Converts to Terrorism and More Converts to Terrorism by Dr. Daniel Pipes
Law enforcement must monitor converts to Islam as potential terrorists simce they often show more religious zeal
Converts to Terrorism
by Daniel Pipes
Converts to Islam are taking over the terrorist operations previously carried out mainly by Muslim-born immigrants and their children.
This was dramatically illustrated when a Belgian convert to Islam, Muriel Degauque, 38, blew herself up near Baghdad on November 9 in a suicide attack on American troops, becoming the first Christian-born Western woman to kill herself for Islamist purposes. And of the fourteen people arrested because of connections to Degauque, half were converts to Islam. In neighboring Holland, a just published government report specifically worries about radicalized converts.
Islamist terror organizations particularly prize converts. They know the local culture and blend in. They cannot be deported. They can hide their religious affiliation by avoiding mosques, lying low, even drinking alcohol and taking drugs to maintain their cover. One guide counsels would-be suicide bombers going to Iraq to "wear jeans, eat doughnuts, and always carry your Walkman."
Converts who either carried out a terrorist operation or were jailed come from many Western countries. Here is a partial listing. (Converts as yet only suspected, arrested, or indicted will be listed in a separate article at my Web site, www.DanielPipes.org.)
Lorenzo Vidino reports in Al Qaeda in Europe (Prometheus) that the authorities find that "dozens of European converts have joined terrorist groups." Nor is the problem restricted to Western converts to Islam.
The growing prominence of converts to terrorism means that such counterterrorism tools as looking for Muslim names or excluding potential terrorists at the border do not suffice. Instead, it is now also critical to know exactly who converts to Islam and to watch converts to see which of them are radicalized.
Even without becoming Muslims, some of the persons named above could have engaged in terrorism. But security in the West, the Philippines, and elsewhere requires coming to terms with a very awkward fact: Conversion to Islam substantially increases the probability of a person's involvement in terrorism.
From www.danielpipes.org |
More Converts to Terrorism
by Daniel Pipes
My column yesterday, "Converts to Terrorism," delved into the issue of converts to Islam who engage in terrorism. Space constraints limited the information I could include, so here, I add to it in three ways: (1) providing names of converts suspected, arrested, or indicted of terrorism but who have not yet either gone into action or been convicted; (2) reviewing the matter of non-terrorist jihadis; and (3) summarizing a French intelligence report on converts to Islam.
(1) Yesterday's list included converts who had either engaged in or been convicted of terrorism. That leaves many other converts who have not yet reached either of those stages, including:
Australia: David Hicks, accused of joining Lashkar-i Tayyiba. Shane Kent, a red-haired, light-skinned former rock musician who trained in an Afghan terrorist camp, was one of the seventeen terrorist suspects detained in November 2005. Joseph Terrence Thomas, accused of training with and financing Al-Qaeda.
France: Willie Virgile Brigitte, accused of membership in Al-Qaeda and helping the Taliban murder Afghan leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. Jérôme Courtailler (brother of David), arrested with two other French converts, Johann Bonté and Jean-Marc Grandvisir, for a plot to blow up the American embassy in Paris. Lionel Dumont, blamed for several terrorist attacks, including one connected to a Group of Seven summit in 1996.
Germany: Michael Christian Ganczarski, held in France for suspected ties to Al-Qaeda and involvement in a bombing in Tunisia in 2002.
Switzerland: Albert Friedrich Armand Huber, designated a terrorist suspect by the U.S. government.
United States: Adam Gadahn, sought in connection with "possible terrorist threats" against the United States. Three of four members in the Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, accused of planning a terror spree in the Los Angeles area, are converts. Jose Padilla, accused of planning to "make an improvised dirty bomb," or a radiological dispersion device. Three members of an alleged group, Rafiq Sabir, Tarik Shah, and Mahmud Faruq Brent, are accused of pledging an oath to Al-Qaeda. The list of unindicted co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing includes two American Islamist star converts, Siraj Wahhaj and Bilal Phillips, and what appears to a number of lesser ones (Jack Hamrick, John Kinard, Frank Ramos, Kelvin Smith, Richard Smith).
In addition, Charles J. Bishop (original last name: Bishara) was a teenager who drove his small plane into a high-rise Tampa building after writing a suicide note professing admiration for Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers. It is not established, however, that Bishop converted to Islam.
(2) Many converts engage in jihad in such places as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, and Kashmir, generally acting more like soldiers than terrorists. (Those who go to Iraq or the Palestinian Authority, in contrast, are rank terrorists.) According to Bob Blitzer, who headed the FBI's first Islamic terrorism squad in 1994, "Between 1,000 and 2,000 jihadists left America during the 1990s alone." Some of them were converts.
Better known Americans of this description include John Walker Lindh, sentenced to twenty years for supplying services to and carrying arms for the Taliban; Earnest James Ujaama, two years for conspiring to provide goods and services to the Taliban; several members of the "Portland Seven" (Jeffrey Leon Battle, Patrice Lumumba Ford, October Lewis), up to eighteen years for trying to help the Taliban; and Aukai Collins wrote My Jihad, a book of memoirs. Other jihadi soldiers include Hiram Torres, who died in Afghanistan; Cleven Raphael Holt, who went to fight in Bosnia; and a mysterious young black convert from Atlanta known as Jibreel al-Amreekee, killed fighting the Indian Army in Kashmir. Converts of other nationalities also joined the jihad, such as Thomas Fischer of Germany, who died fighting in Chechnya.
(3) Shortly after the London bombings in July 2005, Le Monde reported on a study of converts by the intelligence service Renseignements généraux (RG) in "Les conversions à l'islam radical inquiètent la police française" (French police worried about conversions to radical Islam). Looking at 1,610 French converts, it found no typical profile of the convert. That said, one-third of them have police records and 10 percent of them converted in prison. Converts are 83 percent male and have a median age of 32 years. The RG study finds that close to 13 percent "converted for socioeconomic reasons," often to improve commercial relations with the Muslim community; nonetheless, more than half of them are unemployed. Tabligh Jamaat and the Wahhabis converted 28 and 23 percent, respectively, of the French to Islam, 44 percent of converts are Islamist, and 3 percent are suspected to "belong to or have gravitated to the violent Islamist movement."
In conclusion, I repeat my yesterday's finding: Conversion to Islam substantially increases the probability of a person's involvement in terrorism.
From www.danielpipes.org | Original article available at: www.danielpipes.org/article/
MIM: A NY TImes report on the Belgian bomber says that several of those arrested were released. The story also contains more personal details
December 6, 2005
Raised as Catholic in Belgium, She Died as a Muslim Bomber
MONCEAU-SUR-SAMBRE, Belgium, Dec. 5 - Muriel Degauque, believed to be the first European Muslim woman to stage a suicide attack, started out life as a good Roman Catholic girl in this coal mining corner of Belgium known as the black country. She ended it in a grisly blast deep inside Iraq last month.
Ms. Degauque, 38, detonated her explosive vest amid an American military patrol in the town of Baquba on Nov. 9, wounding one American soldier, according to an account received from the State Department and given to the Federal Police in Belgium.
Her unlikely journey into militant Islam stunned Europe and for many people was an incomprehensible aberration, a lost soul led astray. But her story supports fears among many law enforcement officials and academics that converts to Europe's fastest-growing religion could bring with them a disturbing new aspect in the war on terror: Caucasian women committed to one of the world's deadliest causes.
European women who marry Muslim men are now the largest source of religious conversions in Europe, the experts say. While a vast majority of those conversions are pro forma gestures for moderately religious in-laws, a small but growing number are women who willingly adopt the conservative comportment of their fundamentalist husbands.
Most of those in the conservative ranks are motivated by spiritual quests or are attracted to what they regard as an exotic culture.
But for some, conversion is a political act, not unlike the women who joined the ranks of South American Marxist rebels in the 1960's and 1970's.
"They are people rebelling against a society in which they feel they don't belong," said Alain Grignard, a senior official in the antiterrorism division of the Belgian Police. "They are people searching through a religion like Islam for a sense of solidarity."
He said there were many such women married to the first wave of Europe's militant Islamists a decade ago, and some of them followed their husbands to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. But while they supported their husbands' militancy, he said, they never acted themselves. "This was the first," said Mr. Grignard, "and it's clear there could be others."
French antiterrorism officials have been warning for several years that female converts represent a small but increasingly important part of the terrorist threat in Europe.
As early as May 2003, France's famed antiterrorist investigating judge, Jean-Louis Bruguière, warned that European terrorist networks were trying to recruit Caucasian women to handle terrorist logistics because they would be less likely to raise suspicion.
He said then that it was only a matter of time before the women moved on to more violent acts.
Ms. Degauque was born in the small suburb of Charleroi, a gritty coal and steel town where her father operated a crane at the sprawling smelter, according to neighbors and friends.
She grew up doted on by her mother, Liliane, who worked as a cleaner and monitor at the local elementary school.
"Her mother spoiled her," said Jeannine Beghin, who has known Ms. Degauque's mother since childhood. The women had sons born a year apart, and they were in the same hospital when their daughters were born within 10 days of each other.
The families were close neighbors in a quiet, neat neighborhood of two-story row houses on the far side of town from the sooty heaps of coal that give the region its nickname.
Ms. Beghin recalled that Ms. Degauque's mother rented out a hall and gave a catered party with music and dancing to celebrate the daughter's first communion.
"Muriel had the prettiest dress of all the girls," Ms. Beghin said.
Ms. Degauque's parents sent her to the best local high school in the area at the time, the Athénée Royal in the nearby town of Fontaine l'Évêque.
Her teachers remember her as a well-dressed, well-behaved young woman, even if she was a middling student. "Muriel was more literary than scientific," said Rita Detraux, a retired history teacher at the school.
She had some trouble at home, but no more than many teenage girls, Ms. Beghin said. Still, Ms. Degauque seemed adrift by the time she took an apprenticeship as a sales clerk at a bakery in Charleroi after her third year of high school. The local press has quoted her former boss as saying that Ms. Degauque would disappear at lunchtime, and that he soon learned she was using drugs.
Talk that Ms. Degauque had fallen into the wrong crowd soon circulated in the neighborhood. The Belgian Police say she became known as a drug user, though she was never arrested. In her late teens, she followed her older brother in joining a local motorcycle club, the Apaches, and neighbors saw her come and go in a black leather jacket on the back of a boyfriend's motorcycle.
By most accounts, Ms. Degauque's wayward streak took a decisive turn when her brother was killed in a motorcycle accident when she was 20. He had always been the more popular of the two, people who know the family say. One neighbor, Andrea Dorange, has told local newspapers that Ms. Degauque said she should have died instead of her brother.
Hundreds of motorcyclists attended his funeral, forming a parade that stretched from the Degauque's house almost to the cemetery in another part of town.
Ms. Degauque soon moved out of the house and began a troubled life in Charleroi. She married a much older Turkish man in what neighbors presumed was an arrangement to help him legalize his status in Belgium. They divorced about two years later.
Ms. Degauque had several boyfriends after that and worked at the restaurant of one for a while. She eventually met an Algerian man who introduced her to Islam. She began appearing at her parents' home wearing a head scarf.
Her mother told neighbors that she was pleased because Islam had helped her daughter stop drinking and doing drugs. But her devotion became disturbing several years later after she met and married Issam Goris, the son of a Belgian man and Moroccan woman. Mr. Goris with his long beard was already known to Belgian Police as a radical Islamist. Ms. Degauque moved with him to Brussels and then to Morocco, where she learned Arabic and studied the Koran.
When she returned, she wore not only a head scarf but the full length robe worn by Muslim women of North Africa. She and Mr. Goris moved to a one-bedroom apartment a few blocks from his mother in the largely immigrant neighborhood near Brussels' Midi train station. The building's owner, who gave his name only as Mahmed, said she collected unemployment checks. It is not clear what her husband did.
Periodically, the couple would visit her parents' quiet neighborhood in Monceau-sur-Sambre, arriving, according to some accounts, in a white Mercedes. Ms. Degauque's appearance in full Islamic attire shocked the neighbors, but she seemed happy, even if her parents were not.
Her mother complained to friends that she was losing her daughter to her son-in-law's strict interpretation of Islam. As Ms. Degauque became increasingly rigid, she demanded that her parents follow Islamic customs when she and her husband visited, forbidding her father to drink alcohol or the men and women to eat together. Ms. Beghin was at the home when the couple arrived for their last visit about six months ago.
"Muriel came in with nothing but her eyes showing, even wearing gloves," Ms. Beghin said. "When her husband saw me he went immediately through the house and into the backyard." She said Ms. Degauque's mother later explained that he could not bear to be in the presence of a strange non-Muslim woman.
But Ms. Beghin said Ms. Degauque acted perfectly normal as she stripped off her Muslim attire and asked about Ms. Beghin's young grandchildren.
Ms. Degauque's parents did not know that she had left the country until she called them from Syria in August, according to Ms. Beghin. Ms. Degauque told her mother that she would be gone more than a year but the line went dead before her parents could learn more. The Degauques tried repeatedly to reach their daughter on her mobile phone but got only her voice mail.
The Belgian Police now say that Mr. Goris had fallen in with a group of Islamists focused on recruiting European Muslims to fight with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist network in Iraq. The police had been monitoring the group for months when they intercepted phone calls from Mr. Goris in Iraq indicating that he and his wife were already there. The police say the couple left Belgium by car and eventually entered Iraq from Syria.
The Belgians didn't yet know Mr. Goris and Ms. Degauque's identities, but they notified the United States and the Iraqi government that a Belgian couple was in the country intent on carrying out attacks. They turned over information on the telephone calls that would allow the Americans to find Mr. Goris, but Ms. Degauque struck before they did.
Little of Ms. Degauque remained after the explosion in which she died, according to the Belgian Police, though the American soldiers recovered her passport and other papers. That same day, the Americans found Mr. Goris, who was also wrapped in explosives, apparently about to carry out an attack. They shot him before he could detonate his charges.
The police continued to monitor the Belgian recruiting network after the deaths, hoping to gather enough information to make conclusive arrests. Those plans were interrupted last week when French radio reported Ms. Degauque's death. Belgium quickly arrested 14 people, fearing the report would send them into hiding. The Belgian authorities have released all but five of them, including the 18-year-old girlfriend of a suspect who was also being pressured to leave for Iraq. A local newspaper quoted her on Saturday as saying that believed that Ms. Degauque was now in "paradise."
The Belgian government has asked the United States to send DNA traces that will allow it to confirm that Ms. Degauque is dead, but the Belgian Police say that neither Ms. Degauque's remains nor Mr. Goris's body will be returned.
Ms. Degauque's mother answered the door at her home in Monceau-sur-Sambre on Monday, her blond hair neatly coiffed but wearing a weary frown.
"I have nothing to say," she said, "I'm mourning my daughter."