Conservative Review, by Benjamin Weingarten, Sept. 11, 2016:
Among the inexplicable ways in which the United States has responded to Islamic supremacism in the 15 years since September 11 — beyond enabling the world’s leading state sponsor of jihad in Iran, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other “moderate jihadists” over relatively secular strongmen, and transitioning from a global war on terror (a tactic) to a program against “violent extremism” (a nebulous non-entity) — a recent story out of the American academy is quite telling.
George Washington University has given a research position within its Center for Cyber and Homeland Security to Jesse Morton (formerly known as Younus Abdullah Muhammad), an ex-jihadist sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for threatening the creators of “South Park” for depicting Muhammad in a bear suit.
Having chosen to serve as an informant for the FBI because of his expertise ‘jihadizing’ fellow Americans through Revolution Muslim (the Al Qaeda-supporting “activist” group that he led on U.S. soil), law enforcement officials and GWU firmly believe Morton is not only no longer a threat, but also an asset.
They believe there is much that can be learned from his experience transforming from regular American to jihadist and back again.
In his defense, some like Nadia Oweidat of the New America think tank have said that Morton’s decision to come out publicly as someone working to counter “radicalism” puts Morton’s life at risk.
Morton himself claims to have been rehabilitated through hours spent in prison supposedly grappling with the great works of the Western canon, such as the writings of John Locke and Thomas Paine, and his interactions with certain friendly law enforcement officers.
He asserts that he is contrite and seeks to rectify his actions according to an interview with CNN, stating:
This is an opportunity for me to make amends, to some degree … I realize that I was completely wrong in my perspectives.
I suffer from a tremendous amount of guilt … I have seen things that people have done and to know that I once sympathized and supported that view — it sickens me.
Yet nowhere in Morton’s mea culpa is there an overt disavowal of Islamic supremacism, condemnation of Sharia law, or renunciation of his faith as in the case of other notable ex-Islamic supremacists like Hirsi Ali or ex-Communists like Whittaker Chambers.
Interestingly, Morton publicized his release from prison on an Islamic website, but that announcement as well as the website have since disappeared. As The Washington Post noted earlier this year:
Efforts to locate Morton, a father of two who has a master’s degree from Columbia University, were unsuccessful. The Bureau of Prisons website indicates that he was released in February 2015, and he appears to have announced it on the website islampolicy.com.
“While I am no doubt bewildered by the prospects of facing the currents of American society, labeled American Al-Qaeda, I do want to remain cognizant that this opportunity to be a freeman, a husband, a father, and citizen comes from Allah alone,” he wrote.
It turns out that Islampolicy.com was the successor website to Revolution Muslim. And this quotation captured by the Post, indicates that Morton remains a Muslim and harbors a victim-like mentality rather than acknowledging that he was the aggressor.
Thanks to the web archives, we can read further into Morton’s statement upon his release:
I remember being flown home in a private government jet after five months of incarceration in Morocco and finding out I was facing life imprisonment in the United States. At that moment, when one’s freedom seems to be lost forever, simply for speaking their mind, the soul has nothing left to do but turn to Allah, aza wa jaal. Today I can guarantee that a relief from hardship comes in ways that are mostly unexpected. The reflective one realizes that Allah relieves hardship in ways that oftentimes connect to pathways of deeper, spiritual healing the. Therefore, we must always pay attention to the experiences Allah puts us through, and try to remember that there are lessons to be learned from each and every passing wind. [Emphasis mine]
Clearly Morton viewed his arrest and release as being intrinsic to his Islamic experience and believed his arrest was unjustified. After all, he was just exercising his right to free speech.
I have been particularly intrigued by what has been classified as countering violent extremism (CVE). While this has led me to contemplate ways of preventing others from throwing their lives away, I remain staunchly opposed to the national security or counterterrorism state and its connection to the elite, neoliberal order, or what Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to as far back as 1961 as the ‘military-industrial complex.’ I believe that today’s counterterrorist, or national security state isn’t merely dangerous to Islam and Muslims, but to humanity and civilization generally.
I must also emphatically state that I absolutely reject the conception that terrorism is justified in any which way and by anybody. I ask Allah to accept repentance for my not having made that absolutely clear in the past. It seems to me definite that we are suffering from an era the prophet (saws) foretold; one marked by ignorant youth who recite the best of speech but do not embody it. If we are to truly stand for the ummah’s liberation, we will have to locate a balanced position between the day’s extremes. [Emphasis mine]
Morton’s views morphed from the jihadist notion that the Great Satan must be destroyed to the Left’s notion that efforts to root out and defeat jihadis represent an immoral, un-American, tyrannical enterprise.
Further, Morton puts forth the argument echoed by many Islamic supremacists that “terrorism,” is never justified. But as Daniel Greenfield has written, while some Islamic leaders have gone so far as to issue fatwas against terrorism, they fail to define the term:
Muslim religious leaders have occasionally issued fatwas against terrorism, but terrorism for Muslim clerics … is a matter of definition. The tactics of terrorism, including suicide bombing and the murder of civilians, have been approved by fatwas from many of the same Islamic religious leaders that our establishment deems moderate. And the objective of terrorism, the subjugation of non-Muslims, has been the most fundamental Islamic imperative for the expansionistic religion since the days of Mohammed.
How to square these sentiments? As Stephen Coughlin notes in his magnum opus, “Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad,” the Quran’s definition of terrorism is essentially the killing of a Muslim without right. Is this the definition Morton had in mind when he proscribed terror?
In a later post from August 19, 2015 (note: the Wayback Machine page takes a few moments to load), “Obama’s Support for Sisi’s Counterterrorism Legislation Highlights the Hypocrisy of War on Radicalization,” Morton asserts,
[T]he global war on terror, having been rebranded as a war on Islamic extremism under Obama, has become a war on radicalization that now threatens the very essence of free expression democratic societies depend on.
Morton believes that targeting of individuals on the basis of jihadist ideology is in fact detrimental and that the goal of U.S. policy is to end “Islamism” (which of course would appear to be the exact opposite of President Obama’s policy with respect to the growing global jihad):
Legislation that concentrates on ideology conflates radical belief with violence and will only guarantee perpetual conflict. This seems to be the intended effect of counterterrorism policy everywhere. It suggests that the counterterrorism community itself desires confrontation to the end, until the very existence of Islamism on earth is eradicated.
This sentiment has expanded by way of rising right-wing and anti-Islamic populism. It is aided and abided by an Islamophobia industry that serves to brandish all conservative Muslims as barbarian. Whether in London, Paris, Cairo, or Washington, governments everywhere are utilizing counterterrorism policy and practice to silence dissent and criminalize critique of government policy, particularly if one is an Islamist.
Islamists apparently are the real victims during this age of jihadist metastasization.
Morton contends, hyperbolically, that ideology is not the key driver of jihadist violence, but rather that Western (imperialist) actions are the sine qua non of jihad — that again, jihadists are merely reacting to Western aggression:
[I]t is argued that all Islamists, nonviolent and violent, must be silenced. That position, given credence by way of government allegiance with ‘moderate Muslims’, is girded in the belief that radical political preachers create the ‘mood music to which suicide bombers dance.’ That’s a fancy way of saying that radical beliefs precede and incite violent action. In fact, very few of those holding radical beliefs ever go on to commit acts of terrorism and there is no established empirical evidence for such a causal relationship.
The one common denominator in the overwhelming majority of empirical research into violent Islamic extremist incidents is actually an attempt to justify or frame violence as a reaction to western policies. Yet, this fact conveniently goes missing from most expert analysis. When pointed to as the actual cause, any citation of western policy is ruled out as conspiracy theory or paranoid delusion. It is important to note that in exposition after exposition, Osama bin Laden claimed that jihadists were engaging in terrorism not because they hate democracy but “because you (the United States) attach us and continue to attack us.”
In other words, we create jihadis with our policy.
Apparently, ISIS also never cared about the West, until we meddled:
[T]he western press hardly recognizes that ISIS mostly rejected the ‘far enemy’ doctrine and instead preferred regional or localized violence, at least until Obama announced his plan to “degrade and destroy” the movement.
Most dumbfounding of all is this quote:
Were the U.S. and its allies not in such blatant betrayal of the very “set of core principles” Obama claimed to defend at the time of the Egyptian coup, there might be a diminishing appeal of jihadism. Instead, it’s viewed as the only alternative. The only solution is a global grassroots movement dedicated to ending such blatant hypocrisy. This movement must focus on dismantling the entire counterterrorism component of the military-industrial complex. Only then might a paradigm unfold that could first rid that “one indispensable nation” of its own despots and dictatorship, and thereby encourage people across the globe to do the same. Until then, terrorism at the hand of the state and Orwellian legislation will only enhance radicalization, at home and abroad. [Emphasis mine]
Thus, this deradicalized ex-jihadist proclaims that the way to end jihadism is to dismantle the “entire counterterrorism component” of American policy. No wonder he has been so welcomed at an American institution of higher education.
Here is one more excerpt from a May 2015 post regarding the U.S. government’s release of the list of books found at Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound attributed to IslamPolicy.com and apparently written by Morton given a line in the article referencing a release from prison — “This Brave New World I’ve been set free in” — that is in some respects equally chilling:
I think that rather than rely on violence, Muslims with proper minhaj and aqeedah should come up with mechanisms for addressing the reality that people in power profit domestically from goading little kids into elaborate plots and that the military industrial complex profits immensely from war and chaos in the Muslim world.
One thing I realize about some of my previous work at Revolution Muslim was the way it allowed authorities o [sic] fulfill their own agenda. It was a lesson that all those seeking authentic Islam could benefit from. May Allah aza wa jaal liberate this ummah from its ignorance and give us insight to see through a massive propaganda war. We should be at the forefront of providing holistic socio-pschological-political-economic alternatives based in the shariah. [Emphasis mine]
Morton may have “evolved” from jihadist to a modern-day Edward Said — the ubiquitous “thought leader” of Middle Eastern departments at prestigious, self-righteously suicidal academic institutions across America. Said popularized the view of an ethnocentric, imperialist Western aggressor raping and pillaging in a peaceful Muslim world. But that is really beside the point.
Why are federal authorities and a think-tank at an academic institution theoretically dedicated to countering terrorism accepting someone like Morton with open arms? To repeat, he wants to dismantle America’s counterterrorism apparatus!
Why is someone who believes in promoting a system based in Sharia accepted into America’s national security establishment more broadly?
Morton may have put on a tie and apologized for his misdeeds, but based on his scrubbed public writings from just a year ago, he sounds a lot like other former “moderate,” “ex-radicals” in American history. While recasting himself as an agent for good with a new home in the academy, he airbrushes his views to make them palatable to a progressive audience.
Perhaps Morton will be the first in a wave of new Bill Ayerses, Kathy Boudins, and Angela Davises. The Obama administration does want to clear out Gitmo, and “jobs for reformed jihadis” has a nice ring to it.