Former Leader of Jihadist Propaganda Group Faces Prison for Threatening Jews

The U.S.-born co-founder of a Muslim extremist group that once threatened the creators of “South Park” over an episode depicting the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bear suit is now facing up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to issuing online threats against Jewish leaders.

Yousef al-Khattab, who entered the plea on Nov. 1, is the third person associated with the group Revolution Muslim to be convicted in federal court in Alexandria, Va., the Washington Post reported. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 7.

The Post reported that in court documents al-Khattab “admits encouraging readers to take unspecified action against Jewish leaders.”

The threats on the Revolution Muslim website included a video encouraging viewers to find leaders of Jewish Federation chapters and “deal with them directly at their homes”; directions to Jewish facilities, along with bomb-making instructions; and a poem listing ways to hurt Jews, including throwing “liquid drain cleaner in their faces,” according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). 

Al-Khattab would seem an unlikely jihadist. He was born and raised in Brooklyn as Joseph Leonard Cohen. He has written that he grew up in a secular Jewish family but attended a yeshiva, or Jewish religious school, and then moved to Israel after marrying a Moroccan Jew. He converted to Islam while in the Middle East and went on to advocate the destruction of Israel while cheering and encouraging acts of terror against the United States.

In 2007, he formed Revolution Muslim with fellow Muslim convert Younes Abdullah Muhammad for the purpose, according to an FBI affidavit, of “establishing Islamic law in the U.S., destroying Israel, and taking al-Qaeda’s message to the masses.” Muhammad is currently serving a 12-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2012 to threatening violence against the “South Park” creators. Another man linked to the group, Zachary Chesser, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges related to the “South Park” threats and for attempting to provide support for al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based terrorist group.

Revolution Muslim’s main activity was operating a website that served as a conduit for the messages of extremist clerics and propaganda supporting al Qaeda. The influential website often featured gory scenes, including the bodies of Palestinian children, and has been tied to a string of terrorist plotters, some of whom al-Khattab claimed to be in contact with.

Al-Khattab has lavished praise on Osama bin Laden and Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan. On his blog, he once posted a puppet show depicting the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

But in 2009, Khattab left Revolution Muslim, saying the website was an “idiotic thing” that served as a “bug light for Muslim misfits.” He told CNN that he regretted that “anybody would hurt an American civilian.” Even so, he continued to advocate the imposition of Shariah law in the United States, praise bin Laden and support the notion of a “Mushroom Cloud Over Israel,” according to the ADL.

After he left Revolution Muslim, the group changed its name to Islam Policy, and it continues to operate its website.

Al-Khattab was one of 10 homegrown jihadists profiled in the Fall 2011 issue of the SPLC Intelligence Report. Weeks later, two of them – Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan – were killed in a U.S. drone attack in Yemen. A third, Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, was killed in Somalia on Sept. 12 by the al-Shabaab militants with whom he was allied.