Revolution Muslim

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Revolution Muslim was an organization based in New York City that advocated the establishment of a traditionalist Islamic state through the removal of the current rulers in Muslim-majority nations and an end to what they consider "Western imperialism". It was founded in 2007 by two American men, one of them Jewish, who had converted to Islam.

They operated both on their website "RevolutionMuslim.com" and through street preaching and protests. They frequently protested outside the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, a moderate Muslim mosque.[1][2]

The website was eventually shut down on November 2010, shortly after the arrest of one of the leaders. One of the leaders announced the group was reforming as a new organization called "Islam Policy", to be a think tank on Islamic issues.[3] He was operating the website for Islam Policy from Morocco.

By November, 2013, You­nis Abdul­lah Muham­mad, Zachary Adam Chesser and Yousef Al-Khattab - the organization's leaders - had all been arrested and convicted in US courts.[4] Although Muhammad occasionally posts to the Islam Policy website from prison, the arrests can be seen as considerably weakening the organization.[4]

History[edit]

The group of 5–10 was co-founded in 2007 and run by American friends, Yousef al-Khattab (born Joseph Leonard Cohen) and Younes Abdullah Mohammed (Jesse Morton), who said their spiritual leader was Abdullah al-Faisal. Khattab had been born to a secular Jewish family from Queens in New York City. He later became an Orthodox Jew and moved to Israel, where he studied at an Orthodox rabbinical school. After returning to New York, he converted to Islam about 2000.[1][5][6] he is said to have worked driving a taxi,[7] operating a pedicab,[8] or running a restaurant.[9] At that time, he took the Arab name, Yousef al-Khattab. Morton, a Columbia University graduate,[10] was a friend of Cohen's. As he embraced Islam, he took the name Younes Abdullah Mohammed. The group promoted propaganda against the United States, Jews, Israel and others on its website, including moderate Muslims. The website was largely run by member Jesse Curtis Morton, aka Younes Abdullah Mohammed, a New York resident, but other contributors were from outside New York.

In addition to propagandizing via the website and blogs, the group has distributed anti-Israeli literature and regularly protested outside moderate mosques in New York City.[5] The mosques have called the police several times because of RM activities, but its members have not caused violence at the mosques.[11] The website also served as a source for threats against Jews and Jewish organizations, particularly from al-Khattab.[4] Legal and law enforcement officials in the US monitored the group, and described its activities at the time as protected by the First Amendment.[5] The Anti-Defamation League has monitored the group and its members since 2006.[12] A later terrorist influenced by Revolution Muslim was Terry Lee Loewen, who attempted to bomb the Wichita, Kansas airport in December 2013.[13]

In December 2009, al-Khattab expressed support on the website for Nidal Malik Hasan, the US Army psychiatrist accused of the Fort Hood shooting in November of that year.[14] The Department of Defense classified the events as "workplace violence", pending Hasan's court-martial. On December 12, 2009 al-Khattab posted a video on the group's website announcing that he had retired and was moving to Morocco, and that the group would be run by Abdullah as-Sayf Jones.[15] According to a video Jones made, he was born David Scott Jones and grew up in Brevard County, Florida. He converted to Islam at the age of 16, taking the name Abdullah as-Sayf. After following the group online, in 2009, Jones moved to New York in 2009 and joined RM.

In April 2010, Abdullah as-Sayf Jones publicly left the group; he announced having become a practitioner of Shia Islam.[14] He has since spoken out frequently against Revolution Muslim and radical extremism. He has counseled Muslim youths against being attracted to extremist organizations.[14]

In April 2010, Revolution Muslim posted a statement on its blog from Anwar al-Awlaki, a prominent American-Yemeni cleric then in hiding in Yemen. US officials have alleged that he was connected to various terrorists, including the 9/11 hijackers and the Christmas Day 2009 bomber. The Fort Hood shooter had communicated with him when doing research on Muslims in the American military. Alwaki said in that statement, "America cannot and will not win. The tables have turned and there is no rolling back of the worldwide Jihad movement."[16]

On October 30, 2013, al-Khattab pleaded guilty to using his position as a leader of the “Revolution Muslim" websites to use the Internet to place others in fear of serious bodily injury. This related to postings made in January 2009, in which he encouraged visitors to the website to seek out the leaders of Jewish Federation chapters in the U.S. and “deal with them directly at their homes.” Al-Khattab gave the names and addresses of synagogues in New York and another Jewish organization in Brooklyn. He also posted maps and directions to various Jewish facilities, and a link to the Anarchists' Cookbook. Al-Khattab is scheduled for sentencing in February 7, 2014; he faces 5 years in prison.[17]

Analysis[edit]

Mia Bloom, a political science professor at the Pennsylvania State University’s International Center for the Study of Terrorism, says Revolution Muslim may look like amateurs when compared with other extremist websites, but is still a threat. She has studied the process of its attracting dissidents to the website. "It may lead people who become radicalized by it to turn to other, more dangerous Web sites,” such as those run by terrorist organizations, she said, or to terrorist actions. She characterized the RM message as “narrow” and “misinformed” about Islam.[7]

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said regarding the Revolution Muslim group,

"[It is] an extreme fringe group that has absolutely no credibility within the Muslim community, they also cuss you out. In fact, most Muslims suspect they were set up only to make Muslims look bad. We just have very deep suspicions. They say such outrageous, irresponsible things that it almost seems like they're doing it to smear Islam."[18]

Influences[edit]

Law enforcement organizations followed the website to keep track of posters and others attracted to it. Colleen LaRose, also known as "Jihad Jane", said she was an online follower of Revolution Muslim.[19] The scholar Jarret Brachman, a specialist on terrorism and contributor to Foreign Policy magazine, said she was the type of person fascinated by jihad but not belonging to a terrorist organization; he coined the term "jihobbyist" for such people in his 2008 study of global terrorism.[20] He noted such activists may be motivated to take part in violence while not knowing much about the religion. A number of other prominent and lesser known terrorists were also associated with the site, including Samir Khan, Jose Pimentel and Car­los Eduardo Almonte.[4]

In November 2009 CNN published an interview about the organization and a video of Revolution Muslim protest activities from their website, which showed Younes Abdullah Mohammed saying, that U.S. troops were "legitimate targets – until America changes its nature in the international arena." He said that Osama bin Laden was a role model.[21] CNN aired the previously scheduled program the evening after the Fort Hood shootings; no connection has been made between the Revolution Muslim statements and the shooting.[21] Nidal Malik Hasan, the US Army psychiatrist charged in the shootings, was not a follower of the website.[citation needed]

Threats[edit]

Revolution Muslim wrote threats on its website against Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of the TV cartoon series, South Park, because one of their episodes depicted the Prophet Muhammad in a way they described as insulting. Zachary Adam Chesser, under his user name of Abu Talhah al-Amrikee, wrote the threat and had been active in posting other inflammatory material on the website.[12] The Revolution Muslim website threatened the two men with violent retaliation and listed the addresses of both Comedy Central's New York office and Stone and Parker's production office in Los Angeles.[22][23]

The 20-year-old Chesser had a history over nearly two years of publicizing terrorist propaganda under his Arab user name on websites and blogs, and promoting violence against non-Muslims.[12] A resident of Fairfax County, Virginia, he may have converted to Islam (The Fairfax Times and the Washington Post have published differing accounts). Friends and acquaintances said that in 2009, he became more extremist, adopting increasingly conservative views and traditional Islamic dress, and promoting them for others.

On July 21, 2010 Chesser was arrested on federal terrorism charges.[24] Earlier that month he had been barred from boarding a flight to Uganda; he intended to fly on to Somalia and join foreign "freedom fighters" with Al-Shabab. After the terrorist group claimed responsibility for bombing a World Cup semi-final in Uganda, Chesser called the FBI and said he wanted to report information on the group.[25] He pleaded guilty to all charges in October 2010 and in February 2011 was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Yousef Al-Khattab used Revolution Muslim to post a series of threats against the Jewish community, going so far as to post lists of individuals and organizations, addresses, and suggested ways to harm them.[26] Al-Khattab pleaded guilty to using the web to threaten the Jewish community in October, 2013.[4]

Times Square car bomb[edit]

On May 1, 2010, a failed car bomb attempt was discovered by the New York City Police Department near the eastern corner of 1 Astor Plaza, the headquarters of Comedy Central parent company Viacom. The New York Daily News reported that police were looking into a possible link between the attempted bombing and the threats against Comedy Central.[27][28] It turned out to be an unrelated event by Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen with ties to the Pakistani Taliban.[29] Shahzad was arrested, pleaded guilty to ten counts, and was sentenced to life in prison.

Revolution Muslim denied any involvement with the incident. Jesse Curtis Morton, aka Younes Abdullah Mohammed, the co-founder who still ran the group's website at the time, was in Times Square speaking out against President Barack Obama. But he said of the failed car bomb, "What do you think, I commanded somebody to blow up a building in the middle of Times Square? [...] It had nothing to do with the 'South Park' controversy. It was not an attack targeting Viacom."[30]

Hacking and closure[edit]

In June 2010, Revolution Muslim's website was hacked and redirected to an image of the Prophet Muhammed [31] The United States shut down the Revolution Muslim website in late 2010 due to its threats of violence made against British MPs; it posted the addresses of the MPs.

Chesser had been arrested in July 2010 and pleaded guilty to all federal charges, receiving a sentence of 25 years in prison. Mohammed (Morton) was arrested in 2011, convicted and sentenced in 2012 to more than ten years in prison.

Former members[edit]

Prior to the closure of its website, most of the original members left the group from late 2009 to early 2010. Some have publicly denounced the organization, and Abdullah as-Sayf Jones has apologized for statements made as a member of RM.

Yousef Al Khattab (Joseph Cohen), a founder, left the organization in December 2009 and went to Morocco. From there he published statements critical of it and its leaders. He said it had become a haven for what he described as "Muslim misfits".[14] Hours after he pleaded guilty, he also posted a message on his Facebook page renouncing his former views as "disgusting" and not representative of Islam, and asking forgiveness for them.[4]

Abdullah as-Sayf Jones (David Scott Jones), is another former leader who has left and denounced the organization. Jones left for religious reasons, saying he had become observant of Sh'ia Islam. He realized that Islam was not all about hate. He later explained in a collection of online posts that he was concerned with the direction of RM and did not want to be part of it. Today he actively speaks against organizations such as Revolution Muslim and works with Muslim youth to keep them from being attracted to extremist groups.[14]

He had a series of online debates with Jesse Curtis Morton, aka Younes Abdullah Muhammad, who fled from New York to Morocco in November 2010. Morton was arrested in Morocco in 2011 and tried in federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia, for soliciting murder through the Revolution Muslim website, as he was part of the threats against the South Park creators and published addresses related to them. He pleaded guilty to three charges.[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Radical Muslims target N.Y. mosque". United Press International. November 6, 2009. 
  2. ^ ""ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES: Investigating Fort Hood Massacre; Interview With Oprah Winfrey," Aired November 6, 2009–22:00 ET, accessed January 20, 2010". Edition.cnn.com. Retrieved June 15, 2010. 
  3. ^ Zelin, Aaron Y. (Nov 01, 2010). "Revolution Muslim: Downfall or Respite?". Combating Terrorism Center, United States Military Academy at West Point. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Revolution Muslim Leader Who Threatened Jews Pleads Guilty". Access ADL. Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Joshua Rhett Miller (October 6, 2009). "New York-Based Muslim's Web Site Calls for God to 'Kill the Jews'". Fox News. 
  6. ^ By JOHN DOYLE in Fort Hood, Texas, and JANON FISHER in NY (November 21, 2009). "America-hater in Qns. hails Hood massacre". NYPOST.com. Retrieved April 24, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "U.S. Based Revolution Muslim Website Spreading Messages of Hate – Local News | News Articles | National News | US News". FOXNews.com. March 26, 2008. Retrieved April 24, 2010. 
  8. ^ Bennett, Chuck (October 19, 2009). "New York pedicab driver Yousef al-Khattab idolizes jihad and terrorists". NYPOST.com. Retrieved April 24, 2010. 
  9. ^ Peter C. Mastrosimone (December 10, 2009). "Woodside Islamist says he’s left the country". Queens Chronicle. 
  10. ^ Dina Temple-Raston, "'Revolution Muslim' A Gateway For Would-Be Jihadis", 13 October 2010, PBS: Part 3, Terrorism Made in America, accessed 13 January 2013
  11. ^ Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston (November 5, 2009). "Peaceful preaching inside, violent message outside a New York mosque". CNN. 
  12. ^ a b c "Backgrounder: Revolution Muslim". Anti-Defamation League. April 21, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Terry Lee Loewen Planned Airport Bombing For Al Qaeda". Access ADL. ADL. 
  14. ^ a b c d e "Backgrounder: Revolution Muslim| Yousef al-Khattab", Anti-Defamation League, 10 June 2010, accessed 10 January 2013
  15. ^ Yousef al-Khattab (December 12, 2009). "Upwards & Onwards-Yousef al-Khattab". Revolution Muslim. 
  16. ^ "Domestic Terror: The Worry About Homegrown Plots". Newsweek.com. Retrieved April 24, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Leader of ‘Revolution Muslim’ Website Pleads Guilty to Using Internet to Threaten Jewish Organizations". FBI.gov. Retrieved October 31, 2013. 
  18. ^ Scott Collins and Matea Gold, "Threat against ‘South Park’ creators highlights dilemma for media companies", Los Angeles Times, April 23, 2010
  19. ^ "N.J. suspects attended protests organized by radical Islamic group – This Just In – CNN.com Blogs". News.blogs.cnn.com. June 11, 2010. Retrieved June 15, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Counter-terrorism experts say Jihad Jane represents a threat from online 'jihobbyists'". Oneindia News. March 20, 2010. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  21. ^ a b "Peaceful preaching inside, violent message outside a New York mosque". CNN. November 5, 2009. 
  22. ^ Dave Itzkoff (April 21, 2010). "Muslim Group Says It Is Warning, Not Threatening, ‘South Park’ Creators". New York Times. 
  23. ^ "Security Brief: Radical Islamic Web site takes on 'South Park' – This Just In – CNN.com Blogs". News.blogs.cnn.com. Retrieved April 24, 2010. 
  24. ^ "South Park" Threatener Arrested", The Smoking Gun (2010-07-21). Retrieved on 2010-12-12.
  25. ^ "Zac Chesser Timeline", Washington Post, 2010, accessed 13 January 2013
  26. ^ "NYC-based Muslim Extremist Group Seeks to Incite Violence against Jews". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  27. ^ Gendar, Alison; Parascandola, Rocco; Kennedy, Helen (May 2, 2010). "Police eyeing link to South Park in Times Square car bomb". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  28. ^ Allen, Nick; Rayner, Gordon (May 2, 2010). "Times Square car bomb: police investigate South Park link". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  29. ^ Berger, Joseph (May 2, 2010). "Pakistani Taliban Behind Times Sq. Plot, Holder Says". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 11, 2010. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  30. ^ Hutchinson, Bill (May 2, 2010). "Islamic group that warned creators of 'South Park' denies involvement in Times Square bomb plot". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  31. ^ Linkins, Jason (23 April 2010). "Revolution Muslim, Website Of Group That Threatened Comedy Central, Is Hacked". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  32. ^ "New York man guilty of South Park murder threat", ABC News, 9 February 2012, accessed 10 January 2013

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