“He’s been dubbed the ‘hipster terrorist’ for the glamorous social media shots of him posing in snazzy shirts and designer sunglasses, an iced latte in hand and jacket slung casually over a shoulder,” the Chicago Tribune reports. The hipster terrorist is Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab, and last week in Chicago he pleaded guilty to aiding a terrorist organization and lying to U.S. immigration officials.
Though also described as a “California man,” al-Jayab came to the United States in 2012 as a refugee from Syria, Agence France-Presse reported, and later returned there to fight with al Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Islam. Al-Jayab told immigration officials he was going to Turkey to visit his grandmother. When the Islamic fighter returned to the USA he moved to Sacramento, California, took courses at American River College, and worked at a Ramada Inn.
After his arrest in early 2016, the Sacramento Bee reported, “On the surface, Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab appears to be a typical young man trying to make it in America.” He was a student, worked at a hotel and judging by photos on Facebook “he evidently likes sleek, fast cars,” and “has a penchant for posing before the Golden Gate Bridge and elsewhere wearing the chic clothing you might see young hipsters wearing at any American shopping mall.” But as federal officials charged, al-Jayab has “another, darker side.”
The Bee cited al-Jayab’s public defender, Benjamin Galloway, that “there is no indication that Mr. Al-Jayab planned any acts of terror in this country.” In similar style, U.S. Attorney, Benjamin Wagner, an appointee of POTUS 44, said al-Jayab represented “a potential safety threat” but “there is no indication that he planned any acts of terrorism in this country.” This was not the first time Wagner had played down the prospects of terrorism.
In early 2015 a Bee reporter asked him, what is our first line of defense? Wagner cited a “community resilience exercise” at Sacramento State University with 30 members of the Muslim community along with law enforcement. The Muslim community, Wagner said, wants to be seen as “part of the solution.”
By Wagner’s count, about 150 Americans had tried to join ISIS but “a lot of people who have been recruited didn’t have a long-term, religious involvement. A lot of this seems to be a teenaged fantasy.” Recruiters “have an appeal to angry, disaffected young people, and that really doesn’t have much to do with religion.” The Bee reporter then asked Wager if Californians were in danger from the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
“I would say it’s not a very high threat,” Wagner responded. “What I’m more concerned about is some sort of backlash crime here – something gruesome will happen in Syria and someone will take revenge on the local community.” Wagner quoted POTUS 44 that “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.” Religion doesn’t cause terrorism, Wagner said, and “with grisly story after grisly story, there’s been a growth in Europe of xenophobic, anti-Islamic political movements.” Someone in his community project said “negative feelings toward Muslims in the U.S. are even worse than they were after 9⁄11.”
In August, 2018, the FBI Joint Terrorism Taskforce arrested Omar Abdulsattar Ameen, 45, an accused ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorist who lied about his background to gain entry to the United States. Ameen had been an al-Qaeda member since 2004 and teamed with ISIS in Iraq.
In 2012, Ameen showed up in Turkey asking for asylum in the United States, claiming that his father had been killed because he had cooperated with U.S. forces. In June, 2014, Ameen gained approval to come to the United States as a refugee but he returned to Iraq many times. At the time of his arrest Ameen was living in Sacramento, taking college classes, and working an at auto body shop.
In 2005, federal officials broke up an al-Qaeda cell in Lodi, California and charged Hamid Hayat, 22, with traveling to Pakistan for terrorist training. Hayat was born in California but attended a madrassa in Pakistan and never considered himself American. In recorded interviews, Hayat said he was “so pleased” that jihadis had cut “Jewish” Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl “into pieces,” which was a “good job.”
CAIR and the Muslim Legal Fund of America pushed for a new trial in and last January federal judge Deborah Barnes ordered an evidentiary hearing. Hayat’s defenders charged “anti-Muslim bias in American courtrooms” and contended that his 2006 attorney Wazhma Mojaddidi, a former CAIR president in Sacramento, failed to provide adequate defense. The hearing allowed friends and relatives of Hayat to testify in a live video feed from Pakistan.
In March, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hayat’s 2006 conviction. Current U.S Attorney McGregor Scott, who served in that office at the time of Hayat’s conviction, told reporters, “Hamid Hayat remains a terrorist convicted in the open courts of this country,” and described the prosecution as “righteous” and the result “just.”
Meanwhile, “hipster terrorist” Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab will be sentenced on April 26, 2019.