(Wired) Anwar al-Awlaki, al-Qaida’s favorite YouTube propagandist, is dead, thanks to an American missile. But his jihadist message is apparently a family affair. Awlaki’s father is picking up his banner.
In a six-minute English language audio message to the “Muslims of the U.K.” that recently hit the Internet, Nasser al-Awlaki eulogizes his son, and urges, “It is the job of all of us to spread his knowledge and keep it alive.”
Nasser doesn’t have the religious credentials that his imam son did — in fact, the Long War Journal notes, he’s ironically been a minister of the Yemeni government that al-Qaida wants to overthrow. So his appeal rests on portraying Anwar as a martyr for the cause, an innocent victim of the madman Barack Obama.
“He carried an effective message, a message that was simple and straightforward,” Nasser says in the audiotape. “Its target was Muslims in the west. … He chose this path and gave it his best.”
Nowhere in Nasser al-Awlaki’s message does he grapple with the substance of his son’s message: that Muslims in the west, where Nasser himself used to live, have an obligation to kill Americans and their allies.
That might be a tactic to make himself seem more reasonable to impressionable Muslim youth who stumble upon the audio message. Nasser has presented himself as a reasonable man. He sued the government — represented by the ACLU, where (full disclosure) my wife works — to learn the legal rationale for targeting his son, but didn’t demand the blood of Americans. Back then, at least.
But he’s rarely expressed outright sympathy for his son’s conspiratorial, murderous worldview. In the audiotape, Nasser euphemistically calls Anwar al-Awlaki’s cause “the path of Allah,” without elaboration.
That might change. Nasser doesn’t have the religious cred or the charisma of his son. But he vows, “My son’s blood did not, and will not, go in vain” and urges people to spread “his teachings, sermons and lectures. It is the precise thing that he lived and died for.” Nasser sounds like he’s looking to tread his son’s path — and, perhaps, share his fate.