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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Omar Hammami Is Trying Very Hard To Step Into Anwar Awlaki's Shoes

Omar Hammami would like you to think he's the next Anwar Awlaki. In fact, he would like it so much that he's aping Awlaki in a pre-release audio obtained by INTELWIRE.

Hammami's new work, "In Defense of the Khilafah (Caliphate)," uses one of Awlaki's favorite tactics -- quoting a RAND Corp. study -- as a jumping off point for comments about the inevitability of a new Islamic caliphate. Anwar Awlaki used a similar tactic, quoting a different RAND study at length in his most influential audio lecture, "Constants on the Path of Jihad" and in a follow-up recording, "The Battle for Hearts and Minds."

The recording is par for the course for Hammami, a lot of highfalutin vocabulary in the service of fairly basic comments, with the occasional incongruously lowbrow aside, such as when he refers to "notoriously dumb Americans" and a claim that "the reality of the Khilafah is actually quite different from some hillbilly story about seeing Bigfoot."

The person who posted the audio argued that it proved Hammami was the same person as Abu Jihaad Al Shaami, the nom de guerre of a jihadist ideologue who has posted some written articles over the last year. Abu Jihaad, notably, titled one of his works, "The War of Hearts and Minds," another shout-out to Awlaki.

The idea that Hammami is aspiring to be the next Awlaki was recently articulated by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens in a recent article for the CTC Sentinel. The new audio is the strongest evidence yet that Hammami is deliberately trying to step into his fellow American's large shoes. Unfortunately for Hammami, he doesn't have the spoken-word chops to pull it off, although his works look better when you read a transcript and don't have to sit through his delivery.

The audio was not released in its entirety, and it was not released through the normal channels used by jihadists to assure authenticity, but it certainly sounds like Hammami. I expect to see it released officially in the days to come.

Many thanks to Aaron Zelin of Jihadology for spotting the audio. For more about Hammami, check out Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, on sale everywhere.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the RAND study quoted by Hammami as the same one quoted by Awlaki. They quoted two different studies. Thanks to Charles Cameron for the catch.

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Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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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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