Over the past few weeks, Vocativ’s analysts have been able to home in on a network of ISIS supporters in the U.S. We’ve found dozens of Americans who openly support the militant Islamic group.
In many ways, they’re just like you. They post selfies on Twitter and Facebook, share memes, hang out with friends. They talk about their favorite TV shows, movies and music. They share news about their families.
But they’re also pledging support to the brutal regime seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate across the Middle East. […]
Vocativ’s analysts began mining the deep web for possible ISIS supporters in the U.S. several months ago, as ISIS began taking over larger swaths of Syria and Iraq. But it was the death in August of Douglas McAuthur McCain—the San Diego man killed alongside ISIS fighters in Syria—that led us to the center of the network of ISIS supporters in America.
One name our analysts keep encountering is that of Ahmad Musa Jibril. Well-known in law enforcement circles, Jibril is a 43-year-old imam based in Dearborn, Michigan. A decade ago, he was kicked out of a mosque for urging his followers to kill non-Muslims. He later spent six years in federal prison for crimes including money laundering, tax evasion and trying to bribe a juror. He was released in 2012.
What sets Jibril apart from other radical clerics is his sizable social following. He has racked up over 220,000 likes on his Facebook profile and more than 26,000 followers on Twitter, where he communicates with some of them (and their families) one-on-one. On YouTube, Jibril’s sermons average several thousand views each.
Jibril has been whipping up support for extreme Sunni Islam for years from his Michigan base—and according to eyewitnesses, his approach at times has been highly confrontational, even violent.
One former student at the University of Michigan at Dearborn who heard Jibril speak there in 2004 tells Vocativ that the cleric made a strong impression on him. “He was always trying to get younger guys to listen to him,” says the former student, who requested anonymity. “The first couple of talks were nice, but then he gets into how Shiites were ‘non-believers’ and weren’t Muslim.”