Monday, October 15, 2007

NY Times: Worthington, Ohio kid hosting online jihadist websites

An article published today in the New York Times, “An Internet Jihad Sells Extremism to Viewers in the US,” reveals the growing network of jihadist website praising Al-Qaeda from Muslims based in the US. The Times interviews one of these online jihadis from North Carolina and says:

He has also been fending off citizen watchdogs who are working to knock sites likes his off the Internet. Twice in September his blog went dark when his service provider shut him down, citing complaints about the nature of his postings.

Mr. Khan has now moved his blog to a site called Muslimpad, whose American operators recently moved from Texas to Amman, Jordan. Their larger forum, Islamic Network, is the host of discussions among English-speaking Muslims. One of their former employees, Daniel Maldonado, was convicted this year in federal court of associating with terrorists at their training camps in Somalia.
The Times doesn’t mention the name of the “operators” of Muslimpad and Islamic Network, but I can report that the “operator” in question is Sarfaraz Jamal from Worthington, Ohio, and his wife, Fatima Hye. Jamal, who goes by the screenname SasJamal, was raised in the Columbus area and moved his online operations a few years ago to Houston after his identity and residence in Ohio was revealed by researchers. His parents, Akhtar and Shireen Jamal, still live in Worthington.

(I note that SasJamal’s personal Muslimpad website, which was up earlier today, is now down, as is his wife’s.)

Rusty Shakelford of The Jawa Report reported on October 2nd on “The Web of American Bloggers and the Terrorists They Facilitate,” noting two weeks before the Times about Khan’s “inshallahshaheed” website and that it had transferred to Jamal’s Muslimpad. Rusty notes a previous post at Little Green Footballs that quotes a message Jamal himself posted in password-protected area of his ClearGuidance site calling for global jihad:

We need youth to fight in the way of ALLAH in Kashmir, India, Chechniyah, Afghanistan, Philistine, and wherever we are being oppressed. Leave your plans of al wahn and adopt a new plan which will help the ummah, do not be selfish, this life is cheap, whereas the life of islam, will grant you your desires in this life and the next life.
Rusty has posted his thoughts on today’s New York Times article and their revealing Khan’s identity.

SasJamal has been responsible for owning and operating a number of popular jihadist forums, beginning with the now-defunct and Both sites were owned by VividMinds, Inc., an Ohio corporation with Sarfaraz Jamal as the registered agent (VividMinds is still an active Ohio corporation).

ClearGuidance came to the attention of authorities in 2006 after it was revealed that the website, which regularly featured a number of writings and tracts calling for jihad against non-Muslims and boasted 15,000 members, had been used as a recruiting and radicalization tool for a jihadist network based in Canada. In fact, it was a series of posts on ClearGuidance that allowed the CSIS to identify and arrest the 17 members of the Canadian jihadist network. SasJamal eventually pulled the plug on the site.

But his online jihadist forum days were far from over. A new forum, Islamic Network, quickly replaced ClearGuidance and continues operations today. SasJamal also moved to Houston and began doing IT/graphics work for the Al-Mahgrib Institute (an organization I have previously discussed at FrontPage, “Jihad U”, “Saudi Press Plugs America’s Jihad U”, and “Jihad U’s Student Internship”). During this process, SasJamal met his wife, Fatima Hye. In a post at Islamic Networks, she describes the process of affiliation with Al-Maghrib, and then another organization, Arees Institute, which has now merged with Islamic Network.

Islamic Networks came to the attention of authorities again when one of their employees, Daniel Maldonado, was captured fighting with the Somali Islamic Courts Union jihadists. Maldonado was flown back to the US and was convicted of terrorism support charges earlier this year. Maldonado had worked with SasJamal in Houston, then moved to Cairo where he continued to work for Islamic Networks. (I covered Maldanado’s travels in my “Jihad U’s Student Internship” article.)

Because of the many researchers contacting the Internet providers of jihadist forums, Muslimpad was started. Muslimpad is the platform used by the North Carolina online jihadist profiled in today’s New York Times article. SasJamal has now moved his operations to Amman, Jordan. He also owns and runs, a website dedicated to freeing all of the captured terrorists held in Gitmo.

But who is Sarfaraz Jamal? An August 2006 article in The Globe and Mail (Canada) gives us some insight into Jamal’s Central Ohio upbringing:

Despite being born to Pakistani-immigrant parents who are both Muslims, it wasn’t until he was 17 that Mr. Jamal performed the shahada, the statement of belief that there is no god but God and that Mohammed is his prophet.

Before that, Mr. Jamal was a drinker and a frequent marijuana smoker who had been tossed out of just about every strip club in and around his hometown of Worthington, Ohio. His formative years, he says, were marred by speeding tickets and other run-ins with the authorities; the police once came to his house when his 10-year-old, hijab-wearing cousin accidentally ate some pot brownies he and a friend had made the night before.

And even when he did convert, he didn’t stay extremely devout for long. On his first pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, he prayed that his favourite rock bands — Pink Floyd, Tool and Rage Against the Machine — would convert to Islam.
Another article from March of this year in the Houston Chronicle had this to say about Jamal and his jihadist employee Maldonado:

Daniel Maldonado, the American accused of training with al-Qaida and waging jihad in Somalia, came to Houston two years ago to work for a 24-year-old Web designer linked to Internet sites frequented by terrorism suspects.

That man, Sarfaraz Jamal, a former BMX enthusiast and “Seinfeld” fan from suburban Columbus, Ohio, is emerging as an unlikely yet intriguing figure in the Maldonado saga. And his story helps explain how Maldonado wound up in Houston, where he now awaits trial.

Jamal denies any wrongdoing and the FBI is mum, refusing to say even whether he’s under investigation.
Much like Christopher “Kenyatta” Paul, the Worthington High School graduate that has been charged with plotting terrorist activities as part of the Columbus Al-Qaeda cell, Sarfaraz Jamal grew up among us, but also became radicalized right here.

Don’t let the Seinfeld and Pink Floyd references fool you. A posting made yesterday on SasJamal’s Islamic Network website provides extensive quotes from the “martyred sheikh” chastizing those who do not want to wage jihad (the quotes are actually taken from a 2004 open letter from Saudi jihadist “Abu ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Athari Sultan Ibn Bijad”, translated by MEMRI):

You who shirk Jihad, what excuse can you give Allah while your brethren in the prisons of Abu Ghreib and Guantanamo and Al-Ruways and Al-Ha’ir are stripped naked? I believe you saw those pictures that came out of the Abu Ghreib prison. These pictures [also reflect the situation] of our brethren in the prisons of Israel, in America, and [in the prisons of] their collaborators in this region. You who shirk Jihad, the Crusaders and the Jews violate the honor of noble women and oppress the heroes of the [Islamic] nation in the detention camps of America, Israel, and their accomplices — so what are you waiting for?
Those of you who might be amazed that someone raised in Central Ohio would provide a forum for such extremists sentiments, its time to wake-up to what’s going on around you. Your ignorance is their best weapon.