Why Jihadists Loved America in the 1980s It was the Cold War and the US was focused on the Soviet Union and did not see Jihadists as a threat. It was freezing cold with gusting winds in Indianapolis on New Year’s Day 1978. While much of the city was presumably waking to a hangover, the Islamic Teaching Center was busy hosting prominent preachers from the Middle East. Among them was Abdallah Azzam, a 36-year-old rising star of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood. In Indianapolis, Azzam would meet a young Saudi student with a now-famous name: Osama bin Laden. It was a historic moment, one that marked the rise of an extensive jihadist network in the United States. That Azzam and bin Laden met in America is no coincidence. They came because, unlike other countries in the Middle East, the U.S. allowed them and other Islamists to preach, fundraise, and recruit followers without interference. My new biography of Azzam shows that in the 1980s, radical Islamists exploited U.S. territory to an extent not previously recognized. In fact, for more than a decade, America was among the most hospitable jihadist-recruitment grounds in the world. To understand why, one has to look at the Afghan War. A few years after their Indiana meeting, Azzam and bin Laden co-founded the Services Bureau, an organization in Peshawar, Pakistan, that sought to bring Muslim fighters to Afghanistan. As its leader, Azzam spearheaded a worldwide effort to fundraise and recruit, especially from the Gulf countries and the United States. Although based in Pakistan from 1981 onward, Azzam crossed the Atlantic at least once a year, and by the end of the decade had visited New York, Texas, California, Seattle, and several other states in between. The message was always the same: Muslims in America should fight in Afghanistan, or at least donate money to the jihad. He spoke not in underground cellars, but in large, open venues, such as the annual meeting of the Muslim Arab Youth Association, which usually brought together hundreds of people. He stayed in the apartments of young local supporters, impressing them with his charisma and humble lifestyle. U.S. authorities became aware of these activities in the late '80s, but did not consider Azzam a threat. The US was practically encouraging jihadists in the 80s so they would keep the Soviets out of Afghanistan. It's almost like something out of Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four, alliances keep on shifting and the public at large keeps no recollection.