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November 13, 2013 Off

North Carolina Arrest Marks 6th American In 2013 Associated With Al Qaeda In Syria


Basit Javed Sheikh

A North Car­olina man was arrested Novem­ber 2 on charges of attempt­ing to travel to Syria to join the Al-Qaeda group Jab­hat al-Nusra. His arrest under­scores a con­tin­ued trend of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents attempt­ing to join ter­ror­ist groups in the Syr­ian con­flict; it marks the fourth such arrest and sixth pub­licly dis­closed case of Amer­i­cans fight­ing or attempt­ing to fight in Syria this year.  It also demon­strates the increas­ing power of Face­book and other social media plat­forms in ter­ror­ist recruit­ment and propaganda.

Basit Javed Sheikh is a 29 year-old per­ma­nent res­i­dent orig­i­nally from Pak­istan, resid­ing in Cary, North Car­olina. His arrest marked his third failed attempt to travel to Syria – attempts that were made and adver­tised over social media.

Since Jan­u­ary 2013, Sheikh allegedly cre­ated at least seven Face­book accounts with the pseu­do­nym Abdul Basit or Abdul Basit II. Dur­ing that time, a num­ber of those accounts were shut down by Face­book for being in vio­la­tion of its terms of use, but he per­sisted in cre­at­ing more. At this time, there appear to be two active accounts likely belong­ing to Sheikh. The first, Abdul Basit II, was cre­ated Octo­ber 21 and is already heav­ily pop­u­lated with posts extolling ter­ror­ism world­wide – rang­ing from prais­ing the Pak­istani Tal­iban to show­ing an Islamist fighter point­ing at Jerusalem to an image of Islamist mil­i­tants with an quote from Islamic sources say­ing, “A sec­tion of my com­mu­nity will con­tinue to fight for the right and over­come their oppo­nents till the last of them fights with the Antichrist.” The sec­ond cur­rently active pro­file, Abdul Basit, was cre­ated Octo­ber 29, 2013, and has a gun as its pro­file picture.

Sheikh allegedly was even more active on his older Face­book pro­files. Accord­ing to an affi­davit in sup­port of his arrest war­rant, he reg­u­larly used the site to post jihadist videos and pro­pa­ganda and to inter­act with other extrem­ists. In addi­tion to being a mem­ber of a now-defunct Jab­hat al-Nusrah Face­book group, Sheikh allegedly posted mul­ti­ple times about the war in Syria and about the need to join the fight­ing there, and quoted a num­ber of sources prais­ing mar­tyr­dom.  He also allegedly posted videos and com­ments call­ing for the death and pun­ish­ment of Amer­i­can lead­ers and sol­diers, includ­ing one video that said, “Let the mujahideen kill them and destroy them…Allah give vic­tory to Sheikh Usama [bin Laden].”

Sheikh also appears to have been included in con­ver­sa­tions of anti-Jewish con­spir­acy the­o­ries. In one thread of an online forum, he was included in a note blam­ing Jews for “inten­tion­ally spread[ing]” mod­er­ate – or, as the thread called it, “wrong” – inter­pre­ta­tions of Islam that, among other things, “states that jihad is HARAM [forbidden].”

Sheikh had ini­tially trav­elled to Syria in the fall of 2012, when he report­edly joined the Free Syr­ian army but left because he dis­agreed with the group’s moti­va­tions. He then booked a flight in Sep­tem­ber 2013, but did not fol­low through because he “could not muster the strength to leave his par­ents.” His con­tin­ued Face­book posts, how­ever, sug­gested that he was deter­mined to try again.

Ulti­mately, it was Sheikh’s alleged online activ­ity that led to his arrest on his third attempt. After join­ing a Face­book page cre­ated by the FBI that pur­ported to pro­mote extrem­ist Islam, Sheikh allegedly began to reg­u­larly con­verse with an FBI agent over Face­book, Skype, and email. Accord­ing to the affi­davit, he made a new set of travel plans to Syria in con­sul­ta­tion with the agent, insist­ing that he was eager to fight in jihad even when told he could back out, and was arrested at the airport.

Since 2007, over 50 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been arrested or charged in con­nec­tion with attempts to join ter­ror­ist groups abroad, includ­ing Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula.

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July 27, 2012 Off

Conference the Latest Sign of Increased Anti-Immigrant Activity in North Carolina

On August 10–11, 2012, an anti-immigrant con­fer­ence will take place in Wilm­ing­ton, North Car­olina titled, “IIIm­pact – ille­gal immi­gra­tion and the cost to YOU!” The list of con­fer­ence speak­ers was announced on July 23 and brings together many of the main anti-immigrant voices in the state as well as some speak­ers known for their anti-Muslim state­ments and associations.

The con­fer­ence is the lat­est exam­ple of an increase in activ­ity by the anti-immigrant play­ers in North Car­olina. In 2011, the NC House cre­ated the House Select Com­mit­tee on the State’s Role in Immi­gra­tion Pol­icy. The Com­mit­tee has had numer­ous hear­ings through­out 2012 and has pro­vided a plat­form for anti-immigrant and immi­grant rights activists to voice their opin­ions. On June 13, 2012, for exam­ple, anti-immigrant lead­ers includ­ing William Gheen, James John­son and Ron Woodard met with Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-District 98) to dis­cuss immi­gra­tion issues. It is unclear at this time what the atten­dance of the con­fer­ence will be but anti-immigrant groups in North Car­olina have been encour­ag­ing peo­ple to go to the event for a num­ber of weeks.

Sched­uled speak­ers at the August event include:

William Gheen – Founder/head of the anti-immigrant group Amer­i­cans for Legal Immi­gra­tion PAC (ALIPAC). Gheen has a long his­tory of hate­ful rhetoric towards immi­grants.  ADL has a lengthy pro­file on Gheen which can be read here.

James John­son – Founder/head of the anti-immigrant group North Car­olini­ans for Immi­gra­tion Reform and Enforce­ment (NCIFRE). On his Face­book page, John­son has cir­cu­lated mate­r­ial from the racist Web site, and the white suprema­cist group, Amer­i­can Renais­sance. John­son has also attended FAIR’s “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” event in the past. 

Ron Woodard – pres­i­dent of the anti-immigrant group, NC Lis­ten. NC Lis­ten is listed on the Web site of the extreme anti-immigrant group Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Reform’s (FAIR) as a local affil­i­ate for North Car­olina. NC Listen’s mis­sion state­ment says that it “part­ners” with FAIR. Woodard has also attended FAIR’s annual “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” event in the past. 

Sher­iff Sam Page (R-Rockingham) will also be speak­ing. Page spoke to Con­gres­sional Lead­ers at an event put together by FAIR in May 2012.  In Octo­ber 2011, Page par­tic­i­pated in a panel titled, “Crime Chal­lenges from Ille­gal Immi­gra­tion” which was spon­sored and mod­er­ated by the anti-immigrant group Cen­ter for Immi­gra­tion Stud­ies (CIS). 

Ilario Pan­tano – A for­mer can­di­date for the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in 2010 and 2012, Pan­tano has pro­moted anti-Muslim sen­ti­ment. Pan­tano spoke at both the 2010 and 2011 9/11 ral­lies in New York City put on by anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller. He has also writ­ten the fol­low­ing about the Islamic cen­ter close to ground zero: “It is about mark­ing reli­gious, ide­o­log­i­cal and ter­ri­to­r­ial con­quest.” He con­tin­ued by stat­ing, “This mosque is a martyr-marker hon­or­ing the ter­ror­ists who less than a decade ago killed thou­sands of us just two blocks away, and it must be stopped.”

Sue Myrick – retir­ing NC Con­gress­woman (R-District 9) who also has a his­tory of anti-Muslim sen­ti­ment – she has spo­ken at the national con­fer­ence of ACT! for Amer­ica, one of the largest anti-Muslim groups in the coun­try. She also wrote a for­ward for the book, Mus­lim Mafia: Inside the Secret Under­world that’s Con­spir­ing to Islamize Amer­ica.

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