In a posthumously published autobiographical article appearing this past May in al-Qaeda’s English-language magazine Inspire, Awlaki recounts his own trip to Afghanistan in the early 1990s (several years after the Soviets had left) when he became enthralled with jihad and had planned to return to help fight with the mujahideen. He reconsidered after the Taliban had taken Kabul.
He also recounts how his San Diego mosque was born out of extremism:
The main mosque in San Deigo was Abu Bakr masjid or San Diego Islamic Center. However, a group of student from Saudi and the Gulf states were not happy with how things were run at the mosque. They perceived it as too liberal so they established a new mosque, Masjid al Ribat. I was invited to be its Imam.
We of course know about Awlaki’s involvement in recent years with terror attacks targeting the U.S., including his communication with Fort Hood killer Major Nidal Hasan and would-be underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, among others.
But even prior to the 9/11 attacks and his appearance at the 2001 ISNA convention, there was plenty of evidence that Anwar al-Awlaki was no moderate, and that his speech on “tolerance” was a ruse to lure unsuspecting infidels to mistakenly embrace the cleric — an act the media and government officials fell for.
This should be remembered as ISNA conducts its conference yet again with many of the same cast of characters who pushed Awlaki, and as the media and government officials continue to embrace the group as a voice of moderation. Just as they embraced al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Ghulam Nabi Fai (the Pakistani spy who was national president of the Muslim Student Association and an ISNA shura council member and whose story I reported here at PJ Media just a few weeks ago).