The death of Samir Khan, an American from Charlotte, North Carolina, deserves more attention. He ran a major pro-Bin Laden website that hosted videos of terrorist attacks. He commented on one, “You can even see an American soldier hiding during the ambush like a baby!” He prayed that Allah would kill Rusty Shackleford of the My Pet Jawa blog and to break the hands and poison the tongue of Robert Spencer. Despite his open support of terrorism, he was able to board a flight to Yemen in October 2009. There, he became the mind behind Inspire, AQAP’s English-language online magazine.
Awlaki lives on through his preaching. He has a massive following on the Internet, with nearly 2,000 YouTube videos featuring his lectures. The FBI has found that his sermons are common in prison libraries, with his more tame material being sold in Islamic supermarkets and stores. He also provides a classic example of how to practice al-taqiyya. He condemned 9/11 and fashioned himself as a moderate, resulting in praise from National Public Radio and the New York Times. The Pentagon even enlisted him in its outreach to the Muslim community, having him speak at lunches.
Awlaki’s influence extends beyond his life, but Al-Qaeda will be hard-pressed to find an English-language speaker that will be as successful as him. He will no longer be able to egg on acts of terrorism or provide preaching tied to current events. Ayman al-Zawahiri’s former mentor, Dr. al-Fadl, preaches that Muslims who violate Allah’s will are defeated in battle. His death is a huge addition to Al-Qaeda’s troubles, as its supporters must be silently questioning the group’s survival. Radical Islam is much more than Al-Qaeda, but with the group’s top leaders being taken out at a steady pace, the Islamists will have to look somewhere other than Al-Qaeda for encouragement.
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