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October 27, 2014

New Spate of Lone Wolf Attacks Highlights Terrorist Propaganda

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau

A recent series of attacks in the U.S. and Canada have renewed national conversation about the danger of lone wolf terrorism: Attacks undertaken by individuals acting entirely on their own, without belonging to an organized extremist group, terrorist group or cell.

When extremists plan and execute attacks alone, as individuals, there are far fewer opportunities for law enforcement to detect the attacks in advance and they are much more difficult to prevent. Consequently, “lone wolf” actions tend to be more deadly.

There is increasing speculation that the rise of online terrorist propaganda from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other foreign terrorist groups – and its increasing sophistication – may contribute to such attacks.

ISIS, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and other groups have called on Americans, Canadians and other westerners to self-radicalize and commit lone wolf attacks against their home countries.

In September, a speech released by ISIS told supporters, “If you can kill a dis­be­liev­ing Amer­i­can or Euro­pean – espe­cially the…French – or an Aus­tralian, or a Canadian…kill him in any man­ner or way how­ever it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s ver­dict. Kill the dis­be­liever whether he is civil­ian or military…” One of the suggested methods of attack was to “run him [the Westerner] over with your car.”

In August, AQAP issued an English-language magazine, which stated that the U.S. “needs several more attacks inside and outside its territories. This could be done by a Mujahid group or a lone Mujahid,” and provided updated instructions for building pressure cooker bombs and car bombs. Such sentiments have been a feature of AQAP’s English-language propaganda for years.

Moreover, exposure to violent images combined with the incitement of terrorist propaganda may provide the necessary rationale to lead individuals with violent tendencies – and sometimes unstable behavior – over the tipping point towards violence. And in providing that rationale, terrorist propaganda may also direct the violence, leading to a higher likelihood of attacks against law enforcement, authority figures, or other symbolic targets.

Zale Thompson’s alleged attack against NY police officers and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s alleged attack on the Canadian Parliament provide examples of this new type of lone wolf: Individuals with some degree of upset and instability who buy into the framework of terrorist propaganda to the extent that they undertake acts of violence.

Thompson, for example, was rumored to be depressed and suffering from drug abuse. He was angry about what he perceived as oppression of blacks in the U.S. In his embrace of radical Islam, he read and wrote about “holy war” and beheadings, and googled the phrase “jihad against police,” according to law enforcement sources. He also looked up information on the two Canadian attacks before allegedly attempting to kill the police officers.

Less is known about Martin Rouleau-Couture, the man who allegedly ran over two soldiers in Canada last week, but he, too, apparently engaged with extremist propaganda online and praised ISIS on his Facebook page.

Lone wolves aren’t the only ones who respond to online incitement. A majority of the American citizens who attempt to join foreign terrorist groups abroad or to work on their behalf at home have been influenced by it to some extent – apparently including the three teenage girls from Denver who allegedly attempted to join ISIS last week.

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August 21, 2014

Anti-Zionist Group Targets Jewish Institutions

Over the past two weeks, demonstrators from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the largest Jewish anti-Zionist group in the United States, have entered Jewish institution buildings to directly confront the leaders of major American Jewish organizations over their support for Operation Protective Edge.

On four separate occasions, members of JVP made their way into buildings belonging to Jewish institutions and began to protest inside. Their goal in getting inside the buildings was to hand deliver an open letter calling the institutional Jewish community’s support for Operation Protective Edge “painful” and “a betrayal of our [Jewish] history and values.”

1. New York City (August 20) – Members of JVP’s New York City chapter entered the UJA-Federation offices in Manhattan. One of the protesters, who live-tweeted from the demonstration, wrote “Occupying UJA federation office in NYC now.” The protesters eventually moved their demonstration to the sidewalk outside of the building.

2. Denver (August 19) – The Front Range JVP chapter led a group of protesters into the JEWISHcolorado building in Denver. Inside the building, protesters attempted to deliver their petition to JEWISHcolorado’s President and CEO Doug Seserman. After their request was denied, they moved the demonstration to the building’s lobby and then eventually outside of the building after 911 was reportedly called.

3. Durham (August 12) – A small group of protesters from JVP’s North Carolina chapter interrupted the “Community Gathering in Support of Israel and Peace,” which was sponsored by the Jewish Federations of Raleigh-Cary and Durham-Chapel Hill. While a speaker was delivering a presentation, members of the group interrupted his speech, unfolded a large banner and began to make demands from institutional Jewish leadership about their stance on Operation Protective Edge.

jvp-jewish-federation-philadelphia

JVP members at the Philadelphia Jewish Federation building

4. Philadelphia (August 8) – Protesters from JVP’s Philadelphia chapter made their way into the Jewish Federation offices in Philadelphia. After gaining entrance, they demanded to meet with the Federation’s CEO Naomi Adler. After being told that they would not receive an appointment, a small portion of the group refused to leave the building and continued to protest inside, reportedly leading to their arrest.

Six other protests have also taken place outside of Jewish institutions over the past month, although various groups such as Al-Awda and the newly-founded If Not Now, When?, have organized those. No attempts were made to enter the Jewish institutions in those cases, but like JVP, the protesters called on the Jewish community to condemn Operation Protective Edge.

At least 25 other protests have taken place outside of buildings affiliated with Israel or Israeli companies. At one of those demonstrations, members of JVP and Jews Say No! made their way into the offices of Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF). Once inside, the demonstrators began to protest and conducted a “die-in.” Nine protestors were reportedly arrested.

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December 3, 2013

Denver Conference To Feature Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theorists

The Muslim Student Association – Persian Speaking Group (MSA-PSG) will hold its 43rd annual conference in Denver, Colorado, which will draw the participation of several anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists and Holocaust deniers.msa-psg-iran-denver

The conference, titled “Awaiting the Savior,” is scheduled for December 26-29 and will include lectures and workshop sessions with the purported aim to discuss “how Islam can help guide us in our awaiting time to be the true supporters of our Imam,” also known as the Mahdi, a messianic figure for Shi’a Muslims. 

The MSA-PGA was founded in 1970 by Mostafa Chamron, an Iranian anti-Shah activist when he was a student at the University of California – Berkeley. Chamron subsequently returned to Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and served as defense minister and a member of parliament for the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The organization has a history of inviting anti-Semitic speakers and extremists to its annual conference. Among the list of speakers invited this year, and in previous years, are Muhammad al Asi and Abdul Alim Musa. Al Asi and Musa are frequently invited to speak at anti-Israel events on campus where they engage in anti-Semitic rhetoric during their speeches and lectures. Additionally, both individuals have publicly sworn allegiance to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Musa is also the leader of Sabiqun, an anti-Semitic Muslim group that advocates for the creation of a global Islamic state.

Anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists Mark Glenn and Mark Dankof are also invited to speak at this year’s event. At the 2012 annual MSA-PSG conference, Dankof made a series of conspiratorial and anti-Semitic claims that Muslims and Christians are under threat by Zionists. Moreover, Dankof made a series of allegations that Jews are in control of American politics, economics and media, and that Jewish conspiracies are behind important U.S. events, such as the assassination of President Kennedy and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The organization, which is primarily based in Los Angeles, adheres to the strict principles of Twelver Shi’a Islam and the virulently anti-Semitic and anti-West ideology of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Contrary to its name, members of the MSA-PSG are not necessarily students. Many members are of Pakistani or South Asian origins who have previously spent time at Iranian seminaries and religious institutions. Previous years’ conferences have primarily been held in Houston and Chicago.

Another scheduled speaker is Hamza Sodagar, an Iranian-born cleric. At the 2010 Muslim Congress (MC) convention, Sodagar made several conspiratorial charges, including one where he alleged Zionist control over U.S. Muslims.

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