Younus Abdullah Muhammad — who changed his name to Jesse Morton — was a recruiter for Al Qaeda and denounced the United States. Five years ago, he threatened the creators of the TV series “South Park” for depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit.
Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at GW’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, told CNN that Morton would bring a “unique perspective” to studying counterterrorism. “We haven’t figured out how to reach that individual who’s going down the path of radicalization,” Hughes said. “Jesse has been in that world and got out of that world.”
“I have a background in radicalizing others,” Morton said. “I understand the mentality, I understand also what attracts people to the ideology. I also understand how to counter that as a result.”
Morton, 37, was born to an abusive Pennsylvania household and was sought out by extremist groups. He’s served jail time for drug-related offenses. In a Virginia jail he met an Islamic extremist and one of his followers, beginning what he described as his “indoctrination” process.
During a trip to Morocco, Morton’s ideology slowly and subtly started to change as he met young secular Muslims.
In a CNN interview last year Morton said, “They were bright, they were articulate. What they really wanted, at the end of the day, was what we have: freedom.” The latter was taken away from him.
He was arrested and extradited from Morocco to face charges in the U.S. connected to the “South Park” threats. He was sentenced in 2012 to more than 11 years in prison, although he served just three years because of good behavior.
Morton won’t be teaching at GW, but will instead focus on writing and research.
He’s not the only former extremist on a university payroll. Former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, of the Weather Underground, is a professor at the University of Illinois in Champaign.