How to fight jihad in America
Islamic radicalization in America's own backyard is a problem. But our domestic counterterrorism strategies end up alienating or underutilizing our best asset – the Muslim community. Partnerships with moderate Muslims, education, research, and dialogue will build trust and counter extremism.
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Finally, America has to engage in a national dialogue on issues surrounding counter-radicalization. The government should create educational forums where policymakers and Muslim communities can tackle tough questions about the differences between radical Islamism and mainstream Islamic tenets – publicly and honestly. The government should organize televised town-hall meetings and conferences where Muslims can discuss organic, bottom-up solutions to challenges within their communities.Skip to next paragraph
Throughout this process, Muslim groups should be developing their own high-profile public awareness campaigns – issuing statements against radical ideologies, and publishing literature that highlights Islamic values of religious tolerance, pluralism, and gender equality. Some Muslim communities have begun the work of increasing public awareness, but it must continue and increase – proactively, not just reactively.
Bridging the trust deficit
At the end of the day, we need to address the core problem of radicalization in America’s backyard. The importance of creating lasting partnerships with moderate Muslim communities cannot be overemphasized. Muslim partners that uphold American ideals of religious liberty, human dignity, and social harmony can demonstrate to the American public that they are just as committed to the problem of radicalization as non-Muslims.
After all, in the case of the “Virginia Five” who were apprehended en route to a terrorist training camp, it was the parents who first contacted the FBI about their missing children. Not only can these partnerships build a strong grassroots defense against radicalization, but they can bridge the trust deficit between Muslim and non-Muslim communities which could otherwise divide America on religious fault lines.
Dr. Hedieh Mirahmadi is the President of WORDE and a consultant for both the public and private sector on the issues of terrorism and countering radical ideologies. She has also served as senior advisor to the US Embassy in Afghanistan and as a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Recently, she was appointed to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Community Police Advisory Board.
Mehreen Farooq is a research fellow with WORDE. She received her MA in International Affairs from American University, is a graduate of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, and in 2007 was selected as a Fulbright scholar to do research in Egypt. She has presented to the US Government’s interagency Afghanistan-Pakistan Task Force and served as a research assistant for several international research institutions.