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Arkansas' Lone Jihadist: How Alone Is He? Print E-mail

By Walid Phares
June 5, 2009

In an armed attack outside the Army-Navy Career Center which handles recruiting, in Little Rock, AR, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 23, killed one soldier wounded another. Muhammad, an American citizen who is a convert to Islam and previously known as Carlos Bledsoe, already had been under investigation by the FBI at the time of the shootings. He had traveled to Yemen, received indoctrination from radical clerics, according to a watch group, and possessed a false Somali passport. He was charged in the death of Pvt. William Long, 23, while a prosecutor said Muhammad admitted shooting Long and another soldier "because of what they had done to Muslims in the past."

Here we have a new case of an individual U.S. citizen who committed an act of terror in the name of his ideology (Government officials have called it inaccurately a "political and religious motive") against U.S. military targets. Do we see a pattern here? Are we witnessing a repeat and copycats? In fact, as we review several previous cases, from the Miami cell case, to the Fort Dix Six, the Georgia two, the New York Four, the Virginia Paintball network, and many other cases, we're witnessing the surge of a phenomenon we have been warning about. I have repeatedly coined it Mutant Jihad, including in my book Future Jihad. Two important elements are to be taken into consideration: One is the fact that in many of these cases, U.S. military personnel and targets have been on the short list of these "homegrown terrorists." If you study the repeated targeting process of these urban Jihadists, they systematically focus on military deployment inside the United States. In a sense, even as the perpetrators are separate, dispersed, and not connected, their targeting seems war-like: attacking the enemy's forces on the homeland. The second element to be taken into consideration is the clear fact that in all these cases, without exception, we're seeing one ideology: Jihadism. Despite various levels of understanding and sophistication, the cells and lone wolves who were involved in the terror acts, legitimized their action under the label of "Jihad."

In several media interviews and defense and security workshops conducted over the past few years and months, I've made the case for the existence of a "force" behind these activities, pushing the Jihadi agenda and indoctrinating the "militants" into "fighting elements." As I studied the cases and compared them to each other, I found out that in each one case, there is a "clicking moment." Several U.S. and European legislators asked me about defining the "clicking moment" where a militant becomes a terrorist. My answer has been and continues to be: once one is indoctrinated into Jihadism, the mutation into a terrorist is at the discretion of the militant. We need to stop the terrorists at the indoctrination level.

In this case, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad had been under investigation by the FBI after he traveled to Yemen and was arrested there for using a Somali passport. How come he was under surveillance and yet he committed this attack? Even though he was on some list, so are many others. The countering policies are challenged by a much wider issue, i.e the radicalization process which is touching hundreds if not thousands of individuals. The speed of radicalization is more rapid than the speed of counter radicalization.

Some argued that Mr. Muhammad — a U.S. citizen who is a recent convert to Islam and was previously known as Carlos Bledsoe — studied jihad with an Islamic scholar, and thus raises the issue of religious conversion and the parties responsible for it. In fact, conversion by itself isn't the front issue but studying Jihadism under radical ideologues is the stage where individuals turn into Jihadi militants, regardless of their affiliation with a group or a conspiracy. Which brings us to law enforcement’s understanding of what we're dealing with. According to AP, a U.S. local official said: "Muhammad was not part of any terrorist group, nor was his attack part of a larger conspiracy." But is this relevant? If anything, this is evidence that some official does not understand that Jihadi terrorists aren't necessarily part of a terrorist group and or of a vast conspiracy. This is a new type of threat which is penetrating the United States that we need to be aware of. Similarly, a local official told AP: "We believe that it's associated with his disagreement over the military operations." This is further evidence that authorities may not comprehend the true motives of the Jihadists. It is not about "disagreement over military operations." It is about indoctrination of individual U.S. citizens or residents to turn them against their own society for a much larger purpose.

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Dr Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the author of The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad. 

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