If radicalized means self-segregated, embittered, and angry enough to be ambivalent about the mentorship of jihadists, then America needs to pay close attention to neighborhood Islamic centers. There is a nexus between disaffected Muslims and those who graduate to violence, and two studies point to the American mosque. Now that another plot has been executed rather than foiled, there is finally overdue focus on the imams who foment resentment and alienation.
We have allowed mosques to serve as citadels, cutting Muslims off from the democratic society outside. When Muslim marriages are arranged, then officiated and filed within the mosque; when large and small contract disputes are adjudicated by a sheikh; when marriages are ended and custody determined by the imam, and financial disagreements assessed by mosque officials, observant Muslims might as well be living anywhere.
Certainly, the conditions for those that live under tight mosque control do not reflect anything that resembles America.
Constitutional rights and due process protections do not penetrate many sharia-observant mosque domains. After speaking with several Muslim individuals seeking to reassert constitutional rights after summary judgments were rendered, it is apparent that what purports to be Islamic arbitration is really more akin to kindergarten sandlot refereeing. The documents reveal that there was no semblance of legal process expected in arbitration proceedings, no conflict of interest disclosures, and no provision for structural fairness rules.
Even Muslim legal scholar M. Ali Sadiqi, writing for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, noted that Muslims would have difficulty bringing internal arbitration standards into conformity with American legal principles, since under sharia inheritance rules women are entitled to only one quarter of the estate — and one eighth if there are children.
In Germany, law enforcement authorities now see the Islamic courts as a competitive “shadow justice system,” and complain that sharia-styled tribunals interfere with the government’s duty to administer both civil and criminal justice.
In Britain, Baroness Cox has been working tirelessly for years to see British law reinstated and sharia jurisdiction reversed. During hearings on her bill, now called the Arbitration and Mediation Services Equality Bill, Baroness Donaghy (Labour Party) called the presumed acquiescence of women to unequal and often cruel treatment as “consensual as rape.” A Muslim woman told Baroness Cox:
I feel betrayed by Britain, I came to this country to get away from all this but the situation is worse here than in my country of origin.
From Britain to the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, France, Germany, and America, it is possible for Muslims to experience no notable difference between life in the West and the conditions that they fled back in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and Iraq. The only mentionable difference: the generous social welfare programs offered in the Western cultures.
When I inquired of a local imam as to how he identified radicalization and whether he was concerned about it, he tellingly pivoted to accusations that the U.S. government does not do enough for immigrant Muslims.
In contrast, Western-oriented American Muslim Dr. Zuhdi Jasser called out clerics who urge adherents to “focus on their own victimization, patronizingly reminding the rest of America not to be ‘racists’ [or] ‘bigots.’”
The unquestionably radical nature of the Islamic Society of Boston mosque and its counterpart the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (called “small one” and “big one” by locals) illustrates the worst of Islamist subversion. Whether the Tsarnaev brothers attended to the degree that the mosque was a key part of their radicalization is unknown, but it could not have been a mitigating influence in their conversion to terrorism. The pedigree of convicted terrorists that have emerged from IBS/IBSCC incubation, the close Muslim Brotherhood connections, the terror group ties, and the criminal convictions of leadership figures lead one to wonder how much more radical activism still seethes within this mosque community.
We also have examples of the poisonous rhetoric purveyed at these two mosques. In just one instance, invited imam Abdullah Farooq was videotaped saying that the Patriot Act “permits [government] to come to your door” and “to come anywhere they want and to come after you anytime.” He went on to urge action in the name of Allah against “oppressors,” by “grabbing on to gun and sword … to step out into this world and do your job.”
A 2004 lesson (active link now disabled) that gave tips on disciplining a wife recommended hanging up a whip in plain sight as a deterrent, but not advocating actual physical punishment unless she really needs it.
Sheikh Ahmed Mansour, an exile from Egypt, said that the ISB mosque “was controlled by fanatics.” He likened the atmosphere to the sharia extremism that he left behind: “I left Egypt to escape the Muslim Brotherhood, but I had found it [at ISB].” When Mansour told Fox News that fiery sermons can spur impressionable young men to violence, even if the speaker doesn’t explicitly advocate it, he was warning America that radicalization comes from the rhetoric that cleverly stops short of illegal incitement to imminent violence.
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.