Skip to comments.(Ex-Christians) Joining Al Qaeda
Posted on 09/02/2003 3:39:12 PM PDT by Destro
Joining Al Qaeda
By Josh Lefkowitz and Lorenzo Vidino
Wall Street Journal | September 1, 2003
Randall Royer, David Hicks, Jack Roche, Christian Ganczarski. These aren't the names one expects to see when reviewing a list of those charged with participation in international Islamic terrorism. However, a disturbing number of converts have turned to militancy in a quest to add direction to their lives. Disillusioned with mainstream society, these disaffected men are attracted by the sense of community that Islam offers. While those who adopt mainstream Islam find solace in its teachings, the result can be quite different when converts turn to fundamentalism. What often happens is that these men find in militant Islam an alternative to more well-known antisocial outlets such as neo-Nazi or anarchist groups. Radical fundamentalist Islam allows them to channel their anger into a structured movement that is, in their view, fulfilling God's will. Militant Islam, in turn, has been actively exploiting these advantages in an all-out recruitment drive.
America has witnessed the cases of the "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh and Randall Royer, a convert recently charged for his involvement with the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. But an examination of arrests in the past few years reveals that the problem touches almost every corner of the Western world.
Take David Hicks. Raised in an Australian suburb, Hicks was a frustrated young man fascinated by war and eager to escape his mundane life. After leaving school at 14, he bounced from low-paying job to low-paying job. By 21, he was a heavy drinker with two children and a common-law wife. This existence proved frustrating for Hicks.
A desire for excitement led Hicks to Kosovo, where he joined the Kosovo Liberation Army, fighting with Albanian Muslims against the Christian Serbs. Upon returning to Australia, Hicks again grew restless. Influenced by the faith of his fellow fighters in Kosovo, he converted to Islam. Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Pakistan, where he fought with Lashkar-e-Taiba in Kashmir, and then on to Afghanistan, where he trained with al Qaeda. Hicks' foray into this violent world ended when he was captured in December 2001 and transferred to Guantanamo Bay. Once in Gitmo, Hicks threatened, "Before I leave here, I am going to kill an American."
Hicks is not the only troubled Australian to turn to militant Islam. Jack Roche, another former alcoholic, noted, "I was looking for something to motivate my life. I couldn't find that in English or Australian culture. . . . I needed some focus . . . Islam gave me that." Roche began attending lectures by Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of the al Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah that operates in Southeast Asia. Bashir's close associate, Hambali, JI's recently captured operations chief, recruited Roche and brought him to Malaysia in 1999. Hambali hoped to use Roche to organize a cell of white converts that would target Western interests in Australia. To prepare for future missions, Roche traveled to Afghanistan, where he learned to use explosives. Months after his return, Australian authorities accused Roche of plotting with al Qaeda heavyweight Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to bomb Israeli diplomatic facilities in Australia.
The story of the Courtailler brothers provides further insight into how recruiters manipulate young men struggling to find direction in their lives. Raised in a small town in the French Alps, David and Jerome Courtailler spent their teens helping in their father's butcher shop. When the shop failed and their parents divorced, the Courtaillers began using drugs and drinking heavily. They moved to London, where, living in a poor neighborhood, the brothers converted to radical Islam and attended the same mosques as a number of notorious terrorists, including would-be 9/11 hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui.
After months of indoctrination by radical preachers, the brothers accepted the offer of a local al Qaeda recruiter to attend training camps in Afghanistan; they also received $2,000 and a visa to Pakistan. Once in Afghanistan, David found the training "tiresome" and cut his ties to al Qaeda. Jerome, however, remained affiliated with al Qaeda and became involved in a plan to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
France has recently taken active steps to limit the spread of radicalism, clamping down on extremist imams and establishing a formal Muslim Council. But, unfortunately, this is an isolated case.
For example, as the Courtailler brothers learned, London is a hotbed of radicalism, a city where fanatical preachers freely spread hatred for the West. In fact, several radical organizations exist in the UK. Among them, al Muhajiroun has been particularly active in recruiting thousands of disaffected youths. The stated goal of al Muhajiroun is the creation of the Islamic Republic of Great Britain. In 2002, the Observer interviewed a number of white members of al Muhajiroun. When asked why he converted, Mohammed Khan, a 24-year-old formerly known as Alan, said, "I never felt like I belonged anywhere." He added that he was disillusioned with Christianity: "It didn't give me any sense of respect. No one goes to church any more. At least the mosques are full, so Islam obviously has something."
It is that "something" that has attracted so many malleable European, Australian and U.S. converts to the jihadi cause. Almost all think that "something" is missing in their lives, as they feel disconnected from their families, their jobs or society as a whole. Others, like David Hicks, are captivated by the appeal of training with TNT and RPGs and the thought of participating in violent missions. For still others, the path to jihad is far murkier, leaving analysts wondering what inspired them to turn to terrorism.
Even more challenging than attempting to explain why converts turn to jihad is the dilemma they present to the world's security services. The cases of Pierre Robert, the mastermind of this May's Casablanca bombings, and Christian Ganczarski, a German charged for his role in the 2002 Djerba synagogue attack, highlight al Qaeda's willingness to place white converts in leadership positions. Realizing that Westerners, particularly if they are white, are less likely to be scrutinized by authorities, al Qaeda has placed particular value on recruiting them.
Viewed in the context of recent FBI warnings, described in Time, that "[A]l Qaeda recruiters are aggressively enrolling youths . . . with U.S., Canadian or Western European passports and good command of the English language and the North American interior," it is clear that al Qaeda intends on remaining a moving target, as it constantly adapts to make detecting its operations even more difficult. The potential consequences of this recruitment strategy are terrifying. Speaking in the London-based Arabic-language publication al Majallah, al Qaeda spokesman Abu Mohammed al Ablaj said, "We have already penetrated U.S. institutions. What is coming is worse [than 9/11]."
Messrs. Lefkowitz and Vidino are terrorism analysts at the Investigative Project, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
Unfortunately, it is common to reject the authoritarian ways of childhood but then substitute another authoritarian system in the same childish way. The freedom of full adulthood is forever denied to these people by their own choices.
Translation: These are guys who can't get dates.
How well put! And how true.
Even so, you know,
you'd think these "disaffected"
nuts would give a try
to freak fringe groups like
LaRouche or Children of God
before Al Qaeda.
Nuts is one thing, but
I think the violence points
to deeper problems...
That's what it all comes down to, doesn't it? ...They'll get some dates now though, although these dates all come with beards. ....whether their preference is for women or men.
Being raised in a "Christian" country does not make you a Christian.
Like they have a choice. They're dead men walking and they know it. Let 'em recruit all the blonde boyz they want: all enemies of the United States will be found and brought to justice. ALL.
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