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The Would-Be Terrorist's Explosive Tell-All Tale

[Sender’s Note:  The article below which you are about to read is an eye opening testimony especially to the Pure Islamists, Semi-Islamists, Western educated half Muslims, not so good Muslims or infidel lefties, who had been and still continue to have plenty of suspicion about 9/11 tragic incident. They may love to believe in some silly conspiracy theories that the destruction of WTC and the damage of the Pentagon were the handiwork of the Jews and/or the Bush Administration, who were using those as a pretext to invade Iraq, and to destroy Islam. There could be no other better proof (then this testimony) that puritanical peaceful real Islam was behind this horrific terrorism—called 9/11 episode. Please learn about Islamic teaching from first hand account, which can convert an innocent human being into a killer monster]  

The Would-Be Terrorist's Explosive Tell-All Tale

by Faiza Saleh Ambah
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, July 24, 2006

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- When Abdullah Thabit recently saw a photo of one of the Sept. 11 hijackers for the first time, he felt a jolt of fear, and then a sadness so intense that tears streamed down his cheeks. The hijacker, Ahmed Alnami, was from Thabit's home town, and he looked familiar.

Thabit is the author of "The 20th Terrorist," which recounts his years as a religious extremist. He thinks he could easily have been in Alnami's place.

"I felt like someone who'd gotten off a boat just in time and then watched it capsize with him and the others onboard," Thabit says. "I love Nami, but I hate what he did. And it terrifies me that that could have been me."

Abdullah Thabit signs copies of his controversial new book,

Abdullah Thabit signs copies of his controversial new book, "The 20th Terrorist," about his indoctrination into Islamic extremism. (By Faiza Saleh Ambah For The Washington Post)

In "The 20th Terrorist," published in Syria in January, Thabit, a 33-year-old school administrator, chronicles his life among extremists led by a loosely knit group of public school teachers in the southern Asir region of Saudi Arabia who recruited him when he was in the ninth grade.

That the book went on sale in Saudi bookstores last month is an indication of how far the country has come in the five years since the attacks. It was a bestseller for several months on the Arab online bookstore Neelwalfurat.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, but for months after the attacks officials here denied any Saudis were involved. And until recently, criticism of the country's religious establishment and educational system has not been tolerated.

Since his book came out, Thabit has gotten favorable fan mail, and in March Prince Khalid al-Faisal, governor of Asir province, where the majority of the Saudi hijackers came from, bought 50 copies of "The 20th Terrorist" in Lebanon. The prince then invited the heads of Asir's education departments to his weekly salon and distributed it to them as mandatory reading.

But many other Saudis are angry about the book's revelations. Thabit was bombarded with hundreds of nasty e-mails each day from people calling him a traitor and an infidel. Some threatened to kill him. Then came the menacing phone calls. That's what finally spooked him. On April 3, in the middle of the night, he packed his bags, got his wife and two daughters into his Ford Grand Marquis and drove the 420 miles from Abha, in southwestern Saudi Arabia, north to Jiddah on the Red Sea, where he now lives.

Thabit continues to receive death threats. "They are like a mafia, a gang, and I am revealing their secrets. They want to silence me," he says.

"The 20th Terrorist" is one of he first books to describe how extremist teachers in Saudi public schools used apparently innocuous after-school activities such as soccer training, Koran memorization lessons and camping trips to separate teenage boys from their families and slowly indoctrinate them in takfiri ideology -- the belief that all those who don't follow the same puritanical extremist views are infidels.

Thabit recounts in detail the cultlike atmosphere of the extremist group he belonged to, and how it instilled loyalty to the group, and hatred and mistrust of the enemy.

"We were taught that our Islam was correct and everyone else, including our families, was going to hell, a hell that resembled a slaughterhouse. And I wanted to be one of the select few who made it into heaven ," he says.

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He was quickly noticed by teachers in the network of extremists for his excellent grades, and one of the older students was dispatched to invite him to an after-school soccer tournament organized by the group. He jumped at the chance to join the group, which included the high school's most remarkable students and was supervised by the most devout and respected teachers.

One of the first things he learned was not to imitate "infidels." That meant not dressing in training pants or clapping and whistling during soccer games -- the way infidels did. He was to show his enthusiasm by shouting "God is great." He was also taught that music, television and cigarettes were sinful. Cheating in English class, however, was okay; it was the language of the infidels.

He was a fast learner. Several years later he became one of the supervisors on the overnight camping trips the group took. During the trips, which sometimes included as many as 300 students, the camp was divided into teams. In the evenings, without weapons, some of them dressed like Afghan mujaheddin, they would practice stealth attacks against each other, overpowering guards and grabbing hostages and booty.

"There was unconditional love and brotherhood and friendship and sacrifice, and spirituality," he writes. "All obstacles were melted and we lived a spiritual existential as one. We lived . . . the pleasure of those building a new nation."

When Thabit turned 17, the group suggested he go to Afghanistan for jihad, or holy war, training. But he was afraid and said he didn't feel quite ready yet.

At the book club meeting, Najjar, the plane maintenance engineer, asked Thabit how he extricated himself from the group.

He said he was banished briefly by the group for not following orders. He also found he was put off by petty internal rivalries, and the way the leaders trivialized feelings and humiliated people they caught smoking or listening to music had shaken the image he had of them. "I was disillusioned by them, and questions were born in my mind about God, about myself, about everything, and I began looking for answers."

He started devouring moderate literature, which helped him to start thinking for himself, bit by bit. He had left the group by the time he was 20.

As the discussion wound up, the book club host walked around, pouring cardamom-laced coffee for his guests and passing out sticky dates filled with almonds. As people started getting ready to leave, one of the young men asked: "How do you feel about extremists now? How do you feel when you see one of them?"

"I feel very sad," Thabit said. "I wish they could live a life full of love and art and music. I wish they could regain their humanity. But their lives have been stolen from them and they don't even know it."

This article was sent by Syed Kamran Mirza (Courtesy of Washington Post).

Syed Kamran Mirza can be contacted at