Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, an increasing number of commentators and activists have embraced the questionable claim that the threat posed by Islamism for the last few decades has been supplanted by a far-right menace, or even that the Islamist threat was heavily exaggerated from the start – though thousands of Western jihadists joined the Islamic State, and thousands more were convicted in American and European courts before they were able to carry out their murderous plans; and jihadi violence continues in South Asia, the Middle East, the Far East, and Africa; and thousands of jihadists in the West are on security services’ watch lists; and dozens of terror plots in the U.S., France, Germany, Denmark, and Britain have ben foiled in just the past few years. In Europe alone in 2020, 29 jihadist attacks were prevented, with 254 arrested, and 15 were successful, killing 12.
It is amid such casuistry that Islamists and their foreign state sponsors have spotted an opportunity to plead the case for their most violent progeny. Radicals are reframing dangerous jihadists convicted in the two decades following 9/11 as innocent victims of an overzealous, “structurally racist” and paranoid American security state. The greatest victim of the security state’s cruelty, Islamists claim, is Aafia Siddiqui — otherwise known as Lady Al-Qaeda, sentenced in 2010 to 86 years in prison for plotting mass casualty attacks.
Despite its overt support for terrorists, the campaigns for Siddiqui enjoy the support of widely praised modernist Salafi clerics such as Omar Suleiman. He is frequently praised as a progressivist-minded Muslim leader in mainstream media. Nancy Pelosi invited him to give the opening prayer in the U.S. House of Representatives in May 2019, and he was given a platform at Bernie Sanders’s campaign rallies the following year.