Growing radicalization of Muslims in America constitutes a policy minefield for Israel.
by Alex Joffe
Two recent reports indicate that the nature of the US Muslim population is changing. This will have important implications for Israel.
In Somalia, a recent suicide bomber was revealed to have been raised in Minnesota. The Somali community there originated in the 1990s with a refugee population that had been relocated by the US government. There have long been local reports regarding the difficulty young Somali males experienced integrating into American society and their involvement with gang violence and crime. Many Somali youth have also returned to their homeland to participate in ongoing religious warfare. More American suicide bombers should be expected in Somalia and eventually in the US.
A second report, in the policy journal Middle East Quarterly, points to the backdrop of growing Muslim radicalization in the US. Mordechai Kedar and David Yerushalmi used survey data from 100 mosques across the US to show that over 80% present sermons or other materials that praise religious violence. The results were strongly linked to the degree of religiosity exhibited by leaders and members of a mosque. These results echo those of the New York City Police Department study from 2007 that identified “salafi ideology” as a predictor of mosques’ role in radicalization.
A third non-American data point is the announcement of a change of British government policy designed to reduce the role of universities as centers for Muslim radicalization. Dozens of British Muslims radicalized toward violence by other students, local mosques and by student organizations have gone on to pursue violent jihad in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere. Others have perpetrated acts of terrorism within the United Kingdom, such as the 7/7 attacks in London, the “shoe bomber” attack in 2002, and the Glasgow airport attack in 2007. While the Muslim demographics of US campuses are different, radicalization in this setting is another aspect of the future facing the US. If the Somali case is any indication, it is around the corner.
US officials have responded to the emerging threats of radicalized Muslims in contradictory ways. On the one hand, law enforcement at the local and federal levels has been aggressive about thwarting plots, especially through the use of informants. On the other hand, political officials of different agencies have sought to mollify the Muslim lobby in the US through “outreach.” The problem is that, like a majority of mosques, organizations such as CAIR are Muslim Brotherhood related. Their strategy is instant outrage whenever a Muslim terror threat is revealed or when the problem is discussed in order to cow federal and local officials. This approach has been shockingly successful.
Coupled with this is a political strategy of deliberately inflating the population numbers of American Muslims in order to exaggerate their electoral importance and aggressive public outreach to all levels of the educational system in order to present Islam in the best possible light. America’s tolerant nature and politically correct culture treats Islam in the schools far better than Christianity.
For Israel the result is a policy minefield. Intelligence sharing by Western states and Israel appears to remain excellent. But there are significant threats to the American Jewish community that will eventually bring it into direct confrontation with American Muslims, and blow back on to Israel. Muslim violence against Jews will not win American friends. But official indulgence of American Muslims, the result of both politically correct condescension and a fear of more widespread violence, may actually increase in the wake of attacks on Jews.
That has been the pattern in the UK in the aftermath of 9/11, 7/7 and the Iraq War. The British government continues to throw immense amounts of money into programs aimed at the Muslim population with the hope of convincing young men to be less radical. Many programs have been shown to have been run by radicals themselves or by front groups. Those protesting such nonsensical policies are instantly derided as racists and Islamophobes. And calls for a more “even-handed” policy toward Israel in order to remove a source of “Muslim anger” and violence are also frequently heard. This paradox may yet occur in the US.
American fear of speaking honestly regarding growing threats, and Muslims anxiously condemning honest discussions, will result in greater silence. It will also continue the search for “root causes” – that is to say, means to accommodate and appease – radical Muslims.
A recent example of this is US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s frankly unbelievable statement that concentrating terrorist screen efforts on Muslim men under the age of 35 was “not good logic.” Another example is the responses to recent hearings by Representative Peter King on radicalization of Muslims in American prisons. Vituperative responses from American Muslim groups are to be expected. But as an illustration of the ludicrous efforts to deny reality, one of King’s colleagues, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, tried to change the subject by claiming “Christian militants” who wanted to overturn American laws about abortion were trying to “undermine” the country.
Such practical and moral idiocy will not do the US any good, and if history is any example, Jews and especially Israel will be held up as the real problem. Contending with this is a challenge that Americans and Israelis are ill-prepared to face.
Alex Joffe is a New York based writer on history and international affairs. His web site is www.alexanderjoffe.net