By Erick Stakelbeck
Published by Regnery Publishing (May 2, 2011)
Review by Patrick Poole
As a counter-terrorism consultant, it is both frustrating and infuriating to listen to media figures and talking-heads discuss domestic Islamic terrorism. Anytime a Muslim is caught trying to kill Americans on American soil, these figures rush to tell us that these would-be terrorists are not known to have any connection to international terrorist groups, and therefore we shouldn’t be worried. But as we found out from the cases of Army Major Nidal Hasan and Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, both were actually in communication with foreign terrorist organizations. (Hasan was emailing al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula chief Anwar al-Awlaki, and Shahzad had been commissioned by the Pakistani Taliban).
The message from the media: if a terrorist act isn’t connected to international terrorists, it really isn’t terrorism, but rather “violent extremism” or a “man-caused disaster.”
Another narrative floated by the establishment media in such circumstances: the so-called “lone wolf” jihadist is impossible to diagnose beforehand, and therefore the causes of such are random and ultimately unknowable.
The fact is that these “lone wolf” jihadists have rarely acted alone. We now know about the radicalization process — there are typically a whole host of actors and support networks pushing individuals through the radicalization pipeline. While these individuals and organizations may not have been directly involved in planning a terrorist attack, their participation in terms of indoctrinating would-be jihadists and providing religious justification for acts of violence is essential to the process.
The involvement of these support networks is almost never investigated by law enforcement or the establishment media. One of the few media figures on the terrorism beat who actually gets the problem is CBN News terrorism correspondent and Fox News terrorism analyst Erick Stakelbeck.
In his new book — The Terrorist Next Door: How the Government is Deceiving You about the Islamist Threat — Stakelbeck takes the reader on his journey through the world of Islamic terrorism. He recounts his experience interviewing al-Qaeda terrorist leaders (notably none of whom are living in caves, but in tony London suburbs), and his conversation with Noman Benotman, a former al-Qaeda operative and associate of Osama bin Laden. Stakelbeck has explored the shadowy world of how the international terrorist organization operates.
And he isn’t afraid to go into the belly of the beast: witness his investigation into a network of dozens of Islamic compounds scattered in rural areas across the U.S. The compounds are controlled by a terror-tied Pakistani cleric who has been videotaped conducting terrorist training sessions with his followers on bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations.
Stakelbeck also explores the bizarre and counterproductive policy of the U.S. government — time and again, they turn to those responsible for radicalizing American Muslims for advice on dealing with the radicalization problem.
One such example he cites is the case of Yasir Qadhi, who was invited by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to speak at a conference on the topic of radicalization. Not only had Qadhi complained about being on the U.S. government’s terror watch list, his associated media company IlmQuest sold audio CD sets of al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Qadhi was also an instructor in a two-week course hosted by his own organization — and attended by underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Qadhi also gave a sermon attacking “the hoax of the Holocaust.”
When other establishment media outlets interview Qadhi, such as CNN, do you think they make any mention of Qadhi’s extremist background or Saudi Wahhabi religious training?
Stakelbeck broke the story of terror associate Louay Safi — who was captured on federal wiretaps talking with Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian and was named an unindicted co-conspirator in his terrorism trial — speaking on Islam to troops departing for Afghanistan at Fort Hood just weeks after Major Hasan’s shooting spree there that killed thirteen. Following the Fort Hood massacre, Safi had attributed the cause of the incident to “Islamophobia,” saying that “the extremist ideology response for violent outbursts is often rooted in the systematic demonization of marginalized groups.” After Stakelbeck’s report appeared, Safi was suspended as a military subcontractor.
Stakelbeck has also been willing to delve deeply into the taboo subject of the widespread extremism of the American Muslim community, and even on the impact such extremism has on American Muslims who dissent from it. Just one day after Anwar al-Awlaki issued a fatwa calling for the killing of millions of Americans, Stakelbeck found that –just a few miles from the White House — the largest Islamic store in the Washington, D.C., area featured a prominent display of Awlaki’s CDs and DVDs, along with other racist hate materials and books defending Islamic terrorism. When he interviewed the store’s owner (who quickly removed the Awlaki display), he was told that the materials were for sale because “they were very good sellers.” Indeed.
He has been willing to ask prominent U.S. Muslim leaders hard questions about their support for Islamic radicalism. His report last October exposed a Pennsylvania professor and Islamic leader who spoke at a rally denouncing Jews and encouraging the destruction of Israel. Needless to say, the professor — and officials from his university –refused to talk when asked for an interview.
Stakelbeck traveled to Dearborn, Michigan, and interviewed supposed “interfaith” leader Imam Mohammed Ali Elahi, who regularly consults with the Detroit FBI leadership. The imam quickly got tongue-tied after being asked about his open support for terrorist groups and the photographs on his own website that showed him with former Iranian dictator Ayatollah Khomeini and with leaders of Hezbollah.
Erick Stakelbeck’s reporting is a refreshing alternative to the drive-by coverage given to homegrown terrorism. When a large cell of would-be jihadists was busted in North Carolina in 2009, after all the networks had given their two-minute superficial coverage of the story and left the area, Stakelbeck continued to report with interviews of those who knew the suspects and provided new details about the case. When Tulsa, Oklahoma, resident Jamal Miftah was expelled and banned from his mosque for writing an editorial in the local newspaper attacking al-Qaeda, it was Erick Stakelbeck who was there to interview Miftah — not CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, or MSNBC. And while the media was huffing and puffing about opposition to the Ground Zero mosque last summer, Stakelbeck looked into the possible foreign funding sources for the wave of mega-mosque building occurring all over the country (he dedicates a chapter in his book to the topic).
These and other incidents from Stakelbeck’s reporting are covered in his book, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in learning more on the topic. It will certainly challenge many of the things you’ve heard from the establishment media and from our own government officials charged with addressing the homegrown terror threat. (Anyone remember Director of National Intelligence James Clapper telling Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood was a “largely secular organization”?) There’s a reason why ten years after 9/11 we’re still flying blind in the War on Terror, and Stakelbeck explores those reasons.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work directly with Erick Stakelbeck on several stories going all the way back to 2007. He investigated the largest known al-Qaeda cell operating in Columbus, Ohio, and the role of an internationally known extremist preacher and Hamas cleric, Salah Sultan, associated with that cell who only lived a mile from my own home in Hilliard, Ohio. I am honored to not only know Erick Stakelbeck as a colleague and sometime collaborator, but also as a friend.
Notwithstanding any personal bias on my part, the reason you need to read his new book, The Terrorist Next Door, is because he is one of the few reporters out there willing to pursue and report a story no matter how ugly and politically incorrect the truth he uncovers. While our government and its allies in the establishment media assure us that the problem of homegrown Islamic terrorism is impossible to diagnose – unless, of course, they blame “Islamophobia” — Erick Stakelbeck’s ongoing reporting shows the problem is much simpler than our political and media elites will ever admit. And the warning he issues about the threat is one that every American needs to hear.