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Senate hearing on: "The Role of Local Law Enforcement in Battling Violent Islamic Extremism"

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Radicalization is a buzz word these days.

In August 2007, the New York Police Department, Intelligence Division, issued a report titled: "Radicalization in the West and the Homegrown Threat."  The Report, which lays ground work for profiling of Muslims, contains language suggesting that a majority of Muslims in the United States present a threat to public order.

The NYPD Report makes an unsupported claim that violent ideologies are “proliferating at a logarithmic rate.”  Drawing on five case studies of arrests and prosecutions outside the United States, the Report asserts that “there is a remarkable consistency in the behaviors and trajectory of each of the plots across the stages” and that “this consistency provides a tool for predictability.”    And, more worryingly, it baldly asserts that “radicalization permeates New York City, especially its Muslim communities.” 

The report contains sweeping generalizations which are likely to reinforce negative stereotypes and unwarranted suspicions about the seven-million strong American Muslim community. Consider the statement from the report that suggests “there is no useful profile to assist law enforcement or intelligence to predict who will follow this trajectory of radicalization.” It is followed by a detailed description of exactly who the NYPD considers suspicious: Muslim men, ages 15 to 35, of middle-class origin often with college degrees. The typical homegrown jihadists, the report continues, may “look, act, talk and walk like everyone around them” and “are often those who are at a crossroad in life.”

These statements convey a false and dangerous impression that a majority of American Muslims are dangerous radicals.  Taken out of context — as they surely will be — these assertions are an invitation to other law enforcement agencies to engage in religious and racial profiling.  It is not unlikely they will be picked up by private entities and used as justification for private discrimination, hate attacks, or worse. 

The New York Police Department presented this controversial report at the Senate hearing of October 30, 2007, entitled: “The Role of Local Law Enforcement in Battling Violent Islamic Extremism.” Police officers from Los Angeles, Kansas City, and Miami/Dade County also discussed their approaches to counter “the threat of homegrown Islamist radicalization.”

Echoeing the NYDP’s Radicalization report, Major Thomas Dailey from the Missouri Police Department Homeland Security Division told the committee: “An understanding of how terrorists operate through pre-incident indicators and characteristics are key to preventing terrorism. Presenting specific case studies during training are a means to understanding both how terrorism has occurred and could have been prevented.”


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Major Thomas Dailey suggested that the tenets of the NYPD report on radicalization should be included in the Counter Terrorism Patrol Strategy training. Tellingly, attachment four of Major Dailey’s testimony reproduces Radicalization definition from the NYPD report.

He pointed out that there is a concentration of Middle Eastern immigrants and some refugees around the Islamic religious centers in the country and “many of them are intensely loyal to their homeland and religious beliefs.”

Major Michael Ronczkowski of the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Homeland Security Bureau told the committee that “Islamist extremists represent a fringe element within the Muslim community inside the United States.”

He was of the view that if law enforcement personnel (federal, state and local) can have a basic understanding of the Islamic culture and the roots of extremist ideology, such as that posed by Wahabism and the Muslim Brotherhood, they will be better equipped mentally to identify behavior patterns of extremists.  Just as within Christianity there are different denominations and individually held beliefs within each and the same can be said about Islam, he added.

Major Michael Ronczkowski argued that outreach and partnership with the public is crucial if local law enforcement is going to have any impact on the growth of violent Islamist extremism or the identification of any violent threat that may be developing in the homeland.

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Los Angeles Police Department’s “Mapping” (profiling) plan

At the hearing Michael P. Downing, Commanding Officer, Counter-Terrorism/Criminal Intelligence Bureau Los Angeles Police Department, unveiled its "community mapping" plan. The intelligence-guided mapping plan, which was to be carried out in conjunction with the Homeland Security Department’s National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events at the University of Southern California, would collect information about Muslim communities in the Los Angeles area in an effort to identify who the Muslims are and where the Muslims reside.

According to Downing’s written testimony, once the Muslims in the Los Angeles area are identified, the LAPD would then, "take a deeper look at their history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic background, socio-economic status, and social interactions."

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)

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