Peter T. King’s hearing on March 10, 2011, "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response," is based on the idea that his committee is responsible to protect America from a terrorist attack. The question as to WHY such recruitment and radicalization in his homeland would even be possible remains unanswered.
Muslims have immigrated to America with a dream to prosperity and freedom (of religion). What they find, instead, is a land of rejection, and social isolation. The Muslim traditions of modesty do not support integration into a society that they largely view as immoral. Hence, while they may have escaped the intellectual and material poverty of their former homes, they find themselves on the fringes of a Christian society that is unwilling to embrace them into their cultural fabric. Disenchanted Muslims are naturally receptive to falling into a mindset of hatred. Whatever negative about America they had heard before had turned into their living nightmare. King cites a Pew Poll stating that 15% of Muslim-American men between the age of 18 and 29 could support suicide bombings. He then requires the Muslim (religious) leaders to be more visible in discrediting violent Islamist ideology. In the 10 years since the September 11 attacks, America does not seem to realize that homegrown radicalization is—well—homegrown.
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, opened his testimony in political correctness with his hope for a rational conversation about the problem of Muslim radicalization. He thinks that Muslims are able to best practice their faith in a society like the United States that guarantees the rights of every individual with no governmental intermediary stepping between the individual and the creator to interpret the will of God. Jasser said that the “Liberty narrative" is the only effective counter to the “Islamist narrative." Yet he expresses his frustration that we are barely able to come together to have an open discussion of the problem. Indeed, whenever one of my articles about religious terrorism treats the Muslim narrative, my email inbox fills with hate mail as if I had any particular affiliation.
This is the first point in homegrown radicalization in the United States: many Americans react with a radical position of extreme rejection of the mere mentioning of the word "Muslim" or "Islam." These are mainly fundamentalist Christian positions that find their source in history, for Protestant Americans in the extreme anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish writings of the Church Reformator Martin Luther. This chasm is based on homegrown religious ignorance and roundabout hatred of anything Muslim. Jasser noted a growing culture of driving Muslims away from cooperation, partnership, and identity with America and its security forces. Civil rights should be protected and defended, but the predominant message to communities should be attachment, defense, and identification with America not alienation and separation. Muslims cannot figure out how to get their young adults to identify with secular western society and its ideas if the western society does not embrace and integrate them.
Jasser thinks that society will have to go back to the root of radicalization, which he sees as political Islam. However, as shown in The Great Leap-Fraud, a decade long research project into the social economics of religious terrorism, the root goes much further back through Christianity and Judaism. If Islamic radicalization should be understood by Americans, then they need to be prepared to look not only at the problem from another religion but also from their own. Jasser promotes a forward offensive of the ideas of liberty that will inoculate radicals against any narrative that drives them to hate America and its citizens. The same accounts for all three religions of the Judaic trinity. Putting Muslim ideologies under scrutiny but not the others, as Jasser proposes, will isolate the Muslims even more. Christians tend to simply ignore or reject any positive Muslim message and will instead find confirmation in what they already thought to know. Jasser’s call for the publication of all sermons to public scrutiny needs to be extended to all religions.
Abdirizak Bihi is the director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center in Minneapolis and uncle of the young Somali Burhan Hassan, who got himself killed in Somalia at the age of 17. His testimony is a case of isolation of a young man, who had fled Somalia with his family and had adapted to life in America. However, his uncle talks about enrollment in the local mosque, about Somali community organizations, Somali malls, and even Somali TV. In other words, rather than integrating into American society—or being embraced by it—his family found itself isolated in a Somali micro environment. They isolated themselves as they were isolated by society, and had their children educated in the mosque. A disillusioned Bihi said, "When we realized that our children were recruited and lured away from us into the burning country that we had fled from while they were in their infancy, we would never have thought that possibly to have existed." He thinks that his nephew was brainwashed by radicals in the mosque. Indeed, the cultural isolation enabled the blind submission to God, who is represented by the imam, who, in turn, tried to cover up the ongoing crime and publicly blame the families into shame instead. In fear of retribution against the Muslim community, the Muslims opted against cooperation and for more isolation.
The second point in homegrown radicalization is a lack of cooperation in integrating Muslim immigrants into a largely Christian society. The rejection by the society leads to more isolation and greater odds at radicalization. Americans can do something about it by opening their homes to friendships with members of minorities and by educating themselves about their seemingly foreign religions.
Melvin Bledsoe’s testimony can be summed up in one sentence: "We must stop these extremist invaders from raping the minds of American citizens on American soil." Bledsoe is the father of the young radical Carlos Leon Bledsoe, who killed the American Private William Long and wounded another soldier, Quinton Ezeagwula.
The third point of contamination in homegrown radicalization is the teaching of religious ideologies to children. As children are supposed to be protected from sexual predators and exploitation, they likewise need protection from their minds being raped by religious leaders. ANY religious teacher has an agenda, whether it is Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. The agenda is always to win a new recruit to a singular truth. Hence, the policy of the government must be to regulate religious teachings to children and possibly create an interfaith curriculum that teaches the specifics of all major world religions in an approach of secular reason rather than faith.
The testimony of Sheriff Baca of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department outlines the efforts of law enforcement with the Muslim community in the Los Angeles County. Their custody outreach program in jails is viewed as a bridge for inmates to the outside world but also as a counter radicalization effort by ensuring that proper teachings of Islam are checked by having the right educators, material and well qualified and properly credentialed chaplains and Imams. The process is supported by the local Muslim community by providing volunteers and vetted religious texts that will not incite violence but rather teach the proper peaceful message of the religion.
The forth point in homegrown radicalization are the religious texts and commentaries of all three Judaic religions. They are peppered with hatred against humankind, and with encouragement to religious strive and conflict. These man-made texts and their interpretation have undergone major changes in the past. Hence, they must be changed one more time in such that the violence is removed, even when pseudo historical teachings are involved. It is unacceptable that the Torah/the Old Testament puts the Palestinians on an eternal death list and portrays God as a war lord who destroys everybody that is (by God himself) placed in the way of establishing Israel, including women, children, and animals.
Fifth, ensuring "proper" teachings with the "right" educators seems an utterly contagious concept. However, putting the clergy up for election and thus into the responsibility of the religious community, should bolster a self-enforcing mechanism against radicalization. Having a leadership appointed from above—in the worst case by God himself—only opens the door to radicalization by any faith. In their public function, it is necessary that religious leaders are subject to term limits.
America has found itself in a wave of hatred from the Middle East because of its support of autocratic governments across the region in its ulterior cause to protect Israel. Since the 1970s, by sheer ignorance of the realities of Islam nations, the Americans had protected many authoritative regimes of the Muslim world and had provided training that today’s terrorists deploy across the globe. For example, before they ousted Saddam Hussein, the Americans sided with him; before hounding Bin Laden through the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Americans trained and supported him against the Russians until America lost its political will to do so. Muslims may recognize this as state sponsored terrorism against them by a fundamentally Christian nation—the United States. Moreover, too many Muslims look into the barrels of American-made guns in the hands of their internal and external enemies.
Sixth and last, anti-Americanism is to a large extent homegrown. The current uprisings across the Middle East don’t only serve to topple oppressive autocrats but they are an answer to an American policy that lasted for decades. It is a policy that may be viewed as America and Israel conspiring against them. In turn, Muslims have an obligation to jihad (holy war) when they are governed by apostates and infidels. It closes the circle of homegrown radicalization and ultimately terrorism.
If America desires a rational discourse about religious terrorism, then it must be prepared to put its own traditional religious ideologies and national strategies under scrutiny. Failing to do so will lead to the next round of sectarian isolation on the American homeland and to a continuance of a vicious circle. An ethical framework is needed that establishes boundaries for the business of religion in order to prevent homegrown radicalization from any faith. Also, the policies of supporting governments are in need of fundamental overhaul. Whatever the outcome, Americans need to be aware that their actions—even no action at all—will favor either one or the other of the Muslim archenemies, Sunnis or Shi’ites. Hence, eroding radicalization can only find its source in reforms at home.
A.J. Deus, author of The Great Leap-Fraud – Social Economics of Religious Terrorism