Less than a day after the failed attempt to bomb a plane that was flying over the US city of Detroit, a different kind of hunt began; the hunt for the person who instructed Omar Abdulmutallab [to carry out the operation], the person who turned Abdulmutallab into a terrorist.
Omar Abdulmutallab is a Nigerian man who left Nigeria young and innocent and left London a prepared terrorist. Attention turned towards the Yemeni Sheikh Anwar al Awlaki, once again, who believes that he is the Sheikh of the new terrorists. It was this same Sheikh who instructed Major Nidal Hasan, an American of Arab origin, to commit the Fort Hood killings.
So as not to further complicate this already complex issue, we can sum up the incident as follows: attention turned from pursuing Al Qaeda’s army to pursuing its Sheikhs. After years of violent war, the image has become clear to everybody today; that “Al Qaeda” is an ideological problem rather than an organizational one. Whilst there is a lot to do on the ground in order to eradicate this malignant disease, the first priority should be to confront extremist ideology, its theorists and scholars before its students and soldiers. They are the secret to the organization and the reason for its continuation and its ability to recruit [people] and raise money, despite the great losses it has suffered all over the world.
Abdulmuttalab, who was arrested in Detroit, and is only 23 years of age, spent three years studying mechanical engineering at a London university and comes from a very moderate Muslim family and his father is a well-known banker in Nigeria and the former chairman of First Bank, one of Nigeria’s biggest banks. Farouk, Abdulmuttalab’s father, was so concerned about his son that he alerted authorities, which is quite a rare thing to happen. The important question remains; who convinced the young man [to carry out the operation] and prepared him for the operation? Abdulmuttalab is now in prison whereas dozens of others or even hundreds like him are still at large.
Al Awlaki is now most wanted and the source of the problem with regards to at least two crimes; that of Nidal Hasan charged for killing 13 people and Farouk Abdulmuttalab charged with attempting to blow up a plane and attempted murder of the 279 passengers on board. Al Awlaki is an important character and it seems he is the Bin Laden of the internet, the leader of an organization that brings together thousands of young men who are communicated with firstly via websites and then dealt with on the ground later. He became a leader and a Mufti who communicated with his students electronically, and he takes part in extensive Daawa [Islamic preaching] through the World Wide Web. Just like Bin Laden, a cat with nine lives, he was targeted in two similar raids a few days ago and it is possible that he escaped despite news reports of his death.
The events of the last few weeks have revealed that the war on terror did not end with George W. Bush’s absence, and that terrorism did not stop after the release of dozens [of prisoners] from Guantanamo Bay. The retirement or capture of leaders such as Khalid Sheikh Mohamed did not and will not stop the recruitment and activity of this terrorist ideology. In fact all of this has only confirmed the old truth that Al Qaeda is an extremist ideology that must first be tackled ideologically, along with the prosecution of those who support it and the need to wage war against extremist websites in general, which have become larger camps than the first camp that gave its name to the “Al Qaeda” organization.