Muslim groups still MIA on terror
by Adam Brodsky
If you believe the hype, the United States has a valuable new ally in the War on Terror: American Muslim leaders. Alas, it's called "hype" for a reason.
Yes, some American Muslim groups are making a show of undertaking a sincere campaign to oppose terror, purge jihadis, help disrupt networks and thwart plots.
At Christmas Day bomber Umar Abdulmutallab's arraignment this month, some 50 Muslims rallied outside the court, carrying placards that read "Not in the Name of Islam," chanting "We are Americans" and waving US flags. Majed Moughni, who organized the protest, vowed to "take our religion back" from terrorists like Abdulmutallab.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading American Muslim group, (coincidentally?) uses almost verbatim language in its "anti-terror" campaigns. (Check out CAIR's Web site – its anti-extremism rhetoric could've been written by Dick Cheney.)
CAIR recently won tremendous press after informing officials that five young American Muslims left their homes in Virginia to wage jihad in Pakistan. In a sign of how low expectations had sunk, the media took it as a "man bites dog" story – a leading Muslim group aiding law enforcement.
"American Muslim organizations, jolted by the spate of cases, are abandoning their hesitation to speak out," The Washington Post said. CAIR and the Muslim Public Affairs Council had vowed to launch new "counterradicalization programs aimed at young people."
But one law-enforcement official tells me of speculation that CAIR may have felt compelled to divulge what it knew. Sitting on info like that could land it in hot water; CAIR is already fighting to bolster its reputation after being cited as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror case (and the FBI cut its ties to the group).
The Anti-Defamation League last week said new efforts by American Muslim groups "to root out radicalization" were "a sham." As an example, it pointed to a Chicago convention staged by the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America last month – which, ADL National Director Abe Foxman said, was "nothing more than a cover for the dissemination of hateful anti-American and anti-Israel views and anti-Semitism."
Participants accused America of attacking Islam and targeting US Muslims at home and abroad. On sale, ADL reported, were books and CDs by such firebrands as Anwar al-Awlaki – the Muslim cleric linked to al Qaeda.
The ADL's not alone. Another law-enforcement source tells me CAIR and other groups have been worse than useless: To this source's knowledge, US Muslims have played virtually no role in foiling local plots.
Indeed, in some places, imams have reportedly withheld useful info and threatened to oust congregants who aid law-enforcement. Officials say Ahmad Afzali, the Queens imam helping agents probe Najibullah Zazi (the coffee vendor charged in a New York terror plot), later double-crossed them and alerted Zazi.
"I know of no investigations" in which Muslims have been helpful, Rep. Peter King (R-LI), the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, tells me. He says law-enforcement and counterterror officials invariably tell him Muslim cooperation doesn't exist. Sometimes agents say they're met with hostility.
For folks who "understand the nature of the threat" and watch officials from "CAIR and the Muslim Public Affairs Council on major [TV] networks, it's incredibly demoralizing," a former FBI special agent says.
A reluctance to even acknowledge pro-terrorist sympathies persists even beyond official Muslim groups. At universities, for example, Muslim students have blocked speeches by people like Nonie Darwish – an anti-terror activist who calls herself a "former Muslim" and who speaks about the Islamic links to terror. In the last two months, scheduled Darwish talks at Princeton and Columbia were canceled at the last minute, after Muslim objections. At Boston University, someone lit a fire in a building where she was to speak.
Darwish says she and other former Muslims regularly face death threats. And though she's asked American Muslim groups to sign a pledge opposing fatwas that condemn former Muslims to death, "not one organization" has done so.
No one doubts that many American Muslims oppose Islamist terror or that some serve admirably in the armed forces, at counterterror agencies and elsewhere. One Muslim group, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, regularly advises and assists officials, at least in a general way. Its executive director, Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, has written extensively and testified before Congress, particularly on the Wahhabi threat.
He says an article he wrote contributed to a judge's decision to reject bail for an American Muslim, Randall Royer – who had reportedly worked for CAIR and MAS – and was linked to the Pakistani-based Wahhabi group Lashkar-i-Taiba.
Still, it's easy to see why many Americans remain suspicious: Deception and duplicity are key weapons of terrorists and their sympathizers.
If American Muslim leaders – at mosques and groups like CAIR and MPAC – are turning a corner, deterring young Muslims from paths of violence and truly cooperating with authorities, it would surely boost home-front security.
So far, though, skepticism seems prudent.
Note: The content of external articles does not necessarily reflect the views of Center for Islamic Pluralism.