencing people "so the authorities are worried that I will send people to do things," explaining why he is being tracked by police ever since his return to the island earlier this year.

"There are people who are inspired and they take things into their own hands," he said.

Faisal openly supports and preaches violent jihad. Non-believers steal Muslim resources, and rape Muslim women, he said.

And even if a good Muslim didn't want to fight, he has no choice but to do so because "jihad is brought to your doorstep."

It is the same kind of message Faisal delivers in his lectures on the Internet. And his words worry intelligence officials (...)