What Inspired the Stockholm Bomber?
Reports are still sketchy, but we are gradually building a picture of the life of Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, the Stockholm bomber. Of the more interesting details is that, until two weeks ago, he was living in Luton with his wife and young children.
According to his profile on Islamic dating site, Muslima.com:
I was born in Baghdad, Iraq. We moved to Sweden in 1992. I moved to UK 2001 to study. I have Bacholar [sic] degree in physical therapy. Iam [sic] married sence [sic] 2004 and have 2 girls. One is 3.6 and the second is 1.6 years old. I want to get married again, and would like to have a BIG family. My wife agreed to.
He was hoping to use the site to find a second wife to live with his existing family, and elsewhere in the profile (which is mainly in Arabic), he describes himself as a ‘very religious’ person who speaks English, Arabic and Swedish. The profile ends with a personal message to whoever may be interested:
Looking for a practicing [sic] girl, to join a lovely family and make it bigger. Looking for someone to accept the deen [religion] of Allah as it is and don’t [sic] have anything against to be [sic] second wife. I will Inshallah be equal to both in everything. As the prophet SAW sed [sic], merry [sic] them for their religion, family, money and beauty… I’am [sic] looking mostely [sic] for religion … If you have one or more of what the prophet recomend [sic], please get in touch.
Fascinating as these details about him may be, they tell us little about his motivations for attempted mass murder. His audio recording made just before the attack fleshes this out somewhat. As well as referring to Western involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, he alsodemands: ‘stop your drawings of our Prophet[…]’
The Mohammed cartoons seem to be the main focus of his ire and if claims of his connections with al-Qaeda in Yemen (AQAP) are true, this is of little surprise. Soon after the attack in Stockholm, Shumukh al-Islam – a Yemeni militant website – claimed al-Abdaly as their own:
It is our brother, mujahid Taymour Abdel Wahab, who carried out the martyrdom operation in Stockholm.
This link is yet to be confirmed, but it is worth pointing out at this early stage that for AQAP, and their main English-language ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki, the Mohammed cartoons saga is something of a pet peeve. In the first issue of their English propaganda magazine, Inspire, they refer to their ‘Dust Will Never Settle Down Campaign’ which aims to terrorise and kill anyone who defames or insults Mohammed. The campaign is named after a lecture Awlaki gave in 2008, in which he justified the killing of any of the Mohammed cartoonists by referring to the experiences of the Prophet during his life. Referring to the murder of a Jewish poet who had defamed Mohammed:
The prophet said “If he had calmed down, like others who follow his opinion, are of the same opinion as his, have calmed down, he wouldn’t have been assassinated. But he has harmed us and he has defamed us with his poetry and none of you would do this, except we would deal with him with the sword.
But he spoke against us. He spoke against me and he defamed me with his poetry. And then he made it clear to the Jews — if any one of you, you the Jews, or the polytheists, if any one of you try to defame me through your words, this will be the way we deal with you. There is nothing between us and you except the sword. There will be no dialogue, there will be no forgiveness, there will be no building of bridges, there will be no attempts of reconciliation, there will only be the sword between me and you.
Writing for Inspire two years later, Awlaki expands on the points he made during this lecture, stating that the only solution to this ‘growing campaign of defamation’ is:
the execution of those involved. A soul that is so debased, as to enjoy the ridicule of the Messenger of Allah the mercy to mankind; a soul that is so ungrateful towards its Lord that it defames the Prophet of the religion Allah has chosen for his creation does not deserve life, does not deserve to breathe the air created by Allah and enjoy a life provided for by Allah. Their proper abode is Hellfire.
He also places quite a premium on the duty of killing those who cross the boundaries he has set:
Defending the Messenger of Allah is a greater cause than fighting for Palestine, Afghanistan or Iraq; it is greater than fighting for the protection of Muslim life, honor or wealth. This is the pinnacle of all deeds
His target list also expands beyond those ‘active participants’ to the society that has allowed them to operate:
These perpetrators are not operating in a vacuum. Instead they are operating within a system that is offering them support and protection
Because they are practicing a “right” that is defended by the law, they have the backing of the entire Western political system. This would make the attacking of any Western target legal from an Islamic viewpoint. The entire Western system is staunchly protecting and promoting the defamation of Muhammad and therefore, it is the entire Western system that is at war with Islam. Assassinations, bombings, and acts of arson are all legitimate forms of revenge against a system that relishes the sacrilege of Islam in the name of freedom.
Awlaki’s article is preceded by a list of the top nine individuals AQAP sees as leading this campaign of defamation. As well as the usual suspects Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie, it includes the Swedish cartoonist, Lars Vilks, and his publisher Ulf Johansson. In 2007, Johansson’s paper, Nerikes Allehande, published Vilks’ cartoon depicting Mohammed with the body of a dog.
Whether or not al-Abdaly was directly inspired by AQAP or Awlaki is not yet clear, though judging by his time in London, where Awlaki has long been a celebrity, and his motivations for murder, this is by no means a ludicrous suggestion.