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Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman

History and Biography

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Just how explosive the mix of Islamism and violence can be is demonstrated in the example of Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind sheik who is currently in prison in the United States because of his role in the bomb plots in New York City. What most people do not know about him, however, is that he is considered a spiritual leader and role model by Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants.

Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman‘s involvement with terrorism goes back quite ways, to at least the plot to assassinate Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. Rahman was the spiritual leader of a group of young people who had just formed a new cell of the radical group call Jama’at al-Jihad, and they asked him what the fate should be of a ruler who has ignored the law of God. Abdel Rahman’s reply was: “Death.”

The next year, members of this group assassinated Sadat and Rahman was indicted along with them because he was accused of issuing a fatwa ordering Sadat’s murder. Eventually he was acquitted, but even today he makes it quite clear that he does not consider Sadat to have been a Muslim: “Sadat was not a Muslim. He made a mockery of Islam and its principles.”

This argument has been a necessary step for Muslim extremists to justify violent actions against their own governments. Islam traditionally requires believers to be obedient to the ruling powers, but labeling political leaders as being un-Muslim allows for them to argue that they are, therefore, illegitimate rulers over Muslims and can be removed by force.

Omar Abdel Rahman may have begun his jihad by first attacking the government of his home country, but he eventually moved on to a bigger target: the United States. Rahman blames the West in general and the United States in particular for all the evils committed by his own government in Egypt. He has, therefore, decided that Arab leaders like Hosni Mubarak are not independent actors; instead, they are merely the pawns of the West:

    Mubarak looks after Western interests. He is the obedient dog of the West.

While in the United States Rahman continued to preach his brand of violent, extremist Islam — even to the point of becoming a very controversial figure within the Muslim community of New York City. On October 1st, 1995, Rahman was convicted with nine others for their involvement in a conspiracy to plant bombs at New York landmarks like the United Nations building and FBI offices. These people were also accused (but not convicted) of being involved with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center which cause in six deaths and more than one thousand injuries.

« Islamic Extremism | Rahman‘s Theology, Ideology, and Extremism »

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