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Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube/Diller distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. His bi-weekly column appears regularly in newspapers around the globe. His website,, is one of the most accessed internet sources of specialized information on the Middle East and Islam.

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PostMon Dec 12, 2005 7:49 pm     More Converts to Terrorism    

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More Converts to Terrorism

By Daniel Pipes
December 7, 2005

My column yesterday [December 6, 2005], "Converts to Terrorism," delved into the issue of converts to Islam who engage in terrorism. Space constraints limited the information I could include, so here, I add to it in three ways: (1) providing names of converts suspected, arrested, or indicted of terrorism but who have not yet either gone into action or been convicted; (2) reviewing the matter of non-terrorist jihadis; and (3) summarizing a French intelligence report on converts to Islam.

(1) Yesterday's list included converts who had either engaged in or been convicted of terrorism. That leaves many other converts who have not yet reached either of those stages, including:

* Australia: David Hicks, accused of joining Lashkar-i Tayyiba. Shane Kent, a red-haired, light-skinned former rock musician who trained in an Afghan terrorist camp, was one of the seventeen terrorist suspects detained in November 2005. Joseph Terrence Thomas, accused of training with and financing Al-Qaeda.

* France: Willie Virgile Brigitte, accused of membership in Al-Qaeda and helping the Taliban murder Afghan leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. Jérôme Courtailler (brother of David), arrested with two other French converts, Johann Bonté and Jean-Marc Grandvisir, for a plot to blow up the American embassy in Paris. Lionel Dumont, blamed for several terrorist attacks, including one connected to a Group of Seven summit in 1996.

* Germany: Michael Christian Ganczarski, held in France for suspected ties to Al-Qaeda and involvement in a bombing in Tunisia in 2002.

* Switzerland: Albert Friedrich Armand Huber, designated a terrorist suspect by the U.S. government.

* United States: Adam Gadahn, sought in connection with "possible terrorist threats" against the United States. Three of four members in the Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, accused of planning a terror spree in the Los Angeles area, are converts. Jose Padilla, accused of planning to "make an improvised dirty bomb," or a radiological dispersion device. Three members of an alleged group, Rafiq Sabir, Tarik Shah, and Mahmud Faruq Brent, are accused of pledging an oath to Al-Qaeda. The list of unindicted co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing includes two American Islamist star converts, Siraj Wahhaj and Bilal Phillips, and what appears to a number of lesser ones (Jack Hamrick, John Kinard, Frank Ramos, Kelvin Smith, Richard Smith).

In addition, Charles J. Bishop (original last name: Bishara) was a teenager who drove his small plane into a high-rise Tampa building after writing a suicide note professing admiration for Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers. It is not established, however, that Bishop converted to Islam.

(2) Many converts engage in jihad in such places as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, and Kashmir, generally acting more like soldiers than terrorists. (Those who go to Iraq or the Palestinian Authority, in contrast, are rank terrorists.) According to Bob Blitzer, who headed the FBI's first Islamic terrorism squad in 1994, "Between 1,000 and 2,000 jihadists left America during the 1990s alone." Some of them were converts.

Better known Americans of this description include John Walker Lindh, sentenced to twenty years for supplying services to and carrying arms for the Taliban; Earnest James Ujaama, two years for conspiring to provide goods and services to the Taliban; several members of the "Portland Seven" (Jeffrey Leon Battle, Patrice Lumumba Ford, October Lewis), up to eighteen years for trying to help the Taliban; and Aukai Collins wrote My Jihad, a book of memoirs. Other jihadi soldiers include Hiram Torres, who died in Afghanistan; Cleven Raphael Holt, who went to fight in Bosnia; and a mysterious young black convert from Atlanta known as Jibreel al-Amreekee, killed fighting the Indian Army in Kashmir. Converts of other nationalities also joined the jihad, such as Thomas Fischer of Germany, who died fighting in Chechnya.

(3) Shortly after the London bombings in July 2005, Le Monde reported on a study of converts by the intelligence service Renseignements généraux (RG) in "Les conversions à l'islam radical inquiètent la police française" (French police worried about conversions to radical Islam). Looking at 1,610 French converts, it found no typical profile of the convert. That said, one-third of them have police records and 10 percent of them converted in prison. Converts are 83 percent male and have a median age of 32 years. The RG study finds that close to 13 percent "converted for socioeconomic reasons," often to improve commercial relations with the Muslim community; nonetheless, more than half of them are unemployed. Tabligh Jamaat and the Wahhabis converted 28 and 23 percent, respectively, of the French to Islam, 44 percent of converts are Islamist, and 3 percent are suspected to "belong to or have gravitated to the violent Islamist movement."

In conclusion, I repeat my yesterday's finding: Conversion to Islam substantially increases the probability of a person's involvement in terrorism.

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