By Ryan Mauro,Special forUSDR
The most popular theory now about the hijacking of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is that it is retaliation by one of the pilots for the imprisonment of an opposition leader linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. There is increasing suspicion that he landed or sought to land the aircraft. This theory is certainly plausible, but there are multiple reasons forskepticism.
The most likely scenario is that whoever controlled the flight sought to strike a target. It is most probable that at least two operatives were involved because someone would need to handle the flight controls while the second pilot was neutralized. The pilots did not askto fly together, making it less likely that both were involved. If a group was involved, it points in the direction of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and/or JemaahIslamiyaa.
There is a near-consensus that one of the pilots was involved, with most attention being given to Zaharie Ahmad Shah. He had a flight simulator in his house and was an “obsessive” supporter of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. His family moved out of his house shortly before the disappearance of theplane.
Less is known about his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid. He spoke the last communication to air traffic control about 30 minutes after the data recorder was disabled and 10 minutes after the transponder was shut down. He planned to marry his girlfriend. He also invited young women to the cockpit and smoked cigarettesthere.
A photo of Shah wearing a shirt with the words, “Democracy is dead” is receiving due attention. He told friends that he was going to attend the March 7 trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who had been acquitted of sodomy charges in January 2012. The acquittal was overturned and the airliner flown by Shah disappeared only hourslater.
There are numerous troubling facts about opposition leader AnwarIbrahim:
- He says that his interpretation of Islam is influenced by Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna; Brotherhood cleric Sayyid Qutb and Jamaat-e-Islami founder Maulana Maududi.
- He is a long-time friend of Youssef Nada, a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader in Europe whose assets were frozen after 9/11 for alleged links to Al-Qaeda. They were later unfrozen, and he was never prosecuted.
- In the 1970s and early 1980s, he was a trustee for the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, a radical organization based in Saudi Arabia.
- He is one of the founders of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity. When it came under investigation for possible terrorism-financing, Ibrahim attributed it to “Islamophobia.” His daughter received over $90,000 from IIIT.
- On December 8-9, 2007, Ibrahim participated in a conference in Turkey with Prime Minister Erdogan, the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Tariq Ramadan, grandson of Hassan al-Banna. The topic was “the need for institutions to counter Islamophobia.”
- Last April, Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi endorsed Ibrahim’s candidacy for Prime Minister of Malaysia.
- He claims that the U.S. is behind the “coup” that toppled the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
- He has accused the Malaysian government of being part of an Israeli conspiracy.
While Shah’s support for Anwar Ibrahim is seen by some as irrefutable proof of his willingness to commit an act of terrorism, thatisn’t necessarily thecase.
Ibrahim’s relatively moderate positions won him the adoration of non-Islamist democratic activists in Malaysia and around the world. He and his political party are emphatically non-violent and have won the support of Republican and Democratic policy-makers in the U.S.. Ibrahim said he wants Sharia-inspired laws punishing homosexuals to end. In 2012, he even said, “I support all efforts to protect the security of the state ofIsrael.”
His theme is that Western-inspired democracy is compatible with Islam. For example, he said that the “higher objectives” of Sharia“bear striking resemblance[s] to Lockean ideals” and “there can be no question that several crucial elements of constitutional democracy and civil society are moral imperatives inIslam.”
Yes, Ibrahim also has made troubling statements and has Muslim Brotherhood links. Nonetheless, many of his supporters are not Islamist radicals. Shah enjoyed watching videos of atheist scientist Richard Dawkins attacking religion. He was also a fan of outrageously-provocative Jewish comedienne Sarah Silverman and Eddie Izzard, a foul-mouthed comedian that dresses in drag. Typical Islamists would prefer to see themdead.
Shah expressed his condolences for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings online and decried it as an act of terrorism. As of this moment, there is no public information about him attending a radical mosque, making Islamist statements, or undergoing the kind of personal life transformation that accompanies suddenradicalization.
If Shah was involved, he had to have known that the innocent passengers would die—or, at the very least, have their lives put in dire jeopardy. He would know that an act like this would result in being condemned by his political hero and the act would ultimately hurt his cause. The Malaysian government would love to depict Ibrahim and his supporters asterrorists.
The fixation on Shah has led the media to forget about a very significant fact: One of the passengers, Maimaitijiang Abula, is a Chinese Uighur with flight simulationtraining.
He is from the Chinese province that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement wants to secede. Whoever controlled the plane was well-aware that the majority of passengers were Chinese. He was a member of the Communist Party, but he was also a practicing Muslim so he may have done that for personal advantages. You can read more about him in our previousanalysis.
Abula has not been exonerated, nor has the other pilot named Fariq Abdul Hamid. As mentioned, he uttered the last words to air traffic control after the data recording system and transponder were turned off so the hijacking couldbegin.
The Objective of theHijacking
This still leaves open the question of the objective behind the hijacking. The most likely scenario is that the perpetrator(s) sought to crash it into atarget.
If the hijacker(s) wanted to land it, then they either wanted to make political demands or use the plane for another act. The problem with the former theory is that it would make more sense to make the demands in the air, where they could negotiate permission to land and the release of thepassengers.
Furthermore, it is reasoned that the pilot ascended to about 45,000 feet in order to cause hypoxia among the passengers to prevent a revolt. This would incapacitate them due to lack of oxygen and then kill them. That would take away any negotiating leverage that the perpetratorhas.
As for using the plane for another act, it adds a layer of unnecessary complexity to the plot. It’s hard to imagine a compelling reason not to use the aircraftimmediately.
The long distance traveled by Flight 370 after the hijacking is sometimes offered as evidence against a 9/11-type scenario. This idea presumes that the hijackers would crash it with as much fuel as possible into the most immediate target. However, that assumes the hijackers were content with a local target. It is equally reasonable to believe that they would choose to strike a more preferable target with lessfuel.
Another question asked is why the hijackers would turn off the transponder and use evasive maneuvers if it sought to crash the plane. The obvious answer is that the pilot did not want to be tracked. According to the 9/11 Commission, the hijackers turned off the transponders on three of the four airliners in order to avoiddetection.
It is undoubtedly significant that one of the pilots was a fervent supporter of a Muslim Brotherhood-linked politician, but serious questions still remain about Flight 370 and one of the greatest aviation mysteries of alltime.