Martin Kramer writes in the Sandbox:
One of my missions is to save readers of Juan Cole’s weblog from his errors. (This has the potential of becoming a full-time job.) The latest one comes in today’s posting about Shehzad Tanweer, 22, one of the British-born suicide bombers from Leeds. Cole first announces that his investigation is in full swing: “I have been trying to trace the influences on and organizational contacts of the July 7 bombers in London.” This intensive Ann Arbor-based Google sleuthing produces the following:
His family is originally from a Punjabi village near Faisalabad, Kottan (Chak number 477). When he first visited his ancestral village with his father in 2002, aged 18 or 19, Tanweer was working with Tablighi Jamaat. This organization is peaceful and devotes itself to recovering lapsed Muslims for a fundamentalist version of Islam. [Cole’s links–MK]
Cole then goes on to speculate that Tanweer probably was recruited by a leading member of Jaish-e Muhammad, which is connected with Al-Qaeda. Cole: “The evidence [!] I can find is that Tanweer’s passage into terrorism began with Jaish-e Muhammad and its allies, one of which is al-Qaeda.”
But what if Tanweer’s “passage” began even earlier, with the “peaceful” Tablighi Jamaat in London? In fact, no serious terror analyst today accepts Cole’s simple characterization of the Tablighi Jamaat, which is spread through Europe and America. Two full years ago, the New York Times ran a front-page story on the Tablighis: “A Muslim Missionary Group Draws New Scrutiny in U.S.” It offered this quote from the deputy chief of the FBI’s international terrorism section: “We have a significant presence of Tablighi Jamaat in the United States, and we have found that Al Qaeda used them for recruiting, now and in the past.” Six months back, the Middle East Quarterly ran an article assembling a mass of evidence on the involvement of Tablighi Jamaat activists and alumni in a stunning range of terrorist groups and operations. (Most famously, the Tablighi Jamaat looms large in the saga of John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban.”) According to the MEQ piece, “Tablighis preach a creed that is hardly distinguishable from the radical Wahhabi-Salafi jihadist ideology.”…
So error compounds error in the Cole-mine. Two weeks ago, while Britain’s top forensics experts were just setting to work, Cole offered this: “Britain’s South Asian Muslim community is almost certainly not the origin of this attack.” In this latest posting, the professor again sends us to the wrong starting gate. The clueless Cole is the Inspector Clouseau of Middle Eastern studies…
Read it all.