It is a safe bet that the ISB mosque founders did not disclose to redevelopment planners the intent to establish a hotbed of extremism when they negotiated a government grant of the land at more than a 50% discount to recorded value (Saudi sponsors donated at least $1 million to the project). Yet by 2010 this extraordinary generosity was completely forgotten when an ungrateful ISB and political relations sponsor, the Muslim American Society, presented Governor Deval Patrick with a manifesto declaring that Muslims are a “victimized and besieged minority.” As the governor assented to the seven-point statement he also accepted $50,000 seed money for select law enforcement Islamic sensitivity training.
The isolation and alienation of the Muslim community is by design. Muslim mosque-goers are often ambivalent as to the outcome of the culture clash, and they certainly share responsibility for the outcome. However, there isn’t time to wait for them to overcome clerical, familial, tribal, and other coercive controls.
Local governments have also played a disappointing role. Planning and advisory bodies are stymied by religious land use law constraints and concerns about Department of Justice intervention on behalf of Muslim groups. Yet rather than use the conditional use permit process to introduce the mosque-building plan to the community in phases while assessing the conformity of the actual use to promises made during the application phase, some local officials instead have rolled out the red carpet by assenting to variances and exceptions that are not offered to other religious organizations.
Also, it is important that everyday citizens step into the role of radicalization monitors. Mosque-building permit and expansion hearings are an opportunity to calmly and factually cite the cases where Islamic clerics have promised to bring positive diversity and social support to the community but have instead delivered conflict, hostility, and an apartheid-like existence for the mosque-goers.
It is not unreasonable for residents to notify mosque organizers during permit hearings that the community will hold Islamic leadership accountable to the pledges of good citizenship. Imams will often agree at such hearings to the idea of opening the mosque for public relations purposes. Community leaders should agree and schedule dates. This is a good time to evaluate speakers hosted by the mosque and to discuss literature available for distribution. Local pastors also have an interest in knowing mosque leadership’s position on the Islamist persecution of Christians and Jews worldwide. This is not a time for platitudes, but for direct repudiation of conduct that conflicts with both constitutional standards and American ideals.
As former Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a recent interview, we battle a toxic cocktail of religion, politics, ethnicity, and tribalism. We cannot afford to be squeamish about declaring that our communities are no-go zones for fomenting explosive radicalism.