American Muslim Extremists: A Growing Threat to Jews
Updated: June 28, 2010
An increasing number of American Muslim extremists have been involved in terrorist plots and conspiracies in the U.S. in which Jews or Jewish institutions have been targeted or been considered for attack since 9/11. Many other American Muslim extremists arrested or convicted of a wide range of terror-related charges have expressed similar hatred of Jews and Israel.
A recent example of this phenomenon is the American convert to Islam who attempted to bomb the federal courthouse in Springfield, Illinois. Michael Finton, who was arrested on September 23, 2009, allegedly told a law enforcement source of his desire to obtain military training and travel to Gaza to fight the Israelis on behalf of the Palestinians. In addition to stating his ambitions to join Palestinian terrorist organizations like Hamas or Islamic Jihad, Finton purported that an attack against the courthouse would force the U.S. government to curtail its financial support of Israel, and the "big bully behind Israel (the United States) would not be there anymore."
In another recent incident, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad shot two uniformed American soldiers - one of whom was killed - at a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Muhammad, an American convert to Islam arrested in June 2009, had "political and religious motives," according to Little Rock police. He reportedly searched for information about Jewish institutions on the Internet and used the Google Maps application to investigate these institutions, as well as a Baptist church, a day-care center, a post office and military recruiting centers in several different cities.
In an interview from prison the week following his arrest, Muhammad warned that "Muslims in this country and others elsewhere are going to attack [the U.S.] for doing those things they did," which he alleged include desecrating the Qur'an and killing Muslims.
The deadly shooting in Arkansas came two weeks after four other Muslim converts, three Americans and one Haitian, allegedly plotted to attack synagogues in the Bronx and to shoot down airplanes at a military base in Newburgh, New York. The men began surveillance of several synagogues and a Jewish Community Center in the Bronx in April 2009. "These were people who were eager to bring death to Jews," Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder said at a court hearing the day after the arrests.
The men reportedly converted to Islam while in prison, reminiscent of a similar plot to attack Jewish and military targets in Los Angeles in 2005.
The threat posed by American Muslim extremists has also extended overseas. In December 2009, U.S. citizen David Coleman Headley was charged for his alleged involvement in the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, which killed more than 170 people. In the years leading up to the attacks, Headley allegedly conducted extensive surveillance of the targeted locations, including the Mumbai headquarters of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. Indian news sources have reported that Headley posed as a Jew during a July 2008 visit to the Jewish center, in which six people were tortured and killed during the terrorist attacks four months later.
While Muslim extremists motivated by hatred of Jews and Israel have targeted Jews in the U.S. for many years, an alarming number of post-9/11 plots and conspiracies have involved or been led by American Muslim extremists. Well over 100 American Muslim extremists have been arrested on various terror-related charges since 9/11, ranging from bomb plots to providing material support to terrorists. More than half of them are U.S. born and about a third are converts to Islam.
Many of these American Muslim extremists are fueled by hatred of Jews, Israel and America, and have been influenced, to some degree, by the ideologies of extreme intolerance propagated by terrorist movements overseas.
In some cases they are exposed to jihadist materials on the Internet. In other cases, they are radicalized in their communities by a charismatic leader or recruiter. Several cases illustrate a desire to travel oversees to fight with terrorist groups or provide them with material support such as weapons or funding. Most, however, do not belong to any specific terrorist group or organization and seem to be motivated to commit violent or criminal acts by their own radical interpretations of Islam.
While most of the plots have been foiled by law enforcement, usually at the stage when these extremists need to get explosives, the Muslim extremist threat has become a significant and growing domestic terror threat.
Motivation: Hatred of Jews and Israel
American Muslim extremists fueled by hatred of Jews and Israel have planned a number of terrorist attacks within the United States. Foreign nationals motivated by a similar hatred have also planned attacks against Americans, both Jews and non-Jews alike.
In September 2009, for example, a Jordanian national attempted to detonate explosives at the 60-story Fountain Place building in Dallas, Texas. In prior conversations with an undercover agent, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi allegedly expressed his desire to attack the U.S., in part for its incursions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smadi has also espoused a hatred of Israel and Jews, calling for the "destruction of the Jews" and seeking to kill the Jews as retribution for Israel's activities in Gaza.
The following sampling illustrates the degree to which American Muslim extremists have targeted or considered attacking Jews or Jewish institutions throughout the U.S. since 9/11, as well as the degree to which hatred of Jews and Israel has motivated those individuals involved in other terror-related activity.
2010 � New Jersey
Two men arrested in June 2010 for allegedly planning to kill American soldiers overseas, participated in rallies organized by Revolution Muslim (RM) and the Islamic Thinkers Society (ITS), both New York-based anti-Semitic extremist groups. While it is unclear how closely linked the two men - Mohamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte - are to the groups, their alleged plan to travel to Somalia to fight with an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group is consistent with RM ideology and advocacy. During an ITS protest against the Israeli Day Parade in New York in May 2010, Alessa led a chant with the anti-Jewish slogan, �Khaibar, Khaibar ya Yahud, jaish Muhammad sawfa ya�ud,� evoking the Quran�s account of a battle between the Prophet Muhammad and the Jews of the town of Khaibar, which resulted in the subjugation of the Jews of Arabia. In addition, Almonte posted a picture on his Facebook profile of himself at another anti-Israel rally in December 2008, attended by members of ITS and RM, where he is carrying a sign that reads, �Death to All (zionist) Juice.�
2010 � Ohio
An Ohio couple was charged with attempting to provide funds and vehicles for Hezbollah to use against Israel. According to the indictment, Hor and Amera Akl, who both hold dual American and Lebanese citizenship, researched and proposed at least ten different ways to send money and goods to Lebanon for Hezbollah to use �to target Israel.� One method involved shipping pickup trucks and other vehicles to Lebanon that would be used by Hezbollah to transport weapons and rockets to be fired at Israel. The couple was arrested in June, shortly after purchasing a vehicle and preparing to conceal funds inside it to send to Hezbollah.
2009 � Illinois
A U.S. citizen from Illinois who expressed anger at the United States for supporting Israel was arrested for attempting to bomb the federal courthouse in Springfield. According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Michael Finton told a law enforcement source of his desire to obtain military training and travel to Gaza to fight the Israelis on behalf of the Palestinians. Finton, who allegedly stated ambitions to join Palestinian terrorist organizations like Hamas or Islamic Jihad, projected that an attack on American soil would force the U.S. government to curtail its financial support of Israel, and the "big bully behind Israel (the United States) would not be there anymore."
2009 � North Carolina
Six American citizens from North Carolina and a permanent U.S. resident arrested for engaging in weapons training and conspiring to carry out "violent jihad" overseas may have been motivated by hatred of Israel. According to initial reports, the group raised money and trained for possible terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv, Israel. Several of the men returned to the U.S. from Tel Aviv in June 2007 after "having failed in their attempt to engage in violent jihad," according to the indictment. The Facebook profile of one of the suspects includes a quote that reads, "I am not going to give 1 inch of Palestine to the Jews."
2009 � Arkansas
Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, the American Muslim convert who shot two uniformed American soldiers - one of whom was killed - at a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas, reportedly searched for information about Jewish institutions on the Internet. He used the Google Maps application to investigate these Jewish institutions, as well as a Baptist church, a day-care center, a post office and other military recruiting centers in several different cities.
2009 � New York
Four Muslim converts, three American and one Haitian, were arrested for an alleged plot to attack two synagogues in the Bronx and to shoot down planes at a military base in Newburgh, New York. The men allegedly began surveillance of several synagogues and a Jewish Community Center in the Bronx in April 2009. "These were people who were eager to bring death to Jews," Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder said at a court hearing the day after the arrests.
2007 � New Jersey
Five Muslim immigrants, including one naturalized U.S. citizen, conspired to kill American soldiers at New Jersey's Fort Dix army base. "Anti-Zionist hatred is one of the reasons, if not the primary reason why they planned to attack Ft. Dix," according to court documents. The men were motivated by "their desire to 'avenge' the supposed crimes of Zionism," according to the Department of Justice. One of the men, Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, an American citizen who was born in Jordan, told an undercover informant that his first choice would have been to kill Jews in Israel, "I love to kill Jews. I tell you this, in all honesty, it is a dream of mine."
2007 � New York
A group of men plotted to attack John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), in part because they wanted to take revenge on the U.S. for its diplomatic relationship with Israel. The men, led by a naturalized U.S. citizen from Guyana named Russell Defreitas, planned to plant explosives and blow up the airport's major jet-fuel supply tanks and pipeline. Defreitas, who previously worked as a cargo handler at JFK, reportedly was motivated to carry out the plot after seeing missiles loaded onto a plane he believed was headed for Israel. Defreitas told an informant that "Muslims also incur the wrath of the world while Jews get a pass," and that he "wanted to do something to get those bastards," according to court documents. Defreitas also suggested targeting a nearby Jewish school or a predominately Jewish neighborhood. The men reportedly obtained satellite photographs of JFK via the Internet and conducted video and photo surveillance of the airport on several occasions in January 2007.
2006 � Illinois
Derrick Shareef, an American Muslim convert who planned to set off grenades in an Illinois shopping mall in 2006, also discussed attacking local government facilities as well as Jewish targets with an undercover informant. During secretly recorded conversations with the informant, Shareef said he found synagogues on MapQuest and planned to grab Jews and "shank one or two of them" as they entered the synagogue on a Saturday morning. "I probably would have eventually ended up just stabbing the [expletive] outta some Jews or something," Shareef told the informant. Shareef also said that he became interested in attacking Jews during the 2006 Lebanon war, according to court documents.
2006 � Washington
Naveed Afzal Haq, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, shot and killed one woman and wounded five others at the Jewish Federation building in Seattle in July 2006. Haq, who allegedly forced his way through a security door by holding a gun to a 13-year-old girl's head, told Federation staff members that he was "a Muslim-American" who was "angry at Israel." During the assault, Haq said, "These are Jews and I'm tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East," according to court records. Haq chose his target after searching on the Internet for Jewish organizations, according to Seattle police.
2005 � California
A group of California men planned attacks against Jewish institutions and U.S. military locations in Los Angeles during Yom Kippor in retaliation for the U.S. and Israeli governments' policies towards Muslims. The group planned to attack several synagogues, the Israeli consulate, the National Guard and U.S. military bases and recruiting offices. The men also gathered information via the Internet on El Al and planned to target the airline's ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport. The leader of the group, Kevin James, converted to Islam in prison and urged other inmates to target the Jews and the U.S. and Israeli governments.
2005 � California
Hamid Hayat, a U.S. citizen from Lodi, California, attended terrorist training camps in Pakistan between 2000 and 2004. An undercover informant recorded Hayat talking about Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and murdered by Islamic extremists in 2002. "They killed him. So I'm pleased about that," Hayat said. "They cut him into pieces and sent him back. That was a good job they did. Now they can't send one Jewish person to Pakistan."
2004 � New York
James Elshafay, a U.S. citizen from Staten Island, New York, plotted to bomb New York's Herald Square subway station in 2004 with Shawar Matin Siraj, a Pakistani who entered the U.S. illegally in the late 1990s. In secretly recorded conversations by an undercover informant, Elshafay talked about his hatred of "Zionists" and his solidarity with the Palestinians, according to court documents. The men also watched jihadi videos at the bookstore where Siraj worked, and Siraj gave Elshafay books that claimed the Jews were conspiring to take over the world's economy.
2004 � Virginia
Ali al-Timimi, a U.S. citizen who frequently gave anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and anti-Western lectures at the Dar al-Arqam mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, inspired a group of men dubbed the "Virginia Jihad Network" to attend terrorist training camps in Pakistan. In one such sermon, al-Timimi declared that the 2003 explosion of the Columbia space shuttle foreshadowed the ultimate destruction of the West and Israel, according to the indictment. American Muslim convert Randall Todd Royer, who was influenced by al-Timimi, set up an Internet newsletter for the Pakistan-based Islamic terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba while attending one of the training camps in Pakistan. Royer's newsletter contained several anti-Semitic sections, including an article entitled "Who is Ruling the USA Today" and a section on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
2003 � Virginia
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a U.S. citizen raised in Virginia, was extradited from Saudi Arabia to the United States after he told Saudi authorities that his "hatred of the United States for support of Israel against the Palestinian people" caused him to join Al Qaeda. While attending college in Saudi Arabia, Ali met with former Al Qaeda leader Zubayr Al Rimi between September 2002 and June 2003 to discuss plans to assassinate President George W. Bush. Ali also planned to hijack and destroy civilian airliners and researched nuclear power facilities in the U.S. at the behest of an Al Qaeda operative, according to the Department of Justice. After his arrest, U.S. authorities found audio tapes in Arabic at Ali's home in Virginia that promoted the killing of the Jews and a Muslim battle against Christians and Jews.
2002 � Florida
Shueyb Mossa Jokhan, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Trinidad, and Imran Mandhai, a Pakistani, plotted to bomb several targets in Southern Florida in 2002, including Jewish-owned businesses in Weston, the Israeli Consulate in Miami, Jewish community centers in Aventura and Broward County, electrical power stations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the National Guard Armory in Hollywood and Mount Rushmore. The men planned to set off a series of explosives that would cause massive power blackouts in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, which they hoped would result in lootings and chaos in Southern Florida. Jokhan and Mandhai also planned to demand the U.S. to stop sending aid to Israel, free Muslims from U.S. jails and change U.S. policy on the Middle East.
2002 � Los Angeles
Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, a U.S. permanent resident, opened fire on an El Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles International Airport on July 4, 2002. Hadayet, whose support for the Palestinian cause had reportedly become increasingly militant in years leading up to the attack, killed two Jewish Israelis at the El Al ticket counter and injured four others before being killed by an airline security officer. The FBI ruled the incident a terrorist attack related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
2002 � Washington
Earnest James Ujaama, an American Muslim convert who tried to establish a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon, made anti-Semitic speeches labeling the Jews as "the enemy." In the mid-1990s, Ujaama moved to London and attended Finsbury Park mosque, which was headed by radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri and frequented by Richard Reid, the so-called "shoe bomber," and Zacarias Moussaui. Ujaama, a computer technician, designed and maintained al-Masri's militant Islamic Web site. A video made prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks shows Ujaama giving a speech with al-Masri at the Finsbury Park mosque, stating: "There are many Muslims who have forgotten that the Jews and Christians are our enemies�.today the crusade is against Islam and they [sic] are led by the Jews because they are misguided�and so they are used in Israel's long awaited campaign to destroy Islam and to dominate the world."
2002 � New York
Sahim Alwan, from Lackawanna, New York, was one of six U.S. citizens that attended an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. After his arrest, authorities reportedly found several cassette tapes at Alwan's home that called for fighting against the "West" and referred to Presidents Clinton and Bush as "donkeys for the Jews to ride." Another member of the group, Mukhtar al-Bakri, had in his residence a cassette tape asking "Allah to give Jews and their enablers [U.S.] a black day," according to investigators.
2001 � Oregon
In October 2001, seven people dubbed the "Portland Seven" were charged with trying to aid the Taliban and other crimes. One member of the group, Patrice Lumumba Ford, a U.S. citizen, came to the attention of authorities after he sent a series of anti-Semitic emails to the mayor's office in Portland. Another member, Jeffrey Leon Battle, was recorded saying that he considered killing Jews at a synagogue or a Jewish school in Portland. According to court documents, Battle "discussed having considered, but ultimately rejected, committing terrorist acts in the U.S.-specifically, mass murder at a Jewish synagogue or school." Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, a third member of the "Portland Seven", referred to Jews as "lampshades," a Holocaust reference, in recorded conversations.
Muslim extremists motivated by hatred of Jews and Israel have targeted Jews and Jewish institutions in the U.S. for many years. Unlike many post-9/11 plots and conspiracies, which have involved or been led by American Muslim extremists, the role of Americans in a majority of the plots prior to 9/11 was significantly smaller.
For example, in July 1997, Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, a Palestinian living in the U.S. illegally, plotted to blow up a subway station in Brooklyn because he wanted to "kill as many Jews as possible." Police raiding Abu Mezer's apartment days before the planned attack found a fully-rigged pipe bomb, an unfinished bomb and a letter threatening to "burn the Jews." He chose the Atlantic Avenue station as his target because there are "a lot of Jews who ride that train." Abu Mezer later testified that he planned to send the letter to the FBI about the U.S.'s support for Israel. According to court documents, Abu Mezer stated that he was "taking the path of Jihad against Israel and the United States." Abu Mezer was sentenced to life in prison in 1999.
Many pre-911 incidents were partially motivated by anti-Semitism and planned or carried out primarily by foreign nationals. For example:
* In 1997, Ali Abu Kamal, a Palestinian, engaged in a shooting spree atop the Empire State Building, killing one person and injuring several others before killing himself. Kamal reportedly carried a note in his pocket indicating the attack was meant to vent his anger at the U.S. for using Israel as an "instrument" against the Palestinian people.
* In 1994, Rashid Baza, a Lebanese cab driver, opened fire at a van carrying 15 Hasidic students on the Brooklyn Bridge, killing a 16-year-old boy. After his arrest, authorities found anti-Jewish literature in his house.
* In 1993, a car bombing at Tower One of the World Trade Center in New York City killed six people and wounded more than 1,000 others. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the attack, first planned to bomb Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but settled on the World Trade Center because "the majority of people who work in the World Trade Center are Jews," according to Abdul Rahman Yasin, a co-conspirator in the attack.
* In 1993, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian cleric and alleged leader of the terrorist group Gama'a al-Islamiyya, led a plot to bomb five major landmarks in New York, including the United Nations Headquarters, the Lincoln Tunnel, the Holland Tunnel, the George Washington Bridge and the FBI office in New York. In addition, he plotted to attack New York's diamond district, an area largely populated by Jews, which according to one of his co-defendants would be like "hitting Israel itself."
* In 1993, a Pakistani national murdered two CIA employees and wounded three others near the entrance of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, alleging that the "government of the United States has caused enormous damage to Muslims in the Middle East by supporting Israel and imposing economic sanctions against Islamic countries."
Even the 9/11 attacks were motivated, in part, by anti-Semitism. Mohamed Atta, one of the hijackers, and Ramzi Binalshibh, a key planner of the attacks, considered New York City the center of a global Jewish conspiracy. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the hijackings, had previously planned several attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets.
Although post-911 plots and conspiracies in the U.S. are increasingly led by or involve American Muslim extremists, the threat from foreign nationals in the U.S. remains. For example, Ahmed Hassan Al-Uqaily, an Iraqi, purchased machine guns and grenades from an undercover agent to target two Jewish facilities in the Nashville area in 2004. Al-Uqaily had expressed animosity toward Jews and identified two Jewish facilities that he knew about, according to his plea agreement.
Any effort to combat the domestic terrorist threat posed by Muslim extremism must take into account both the threat from foreign nationals as well as the growing participation of American citizens motivated by hatred of Jews, Israel and America.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.
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