This Sunday New York Times article on the “enduring” influence of the assassinated American Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar Awlaki, kinda/sorta asks why that influence lingers, but never really put a finger on it.
American “Jihadologists” far too often get caught up in the weeds of obscure religious debates and assume that recruits join the cause because of some nuanced reading of the scriptures (and by contrast might not join the cause if someone else can come up with a better reading saying not to).
In reality, the ideology of Jihadism is fairly simple. And while the vague analysis in the NYT might lead casual readers to believe that Awlaki was a highly original, deep and innovative thinker, and that explains his influence, there is a far more obvious explanation:
Because He Could Proselytize in English, Not Just Arabic
As’ad Abu Khalil is basically right:
A huge portion of the people in the US likely to join Jihadist groups have limited or no ability to understand Arabic. For example, my extremely strong suspicion is that the Afghani-born guy who lay pipe bombs all over NYC this weekend and the Somali-born guy who stabbed eight people at a mall in Minnesota on Saturday had minimal ability to understand Arabic lectures. And it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they listened to Awlaki lectures.
The letter the NYC bomber was carrying was filled with praise for Awlaki