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American Muslims must be on guard against radicalization

Delaware Online

American Muslims must be on guard against radicalization
By Muqtedar Khan • May 18, 2010

Faisal Shahzad, Major Nidal Hassan and Anwar Awlaki: Is it now official that American Muslims too have become radicalized and are well on their way to becoming Al Qaeda in America?

The recent incidents involving American Muslims may suggest so, and it has triggered panicky responses from Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. John McCain, who have called for the suspension of the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights (Mirandization).

I guess their line of thinking is: Why wait for the terrorists to destroy our freedoms violently, when we can legislate them away peacefully? I would recommend that before we rush to judgment and look at every Abdullah with suspicion, let's pause, take a deep breath and review the evidence.

To do just that, I hosted a conference on Muslim Radicalization in America at the University of Delaware on May 12. The conference was sponsored by the Islamic Studies Program at the university and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. The speakers included professor Charles Kurzman from the University of North Carolina; professor Parvez Ahmed from the University of North Florida; Lydia Khalil of the Council on Foreign Relations; and special agent Jeffery Reising, in charge of the Delaware Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The presentations and discussions shed light on the nature of Muslim violence in the U.S., its causes and the ways and means to fight it. Dr. Kurzman has studied nearly 140 cases from 2000-2010 of American Muslims accused of planning violent terrorist actions in the U.S. (The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were made by foreigners.)

He argued that even if the victims of John Muhammed, the sniper in the Washington D.C., area, were included, victims of American Muslim terrorism in the U.S. amounted to 31 in ten years.

His study found that the American Muslim communities' efforts to mainstream Islam has played a major role in keeping this count low. Based on his findings, one could argue that the probability of an American killing himself by suicide is 10,000 times higher than being killed by an American Muslim.

Parvez Ahmed argued that Islam did not teach violence, and by associating terrorists with Islamic concepts like jihad, which for Muslims is a noble endeavor, we demean Islam and glorify the terrorist. No religion, he argued, would teach violence and therefore it is important that we invoke religious language judiciously. He acknowledged that there was a problem of radicalism in the community and
called for a stronger partnership between the community and the government to combat it.

Lydia Khalil emphasized the importance of ideology. It was neither faith nor economic conditions that led to individuals becoming terrorists, she argued. It was the indoctrination of ideology that made people choose the path of radicalism. Whether it was Shahzad or Nidal, the impact of the ideological worldview that sees Islam and the West embroiled in a conflict was palpable in transforming them from disgruntled Muslims to murderous terrorists.

Reising shared the challenges that law enforcement faces in trying to balance security and liberty. He discussed how the FBI worked with Muslims to identify and deal with emerging threats.

Clearly, the extent of radicalization among American Muslims is disturbing. Muslims here enjoy more freedom of religion and prosperity than in most Muslim countries. The queue of people lining up to immigrate to the U.S. from the Muslim world is unending. Yet, more and more American Muslims are allowing their hatred to compel them to do terrible things.

Muslims must find a way to escape this hypocritical condition where they love to live in America, but also love to hate it.

The case of Anwar Awlaki is more disturbing than Shahzad and Nidal.

An American born of Yemeni origins, he does not come from anyplace affected negatively by U.S. foreign policy, which is the principal reason for Muslim anger against the U.S.

The man has used the benefits of his American upbringing to reach out to a large number of Muslim youth and preach hatred of America and non-Muslims. He is clearly a traitor, ungrateful to the land that welcomed his family and allowed them to prosper, and desires to make traitors and terrorists out of many young Muslims.

As American Muslims enjoy their American dream, it is time for them to give back. Make America stronger and safer. Teach your children to understand and respect the country that they call home. As you protect them from drugs, crime and immorality, also protect them from ideologies of hate.

The small number of cases that actually involve American Muslims indicates that the community is doing a good job in ensuring that their youth are not radicalized. I am just calling for more vigilance and more focused efforts to pre-empt youth from taking the wrong turn. There is no glory in killing innocent people. The Quran teaches that killing one innocent individual is like killing all of humanity (Chapter 5, verse 32). Can there be a clearer and stronger condemnation than this?

Dr. Muqtedar Khan is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Delaware and a fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

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