Monday, December 14, 2009

M. Zuhdi Jasser: When it Comes to Islamist Terror, An Islamic Problem Needs an Islamic Solution

For almost a decade, American Muslims have seen a growing debate among Muslim communities about the radicalization of Muslims in America and how to combat it.

American Islamists groups (CAIR, MPAC, MAS and ISNA, to name a few) hatched from the ideology of the global Muslim Brotherhood and their being given a disproportionate amount of media attention and resources in the U.S. presented their best face of blanket denials and smoothly avoided any acknowledgement of a problem.

For eight years since 9/11 American Islamist groups have refused to acknowledge the fact that salafism, Islamism, and other ideologies directly contributed to that radicalization. This year, actually just last week, after an ever increasing string of homegrown Muslim terrorists, and after CAIR was banned from the FBI, the denial finally gave way to a long overdue admission of a problem. Yet, their admission had no analysis whatsoever of the real root cause of Muslim radicalization – political Islam and salafism.

Since its inception in 2003, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) has been publicly waging a contest of ideas with many of those Islamist organizations that the ideology of Political Islam is at the root of the cancer that threatens American security and the faith of American Muslims. AIFD has long believed that Islamism is the root cause of Muslim radicalization in the U.S. and around the world.

The arrests in Pakistan on December 9, 2009 of five young Muslim men from America transitioned that debate into a new phase. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has thrust itself into the front of this case. CAIR held a press conference on December 9th, audaciously announcing in their their press release on behalf of the entire Muslim community that,

"The Muslim community has taken the lead in bringing this case to the attention of law enforcement authorities and will offer ongoing cooperation with the FBI as the investigation moves forward."

At the press conference, Nihad Awad, Executive Director, CAIR-National stated that,

"We also as a community realize and recognize that there is a problem. This problem we believe it is not wide spread, but we as a community, we acknowledge that there is a problem, and we are going to deal with it effectively. We are going to launch a major campaign of education to refute the misuse of versus in the Koran or the misuse of certain grievances in the Muslim world."

In a press release for the same press conference, Haris Tarin, Community Development Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) recognized that,

"Any radicalization that exists is a major problem that we must – and are – addressing head on. This case underscores not only the importance of strong relations between the Muslim American community and law enforcement, but also the grave need for educational programs to prevent extremism within our community."

This news follows a number of troubling cases related to Muslim Americans, including the disappearance of five young Somali men from Minnesota who later turned up in Somalia to fight alongside Al-Shabab, the horrific shooting rampage at Ft. Hood, and the arrests of three men in Illinois, Colorado and Texas on unrelated terror plot charges."

This is an important change in the rhetoric of CAIR and MPAC. The optimist in me would like to believe that AIFD's efforts and that of other vocal anti-Islamist Muslims and non-Muslims have forced these organizations to admit that there is an ideological problem in many of our communities. As with alcoholics and drug addicts, admitting that there is a problem is the first step down the path of recovery and reformation.

But the cynic and realist in me sees these announcements for what they are: recognition by these groups that their post 9/11 apologetic messaging is not resonating with the general public. To solve the problem, they adapted their messages to co-opt the rhetoric of curbing radicalization.

Just last month, both of these groups were out front in their efforts to decouple faith from the obvious Islamist radicalization of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the perpetrator of the Fort Hood massacre.

In October they both were also quick to defame the FBI in the shooting death of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah of Detroit, who openly called for an establishment of an Islamic State and opened fire on agents who were coming to arrest him under criminal charges.

While the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Reuters trip over themselves to quote Mr. Awad and CAIR, who made themselves into the news of the case of the radicalization of these five men, none seem to be asking them the question that needs to be asked: What will be the structure and substance of your anti-radicalization education campaign and will you confront, renounce, and reform the ideology of Political Islam?

CAIR and MPAC have typically renounced the use of terror and violence, but they have never taken a position against the ideology of Political Islam. They both have also been the primary antagonists to efforts by law enforcement to understand and mitigate the real stages of radicalization of Muslims in America. In 2007, under the umbrella of the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC), CAIR-NY and MPAC –NY authored "Counterterrorism policy, MACLC's critique of the NYPD's report on homegrown radicalism." The paper is a response to NYPD's report "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat." In it, the organizations lay out their belief that,

"The study of violent extremism, however, should decouple religion from terror to safeguard civil liberties on free speech and equal protection grounds as a matter of strong public policy."

If the root cause of Muslim radicalization is Islamism (political Islam), what good is any effort at counterterrorism that decouples the religion from terror?

How can law enforcement effectively counter terrorism in our country without recognition that Political Islam and its narrative is the core ideology when, at its extreme, drives the general mindset of the extremists carrying out the attacks?

When we were fighting communism in the Cold War, we generally understood that, violent or non-violent, those who advocated the communist ideology were part of the problem and not part of the solution whether they were strident Soviets or just idealistic non-violent Marxists.

The distinction mattered little and certainly our counterintelligence experts were not using the non-violent Marxists as experts on how to defeat the Soviets.

More at M.Zudhi Jasser's site

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