Doing the Right Thing
On Fort Dix, Albanian-American Muslim Leadership, and CAIR
by Yehudit Barsky
American Jewish Committee
May 31, 2007
American Jewish Committee on Fort Dix, Albanian-American Muslim Leadership, and CAIR, May 31, 2007
Two days ago the Circuit City store clerk who tipped off police to the activities of the Fort Dix terror plotters gave his first interview. Brian Morgenstern, a 26-year-old employee at the store, told CNN that two "normal people" came into the store and asked for a camcorder cassette tape to be transferred to DVD.
While duplicating the tape, Morgenstern said, "I saw some stuff on the film that was disturbing and it kind of gained my attention that way." According to press reports, the tape depicted 10 young bearded men firing handguns, rifles and fully automatic weapons at a firing range, calling for jihad, and shouting, "Allahu Akbar!," or "God is great!" Six of the men were arrested on May 9, and charged, according to court documents, with planning "to kill as many soldiers as possible" in an armed attack on Fort Dix.
Morgenstern talked to his family about it, and the next morning told his manager about the tape and his decision to report it to the police. He received a letter of citation from the Mount Laurel Police, describing his actions as a "highly honorable act of civil duty." Morgenstern was dubbed an "unsung hero" by the FBI. He demurred. "I don't feel like a hero," Morgenstern said. "I feel like I did the right thing, but I think the real heroes are the men and women overseas and the people in our law enforcement who handled the situation."
Investigators credited Morgenstern's report as the key information that foiled the plot. The Fort Dix plot is the new face of terrorism that has been developing since 9/11. Since then, Western security agencies have focused on predicting the next form that Al-Qa'ida and other promoters of global jihad would take. For its part, Al Qa'ida melted from a centralized organization with training camps and a hierarchical structure to a movement with no overall structure, which is nevertheless capable of attracting and indoctrinating initiates. There are still some cases of graduates of Al-Qa'ida training camps making their way throughout the world to create new terror cells, but such examples have become relatively fewer over time.
In February 2003, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified, "Our greatest threat is from Al-Qa'ida cells in the United States that we have not yet been able to identify." That trend has held true and has metamorphosed into the threat that the U.S. and other countries now face. A number of other averted terrorist attacks over the past several years indicate that the new threat from Al-Qa'ida and similar organizations is their continued ability to inspire and indoctrinate recruits to global jihad without the assistance of an Al-Qa'ida training camp graduate. In such cases, the organization has sought to recruit individuals who are part of or who already blend into their respective societies, such as immigrant Muslims who have become assimilated into the culture of their adopted countries. They are indoctrinating and training themselves on their own. They are the "home–grown" terrorists, and the Fort Dix plotters fit that description perfectly.
What can be done to foil this process? A recent Rand Corporation study goes beyond some of the conventional approaches in dealing with this phenomenon. Most importantly, it points to attacking the ideological underpinnings of Al-Qa'ida and its global jihadist movement, and calls for preventing Islamic extremist ideologues from "continuing to provide justification for terrorism" and "empowering moderate Muslims to counter the influence of the radicals." In that regard, the study is calling for Muslims to "do the right thing."
Following news reports that three of the Fort Dix plotters were ethnic Albanians from Macedonia, the Albanian Muslim Community in the U.S. and Canada issued a statement condemning the averted attack and the ideology that produced it. "We strongly condemn violence and terrorist activities perpetrated in the name of Islam." The statement continued, "We are against all those 'so-called Muslims' who misuse and humiliate Islam and create ugly images of the Muslim people. Islam is a religion of peace and we appreciate the fact that the U.S. Government does not identify Muslims with those who commit acts of terror." It concluded, "We pray to Almighty God to save and protect the U.S., which provides shelter to those in need from around the globe."
A similar response was not forthcoming from the Council on American Islamic Relations. While CAIR applauded the FBI's "efforts to thwart" the attack, it made no condemnation of the extremist ideology that led to the plot. At the same time that it issued the statement, CAIR was promoting an event featuring the anti-Semitic Islamist preacher Amr Khaled, who has stated that Jews are "the most envious, especially toward Muslims, and they are the keenest in spreading lusts, the seduction of women and the advocacy of various sins." Clearly CAIR can't have it both ways. Doing the right thing means condemning extremist ideology, not promoting it.
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