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“The goal was to examine why relatively so few Muslim Americans have become radicalized. Although a “few” is still discomforting, the authors say the damage caused by this group since 2001 is relatively small. Since 9/11, there have been more than 136,000 murders in the U.S., with 31 (or 0.02 per cent) committed by radicalized individuals”

 

In response to the plot to blow up a U.S. airliner on Dec. 25, the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada issued a fatwa condemning terrorist actions perpetrated in the name of Islam. A fatwa is a religious opinion concerning Islamic law issued by an individual trained in Islamic law. In Sunni Islam, it’s non-binding.

Interestingly, the signatories of the Canadian fatwa included three Muslim women. The statement called on North American Muslims to safeguard Canada and the U.S. by exposing any individual who would cause harm. If there’s quibble, it’s the seemingly parochial nature of the fatwa: Terrorism is condemned because of its negative impact on the religious freedom of Muslims. Why not simply refer to the Koranic edict against murder, or the Prophet Mohammed’s clear directive against harming non-combatants?

Others took issue with the fatwa for a different reason. Why, they ask, should Muslims have to make any statement? Why should they have to speak to actions committed by extremists? This short-sighted approach completely ignores the Koranic directive to “enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong.” Furthermore, public condemnation serves a valuable role in fighting domestic terrorism, according to the 2010 study Anti-Terror Lessons of Muslim-Americans by the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

The goal was to examine why relatively so few Muslim Americans have become radicalized. Although a “few” is still discomforting, the authors say the damage caused by this group since 2001 is relatively small. Since 9/11, there have been more than 136,000 murders in the U.S., with 31 (or 0.02 per cent) committed by radicalized individuals.

The anti-terror study generated social science evidence about how and why Muslim-American communities have resisted radicalization and political violence. The authors found five characteristics that enabled these communities to counter radical messages from the Internet.

Public and private denunciations of terrorism: Contrary to public perception, mainstream Muslim groups have constantly issued statements condemning terrorism, drawing on both religious and secular arguments.

Methods of self-policing that prevent the growth of radicalization: These practices include confronting individuals who express radical ideology or support for terrorism; preventing extremist ideologues from preaching in mosques; communicating concerns about radical individuals to law-enforcement officials; and purging extremists from membership in local mosques.

The study points to examples where concerned roommates, parents or imams informed the police about radicalized individuals. As one imam told his congregants, “Don’t come here with that foolishness. I’ll call the police right now. And you can call me a snitch or a rat, but call me a Muslim.” Ironically, this vigilance has led to confrontations with “agitator” informants, along with warnings to Muslims to be wary of entrapment. The use of informants is a sore point between Muslim communities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Muslim Americans also have adopted programs for youth to help identify individuals who react inappropriately to controversial issues, so they can be counselled and educated. Such programs should be adopted in Canada, including information on the signs of radicalization.

Importance of community-building: This reduces the social isolation of individuals who may be at risk of becoming radicalized. Strong social networks, educational programs and the provision of social services help identify risk-prone individuals.

Increased political engagement of Muslim Americans since 9/11: This channels grievances into democratic forums and promotes integration of Muslim Americans.

Compatibility between Muslim Americans’ U.S. and minority identities: This plays a key role against radicalization, since it counters the radical message that American values are hostile to Islam.

The study’s authors make a number of recommendations to bolster efforts against radicalization, including promoting public denunciations of terrorism by the media and public officials; increasing political engagement; improving community/law-enforcement relations; increasing civil-rights enforcement; and supporting enhanced religious literacy (Muslims with rigorous religious training are far less likely to radicalize).

Bottom line: This U.S. anti-terror study provides valuable lessons for counter-radicalization efforts in Canada.

This article was originally published in the Globe and Mail in January 2010 and republished with permission from the author

Comments

4 Responses to “January 22, “Why have so few Muslim Americans become radicalized?” by Sheema Khan”

  1. Nae Ismail on January 23rd, 2010 3:10 am

    There is far too much useless debate on radicalism. If I do not go with the flow, does that make me a radical ?

    There is long country mile between radical thoughts and acting out those thoughts. It is the basis of left brain versus right brain discussions. The right brain is the source of unrestrained thoughts and emotions while the left brain acts as supervisor to imbue logic, social acceptibility and other modifier criteria to decide for actions or not.

    Law breakers who commit crime either have a warped value system or weak self-control that lead them to act out their deeds. Their damage to society is a result of those flaws that can be corrected by realignment through proper intervention. It is a sickness.

    Muslims, or those who pursue any spiritual guidance, are expected to develop self-control through prayers, fasting, reading, learning and introspection, etc. to strengthen those qualities that make us worthy of this Earth life for a chance to earn credits for the after-life.

  2. diy power on April 6th, 2011 7:27 am

    Good thing not many Muslim Americans are radicalized. I believe almost all of them knew that terrorism is bad. Their human too, and why should they be labeled so negatively because of the actions of some of their over zealous brethren? I personally believe that religion is not cause of all wars. A lot of practitioners are using their religion to gain support from their fellows and to validate their intentions. Religion is good. But a disciple can choose to be good or bad.

  3. Bill on April 7th, 2011 5:03 am

    The 5 characteristics shared are collectively excellent in their intent to make a difference.

    This doesn’t stop radicalism, but it most certainly will reduce it if consistently practiced.

    I personally don’t believe that all radicalism comes from a warped value system or weak self control either.

    People are conditioned by what they are exposed to. If to can improve the quality of the exposure, then the premise of right and wrong on a universal level is more likely to take hold and keep people from rationalizing their actions through radical means

  4. Amiel Sac on April 16th, 2011 7:19 pm

    “There is far too much useless debate on radicalism. If I do not go with the flow, does that make me a radical?”

    I could not agree more.

    Amiel, Hookahset.com
    Hookah Guy

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