The March 10th Homeland Security Committee hearing on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response” was a failure — simply because it added nothing new to Americans’ understanding of Islamist radicalization.
As the chairman of the most important House committee charged with countering Islamist radicalization, it was incumbent on Representative Peter King to present compelling and substantive information that would raise the bar on the topic.
The hearings, however, did not accomplish this. Although the title of the day’s proceedings was totally focused on radicalization, King presented no witnesses to define even what radicalization is, seemingly the basic starting point.
Rather, witness testimony provided only a few location-specific insights (Nashville and Minneapolis), or general comments indicating that there are individuals and organizations in American Muslim communities who radicalize Muslim youth.
This testimony added little to the knowledge of Americans beyond what they already intuitively know from the numerous news stories regarding American Muslims who have attacked, or attempted to attack, the homeland — including American al-Qaeda commander Anwar al-Awalaki, American Nidal Hasan of the Ft. Hood massacre, American Najibullah Zazi of the plot to blow up New York subway cars, or American Faisal Shahzad of the failed plot to detonate an SUV in Times Square.
Because critics characterized the hearings as the new McCarthyism and/or the result of paranoid fantasy, the minimum required of Representative King was a new substantive revelation — a slam dunk. He had the time and staff to deliver, but didn’t.
The Obama administration refuses to admit that violent Islamist extremism has anything to do with Islam, but it has no problem focusing on al-Qaeda as a violent terrorist organization.
So, if King had just concentrated on al-Qaeda, the hearings could have scored a slam dunk by revealing that the very same ideology that radicalized Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is used as mandatory study material by two of the most prominent national American Muslim organizations, as you’ll see below.
This ideology was created by Sayyid Qutb, the virulent Muslim Brother theorist and father of the modern jihad movement, and disseminated in his Islamist manifesto Milestones (1964).
The power of this seditious book is demonstrated by the fact that Egyptian prosecutors obtained a conviction against Qutb based almost exclusively on submitting passages taken from its pages as evidence in the trial. Upon being convicted, Qutb was sentenced to death and hung on August 29, 1966.
So what does Milestones say that is so radical? It absolutely and clearly states that democracies and all other “man-made” systems are the enemies of Islam, that only Sharia law can be obeyed, that Islam must rule the world, and that violent offensive jihad must be launched by a vanguard of Salafi-jihadi leaders as the only way to reestablish an Islamic state.
Now, let’s take a look at the facts Congressman King could have marshaled to prove that Qutb’s ideas radicalized Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawhiri, and that this ideology is actively used to indoctrinate American Muslims on a national basis.
To begin with, Congressman King only needed to call witnesses from among his colleagues on the 9/11 Commission to learn about the radicalizing influence Qutb had on Osama bin Laden, as, in its final report, the Commission bluntly stated that “Bin Laden also relies heavily on the Egyptian writer Sayyid Qutb”.
The Commission also clearly described Qutb’s emphasis on violence, stating that in Qutb’s ideology “[a]ll Muslims — as he defined them — therefore must take up arms in this fight.”
Further cementing Qutb’s stature in the jihadi community, King could have entered into the record the fact that Qutb is praised by Anwar al-Awlaki and the influential jihadi cleric Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who most recently made the news on March 6, 2011, when a crowd of 300 al-Qaeda supporters marched in Amman, Jordan, demanding his release from prison.
The congressman could then have called witnesses to show the family connection between Qutb and bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Zawahiri became a Muslim Brother at the age of 14, and he was personally introduced to Sayyid Qutb through his uncle Mahfouz Azzam — Qutb’s student, protégé, lawyer, executor of his estate, and one of the last people to see Qutb in prison before he was executed.
Using Zawahiri’s own words, King could have illustrated how Qutb radicalized Zawhairi, entering into the record Zawahiri’s book Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner, published in December 2001, in which Zawahiri states that Sayyid Qutb inspired him to create his first jihad cell because
Sayyid Qutb’s call for loyalty to God’s oneness and to acknowledge God’s sole sovereignty was the spark that ignited the Islamic revolution against the enemies of Islam at home and abroad. The bloody chapters of this revolution continue to unfold day after day.
King could have followed with testimony by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steve Coll, who reported in his book The Bin Ladens that Osama bin Laden was recruited into a Muslim Brotherhood cell by his Syrian physical education teacher at the elite At Thaghr Model School in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Osama and his best friend at the time, Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, spent hours studying Sayyid Qutb’s writings together.
Coll and others could also have testified that when Osama bin Laden matriculated at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, he attended classes presented by Mohammad Qutb, the younger brother of Sayyid Qutb, who championed Sayyid’s work in Milestones. It was also here that Osama began his long and close association with the renowned Jordanian Muslim Brother jihadi Abdullah Azzam, who was also a student of Qutb.
Azzam, bin Laden’s college professor and mentor, drew bin Laden to Peshawar, Pakistan, where the two founded the Maktab al Khidamat (the Services Bureau). This network, which later became the worldwide infrastructure of al-Qaeda, established a network of offices around the world that recruited and organized Muslims to fight in the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
The above certainly establishes that Qutb’s ideology is a key element of radicalization, but what does any of this have to do with radicalization in the United States?
The answer is that two of the most powerful and prestigious national American Muslim organizations, the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), both part of the American Muslim Brotherhood network, absolutely require their most active members to study Qutb’s Salafi-jihadi ideology in study circles that must be overseen by an instructor to ensure that they come to the proper ideological conclusions.
This indoctrination is a fact that King could have definitively proved by entering into the record information provided on ICNA’s own website.
This would have been a slam dunk — one made even sweeter because Qutb’s ideology in Milestones is not open to defense by Islamists or political critics who might try to argue that his ideas are taken out of context. Rather, it is a well-documented Islamist revolutionary creed that calls for the destruction of all non-Islamic societies through offensive jihad, and it is demonstrably the ideology of al-Qaeda.
If King had used his hearings to connect these dots, he could have gone a long way to undercutting the legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood network in the United States, he could have begun to educate Americans on the ideological elements of radicalization, including its Salafi religious roots, and he would have discharged his duty to provide the substantive and compelling information required to raise the bar on this vital aspect of our national security.