Eric Schmitt & Eric Lipton, NYT News Service 2 January 2010, 02:39am IST
WASHINGTON: The apparent ties between the Nigerian man charged with plotting to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day and a radical American-born
Yemeni imam have cast a spotlight on a world of charismatic clerics who wield their internet celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaida, American officials and counterterrorism specialists said.
American military and law enforcement authorities said the man accused in the bombing attempt, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, most likely had contacts with the cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, whom investigators have also named as having exchanged email messages with Maj Nidal Malik Hasan, an army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people in a shooting rampage in November at Fort Hood, Texas.
Speaking in eloquent, often colloquial, English, Awlaki and other internet imams from the Middle East to Britain offer a televangelist’s persuasive message of faith, purpose and a way forward, for both the young and as yet uncommitted, as well as for the most devout worshipers ready to take the next step, to jihad.
“People across the spectrum of radicalism can gravitate to them, if they’re just dipping their toe in or they’re hard core,” said Jarret Brachman, author of “Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice”.
“Awlaki is, among other things, a talent spotter,” a US counterterrorism official said. “That’s part of his value to Qaida. If people are drawn to him, he can pass them along to trainers and operational planners.”
Sheikh Khalid bin Abdul Rahman al-Husainan of Kuwait mixes contemporary politics with talk of martyrdom. “Obama, in the same way that you raised the slogan, ‘Yes We Can,’ I too have a slogan,” Husainan wrote in August. “My slogan in this life is ‘Happiness is the day of my martyrdom.’”