From Revolution Muslim to Islamic State

May 24, 2018 - A detailed examination of how Revolution Muslim's efforts online ... communication platforms, which ISIS would later adopt to great success ... Preventing future attacks and recruitment will require action beyond the arrest of ...
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June 2018

From Revolution Muslim to Islamic State An Inside Look at the American Roots of ISIS' Virtual Caliphate Mitchell Silber & Jesse Morton

International Security Last edited on May 24, 2018 at 4:55 p.m. EDT

About the Author(s) Mitchell Silber is the former director of intelligence analysis for the NYPD. Jesse Morton was the former leader of Revolution Muslim.

About New America We are dedicated to renewing America by continuing the quest to realize our nation’s highest ideals, honestly confronting the challenges caused by rapid technological and social change, and seizing the opportunities those changes create.

About International Security The International Security program aims to provide evidence-based analysis of some of the thorniest questions facing American policymakers and the public. We are focused on South Asia and the Middle East, extremist groups such as ISIS, al Qaeda and allied groups, the proliferation of drones, homeland security, and the activities of U.S. Special Forces and the CIA.


Contents Introduction Key Findings The Origin of Revolution Muslim The First Split: Bakri Breaks with Hizbut-Tahrir ALM Establishes Itself in New York The Second Split: The Islamic Thinkers Society Splits from ALM-NY The Third Split: Revolution Muslim Splits From the Islamic Thinkers The Revolution Muslim Method: Explicit and Online Promotion of Terrorism The Shift to Explicit Promotion of Terrorist Groups The Shift to an Integrated Online Ideological E�ort The Revolution Muslim Method Proves Its Success Passive Followers Turning Operational Active Followers Take Action Revolution Muslim’s In�uence on al-Muhajiroun in the U.K. Revolution Muslim Calls for Travel Abroad The “South Park” Threat Revolution Muslim Disbands: The Group Stumbles, the Method Continues


Contents Cont'd ISIS Takes Up the Revolution Muslim Template Interactive Social Media English-Language Magazines Direct Communication Platforms Beyond Adopting the Template: ISIS’ Adoption of the ALM/RM Network Conclusion


Introduction From December 2007 through May 2011, Revolution Muslim, a radical Salafijihadist organization based primarily in New York City, brought al-Qaeda’s ideology to the United States. At its inception, many dismissed Revolution Muslim as amateurish. Yet the group developed an effective and deadly methodology for promoting “open-source jihad” via radicalization, recruitment, online propaganda, social media and covert communications. The group was linked to many of the most serious terrorism investigations opened by the New York Police Department (NYPD) at the time and had international links with cases touching four continents. In 2012, federal prosecutor Gordon Kromberg, who prosecuted the cases of Yousef al-Khattab, Jesse Morton and Zachary Chesser, all figures at the core of Revolution Muslim, stated: “It is amazing from the perspective of time to look back at Revolution Muslim. In our pleading we listed … 15 different defendants … who engage[d] in terrorism or attempted to engage in terrorism [and] all were connected to 1 Revolution Muslim.” Though the group disbanded in May 2011, it laid the foundation for jihadist organizing in the United States that the Islamic State (ISIS) would later copy and take advantage of. Revolution Muslim was a virtual terrorist group, before the term “virtual caliphate” became the en vogue way to conceptualize the future trajectory of ISIS following its loss of territory in Iraq and Syria. As a result, analyzing the history, operations and the means of thwarting Revolution Muslim is essential to understanding the challenge of ISIS’s “virtual caliphate.” This report provides a unique, multifaceted