Anwar Al-Awlaki is an American-born Muslim cleric. Since 2002, he has become more openly extremist in his views. He has now left the U.S. and is believed to be hiding in Yemen, from where he issues statements condemning the U.S. and calling for war against the country of his birth.
Al-Awlaki was born in April 1971 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. His father received his Master Degree that same year from New Mexico State University. After a few more years of study and work, the father brought the family back to Yemen in 1978. After returning to Yemen, his father served as Agricultural Minister and President of Sanaa' University.
In 1991, Al-Awlaki returned to the U.S. to study at Colorado State University. He has a B.S. in Civil Engineering, and an M.A. in Educational Leadership from San Diego State University. He reportedly has no formal Islamic education. Despite this, Al-Awlaki rose to popularity among U.S. Muslims with his fluent English skills and persuasive personality. Al-Awlaki has served as the Imam of mosques in Colorado, California, and Virginia.
Since 2002, Al-Awlaki has reportedly become more openly radical and extreme in his views. U.S. officials accuse him of being an Al-Qaida recruiter. In March 2010, CNN reported on a statement believed to have been issued by Al-Awlaki, in which he declared: "With the American invasion of Iraq and continued U.S. aggression against Muslims, I could not reconcile between living in the U.S. and being a Muslim, and I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad against America is binding upon myself just as it is binding on every other Muslim." He further called upon Muslim Americans to question where their loyalties reside.
In reponse to Al-Awlaki's messages, several Muslim American leaders and organizations have condemned his extremist views and calls for "jihad" against the West.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations released this response:
"There is no contradiction between being a Muslim and being an American. We repudiate Anwar al-Awlaki's call for attacks on our nation and urge anyone who may be swayed by his extremist views to instead seek out scholars and community leaders who can offer a mainstream perspective on the positive role Muslims are obligated to play in every society. American Muslims seek to promote justice and the general welfare through civic engagement and community service."The Muslim American Society also condemned Al-Awlaki's call, saying in part:
"...the Muslim American Society, and other American Muslim organizations, reject the premise that America is essentially evil, and that our society is committed to the destruction of either Islam or majority-Muslim nations. Indeed, Muslims are an inseparable part of American social history and the fabric of American society. Both our presence in the United States and our aspirations to build a better, more peaceful, and more democratic and morally upright society, are an integral part of what is both right and hopeful for this nation, and our world... The Quran instructs Muslims to incline toward peace, forgiveness, and mutual respect with our non-Muslim neighbors and compatriots (3:64, 21:7). Peace and mercy, not war and enmity, is the true way of our faith."