The List

In July 2013, the al-Qa’ida-produced magazine Inspire released an issue that included an official “hit-list.” Written in English, it names eleven individuals, all accused of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed and “crimes against Islam.” The list is the third and most recent published by Inspire, following two published in 2010 and 2011. The following list includes brief bios and backgrounds of all 11 individuals:

     1. Salman Rushdie

The Indian-born British novelist is perhaps the most well known on the list, due to his controversial novel The Satanic Verses, published in 1988. The fictional work uses retellings of portions of the life of Mohammad. While critically acclaimed, the work incited outrage from Muslims around the globe for what they alleged was a mockery of the sacred texts of Islam. The accusations transcended the lines of Shia and Sunni Islam, as prolific authorities from both sects issued condemnation and ultimatums against Rushdie. On Valentines Day, 1989, the former supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s assassination. Al-Qa’ida and other jihadist groups have also issued similar death threats against him. Soon after these threats surfaced, the British government issued a protective police detail for Rushdie. He has remained a high-profile target for militant Islamist organizations around the globe.

     2. Terry Jones

The 63-year-old outspoken Missouri native is the pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, a small, controversial church in Florida. Jones has declared himself a presidential candidate for both the 2012 and the 2016 elections. He is also vocally anti-Muslim and maintains membership in multiple Christian fundamentalist organizations. His notoriety in the Islamist world stems from his public threat to burn copies of the Qur’an on the 9th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. In March 2011, he finally followed through with this threat. This act was met with riots and violence across the Muslim world and disapproval from leaders in the U.S. government, including Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Barack Obama, among others. Besides being named on the Inspire hit list, the Pakistan-based jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba has issued a $2.2 million reward for his assassination.

     3. Kurt Westergaard

The 79-year old Danish cartoonist is known for creating a cartoon illustrating Mohammad wearing a turban with a bomb inside of it. The cartoon was released by the widely-circulated Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on September 30th, 2005. The cartoons sparked protests in Copenhagen and across the Muslim world in the weeks following its release. The cartoons received extensive media and political attention, and sparked debates regarding free speech, blasphemy, and the “right to offend.” The United States and a number of other nations pressured Jyllands-Posten to “self-censor” the illustrations. On the other end of the spectrum, a number of politicians and public figures rallied behind the Westergaad and Jyllands-Posten, declaring the publication and their resilience a bastion of free speech and expression in a world increasingly hostile to the free dissemination of ideas and opinions. Death threats directed at Westergaard poured in from around the world. In February 2008, two Tunisians and a Moroccan-born Dane were arrested and charged with plotting to murder Westergaard; Danish police and intelligence coordinated to provide Westergaard with around-the-clock protective services. On New Year’s Day in 2010, Westergaard and his 5-year old granddaughter were attacked in their home by an axe-wielding Somali-native with links to an East Africa al-Qa’ida affiliate organization, as well as Somalia’s al-Shabaab. Police arrived just in time to prevent the attack.

     4. Flemming Rose

A former journalist and media correspondent to the Soviet

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Joseph Pisacreta

Joseph Pisacreta

Joseph Pisacreta is a professional analyst in the Washington, DC metro area. He has a strong background in international relations, counterintelligence, and cyber threat analysis. He holds B.A. in Strategic Intelligence from Patrick Henry College.