The careers of Awlaki and Abdulmutallab powerfully suggest the fluidity of Islamist thought. In particular, they illustrate the confluence between what might be broadly termed “hard” and “soft” Islamism. The latter is based on long-term and largely non-violent social and political activism, while the former looks to immediate violence to further its goals. Awlaki and Abulmutallab, however, moved rapidly and seamlessly within and between these different modes of Islamism, and it would seem that extreme beliefs common to both provided a launching pad for increasingly extreme actions. It is argued here that an intensely literalist yet politically impassive Salafism made Abdulmutallab nevertheless receptive to the activist Islamism of the UCL Islamic Society. Later, he made a further jump to jihadism. It remains to analyze the milieu that framed this change, and the parallel ideological trajectory of Awlaki. This, more than any other element, shaped the violent synergy of theory and practice that was reaped on Christmas Day 2009.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
An Old "Softie" Today; A Hardened Jihadi Tomorrow
An article on the Hudson Institute website investigates an all-too common journey these days--how a softie" "social justice" type from a well-off family (failed undies-detonator Umar Farouk Abdulumuttalab) can come in contact with the thinking of a hardened jihadi (American-born, Yemen-dwelling cleric Anwar al-Awlaki) and can be coaxed into taking the "hard" road to Paradise (where panting virgins galore await, and you thus don't need any underpants):