Zachary Chesser, the man who threatened South Park’s creators, was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison Thursday. Was all this really about a cartoon?
On July 4, 2001 the cartoon South Park aired the episode "Super Best Friends" which depicted several religious figures including Mohammed; interestingly it caused no real issues to speak of.
So what happened?
On December 15, 2010 suddenly the South Park Studios website as well as Netflix stopped streaming "Super Best Friends". This episode on the website now has the following notice:
"We apologize that South Park Studios cannot stream this episode."
Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s strange that this same page has a cartoon Jesus next to the notice. I guess that Jesus just isn’t that offensive.
After having shown Mohammed in ’01, the censorship started on April 12, 2006 when South Park aired "Cartoon Wars Part II" in which Mohammed was to be depicted yet again. This time Comedy Central put a stop to it. During the episode the following message appeared on screen during the scene with Mohammed:
“Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network”
On the following day, April 13, 2006 Comedy Central said in a statement,
"In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision."
This reversal of showing the Islamic Prophet Mohammed was due to the violence from the Danish cartoon by Kurt Westergaard in September 2005. Westergaard wrote an op-ed in the Princeton University paper the Daily Princetonian while touring the U.S. in October 2009. He explained the protests in his own words,
“Soon the entire Muslim world erupted in violent demonstrations that claimed the lives of more than 130 people. Jyllands-Posten’s cartoonists and editors received death threats. Danish embassies were burned down. Danish goods were boycotted. The entire Danish political class went into panic when it realized that this was the worst foreign policy crisis to have hit the country since World War II.”
On April 14, 2010 Comedy Central broadcast what would be a milestone in any series, the 200th episode of South Park. Like many TV shows had done before, the show’s creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker included in the episode nearly all the famous people their show had blasted since it started in 1997.
Stone and Parker wanted to bring back Mohammed as well, the problem was not only the Westergaard incident, but also that Comedy Central had censored Mohammed in the 2006 episode the last time they tried to show him.
So in normal South Park fashion, when Mohammed finally did appear, he did so dressed in a bear costume. Later, when he emerged from the costume, he was seen to be not Mohammed but Santa Claus.
The very next day South Park’s creators Stone and Parker were threatened by the group Revolution Muslim, in a post at its web site. The post was written by a member named Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee a.k.a. Zachary Chesser, who claimed that the episode “outright insulted” the prophet. He added,
“We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid, and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.”
The following week in episode 201, the saga continued, but all references to Muhammad's name were replaced by audio bleeps. Several other parts of dialogue were also censored. The show hid all images of what was apparently Mohammad with a black "CENSORED" box.
So was Chesser really sentenced to 25 years over this one threat? Not exactly.
A look at the affidavit of Mary Brandt Kinder, Special Agent, FBI filed on July 20, 2010 and used in the trial of Zachary Chesser we get a much better understanding as to what he was actually convicted of.
According to Item #5 of the affidavit,
The U.S. Department of State described Al-Shabaab as a violent and brutal extremist group with a number of individuals affiliated with Al-Qa'ida. Many of Al-Shabaab's senior leaders are believed to have trained and fought with Al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan.
Item number 6 explains Chesser’s citizenship,
According to his United States Passport application, Chesser is a U.S. citizen, born in 1989. In 2009, Chesser married Proscovia Nzabanita, and they have an infant son.
The affidavit also explains the various websites that Chesser owned or operated.
On May 14, 2009, Chesser told Special Agent Menges that he owned and operated the youtube.com website AlQuranWaAlaHadeeth. This information was corroborated by records obtained from Google. Also provided by Google as Chesser's registered name for the account, was “Abu Talhah.” My FBI colleagues have viewed the youtube.com website for AlQuranWaAlaHadeeth, and observed that the name of the website's creator listed on the homepage was “Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee.”
Chesser told Special Agent Menges that he owned and operated a blog, themujhidblog.com, and that he posted under the name “Abu Talhah.” My colleagues involved in this investigation have reviewed themujahidblog.com, and observed that Chesser has posted a number of articles under the names “Abu Talhah,” “Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee,” or some variation thereof.
The affidavit continues that Chesser admitted he became interested in Islam in July, 2008 and “became very extremist in his beliefs”. Of the videos and CD’s that he watched, his favorite presenter was Anwar Awlaki.
Awlaki is the American-born citizen who formerly was an Imam at the Dar al-Hijra mosque in Northern Virginia. Three of the 9/11 hijackers attended his sermons in VA.
On July 16, 2010 the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Anwar Awlaki, a key leader for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a Yemen-based terrorist group. The Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey stated it this way,
“Anwar Awlaki has proven that he is extraordinarily dangerous, committed to carrying out deadly attacks on Americans and others worldwide, he has involved himself in every aspect of the supply chain of terrorism - fundraising for terrorist groups, recruiting and training operatives, and planning and ordering attacks on innocents.”
Chesser also told Special Agent Menges that Awlaki inspires people to pursue jihad. He told her that he sent Awlaki several email messages and that Awlaki replied to two of them.
Number 11 of the affidavit explains Chesser’s beliefs,
Chesser reported that he had started his own Youtube.com homepage, utilizing user ID LearnTeachFightDie, where he posted videos and hosted discussions. Chesser explained that this name perfectly symbolized his philosophy at the time: learn Islam, teach Islam, fight for Islam, and die in the name of Islam.
Chesser also told Special Agent Menges in 2009 that he had wanted to travel overseas to fight, he also admitted that he had posted extremist videos and comments online, including jihad propaganda.
Numbers 13 and 14 explain Chesser’s attempt to fly to Somalia via Uganda,
On July 10, 2010, FBI agents observed Chesser attempt to depart the United States at Kennedy Airport in New York. Chesser was denied check-in by the airline and subsequently advised by Transportation Security Administration personnel that he was on the No-Fly list.
While being interviewed by an agent of the Secret Service at the airport Chesser was asked why he continued to post lectures and other material related to Awlaki after he was known to be an enemy of the United States, Chesser stated that he did not necessarily disagree with Awlaki.
During an interview with Special Agent Menges, Chesser stated that although his ticket was for Uganda, he had not intended to stay in Uganda, but instead wanted to travel to Somalia.
Item number 19 of the affidavit explained how Chesser attempted to use his son “as a cover” to fly to Uganda,
Further, on May 28, 2010, Chesser told his wife that he was taking their son with him to Uganda as part of his "cover." Indeed, on July 10, 2010, Chesser had his son with him as he attempted to fly to Uganda. I believe that Chesser planned to take his son with him to Uganda to make it less likely that American authorities would think that, in fact, he was going to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab.
Chesser told Special Agent Menges that Al-Shabaab is an easier organization to join than other known organizations overseas, such as the Taliban or those in Iraq. He said that he had been in contact with people from Al-Shabaab, and that he would have no problem in getting into Al-Shabaab when he reached Somalia. He said that he knew Al-Shabaab was a Designated Terrorist Organization.
Chesser told Menges that members of Al-Shabaab advised him they needed people to bring laptops and cameras. He also admitted he would likely be recruited into AlShabaab as a "foreign fighter."
Zachary Chesser stated in item number 23 of the affidavit,
that the foreign fighters are some of the most respected members of Al-Shabaab, and that they are put on the front lines of the battlefield. Chesser said that he would be willing to fight on the front lines and is not afraid of death.
Chesser also told Menges that, in addition to operating the “themujahidblog”, he also took over the primary role of the New York-based website, revolutionmuslim.com, and was active on the pro-Jihad forums Ansar and al-qimmah.
Chesser also stated that he had previously attempted to travel to Kenya in November 2009. He admitted that, when he tried to travel to Kenya last year, he had supported both al-Shabaab and al-Qa'ida.
During a search of Chesser's residence in Fairfax, Virginia, on June 24, 2010 a journal was found by investigators. In this journal, an entry states that the “rest of this work is my own personal story, and I ask Allah to make it a source of inspiration as well as a real-life 'how-to-guide1 on how to reach the fields of Jihad.” Shortly after this, Chesser wrote that he planned to join Al-Shabaab.
He posted an article to an online forum, titled “Counter Counter Terrorism #12 Actually Leaving for Jihad.” In the article, Chesser stated that the number one most important thing in countering the efforts of the nonbelievers is for one to leave for jihad.
Chesser went on within his article to describe the prerequisites involved in leaving for jihad. According to this post, these requirements included obtaining the necessary funds to purchase a plane ticket, obtaining the necessary documentation for travel, keeping a low profile to include such actions as shaving your beard if one is traveling into Somalia, and finally, "LEAVE."
Item number 30 of the court affidavit explained,
FBI surveillance observed that Chesser also recently trimmed his beard; I believe that this was done to prevent any scrutiny during his upcoming travel. Therefore, I believe that the above post was Chesser's own account of what he had to do to leave for jihad in Somalia.
Number 32 explains a message on Chesser’s blog,
On January 9, 2010, Chesser posted a message to his blog, themujahidblog.com, titled, "How to Help the Mujahideen." The post outlined various tactics, from praying to fighting, to help the mujahideen, noting, in part:
“This entails working out, studying military strategy and tactics, eating correctly, making da'wa for jihad ribaat, acquiring the right equipment, etc. If one does not take reasonable effort in this regard, then they might lose because of this... So if we want victory from Allah 'azzaa wa jail we have to do everything we can in order to prepare for the fight. We have to give up our sins. We have to make istikhar and tawba. We have to go for jogs, do push-ups, learn firearms, and all kinds of things. We have to pray our Sunnan. We have to wake up in the middle of the night and stand before Allah 'azzaa wajall. And, perhaps most importantly, we have to actually go and fight against the disbelievers.”
On April 1, 2010, Chesser posted an article to his blog, themujahidblog.com, titled “An Overview Of The Jihad In Somalia.” The article contains a call for individuals to join Somali jihad, and highlights the recent emigration of 20 Somali-American men who traveled to “fight jihad in Somalia.” The article ends with the following summary;
“We (the Ummah) must trust the brothers and sisters who take time to tell the truth on the Internet. These brothers and sisters have done an excellent job of letting Muslims all over the world, particularly the west know what is really happening in Muslim lands. The brothers and sisters on the Internet have provided a clear picture of what is going on in Muslim lands.
They have fulfilled their obligation and now it is time for those learning the truth to act. It is both ironic and promising that Muslims and Somali brothers living in the United States and Europe have answered their call.
The government of the United States along with their chief spy, Robert Mueller said he is 'absolutely' afraid that more heroes like Brother Mohamoud Hassan or Brother Abu Mansour will answer the call of Jihad.
The Army of the Ummah in Somalia is one of the most important in Islam today. Are you doing your part to support your Brothers and Sisters in Somalia? Have you given d'ua for Brothers like Abu Masour al-Amriki and other brothers like Shirwa Ahmed (rahimullah) lately? It may be time brothers and sisters to not only agree with the actions of The Lions of Tawheed, but also do something to support your brothers in Somalia and other places where al-Islam is being attacked. This is a call to action and a call to fulfill your obligation as a Muslim to defend your brothers and sisters. As your brothers and sister in Somalia are raped and killed by the Ethiopian Puppets from Addis Ababa and the Somalia slaves of the United States, will you be like Brother Mohamoud Hassan or Brother Abu Mansour and answer the call to Jihad? For Allah (SWT) knows best and will reward those who sacrificed on the Day of Judgment.”
Chesser also posted on the Internet advice to “leave suspicious packages in public places in the U.S. so that if and when real bombs were planted they'd go unnoticed.” He also encouraged violence against cartoonists who were planning to participate in “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.”
This past October Chesser pleaded guilty to charges that he provided material support to terrorists and that he communicated threats of violence.
Now, after sentencing Zachary Chesser will spend 25 years in prison for advocating the murder of U.S. citizens. U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady, stated during the sentence,
“You took just a shocking leap from a high-school athlete to a highly energized traitor to your country. It's startling.”
Chesser was an all American kid and he was a great athlete in school, but like others before him, he found Islam and went down a path that few understand or comprehend.
My question is this... If Zachary Chesser a.k.a. Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee gets 25 years for statements on the internet and attempting to join the jihad in Somalia why do we still have 35 terror training camps operating within the U.S.?
The Christian Action Network exposed all this in a 2009 film titled “HOMEGROWN JIHAD: The Terrorist Camps Around U.S.” This video exposes the terrorist training activities at 35 compounds in the U.S., run by a Pakistani national known as Sheik Muburak Ali Gilani.
This details of this video sound unbelievable, until you watch it.
Last week at Columbia University freshman Anthony Maschek was heckled, laughed at and called a racist during a meeting about bringing ROTC back to the school. Maschek, a former army staff sergeant who was awarded the Purple Heart after being shot 9 times in a firefight in northern Iraq in February 2008 stated in part,
“It doesn’t matter how you feel about war. It doesn’t matter how you feel about fighting. Other parts of the world are plotting to kill you right now when you go to bed. It’s not a joke... These people, seriously, are trying to kill you. They hate America, they hate you.”
Maschek was correct in his analysis, but “these people” are not only in “other parts of the world.” Many of them are already here.
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