Faisal Shahzad. Maj. Nidal Hassan. Anwar Awlaki. Is it now official that some American Muslims have become radicalized and are well on their way to becoming a satellite of al-Qaeda in America? The recent series of terrorist activity involving American Muslims may suggest so, and it has triggered panicky responses from Sens. Joseph Lieberman and John McCain, who have called for a law that would strip suspected terrorists of their citizenship — and effectively suspend their civil rights.
I guess their line of thinking is, why wait for the terrorists to destroy our freedoms violently when we can legislate them out 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, 2010. 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 University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), Professor Parvez Ahmed from the University of North Florida, Ms. Lydia Khalil of the Council on Foreign Relations and Special Agent Jeffery Reising, in charge of Delaware Joint Terrorism Task Force. The conference was attended by students, faculty, members of the community and members of the Delaware police 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 Muslims accused of planning violent terrorist actions in the U.S. He argued that even if the victims of John Muhammed, the sniper in Washington D.C. were included, victims of Muslim terrorism in the U.S. amounted to 31 in 10 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 finding one could argue that the probability of an American killing himself by suicide is 10,000 times more 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 face as they balance security and liberty, law enforcement and outreach. 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. Americans Muslims enjoy more freedom of religion and prosperity in the U.S. than in most Muslim countries. The queue of people lining up to migrate 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 Alawki is more disturbing than Shahzad and Nidal. An American born of Yemeni origins, he does not come from any place affected negatively by U.S. foreign policy, which is the principle 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 preaches 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 intolerance and hate. The small numbers of cases that actually involve American Muslims indicate that the community is doing a good job in ensuring that their youth is not radicalized. I am just calling for more vigilance and more focused efforts to preempt youth from taking the wrong turn.
There is no glory in killing innocent people. The Qur’an teaches that killing one innocent individual is like killing all of humanity (Chapter 5, verse 32). Can there be a more clearer and stronger condemnation than this? No matter what poison preachers of hate like Awlaki spread, the Qur’an has the most powerful antidote.