‘Underwear bomber’ pleads guilty, says he was following ‘Islamic law’

A Nigerian on a terrorist mission for al-Qaeda prayed, washed and put on perfume moments before trying to detonate a … Continued

A Nigerian on a terrorist mission for al-Qaeda prayed, washed and put on perfume moments before trying to detonate a bomb in his underwear to bring down a jetliner on Christmas 2009, a prosecutor told jurors as the man’s trial opened Tuesday.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, known as the Underwear Bomber, pleaded guilty Wednesday to eight charges including conspiracy to commit terrorism and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction for his attempted 2009 Christmas Day bombing of an airplane over Detroit.

In a statement reported by the Detroit Free Press, Abdulmutallab said he was “guilty under U.S. law, but not under Islamic law,”and stated his belief that “committing jihad against the United States is one of ’the most virtuous acts’ a Muslim can perform.”

The Ni­ger­ian man told the FBI he was acting in retaliation for U.S. intervention in Muslim nations, and under the influence of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American imam killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen last month.

Many reports have detailed the radicalizing influence of popular preachers like al-Awlaki, and the role of online networks in uniting isolated extremists around the globe under common cause — and common Web domain.

As noted in a recent article by Omar Sacirbey in a story for Religion News Service, al-Awlaki “either influenced or had direct contacts with people involved in 16 of the last 26 cases of domestic terrorism involving Muslims.” From Sacirbey’s report:

A 2009 Washington Post article that apparently uncovered the online posts of Abdulmutallab showed “his inner struggle as a devout Muslim (vacillating) between liberalism and extremism.” Abdulmutallab not only listened to the radical imam’s sermons but trained in Yemen and may have met with al-Awlaki.

“The jihad movement has moved from the mountains and caves to the bedrooms of every major city around the world,” read one online comment of Zachary Adam Chesser, a Virginia native and convert to Islam who pleaded guilty in 2010 to aiding a terror organization.

The question now is whether al-Awlaki’s death leads to the gradual annihilation of his movement or if radicals will regard him as a martyr. Will, as Sacirbey wrote, the cleric’s message and videos “find eternal life online”?

Related links:

Suspect pleads guilty to underwear bomb attack


Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • Dan4

    Oh, well, if he was in compliance with Sharia Law, that’s different–the judge should clearly let him go. (For all you rightwing nutjobs out there, I’M JUST KIDDING!)

  • ISeeTheTruth

    make an example of him.
    there is no virtue in mass murder.
    and he should receive the maximum penalty.

  • brucejackson

    If al-Awlaki’s website is so influential, then why don’t we hack it out of existence?

  • bloggersvilleusa

    “‘Underwear bomber’ pleads guilty, says he was following ‘Islamic law’”

    What a bogus column this agitprop turned out to be.

    Elizabeth Tenety is inflaming bigotry with a mention in the headline and in the text of “says he was following ‘Islamic law’” without any discussion thereafter of just what Islamic law actually says.

    That’s simply tossing red meat to the bigots who routinely post at WAPO and to document that that is the case all that you need to do is read the other comments posted here, most of which are from the usual suspects.

  • VanillaSuburbs

    Yes, don’t just tell us what he said, explain why he is wrong about the religion he has devoted his life to. Telling us what he said is just journalism.

  • VWWV

    had he murdered people and not just conspired, you might have a point

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

Read More Articles

This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

Hey Bart Ehrman, I’m Obsessed with Jesus, Too — But You’ve Got Him All Wrong

Why the debate over Jesus’ divinity matters.

Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.

How Passover Makes the Impossible Possible

When we place ourselves within the story, we can imagine new realities.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

This Passover, We’re Standing at an Unparted Red Sea

We need to ask ourselves: What will be the future of the State of Israel — and what will it require of us?

Just As I Am

My childhood conversion to Christianity was only the first of many.

shutterstock_127731035 (1)
Are Single People the Lepers of Today’s Church?

In an age of rising singlehood, many churches are still focused on being family ministry centers.

Mysterious Tremors

People like me who have mystical experiences may be encountering some unknown Other. What can we learn about what that Other is?

Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing

That verse you keep quoting? It may not mean what you think it means.

What C.S. Lewis’ Marriage Can Tell Us About the Gay Marriage Controversy

Why “welcome and wanted” is a biblical response to gay and lesbian couples in evangelical churches.