Feb 1 2011
CNBC –Wall Street firms received briefings from US security officials about a potential threat after the publication of the most recent issue of Inspire Magazine ran a cover story advocating jihadists target banks and other institutional wealth centers.
The briefings took place in January, according to NBC news. The fourth issue of Inspire was published on January 16 or so. Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the FBI, seems to be trying to quell fears that might arise from news of the briefing.
“In post-9/11 world we routinely give security briefings to security personnel in various parts of the private sector. This was in the course of a periodic update in the evolving threat stream,” Jim Margolin, spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York, told Reuters “I would stress that it’s our belief that the information that was discussed was not imminent, not specific.”
That’s not very informative. I don’t understand why the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force doesn’t want to be more specific about the threat they believe they uncovered in Inspire. It’s perfectly obvious once you read the magazine, which is published in English.
First, a bit of background on Inspire. It is a glossy quarterly magazine reportedly published by Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula. The articles include snips from news clips, discussion of Islamic theology with a focus on justifying terrorist attacks, and how-to guides to blowing up buildings and firing AK-47s. The most recent issue contains a picture of a wall spray painted with the words “Jihad 4 eva.” Imagine if there were a Vice magazine for terrorists and you’d be pretty close.
Here’s how Judith Miller—yes, that Judith Miller—described the founders of the magazine:
If Inspire feels so very American, that is because it is believed to be the work of two longtime American citizens—Samir Khan, a Saudi-born American who produced jihadist propaganda from his parents’ basement in Queens, N.Y., before fleeing to Yemen in 2007, and Anwar Al-Awlaki, a supposedly “moderate” Islamist cleric who once ran a mosque in Virginia and was recently labeled “the most dangerous man in the world” at a public briefing by New York Police Department intelligence analysts.
So what is it that has the authorities so concerned about the most recent issue? I’ve read through the entire magazine, and what I think has probably caught the eyes of security officials are the articles advocating financing jihad with money stolen or embezzled from American banks, corporations, governments, and wealthy individuals.
The cover story, written by Anwar Al-Awlaki, is titled “The Ruling on Dispossessing the Disbelievers wealth in Dar al-harb.” It is a long essay that not only justifies taking the wealth of non-Muslim Westerners, it celebrates taking wealth as better than earning it. What’s more it says that when a jihadist steals money from non-Muslim Westerners, he needed to distribute the spoils to Muslim authorities in the way that most other booty captured by Muslims needs to be distributed.
Typically, according to the article, wealth taken from non-Muslims would have to be distributed according to how it was taken. When wealth is taken by force, it is divided up so that 4/5ths of it goes to the Muslim soldier who took it and 1/5 goes to either funding more jihad, spending for the poor or funding scholars and judges. Wealth that is taken not by force—basically, taxes imposed on non-Muslims—however, goes entirely to “the Muslim treasury.”
Al-Awlaki argues that this depends on the circumstances of the theft. If the thief is authorized and protected by a legitimate Muslim authority to infiltrate the west, then the 4/5th rule applies. However, according to Al-Awaki, in the modern day and age there are no such authorities. So the jihadist thief is always and everywhere basically on his own. In that case, there’s no 4/5th rule—which means the thief gets to keep his wealth. (I should note that Al-Awaki adds that a good jihadist would only keep his wealth to further finance jihad.)
Al-Awaki’s conclusion is that Muslims should avoid paying taxes and should avoid targeting citizens for theft if the public opinion is “supportive of some Muslim causes.” Instead, he says they should target government owned property, banks, global corporations, and wealth belonging to disbelievers with known animosity towards Muslims. In the case of the United States, however, the wealth of private citizens is fair game because we keep voting for “war mongering governments.”
Al-Awaki characterizes this essay as a fatwa, a ruling of a point of law. From what I can tell, this is what concerns security officials: this prominent Muslim publicist is advocating theft and embezzlement in the name of Allah.