Speakers at a recent forum on online radicalization of Muslims sponsored by the New America Foundation proved once again that denial is not just a river in Egypt:
• Mohamed Elibiary, a Department of Homeland Security official, spoke of “capacity building” and community outreach efforts that do not involve FBI surveillance of mosques and Muslims. Indeed, that would mean the government is extending greater courtesies to the Islamic community than it ever has to the TEA party.
• Rashad Hussein, U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, added that anti-American Islamist extremists do not have any valid argument to blame American foreign policy decisions and their impact on the Muslim community, but only have flashy and creative material to draw on from disillusioned Muslim youth.
• Rabia Chaudry, a New America Foundation fellow, said “the Internet is a highly successful tool” used by “terrorists to disseminate [anti-Western] narratives” but these narratives are “being reinforced by bigots and activists,” which could be a veiled reference to conservatives and Christians alike who worry about growing Islamist influence. Chaudry added that these anti-Muslim activists and “bigots” are “more influential on policymakers and media,” and lamented that more community-based “discussions don’t filter very well” throughout the levels of government. One of the primary reasons, Chaudry noted, is that progressive Islam “doesn’t have the street cred” as conservative Muslims do, and urged the audience that definitions like “jihadi” are inappropriate in trying to reach a consensus and build relations with the Muslim community.
• Suhaib Webb, a Boston-based Muslim imam, claimed that The Fox News Network gave an inaccurate portrayal of him as an al-Qaeda operative during their Boston Marathon bombing coverage. They missed “cultural nuances,” he asserted. Yet, Webb admitted that Islam’s “institutional mediocrity” allows for young, disillusioned Muslims to fall through the cracks and radicalize.
• Peter Bergen, the New America Foundation Director of National Security Studies, said that Muslims are the victims in al-Qaeda-directed violence and that is unacceptable, even for al-Qaeda. He lamented the fate of the Boston bombers—Tamerlan who “had gone beyond the point” and Dzhokar who seemed to innocently follow in his brother’s footsteps, asking what could be done better to prevent a repeat tragedy. Muslims provide as much important information about their community as any other group does, according to Bergen. Bergen applauded what he sees as the President Obama’s efforts to take America “off the wartime footing.” He asked, “How many Boston’s have we had?” only to backtrack to say “obviously Major Nidal Hassan was one.”
Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
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