To those who worry about the extremism that Saudi influence can foster here in the United States, the joint Muslim community at Washington State University and the University of Idaho?just nine miles apart?might provide a classic case study.
It also happened to be the home of detained National Guardsman Ryan Anderson, aka Amir Talhah, when he converted to Islam five years ago.
Anderson, who was nabbed while allegedly trying to pass secret information on to al Qaeda through an Internet chat room, graduated from Washington State University in 2002. Though the strength of his ties to the local Muslim community is unclear, there is no denying that it could have provided the perfect breeding ground for a radical Islamist.
And perhaps not coincidentally, there is a strong Saudi influence.
Last year, the FBI made several arrests while investigating alleged terror activity in Pullman, Washington (home to WSU) and Moscow, Idaho (home to UI). Because of the close proximity and the relative small numbers of Muslim residents (fewer than 200 total), the two towns have essentially a single Muslim community, according to many local Muslims.
Four people total were arrested. Two were affiliated with WSU and two with UI. Three were arrested as material witnesses and have since been released.
Still at large, though, is Saudi national Abdullah Aljughaiman, who was a lecturer at UI and received his religious training King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Investigators have been unable even to speak with him, however, because he is most likely in Saudi Arabia, where he?s off-limits to U.S. authorities.
At the probe?s center was Sami Omar al-Hussayen, a graduate student and computer whiz at UI who was also seen as a leader in the local Muslim community. The Saudi national, who goes to trial this spring, is charged with visa fraud, making false statements, and providing material support of terrorism.
The terrorism charge does not seem to have adversely affected al-Hussayen?s popularity in the local Muslim community. Several Muslims in the Pullman-Moscow area contacted by phone spoke favorably of the alleged abettor of terrorism. One who had attended the preliminary hearings opined, ?The evidence against him doesn?t seem that strong.?
In addition to allegedly designing web sites for two radical sheikhs with direct contact with Osama bin Laden, al-Hussayen is charged with handling financial and administrative functions for supposed charities that allegedly supported terrorism.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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