The founder of a radical Islamic jihadist website has been sentenced to 2½ years in federal prison in the United States for using the site to threaten and promote attacks against Jewish organizations.
Yousef al-Khattab, 45, was born Joseph Leonard Cohen and was brought up in New Jersey and Brooklyn in a Jewish home. In his late 20s, he converted to Islam after living in the Middle East. Al-Khattab launched the Revolution Muslim (RevMuslim) website in 2007 and praised figures such as Osama bin Laden and Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan.
Since its inception, RevMuslim has been used as an active portal linking young jihadists in the United States with radical Islamist groups overseas. Al-Khattab would post videos of radical Islamic leaders encouraging followers to kill the enemies of Islam, become jihadists, and to carry out violence in their local areas in the name of Islam.
In October 2013, al-Khattab pleaded guilty to using the website to “place persons affiliated with Jewish organizations…in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.”
In an interview with NPR, al-Khattab said that he encouraged members of RevMuslim to seek out Jewish leaders and Jewish organizations across the U.S. and “deal with them directly in their homes.” In one instance, al-Khattab posted information about a Jewish organization in Brooklyn, including photos, driving directions and details of prayer times when the building would be full.
Al-Khattab said that authorities have wrongly interpreted his message of Islam, which he believes did not pose a threat to the Jewish community. However, he did acknowledge that “what I did was stupid and was wrong and I am paying the price for that now, period.”
The internet has become one of the greatest and most important tools for radical Islamist organizations. By being able to link radical Muslims from all over the world with the click of a button, these Islamist organizations are able to connect better with potential jihadists and disseminate their violent messages to anyone, anywhere.
According to Mitch Silber, the New York Police Department’s former highest-ranking terrorism expert, almost every investigation related to terrorist after 2007 had some connection to the Rev Muslim website.
“RevMuslim became very proactive in the New York City area,” Silber told NPR, “both publicly, doing demonstrations on the streets on New York City, as well as online, having a pretty significant internet component to their efforts. Al-Khattab was one of the two leaders of the group, he was a chief propagandist, he was an organizer, he was a provocateur.”
Al-Khattab faces the next 2½ years in prison. “This was stupidity and this is what happens when you hang out with the wrong people,” he said. “So it is my fault. I know when I go to jail, they will be, ‘Allah, Allah, he’s a mujahadid.’ I am not a mujahadid. I am a failure.”