CERN Scientist on Trial for al Qaeda Plot

Meet Dr. Adlene Hicheur, a physicist who worked at CERN and an aspiring member of al Qaeda. And how did he become radicalized and through what medium did he try to join an al Qaeda cell? The internet:

French anti-terrorist services have said they first flagged Hicheur because of his frequent visits to radical Islamic websites. However, the order for the scientist’s arrest came only after he began exchanging emails with “Shadow Phoenix”, the alleged pseudonym of Moustapha Debchi, a key player in the north African branch of al Qaeda.

Of the 35 emails allegedly exchanged between the two men, one will feature prominently during Hicheur’s trial. In June 2009, Debchi asked Hicheur: "Don't beat around the bush: are you prepared to work in a unit becoming active in France?"

The scientist replied: "Concerning your proposal, the answer is of course YES..."

The usual model of internet radicalization is of a young guy with an empty head which is filled with violent propaganda. But what do we make of one of France's most prominent physicists being radicalized the same way? It cannot be the case that these radicals are being "misled" because "they just don't know any better".

The answer, of course, has to be that they must already have been predisposed to violent radicalism:

In an interview with centre-left daily Le Monde, Hicheur’s lawyer, Patrick Baudouin, said his client was a moderate Muslim who was interested in his religion from a young age. He also said he developed a “critical view of the world”, in particular over the Iraq War and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Well, there you go. One man's moderate is another man's terrorist.

The terrorists in Fatah are constantly telling themselves that they are moderates, not like those crazy fanatics in Hamas. And the guys in Hamas consider themselves moderates, not like those crazy al Qaeda types. And so forth, and so on.

It's the problem many Muslims never seem to grapple with when the move to the West. In their own societies they may be very much a moderate. But measured against Western values they really are in the radical fringes.

When his family defends his al Qaeda sympathies written on Islamist forums and in emails with members of al Qaeda as "free speech", then it's not a stretch to infer that the family doesn't quite get what a "moderate" really looks like in the West.

I also can't help but wonder if his extensive stints within the walls of academia weren't just as important in shaping his worldview of who "the enemy" really was as was his religious upbringing? He spent time at some of the world's most prestigious universities -- for instance, Stanford -- where Marxist and other radicals find their ideas have a home.

Combine the two -- Leftist ideology and Islamic supremacy -- and that's just a recipe for disaster.

Posted by: Rusty at 04:48 PM

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