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American Muslims alarmed at the new report on "Violent Islamist extremism"

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American Muslims are alarmed at a new government report on “homegrown terrorism” which claims that the threat posed by “violent Islamist extremists” now comes increasingly from within the U.S.

The report - titled Violent Islamist extremism, the internet, and the homegrown terrorist threat – was released on May 8 by Senator Lieberman, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and Senator Susan Collins, the committee member.

“No longer is the threat just from abroad, as was the case with the attacks of September 11, 2001; the threat is now increasingly from within, from homegrown terrorists who are inspired by “violent Islamist ideology” to plan and execute attacks where they live,” the report said.

Four leading Arab-American and Muslim-American advocacy groups, in a joint letter to the two senators, have expressed deep concern about the report that the report heavily relied upon a widely criticized and deeply flawed New York Police Department study on domestic radicalization that claimed that typical “signatures" of radicalization include wearing traditional clothing, growing a beard, or giving up cigarettes, drinking, and gambling.

The four groups who sent the letter are: American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muslim Advocates and Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

“Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that the report relies upon a now-discredited 2007 report by the New York Police Department that recommends particular scrutiny of American Muslims and Arab-Americans,” said Kareem Shora, executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

“The NYPD report, and its shoddy analysis, are widely regarded as unreliable by counter-terrorism experts and federal law enforcement officials – who have privately rejected the report’s contents and methodology. We’re stunned that the Committee based its own conclusions on so flawed a study,” Shora added.

Not surprisingly, in August 2007 when the NYPD report was issued, American Muslim community protested at the report that 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.”

The NYDP report purports to outline a four-step process of radicalization, but in fact describes ordinary activities, associations and behaviors as indicators of a potential terror threat. The report lists sites that are likely to be visited by any American Muslim as radicalization 'incubators.' The sites listed include mosques, cafes, cab driver hangouts, student associations, nongovernmental organizations, butcher shops, and book stores.

Tellingly, the new report has reproduced the four steps of so-called radicalization process.

The NYDP report also claims that signs of radicalization include positive changes in personal behavior such as giving up smoking, drinking and gambling. It also makes similar claims about those who wear Islamic attire or a religiously-recommended beard. Is Islamic attire or giving up bad habits, which is something recommended by leaders of all faiths, now to be regarded as suspicious behavior?

It will not be too much to say that the NYDP report virtually laid the foundation for the blanket surveillance of the entire Muslim population. To borrow Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union: "this report appears to treat all young Muslims as suspects and to lay the groundwork for wholesale surveillance of Muslim communities without any sign of unlawful conduct."

The letter of the four civil right groups also drew sharp contrasts between integration and radicalization levels in the U.S. as opposed to Europe.

“Numerous terrorism experts, including Dr. Marc Sageman and Peter Bergen, have observed that the United States simply does not share the problem of “domestic radicalization” seen in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. Measures that unfairly and inaccurately label American Muslims as a suspect class thus fail to aid our security. In fact, such policies can actively undermine security by perpetuating the myth of opposition between “the West” and “the Muslim World” that this nation’s enemies seek to propagate.”

According to Corey Saylor, national legislative director with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR): “Inaccurately labeling American Muslims as a suspect class, as this report comes very close to doing, will do nothing to aid our collective security. We really expected more in the form of recommendations from this committee.”

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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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