Rod Dreher

Big, long NYT front-pager today about the double life of Anwar al-Awlaki, who went (says the Times) from condemning terror to preaching jihad. Awlaki, a Yemen-based al-Qaeda fellow traveler who has inspired recent Islamic terrorists (e.g., Maj. Nidal Hasan), lived in the US for a while before relocating to Yemen. When he was an imam at a Virginia mosque, he was a go-to guy for American journalists to explain Islam. He had a reputation for being a good guy. The Times now concludes that Awlaki trotted out several public faces, depending on which was most useful to him:

Later, Mr. Awlaki seems to have tried out multiple personas: the representative of a tolerant Islam in a multicultural United States (starring in a video explaining Ramadan); the fiery American activist talking about Muslims’ constitutional rights (and citing both Malcolm X and H. Rap Brown); the conspiracy theorist who publicly doubted the Muslim role in the Sept. 11 attacks. (The F.B.I., he wrote a few days afterward, simply blamed passengers with Muslim names.)
All along he remained a conservative, fundamentalist preacher who invariably started with a scriptural story from the seventh century and drew its personal or political lessons for today, a tradition called salafism, for the Salafs, or ancestors, the leaders of the earliest generations of Islam.

Got that? He was always a salafist, even when journalists were going to him post-9/11 thinking that his words of peace and understanding were trustworthy. I know I’m a broken record here, but you really cannot trust mainstream American journalism to tell you the truth about what’s going on in American Islam. You simply cannot. Generally speaking, journalists are easily taken in by soothing but insincere words spoken by Muslim leaders, and they do not want to be disabused of their confirmation bias. I’ve written before about the time I caused the then-head of the Islamic Society of North America, the largest Muslim group in the country, to lose his cool and liken me to a Nazi for calmly asking him to explain why, if his group was as devoted to peace and reconciliation as he claimed, did it have on its board of directors Islamic leaders who had made pro-terrorist and anti-Semitic remarks? He didn’t answer the question because he had no good answer; so he angrily impugned my motives for asking. This is standard operating procedure for these faux moderates. And it works like a charm with most US journalists. Confirmation bias is the best friend Islamic extremists have in the US.
Don’t misunderstand me here; by no means are all, or even most, Muslims in America, or anywhere else, radicals. But the leadership of much of American Islam — mosques and institutions — comes out of the radical Muslim Brotherhood, whose ideological lodestar is the fanatical Sayyid Qutb. Unsurprisingly, Awlaki was late to find Qutb, but mainlined his fanaticism. From the Times:

In mid-2006, after he intervened in a tribal dispute, Mr. Awlaki was imprisoned for 18 months by the Yemeni authorities. By his later account on his blog, he was in solitary confinement nearly the entire time and used it to study the Koran, to read literature (he enjoyed Dickens but disliked Shakespeare) and eventually, when it was permitted, to study Islamic scholarship.
Notably, he was enraptured by the works of Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian whose time in the United States helped make him the father of the modern anti-Western jihadist movement in Islam.
“Because of the flowing style of Sayyid I would read between 100 and 150 pages a day,” Mr. Awlaki wrote. “I would be so immersed with the author I would feel Sayyid was with me in my cell speaking to me directly.”

Incredibly, nine years after 9/11, a fellow who recommends Sayyid Qutb as an efficacious guide to youth can get invited to testify before Congress as efficacious guide to fighting Islamic terrorism
Any imam, mosque, teacher or Islamic organization affiliated with ISNA or the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) — see the radical reading list they recommend to young Muslims — I would be deeply skeptical of. Deeply. So should you, no matter what the media say. They will be the last to know.
UPDATE: Fabulous! The very first comment in the combox below limned Manning’s Corollary.

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