Monday, August 6, 2007

Adam Yahiye Gadahn: Just Who Is this Guy, and Why Should We Care?

He started out being Adam Pearlman. He's also known as Adam Gadahn, and Adam Yahiye Gadahn, and Azzām al-Amrīk or Azzan al-Amiki or Azzam the American. The variations of his Azzam monikers probably come from issues involved in taking a name written in Arabic (عزام الأمريكك) and trying to write it with the Latin alphabet.

His appearance in another al Qaeda video has brought this California-born jihadist back into the news.

I'm inclined to agree with another blogger, who described him as an "arrogant armchair warrior."

I get the impression that Adam Gadahn isn't so much a leader of men as a nerd for al Qaeda.

Back in the sixties, Adam Gadahn's Jewish father was a bearded, long-haired student newspaper editor at the University of California at Irvine. The man who would become Adam's father was Phil Pearlman at the time. Phil Pearlman changed his surname to Gadahn later, when he converted to Christianity.

Adam Gadahn grew up on his parent's goat farm in southern California, later seeking meaning in death metal music after rejecting his perception of evangelical Christianity’s "apocalyptic ramblings" as "paranoid" and empty.

Eventually, having discovered Islam on the Internet, he showed up at a Garden Grove mosque in 1995 and converted to Islam. The mosque he joined was one of those that had given money when Sheikh "the Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman passed the hat (passed the red toolbox, to be precise), a few years before.

Rahman said that non-violent interpretations of jihad were weak, and that oppressed Muslims needed military support. "If you are not going to the jihad, then you are neglecting the rules of Allah," he told the people at that California mosque. That was December, 1992. In February, 1993, the Blind Sheikh and some of his colleagues set off a bomb under one of New York City's Twin Towers.

Jihad would not bring the World Trade Center in New York down until September of 2001, more than 8 years later.

Back to Azzam the American. After rejecting his Garden Grove mosque as being insufficiently Islamic, he joined al Qaeda and moved overseas. Apparently to Pakistan.

He's now serving al Qaeda as a sort of media adviser and spokesman to Americans.

In Adam Gadahan's first video appearance, in 2004, someone off-screen asked him, "You are an American. You have joined a movement waging war on America, and killing large numbers of Americans. Don’t you in any way feel that you are betraying your people and country?"

Azzam the American replied in a very frank and open way. "First of all," he said, "the allegiance and loyalty of a Muslim is to Allah, his messenger, his religion, and his fellow-believers, before anyone and anything else. So if there is a conflict between his religion and his nation and family, then he must choose the religion every time. In fact, to side with the unbelievers against Islam and Muslims is one of the acts that nullify one’s Islamic faith." After recalling that Muhammad had fought his own cousins, Gadahn said, "So some of the early Muslims fought and killed their closest relatives during battle."

After a harsh description of American foreign policy, Azzam the American addressed Americans "No, my former countrymen, you are guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty!" He ended with a warning: "The streets of America shall run red with blood." (Emphasis is mine.)

Adam Gadahn has been accused of treason, and is on the FBI's 'most wanted terrorists' list.

Why should we pay any attention to Adam Gadahn? He's possibly the highest-profile example of 'home-grown' terrorists: People who grow up in what are considered main-stream American households (or goat farms in southern California), convert to Islam and choose the fanatic fringe of that religion.

In addition to the home-grown variety, there are other people who are 2nd and 3rd generation members of Muslim families, who choose to align themselves with organizations dedicated to killing Americans.

It is vitally important to remember that terrorists, people who are dedicated to the destruction of those who do not meet with their approval, are not all 'foreigners.'

Some grew up in America, have American citizenship, and live in America. It is a foolish and deadly mistake to believe that 'Americans' should be shielded from the inconvenience of law enforcement's efforts to protect us.

My information came from a New Yorker article, "Azzam the American," January 22, 2007, by Raffi Khatchadourian, and from a blog, "Adam Gadahn: Myths and Facts," March 4, 2007, by Evan Kohlmann. It was Kohlmann's blog that led me to the New Yorker article.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.