A 12 December The Washington Post article entitled “Arrests suggest U.S. Muslims, like those in Europe, can be radicalized abroad” by Mary Beth Sheridan and Spencer S. Hsu begins:
A spike in terrorism cases involving U.S. citizens is challenging long-held assumptions that Muslims in Europe are more susceptible to radicalization than their better-assimilated counterparts in the United States.”
The limited scope of Sheridan and Hsu’s anthropological breakthrough is suggested by the fact that they neglect to explain whether the rape of Iraqis by US soldiers would not also qualify as “radicalization abroad”; as for “long-held assumptions,” these had apparently been bolstered by “British domestic intelligence chiefs [who had] warned in 2006 and 2007 of 200 terrorist networks [in Britain], at least 2,000 individuals who posed a direct security threat and perhaps 2,000 as-yet unknown would-be terrorists.”
No hard data is supplied for the number of as-yet unknown would-be terrorists perhaps currently located in the US, although Sheridan and Hsu do demonstrate the direct correlation between the European and American threat: “[J]ust as British authorities identified disenchanted elements among its 800,000-strong Pakistani community, several Pakistani Americans have been detained this fall in cases linked to extremists in Pakistan.” As for Sheridan’s eternal commitment to precision, examples of this included her questions during a State Department press briefing following the June coup in Honduras, when she attempted to get to the bottom of why the Pentagon had announced on two separate occasions the cessation of cooperation with the Honduran military:
SHERIDAN [from State Dept. transcript]: So is the announcement today just acknowledging something that happened a few days ago, or is this – you know, is this something further affecting, you know, I guess we assume joint, you know, sort of anti-drug type activities, or regional, I guess, anti-drug activities, right, at Soto Cano [Air Base] and that kind of thing?”
According to Sheridan and Hsu’s 12 December Post article, “[s]everal U.S. and international terrorism analysts” have attributed the increased “chances that U.S. Muslims could carry out a domestic attack” to the following factors: “immigration trends, the global spread of a militant Islamism and controversial actions by the United States and its allies since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.” The newfound potential for radicalization meanwhile calls into question the validity of a cited “2007 study by the Pew Research Center [which] found that most Muslim Americans are ‘decidedly American’ in income, education and attitudes, rejecting extremism by larger margins than Muslim minorities in Europe”—in which the reductionist implication that American Muslims can either be decidedly American or extremist might also be categorized by some as a decidedly American view.
US President Barack Obama has proven slightly less perceptive than the several US and international terrorism analysts when it comes to controversial actions by America and its allies and is quoted in the article as including the following reasoning in his recent announcement regarding the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan: “We have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror.” Not explained by the president was whether other regional border issues should also be associated with extremists, such as the appearance of contemporary news headlines like “‘US drone’ hits Pakistan funeral.”
As for the scientific link between the “disenchanted elements among [Britain’s] 800,000-strong Pakistani community” and the “several Pakistani Americans… detained this fall in cases linked to extremists in Pakistan,” Sheridan and Hsu list the latter as 5 Virginia residents, a Chicago resident, and a Denver airport shuttle driver before assuring readers that “[t]he cases of radicalization are not limited to Pakistani Americans” and that they also included “Bryant N. Vinas, 26, a Hispanic American convert to Islam,” “Daniel P. Boyd, a white Muslim convert who lives in North Carolina,” and a slew of Somalis.
In her post-9/11 tirade entitled “The rage and the pride,” late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci explains US vulnerability to terrorism as in part a result of “its multi-ethnic identity, its liberality, its respect for its citizens and guests.” After estimating that approximately 24 million Americans are Arab or Muslim, Fallaci complains:
…when a Mustafa or a Muhammed comes [to the US] from Afghanistan, let’s say, to visit his uncle, there is nothing that prohibits him from enrolling in flight school to learn how to pilot a 757. Nor can anyone prohibit him from enrolling in university—something I hope changes—in order to study chemistry and biology, the two sciences required to ignite bacteriological war.”
As for other sorts of training now available to Muslims in the US, Sheridan and Hsu inform us that “American Muslim organizations, jolted by the spate of cases [of ‘radicalization of US Muslims abroad’], are abandoning their hesitation to speak out about the issue” and that the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have announced a plan to “launch counter-radicalization programs aimed at young people.” The MPAC website offers a link to the PDF version of the 2005 handbook for the organization’s National Grassroots Campaign to Fight Terrorism, page 10 of which consists of a photograph of an open Qur’an and page 9 of which consists of “Recommended mosque guidelines” such as:
Mosques should have a relationship that involves public meetings with the FBI’s regional office and local law enforcement.”
Page 7 of the brochure features the campaign’s mission statement, which starts out by reviewing the duty of “American Muslims to protect our country and to contribute to its betterment,” especially given “intelligence reports indicat[ing] that international terrorist networks continue to plan attacks against the United States.” MPAC’s “decidedly American” appearance—to borrow the terminology of the Pew Research Center—is however rendered slightly more ambiguous with the declaration that “[w]hile we find ourselves in the same line with most American citizens, there is the fear that those who are hateful fanatics or special interest opportunists will insist to marginalize Muslims and depict them as suspects to be watched.”
According to Sheridan and Hsu in their 12 December article, “U.S. authorities [say] the American Muslim community is central to countering extremism.” It is likely that neither Sheridan, Hsu, nor the authorities intend the term “extremism” to apply to The Washington Post articles entitled “Arrests suggest U.S. Muslims, like those in Europe, can be radicalized abroad.”