'Jihad Jane' joins growing list of American terror suspects
Homegrown militants like Jihad Jane are joining the Islamist terror threat to the US. For some, it's as much about social distress as it is about radical ideology.
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“It’s notable that a lot of these folks are converts, and many are also people who have underlying social, behavioral, or psychological issues,” says Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. “They’re easier to recruit because they don’t know the real rules of the faith.”Skip to next paragraph
Gallery American Jihadis
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For many, says Mr. Levin, “it’s as much about social and psychological distress as it is about radical ideology.
“But that doesn’t really matter to those who are trying to recruit them,” he adds.
Women radicals a new phenomenon
American women as part of the radical Islamist threat are a relatively new phenomenon.
In 2003, October Martinique Lewis was sentenced to three years in prison for providing financial support – money laundering and sending funds abroad – to six men who conspired to help Islamic radicals fighting US forces in Afghanistan.
More recently, two other women have been charged in the US with terror violations. They are lawyer Lynne Stewart, convicted of helping imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman communicate with his followers, and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist found guilty of shooting at US personnel in Afghanistan while yelling, “Death to Americans!”
Neither case involved the communicating with fellow Islamists and the plotting with which LaRose is charged.
Meanwhile, there’s growing concern among mainstream Islamic organizations, which are scrambling to catch up with the recruitment of young American Muslims to radicalism.
“What we’re seeing is the increase of radical views espoused on the Internet,” says Ibrahim Hooper, communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has 32 chapters in 20 states and one in Canada.
CAIR is organizing an effort to present a mainstream perspective on Islam to young Americans – especially young Muslims – using the Internet, including streaming video and social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
As the story of “Jihad Jane” and other radical American Muslims unfolds, it’s clear that the issue has become a top priority for law enforcement and intelligence officials. As the FBI put it in a December 2009 statement, “The radicalization of US citizens by jihadist recruiters abroad is a very real and growing concern that the FBI and the US government as a whole must deal with.”