Revolution Muslim, a U.S.-based radical Islamic jihadist organization, has become the Kevin Bacon of Islamic fundamentalism. Whenever jihadist groups threaten free speech in America or Europe, you can bet an associate of Revolution Muslim is somehow involved.
During an 18-month period, eight of the 27 reported cases of homegrown terrorism saw U.S. terror suspects frequenting, blogging on, or directly linked to Revolution Muslim or a related group. The group’s website was originally at RevolutionMuslim.com. When their service provider shut them down on November 5, 2010, they reconstituted at IslamPolicy.com. To date, the threats that have emanated from the Revolution Muslim websites have never been adequately legally addressed by the U.S.
Revolution Muslim’s influence is most visible in three recent incidents where Islamic extremists threatened the free speech of artists, politicians, and even private citizens:
The “South Park” Incident
On April 15, 2010, Comedy Central aired the first of a two-part South Park episode featuring a character in a bear suit identified as the Islamic Prophet Mohammed. Zachary Chesser of Virginia, a member of Revolution Muslim, posted on the group’s website that South Park’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, had “outright insulted” Islam’s religious leader. He continued:
We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.
He also called for his supporters to “pay [Parker and Stone] a visit” and posted the addresses of Comedy Central’s New York office, Parker and Stone’s California production office, and a link to an article detailing Parker and Stone’s home in Colorado.
In the following days, Chesser posted numerous additional comments and uploaded several videos and recordings, including one by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Islamist cleric currently hiding in Yemen, which further justified the murder of Parker and Stone. Panicking, Comedy Central censored part two of the episode by bleeping out language, including its criticism of censorship, a speech against intimidation, and every use of the name “Mohammed.”
Nevertheless, this rather obvious threat was not prosecuted by state or local law enforcement officials. NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said authorities didn’t think it “rises to a crime right now.”
Months later, on July 21, 2010, Chesser was arrested on independent charges for trying to board a plane to Somalia to join al-Shabaab, a brutal terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda. It was only months after that, on the eve of a plea agreement, that he was finally charged for making internet threats against Parker and Stone in violation of 18 U.S.C. 875(c). On October 20, 2010, Chesser pleaded guilty to a three-count criminal indictment.
The Molly Norris Incident
On April 20, 2010, partly in response to Comedy Central’s self-censorship, Seattle Weekly cartoonist Molly Norris proposed an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day (EDMD).” Her point? Freedom implies the right to criticize and caricature, and this freedom was now in jeopardy because a minority of Muslims believe the majority of non-Muslims can be easily intimidated.
Her idea caught on and pretty soon there was a Facebook page devoted to EDMD which over a hundred thousand people joined. That is when Anwar al-Awlaki issued a fatwa calling for Norris to be murdered. This fatwa prompted Zachary Chesser to gather personal information on at least eleven Facebook friends of EDMD and to post it on Revolution Muslim’s website in a comment thread that also contained videos and discussion justifying punishing anyone who insults Mohammed.