Terrorism cases force more Muslim Americans to grapple with homegrown jihad
Recent arrests of Muslim men in terrorism plots lead some adherents to ask if they need to approach risks of homegrown jihadists with more urgency.
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However, other Muslim commentators say their community does not endorse radicalism. After Shahzad's bombing attempt in Times Square, the Muslim community condemned his action, says Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News in Dearborn, Mich. "This is an exception, not the rule," he says, and adds, "I have assured many people from the younger generation: There is a way to express yourself in a democracy ... even with a decision made in the White House."Skip to next paragraph
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Some mainstream Islamic groups say that Shahzad's comments are similar to the rhetoric emanating from radical groups for years. "The only difference is this took place in an American courtroom instead of on a video from some cave in Afghanistan," says Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington. "I don't think it will resonate."
The official view of the US government seems to meld perspectives. The 2010 Annual Threat Assessment, written by Dennis Blair, then director of national intelligence, says that violence from home-grown jihadists will persist, but will be sporadic.
"A handful of individuals and small discrete cells will seek to mount attacks each year, with only a small portion of that activity materializing into violence against the Homeland," the assessment said.
It does require walking a tightrope, says Michael P. Jackson, deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under the Bush administration. It's fair "to ask the Muslim community to be sensitive to perversions of their core faith and to teachings of coexistence with other religions," says Mr. Jackson, now a founder of Firebreak Partners, a security consulting firm in McLean, Va.
Recently, Nomani saw firsthand the efforts to avoid antagonizing certain Islamic groups when she was invited with some think tank analysts to a meeting with Farah Pandith, the US special representative to Muslim communities. (That position was created last year and is part of the State Department.)
"I immediately said that we have to fundamentally challenge the interpretations of Islam that are claiming our youth," Nomani recalls. "And yet as soon as I said that, there was an immediate visceral reaction: [The others there] said oh no, the US government can't get into the business of religion, the business of interpretation."
Nomani left the meeting discouraged. "I thought to myself, if that's not part of our strategy, we are dead in the water, because we are just letting the poison keep infiltrating," she says.
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