Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Desk
18 November, 2014
The Western Jihadist Phenomenon
By Osman Mirghani
The Myth of Anti-Westernism
By Burhanettin Duran
Europe and Islam: Degrees of Separation
Obama and The Definition Of "Islamic"
By Caroline Glick
Us Gambit with ISIL
By Mümtazer Türköne
U.S. Engages With Muslims
By Tamara Audi and Miriam Jordan
Fuelling Islamophobia in the US
By Khaled A Beydoun
The Western Jihadist Phenomenon
By Osman Mirghani
14 Nov, 2014
The arrest of four people a few days ago in Britain on suspicion of planning a terrorist operation, and the raising of the national security alert level, reflect the concern of several Western countries over the thousands of their citizens who have gone to join the fighting in Syria and Iraq—some estimates place the figure as high as 9,000. Large numbers of these jihadists have joined the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). There are serious fears that these jihadists—loaded with radical ideology and the culture of beheadings—will return and carry out terrorist attacks in their home countries. In an effort to deal with these returning extremists, the authorities in several Western countries have taken measures and enacted laws to hold them to account for fighting abroad and joining terrorist organizations. But laws do not provide answers to the deeper questions surrounding the recruitment of home-grown jihadists. One of the most prominent questions relates to what attracts Western youth to terrorist organizations such as ISIS? How was the radical ideology of terrorist groups able to infiltrate the minds of young people, despite all the precautions taken, laws enacted, and funds spent ever since the War on Terror was declared? Has the War on Terror become a lifeline for extremism and a key weapon in the arsenal of terror ideologues and preachers who employ it in their rhetoric to attract new followers?
The West may find answers to some, but certainly not all, of these questions in the experience of Arab and Muslim countries that have suffered from terrorism and the involvement of their youth in terror groups while under the influence of the discourse of radical preachers. The circumstances of young people who have grown up in the West, attended Western schools, and were exposed to its culture differ in several aspects from those in Arab and Muslim countries lured by extremist ideology and terrorist groups. The overwhelming proportion of the Western youth joining ISIS or Al-Qaeda and its offshoots were born to parents who emigrated from Arab and Muslim countries, but they remain the products of Western culture—born, raised and educated in the West.
It is true that ISIS has developed effective propaganda tools more advanced than those of Al-Qaeda, and it is certainly employing social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter and YouTube, with extreme efficiency. But these alone do not explain why youths have left their countries and their families behind, risking their lives on the battlefields in Syria and Iraq, or why they were attracted to extremist ideology in the first place.
Indeed, there is a lost generation of youth disillusioned by their circumstances and societies, with many becoming a target and fuel for terror movements. Some of them suffer from identity crises and feel alienated and marginalized, and perhaps also victims of racial discrimination. Others are indignant at their Western societies and angered by the news coming out of the countries of their forefathers. This is not to mention the scenes of destruction and slaughter—whether in Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, or Palestine—which extremist preachers and terror ideologues employ in their speeches and propaganda videos in order to consolidate the idea that the West is oppressing Muslims and destroying their countries. Others may act out of a spirit of adventure and romanticized ideas of warfare, or are attracted by an ISIS propaganda that portrays the group as defying Western hegemony and might.
This is not to deny the presence of young people who choose to embrace extremist ideology out of a sense of “spiritual alienation,” given the declining significance of religion in Western societies in general. Such people look for groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda and find their rhetoric of establishing an “authentic” Islamic state appealing. They believe that by joining these groups they are fulfilling a religious duty.
The biggest challenge facing the West is not to eliminate ISIS, but rather to understand the reasons that make some Muslim youth vulnerable to being entrapped by extremism. There is no way to address this phenomenon without understanding the reasons behind it. The West can learn lessons from other countries in this area, or it risks making the same mistakes. One such mistake includes harbouring large numbers of radical Islamists who are now taking advantage of the atmosphere of freedom to promote their extremist discourse. The War on Terror must be of a global character because this epidemic is not limited to one geographic spot, and its ideology, as shown in the past, operates across national borders. This is particularly the case in the age of the Internet and social networking, which pose another set of challenges that require careful study and a considered response.
The importance of two issues should be recognized, a step which requires political courage. First, the reasons behind the political and social grievances should be addressed. Second, the West has to reconsider some aspects of its foreign policy that have led to the formation of hotbeds of terrorism. Otherwise, all efforts to address and understand the phenomenon of thousands of Western youths joining groups like ISIS will fail.
Osman Mirghani is Asharq Al-Awsat's former deputy editor and senior editor-at-large.
The Myth of Anti-Westernism
By Burhanettin Duran
17 November 2014
In the formative period of modern Turkish politics, how the West was perceived played an equally important role as the nation's relations with the West. The Kemalist ideology's sole objective was to become part of the West, which it viewed as the only civilization in the world. Islamists and conservatives, in turn, passionately argued that there was more to Western civilization than mere positivism, on which the Kemalists concentrated - a civilization committed to its spiritual values that fueled its productivity. At the end of the day, the struggle between the West's advocates and opponents has become one of the most fertile elements of political life in Turkey.
Over the years, relations with the West - and the United States, in particular - as the founder and protector of the existing world order served as a reference point for the future plans of political parties and governments. More important, the nation's relations with the West moved beyond strategic interests and alliances as the charge of anti-Westernism helped administrations identify their ideological adversaries.
Presenting one's opponents as anti-Western, of course, had a serious impact in the international arena. Let us recall that secular-authoritarian regimes in the Middle East constantly exploited this label to discredit Islamic movements. Despite a brief rupture against the backdrop of the Arab Spring revolutions, this approach has gained new momentum once the Muslim Brotherhood was forcibly removed from power in Egypt. At the same time, a great opportunity to nurture democratic Islamism was lost as various actors including Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran joined forces to further their strategic interests.
In recent years, similar arguments have been voiced regarding the Turkish government at home and abroad. Having been accused of serving as the West's proxy in its first term, the AK Party is said to have moved away from the West at least since 2009. Nowadays, we witness pundits moving beyond charges of pro-ISIS sentiments to accuse the Turkish authorities of effectively promoting anti-Westernism and anti-Americanism.
Thus far, the AK Party opted for a critical approach to integration with the West. Charging the government's Turkey-centric foreign policy with anti-Westernism, to be sure, serves the interests of a number of groups. For the U.S. and Europe, this discourse helps impose limits on Turkish foreign policy, which, in turn, would force the authorities to play defence or at least conform to the Western position in key foreign policy areas including Syria. Again, observers hope that the label of anti-Westernism will render the AK Party government's criticism toward injustice at the international arena ineffective.
For domestic actors such as the secularists, Kurdish radicals and the Gülen Movement, voicing this form of criticism aims to present themselves as credible Western allies - which is why a new wave of charges of pro-Westernism and anti-Westernism have surfaced in Turkey's political landscape. In a way, the nation's contemporary history, built around a love-hate relationship with the West, seems to repeat itself.
A new set of tactical moves and coalitions add to the opposition's sense of weakness and give rise to new takes on a range of issues including Westernism and national interests. Surely enough, we have not witnessed the branding of the opposition as pro-Western and the government as anti-Western at least since the Welfare Party was in power in the mid-1990s. Furthermore, it is quite ironic that a supposedly pro-Western opposition seeks to undermine the possibility of Turkey's critical integration into the West. Meanwhile, charges of anti-Westernism join forces with the accusation of authoritarianism against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to generate an all-out operation against the country.
Europe and Islam: Degrees of Separation
Nov 14th 2014
AS NEWS reports from different countries remind us every day, the political, legal and educational institutions of Europe are struggling hard to find ways of incorporating the new reality of Islam into older systems for regulating religion.
In Britain this week, a lobby group called the Lawyers' Secular Society reacted with indignation when an event it was planning at the University of West London was cancelled by the hosts at the last moment. The event was intended to launch a report that drew attention to the number of Islamist figures with hard-line views on gender, sexuality and relations with other faiths who were gaining access and influence on British campuses. The meeting's cancellation seemed to confirm their apprehension. The campus insisted that its decision was made on purely technical and procedural grounds: the organisers had not gone through the proper channels to book the room.
In Austria, meanwhile, both libertarians and some Muslims are up in arms over a proposed new law which is supposed to regulate Islam. In its original form, it would have allowed only one German translation of the Koran to circulate in the country; this idea has apparently been dropped but the government would still like to subject Islam to much greater scrutiny, and restrictions on foreign funding, than any other faith. Muslims say they feel victimised, while secular campaigners like the Forum for Religious Freedom Europe have questioned whether it is logical to impose transparency requirements on some religions and not on others.
Meanwhile in francophone Europe, some anguished discussions are taking place over how to solve a problem which almost all parties acknowledge: the need for imams who are properly trained, understand European society better and guide their flock away from, rather than towards, extremism.
In both France and the French-speaking part of Belgium, expert reports have been commissioned on how to provide university-level education for Muslim prayer leaders. In France especially, the question is a delicate one because of the cherished principle of laicité—strict separation of church and state—which has prevailed in most of the country since 1905. Because of laicité, public universities cannot have theology faculties—though this restriction does not apply to Strasbourg or the surrounding region of Alsace-Lorraine, which was not part of France when the law entered force.
France's religions can, of course, make their own provision for high-level education, and several private Muslim establishments already exist. Meanwhile universities, with the government's blessing, have been offering diplomas in areas like law, sociology and inter-faith relations which, without delving into theology, are meant to be useful for religious practitioners. According to press leaks (in Italian), the French report, by Francis Messner, a professor at Strasbourg University, calls for a three-pronged approach which builds on the existing situation: fostering and regulating private theological institutions, encouraging more universities to offer religion-related diplomas, and nurturing "centres of excellence" where the history and sociology of Islam—and the causes of extremism—can be researched at a very high standard.
Neither zealous Muslims nor staunch secularists will be perfectly satisfied by this approach, but in French terms it is a reasonable compromise. The Belgian report may prove more controversial. It apparently offers three alternatives—a theology faculty offering many levels of instruction; a master's degree in Islam; or a system of recognising degrees from other countries in Islamic studies. Already there has been a sharp reaction in the world of scholarship. Jean-Philippe Schreiber, a professor at the Free University of Brussels, argues that for the government to impose new theological courses would be an attack on academic freedom. As of now, Mr Schreiber said, francophone Belgium had two campuses, in Liège and Brussels, which were secular, and another, at Louvain-la-Neuve which was historically Catholic but quite liberal. For the government to start mandating courses in Islamic theology in any of these places would "be a step backwards", he insisted.
In addition to all these ideological issues, there is a hard reality to consider. Being an imam in Europe is a rather thankless task. Of the 1,800 imams in France, about 1,000 offer their services for virtually no pay. Only 330 receive a decent, full-time salary—in most cases from religious authorities in their home countries, such as Algeria, Morocco or Turkey. Only 25-30% of the imams working in France have French citizenship. The idea of "home-grown" French imams, well trained and correspondingly well paid, is an attractive one in principle—but poor Muslim communities seem unwilling or unable to finance such arrangements. And for the secular French state, putting imams on its payroll would be inconceivable.
These arguments are only just beginning.
Obama and the Definition of "Islamic"
By Caroline Glick
November 11, 2014
In his speech on September 11 announcing that the US would commence limited operations against Islamic State, US President Barack Obama insisted, “ISIL, [i.e. Islamic State] is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.”
To be sure, it is hard to see how any human faith can countenance IS’s actions. For the past several months, on a daily basis, new videos appear of IS fighters proudly, openly and wantonly committing crimes against humanity. This week for instance, a video emerged of an IS slave market in Raqqah, Syria, where women and girls are sold as sex slaves to IS fighters.
Despite the glaring contradiction between divinity and monstrosity, the fact is that IS justifies every single one of its atrocities with verses from the Koran.
IS referred to its sex slave market in Raqqah for instance as the “Booty Market… for what your right hands possess.”
The phrase “what your right hands possess” is a Koranic verse (4:3) that permits the sexual enslavement of women and girls by Muslim men.
Whether it is mainstream Islamic jurisprudence or not to embrace the enslavement of women and girls as concubines is not a question that Obama – or any US leader for that matter – is equipped to answer. And yet, Obama spoke with absolute certainty when he claimed that IS is not Islamic.
Obama speaks with similar conviction whenever he refers to Iran as “The Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Obama’s consistent deference to the Iranian regime, exposed by his studious use of the regime’s name for itself whenever he discusses Iran indicates that at a minimum, he is willing to accept the regime’s claim that it is an Islamic regime. In other words, he is willing to accept that everything about the Iranian regime is authentic Islam. Similarly, if he is right that “no religion condones the killing of innocents,” then that means that the “Islamic Republic” similarly does not condone the killing of innocents.
Of course, there is a problem here. In fact, there are two problems here.
First, in its treatment of its own people, the Iranian regime condones and actively engages in the killing of innocents, the vast majority of whom are Muslims. The Islamic regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran invokes the Koran to justify its killing.
Likewise, the political imprisonment, torture and general repression of Iranians from all faiths are justified in the name of Islam.
Consider two recent examples.
On October 25, 27-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged for allegedly killing a man who was trying to rape her. Jabbari was imprisoned for seven years prior to her execution.
Although her suffering was a cause celebre for advocates of human rights in Iran, the regime didn’t care. In contempt of the international community, it murdered her a week ago.
As her attorney Mohammed Mostataei explained at a conference held by UN Watch in Geneva last week, Jabbari was tried under Islamic law – the law of the land in the Islamic Republic of Iran. And under Islamic Sharia law, intent in adjudication of criminal offenses is irrelevant. As a consequence, once regime inquisitors force a person to confess, he or she is doomed.
Forced confessions are the stock in trade for Iranian investigators.
Last month, 25 women in Isfahan, Iran’s tourist capital, were reportedly victims of acid attacks.
The women had acid thrown in their faces while they were driving in their cars.
The public immediately suspected that they were targeted because their faces were not covered sufficiently to satisfy Islamic goon squads that drive around the city seeking – with the tacit if not open support of the regime – to terrorize the public into obeying their repressive, inhumane interpretation of Islam.
On October 22, human rights activists in Iran held demonstrations against the acid attacks outside the judiciary building in Isfahan and outside the Iranian parliament in Tehran. In both instances, protesters insisted that there is no difference between the repression inherent in the radical Islam propagated by IS and that practiced by the Iranian regime.
In both cities, demonstrators were attacked by regime forces with tear gas. Many were arrested.
After the acid attacks were first reported, the Iranian parliament passed measures to strengthen the authority of the regime’s Basij shock troop squads to enforce repressive, misogynist Islamic dress codes on women and enforce other socially repressive aspects of the regime’s Islam.
As Baron Alexander Carile of Barriew, a member of the British House of Lords and expert on terrorism explained last Friday in The Washington Times, “In essence, the regime responded to the acid attacks that have seriously injured 25 people so far by legitimizing the motives of their attackers.”
According to the UN, Iran executed 852 Iranians for various offenses from July 2013 through June 2014.
This of course is just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of the regime’s killing is carried out by its proxies.
IS’s persecution of those who have had the misfortune to fall under its control is a blight on the human race. And so is the persecution committed by Iran’s puppets – the Assad regime in Syria, and its Lebanese terror army Hezbollah. Since the Syrian civil war began three years ago, the Iranian-controlled regime has killed somewhere between 120,000 and 200,000 people.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, nearly 10,000 of the dead are children, another 6,000 are women. Other groups place the number much higher.
More than 2.14 million Syrians are now refugees in neighbouring countries. Half of the refugees are children. Another 4.25 million Syrians are internally displaced.
If it hadn’t been for Iran’s support for the regime, the vast majority of the victims of Syria’s civil war would still be alive and living in their homes.
Thanks to Iran and its Hezbollah army, Lebanon is on the brink of sharing Syria’s fate.
Hezbollah has played a major role in the war in Syria, and over the years, with Iran’s total backing, it has murdered thousands of people in Lebanon, Israel and throughout the world.
Hezbollah has trained Sister Iranian supported or commanded terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas. With the blessing, and often acting on direct orders from the Islamic Republic, these groups have killed hundreds of innocents.
Like Hezbollah, Assad and the mullahs in Tehran, they have also repressed their own people in the name of their Islamic devotion.
And this brings us back to Obama and his insistence that IS is not Islamic, but the Iranian regime is Islamic. How are we to understand this seeming anomaly?
Throughout his tenure in office, Obama has gone out of his way to mainstream Muslim extremists. This has taken the form of granting senior appointments to people aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. For instance, amid a Congressional investigation into suspected leaks, Mohamed Elibiary, a senior fellow at the US Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council, resigned his position.
Just before his resignation, Elibiary tweeted that the rise of the caliphate is “inevitable.” In 2004 he spoke at a conference in Dallas celebrating the legacy of Iranian dictator Ayatollah Khomeini. As Robert Spencer has reported, the conference was titled, “A Tribute to a Great Islamic Visionary.”
Moreover, Obama had befriended radical Islamic leaders who openly support terrorism, including Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
And of course, as we see more and more clearly each day, the centrepiece of Obama’s foreign policy has been appeasing the Islamic Republic of Iran in the hope of achieving détente with the nuclear weapons pursuing state sponsor of terrorism.
The likes of IS, with its love of the video camera, discredit Obama’s narrative that radical, terror- supporting Muslims are peaceful. Since IS is openly evil, it is un-Islamic.
On the other hand, despite the fact that it is nearly as barbaric as IS, the Iranian regime is Islamic, because as far as Obama is concerned, it is good. And it is good because he wants to make a deal with the mullahs.
In other words, Obama is neither an expert on Islam, nor a man moved by moral indignation.
He opposes IS because IS makes it hard for him to defend Islam from bad public relations. And he coos about the “Islamic Republic of Iran” because he is dedicated to his mission of whitewashing and mainstreaming the regime born of an Islamic revolution.
US Gambit with ISIL
By Mümtazer Türköne
November 15, 2014
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has proven to be a Gordian knot for the United States. But it is not willing to play Alexander the Great and cut it down with its sword, as it did in Iraq. The only way is to use diplomacy to untangle the knot with patience. This diplomacy or patience has possibly played a role in the abatement of mutual tension between the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the wake of building pressure.
The United States is Turkey's strategic ally. On the other hand, the PKK is indebted to the critical US air strikes against ISIL forces for not losing Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), to which it attaches special importance. The greatest diplomatic victory against ISIL would be a permanent agreement between the Turkish government and the PKK upon the conclusion of the settlement process. The US knows this and the current situation is considered a victory against ISIL.
The Middle East is like a chessboard, just as it was 100 years ago. Ensuring the smooth progress of the settlement process was a prerequisite for not only preventing ISIL from capturing Kobani, but also preventing the al-Nusra Front from occupying Afrin, another Kurdish canton. If Kurds and Turks were to cooperate with each other, ISIL would be faced with a strong defensive front, and the US would have an advantage in the chess game. In the chess strategy the US has developed, Turks should come to terms with Kurds and the war between the al-Nusra Front and ISIL would increase, to drain the power of both sides.
It follows that the compromise relies on regional balances and on the efforts of the US in its capacity as the greatest chess player in the region, not on the negotiations between the government and the PKK. If the Turkish government and the PKK had continued to search for a solution, nurturing extreme distrust toward each other, the clashes would most probably have escalated once again. The government assumed that the imminent harsh winter would put an end to PKK activism just as the "General Winter" defeated Napoleon in Russia. The PKK is not a monolithic organization, and a number of players need to agree with each other for peace, but objection by a single player is enough to start a war.
Currently, the parties have adopted an attentive discourse. The cold winter was suddenly replaced by spring winds.
The relationship between Turkey and the PKK is like the one between the US and ISIL. Yet, the US should be just at the beginning of such a violent relationship. On the other hand, we have no means of predicting how long ISIL will remain in the region. If the radical tendencies it represents are not satisfied, ISIL might be replaced with mushrooming Islamist organizations after several defeats it may face.
Moreover, it is impossible for the US to make a compromise with ISIL. Still, the US is playing chess on a rickety table, and at any time, the chessboard may be upended.
Turks and Kurds are the perpetual players in the region, and the consensus between them would become meaningful after the chessboard is disturbed.
Just as it did with Turks, the US is developing a long-term relationship with Kurds, going beyond the PKK. Now, the policies by all Kurdish policy-makers, particularly including Massoud Barzani, are under US tutelage. Looking at the developments in the region, the US may leave Kurds in a lurch against their enemies, just as it has done in the past. It will certainly prefer Turkey to Kurdish politicians if it faces a problem it cannot solve satisfactorily to both sides.
This harmonious relationship will have more significance to Turks and Kurds than their interest-based relationship with the US.
If current obstacles can be overcome and if permanent peace can be attained, Turkey will emerge as an ally with Kurds. Just as it did with Barzani, this alliance will change the balance of the entire region.
With Turkey's reaction to ISIL, it's relationship with Kurds is progressing towards permanent consensus.
U.S. Engages With Muslims
By Tamara Audi and Miriam Jordan
Nov. 13, 2014
With a sprawling Islamic centre that houses a charter school, hosts political debates and offers free flu shots, this Muslim congregation of doctors, engineers and other professionals east of Los Angeles exemplifies the American success story.
Now, it also illustrates the difficult situation Islamic communities’ face more than a decade after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: On one hand, Muslim congregations across the U.S. are concerned that Islamic State, or ISIS, or other terror groups could try to recruit and radicalize their youth. On the other, they are uncomfortable with the prospect of law enforcement scrutinizing their members and activities.
“We want to protect our homeland and our children, and we want to know the best way to do that,” said Azfal Hussain, an engineer who is president of the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley. But, he added, the federal government “made mistakes in the past and the community was maligned and our civil rights trampled.”
The two interests met Thursday, when Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson visited the $5 million mosque here to smooth communication and bolster cooperation efforts with federal officials. For Mr. Johnson, who regards Muslim communities as a front line of defence against foreign-fighter recruitment from the likes of ISIS, the visit was part of a national tour to build—and in some cases repair—the government’s relationship with Muslims.
Mr. Johnson has also visited Muslim communities in Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio as part of the initiative by the Department of Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Center and local law enforcement to better engage Muslim communities.
At a news conference, Mr. Johnson said he is asking for all Muslims “to be on the lookout for potential acts of violence and those individuals” who may be on the wrong path “and steer them in a different direction, and if that’s not possible then alert authorities.’’
More than 100 Americans are believed to either have travelled to Syria or tried to reach Syria to join militants. ISIS has sought to capitalize on outrage over Muslim deaths at the hands of Western governments, including U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, to appeal to youth. It has also tried to attract adherents by glorifying participation in jihad.
The group has reached American Muslims mainly via the Internet, including three siblings from Chicago who were stopped before they left the country, and two Somali girls and one Sudanese girl from Colorado recently intercepted in Frankfurt on their way to Syria.
Those cases have raised alarm among law enforcement and among some Muslims. They’ve also helped feed what some Muslims deem an “industry of Islamophobia” that unfairly taints the entire community, and is underscored by U.S. authorities’ attempts in various parts of the country to infiltrate and spy on mosques.
After Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Johnson said he addressed a variety of issues at the mosque, including grievances about treatment by federal officials, particularly on immigration and airport screening. But he was also there to say, “We need something from you. This is as much your homeland and public safety as anybody else’s.”
The utility of Mr. Johnson’s personal engagement is hard to gauge, said Daniel Benjamin, a former State Department coordinator for counterterrorism. “If he is setting the right tone of appropriate concern and reassurance, it will be a net plus,” said Mr. Benjamin, a foreign-relations scholar at Dartmouth College. “The real important thing is how lower-level people manage these relationships and build trust, without communicating that the communities should be targets of great concern and unwarranted intrusiveness.”
Several organizations in Southern California, including the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized the government initiative, saying in a statement that encouraging individuals in Muslim communities to report suspect behaviour of others has “obvious civil liberties implications on members of our communities.”
Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who was in attendance, said the meeting signals an improvement in the community’s relationship with law enforcement that marks a fresh start from a decade ago when surveillance and infiltration bred distrust.
“We’re talking about a partnership, countering violent extremism together,” said Mr. Al-Marayati, whose national group this year launched a “Safe Spaces” initiative to help Muslim leaders identify and engage with those espousing radical ideals, rather than shunning them.
Mosque leaders and homeland-security officials met privately in the sprawling, bluish-gray-domed Islamic center that is wedged between strip malls and warehouses. “The community is very large and you never know,” said Mr. Hussain, the centre’s president, responding to the potential risk posed by ISIS recruiters. “Even one person is too many. We want to be proactive and protect our youth.”
The mosque recently invited Islamic scholars to talk to its congregation of about 400 members “that the values ISIS represents are totally un-Islamic,” Mr. Hussain said. Mosque leaders have also hosted community meetings with Federal Bureau of Investigation officials and local police, they said.
Others in the congregation said that concerns about radicalization of Muslim-American youth are overblown.
“Honestly I’m more concerned about drug abuse, and kids falling into the wrong company in typical high school situations,” than ISIS recruiting any of his children, said Azhar Majeed, 43, a mosque member. He and his wife, an attorney, have a 13-year-old son, and two daughters ages 11 and 8.
Dr. Majeed, who grew up in Southern California, said worries over ISIS luring young Muslims is “hyped up.” But, he said he was glad Mr. Johnson had visited. “He should come and see who we are. I’d like him to see we are an open, American community.”
Fuelling Islamophobia in the US
By Khaled A Beydoun
17 Nov 2014
Centuries old stereotypes conflate Muslims as one and the same, writes [AFP]
The United Arab Emirates designated two Muslim-American civil rights groups - the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society - among the 83 institutions included in its new terrorist group list. The designations were announced on the state's official news agency on November 15, marking a nefarious precedent where a government of a Muslim-majority state has designated a Muslim-American institution as a "terrorist organisation".
While the classification of both organisations as terrorist groups is alarming, the allegation against CAIR is particularly concerning. The advocacy organisation based out of Washington, DC, which encompasses 28 chapters across the United States, has stood as a vital and vocal opponent of state-sponsored discrimination against Muslim-Americans. In addition, CAIR - principally through its chapters - has carried forward unapologetic initiatives aimed at eroding Islamophobia and defending Muslim-American individuals and institutions during the post-9/11 era.
Regional politics, not CAIR's work stateside, moved the UAE to designate the civil rights organisation a terrorist group. More specifically, hearsay tying CAIR with the Muslim Brotherhood, a political nemesis of the UAE, is believed to be the principal catalyst behind the designation.
Although distant geopolitical concerns are behind the UAE designating CAIR as a terrorist organisation, what impact will the classification have on the advocacy group, its civil rights mission, and collaterally, Muslim-Americans at large? The ramifications are not only acute, but also extensive.
A Widening 'Gulf'
Centuries old stereotypes, still embedded in the American imagination, conflate Muslims - regardless of their nationality or locale - as one and the same. Therefore, Muslim Americans - the overwhelming majority of whom have no connection to the UAE - are consistently lumped up with the prevailing stereotypes attributed to the people of the oil-rich state: endless wealth, modern slavery, and conspicuous expression of religious conservativism cloaking commercial insatiability.
Yet, the differences between Muslims in monarchical Gulf States and Muslim-America are as ample, and extensive, as the differences between Dubai and Detroit - their respective hubs.
The recent designation of CAIR as a terrorist organisation not only provides further evidence that Muslims are anything but a monolith, but also manifests a widening political and interests' gulf between Muslims in the UAE and Muslim-Americans.
Since 9/11, the UAE has expressed only passing concern for the civil liberties crackdown experienced by Muslim-Americans. This apathy may be a surprise to everyone in the US aside from Muslim-Americans, who can point to the dehumanisation of Muslim migrant workers within the Gulf region to highlight how religious affinity is seldom a source of apathy.
With heightening state and societal animosity toward Islam in the US, particularly with the recent emergence of ISIL, the UAE's designation of CAIR as "terrorists" shifts their state stance from apathy toward full-fledged assault. The designation has two considerable effects: first, it endorses specific allegations from right-wing US groups that CAIR colludes with terrorist networks; and second, functions as testimony, from a native state informant, deepening the stereotype that critical Muslim-American civil rights organisations are subversive and anti-American.
CAIR is not designated a terrorist group within the US. However, the organisation and its leadership have fended off allegations of direct or indirect links with state-designated terrorist groups for many years. The allegations, although legally tenuous, curried public perception that CAIR itself had terrorist affiliations. This led to increased government surveillance of its Executive Director, Nihad Awad, FBI probing of CAIR chapters and community outreach work, monitoring of Muslim-Americans seeking their counsel, and intensified slander from right-wing political leaders and media pundits.
By classifying CAIR as a terrorist organisation, among the likes of ISIL, al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram, the move will embolden Islamophobic elements to pronounce their hateful rhetoric, and expedite draconian policies against Muslim-Americans.
Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of CAIR's Greater Los Angeles chapter, echoes that the designation will "fuel Islamophobia, and undermine the safety and well being of Muslim communities [in the United States] around the world".
Furthermore, the UAE designation will further complicate CAIR's ability to carry forward advocacy work protecting Muslim-Americans. Instead of marshalling manpower and resources to handling hate crimes cases, public workshops, and other direly needed initiatives, the designation will compel the organisation and its staff to respond to its placement on the terrorist list, and collaterally, deal with the barrage of political and private hate that is sure to follow.
Without question, the designation not only undermines the interests of CAIR, but also the nearly 8 million Muslim-Americans that benefit from its work. Among the most marginalised and maligned communities in the US, the Muslim-American plight is compounded by a dearth of effective and unapologetic advocacy groups.
Therefore, formal condemnation of their most prominent defender will trickle down to hold them vicariously liable of "terrorism", a perspective already widely held in the US. While the UAE formally alleging CAIR to be a terrorist organisation is as reprehensible as it is self-serving, the forthcoming allegations that the move is abetting Islamophobia in the US are both precise and deserving.
Khaled A Beydoun is an Assistant Professor of Law at the Barry University Dwayne O Andreas School of Law. He is a native of Detroit.