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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Americans in Pakistan: A Classic Case

On CNN's Situation Room, CNN correspondent Arwa Damon said Pakistani officials told her the five Americans arrested there this week "were not motivated by Islam" but were instead traveling to a combat zone to defend Muslims against "ongoing atrocities." The report also stated that they said attacking a Muslim anywhere in the world was the same attacking all Muslims.

I have no doubt this is an accurate quote of what Damon was told, but it's a tremendous misdirection to say that these young men were not motivated by Islam. The narrative of Muslim victimization -- and Muslim solidarity against victimization -- is the dominant theme of jihadi recruitment, and an important recurring theme in Islam generally and in jihadist thought specifically.

It's also one of the most important factors which leads Americans to jihad, as I will discuss at more length in my forthcoming book. Americans are especially responsive to the Muslim victimization theme, for a number of reasons including media consumption, American political dialogue and cultural principles.

If these young men said what is attributed to them (and I'm quite certain they did) that places squarely in the center of Islamic jihadist thought, and the American Jihadist theme -- not off to one side as this report suggests.

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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