An insightful post on Jihadica reveals that Anwar al-Awlaki, a former San Diego imam who ministered to two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, was once denounced as an infidel (kafir) and part of a CIA plot.
Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who is said to live in Yemen, has been in the news lately because he was in e-mail contact with suspected Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan, whom he recently praised as a “hero.”
As I wrote earlier, Awlaki was the imam at the Rabat mosque in San Diego until mid-2000. Two future hijackers also attended the Rabat mosque. The Sept. 11 Commission reported the two hijackers “reportedly respected Awlaki as a religious figure and developed a close relationship with him.”
One of Awlaki’s sermons at the Rabat mosque came to the attention of London-based jihadi Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal, a radical imam who was imprisoned in 2003 for soliciting murder and eventually deported from the UK for his links to one of the London Tube bombers.
This San Diego sermon so outraged al-Faisal that he devoted an entire sermon to it and ultimately declared Awlaki an infidel. One of al-Faisal’s followers can be heard in the recording suggesting that Awlaki should be killed.
Al-Faisal’s complaint about al-Awlaki is basically twofold: First, that al-Awlaki’s criteria for declaring takfir (unbeliever) was overly restrictive—someone would have to directly refute the Quran or blatantly denounce central tenets of Islam in order to receive that designation. And, second, that al-Awlaki argued that only God should judge Muslims. Al-Faisal argues that this non-judgmental understanding of Islam is pushed by the CIA in order to limit violent activism.
Al-Faisal’s sermon is titled “CIA Islam – Sheikh Faisal’s Takfeer of Anwar Awlaki.” It’s available here.
For a would-be jihadi, this sermon should been a devastating blow. Yet, today it’s Awlaki who’s seen as the dangerous radical warping Muslim winds.
The lesson, Brian Fishman says, is not that Awlaki is a moderate but that “the world of jihadi ideologues is never as simple as it seems.”