The White House’s new plan to curb home-grown Islamic extremism calls for partnerships between local governments, various non-profits, and U.S. communities of Muslims. But critics say those partnerships often include Islamic groups whose ideology spurs terrorism.
Federal agencies are already using their “convening power to help build a network of individuals, groups, civil society organizations, and private sector actors to support community-based efforts to counter violent extremism,” according to the new strategy document, titled “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.”
But administration policymakers have not worked with pro-American Muslim groups, said Zuhdi Jasser, president of the Phoenix-based America Islamic Forum for Democracy. “The [groups] they work with are the wrong ones,” Jasser told TheDC.
Muslims in the United States “tend to be pro-Western and pro-American [but] the leadership of the mosques and the Islamic centers tend to be influenced by Islamists overseas,” said Andrew McCarthy, who successfully prosecuted Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven other terrorists in 1995. Rahman had earlier created a terror group in Egypt.
Instead of partnering with Islamic groups, the federal government should use routine policing and civil-rights laws to protect individuals in Muslim communities from being intimidated by politicized Muslims, many of whom are tied to the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, McCarthy said.
Federal protection would ease assimilation by people from Muslim countries and also undermine Muslim ideologies that spur terrorism, adds McCarthy, who now runs the Center for Law and Counterterrorism at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
The White House’s new strategy was applauded by advocacy groups including the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “The way the plan is rolling out is very much in line with a community partnership model, and we believe that is very useful,” said Salam Al-Maryati, president of MPAC
According to a statement from CAIR’s executive director, Nihad Awad,“Programs that build trust between law enforcement authorities and the communities they serve are crucial … Our government must also engage with American Muslim institutions and individuals proven to enjoy community support.”
The U.S. Department of Justice designated CAIR an unindicted conspirator in the successful 2008 prosecution of several U.S.-based Muslims for smuggling funds to the Hamas terror group.
The administration’s strategy comes almost 10 years after Al Qaeda’s attack on New York, and after what MPAC says were at least 48 additional attacks or terrorist plots by observant Muslims.
The terror threat “is not coming from the [Muslim] communities,” Al Maryati insists, but from “individuals that communities can help us detect and rehabilitate.”
U.S. government officials “have bent over backwards to be respectful to Islamists, which is not helpful,” McCarthy argues. And Americans would be safer if government policy encouraged “a natural assimilation of pro-Western Muslims — there are many in the United States — and [made] clear that the law of the United States is the supreme law, and we’re not ceding territory or legal jurisdiction” to local Islamic activists.