Joel Mowbray
In the predictable stories reporting the “astonishment” of friends and neighbors about the Canadian terror suspects arrested last week, one tidbit serves as a cautionary tale for the threat of homegrown terrorism in the U.S.

One of the 17 arrested, Qayyum Abdul Jamal, was an imam at a small storefront mosque in suburban Toronto. Those who listened to his sermons have told reporters that they didn’t promote violent jihad or advocate killing non-Muslims. In a post-9/11 environment less hospitable to such rhetoric, these denials actually could be true.

But the arrested imam didn’t need to preach violence in order to prime the terror pump.

A local Muslim community center director explained to the Associated Press that Mr. Jamal had told his congregants “that the Canadian Forces were going to Afghanistan to rape women.” And this slander almost certainly was not uttered in isolation.

In many ways, such outrageous propaganda is more troubling than chants of “Jihad! Jihad!” or “Death to America.” Convincing impressionable youths that their fellow Muslims are under attack can have a profound impact, simultaneously dehumanizing non-Muslim neighbors while building the case that killing them is not just morally acceptable, but in fact, obligatory.

What makes propaganda so pernicious is that it doesn’t raise the same red flags. It appears no one reported Imam Jamal’s slanders, and even followers who don’t support violence probably wouldn’t have considered the vile lies particularly dangerous. But they are.

Just ask the former valedictorian of the Saudi Academy.

After he was arrested for plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush, Abu Ali gave a videotaped confession in which he explained why he “immediately” accepted al Qaeda’s offer to join the Jihad. His reason? His “hatred of the U.S.”—the country where he was born and raised. He doesn’t appear ever to have suffered any oppression or been victimized because of his Muslim faith. But that didn’t matter. His hatred for his home country was fueled by “what I felt was [the U.S.’s] support of Israel against the Palestinian people.”

Abu Ali was an American kid, and his affiliations with Palestinians were at best loose. Yet he was willing to give his life—and wage holy war against his neighbors—for reasons having little to do with his personal experience.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, 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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