Don’t mention Islam, says new anti-terror plan

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

The White House wants to use U.S. Attorneys to coordinate outreach to immigrant groups that produce Muslim terrorists, according to a new policy.

The White House-appointed U.S. Attorneys will work with Muslim groups to avert terror attacks, which the new policy dubs “violent extremism,” and will give them access to law enforcement information, aid Muslim bloggers and re-train law enforcement departments around the country.

“To better synchronize this work, U.S. Attorneys, who historically have engaged with communities in their districts, have begun leading Federal engagement efforts,” said the policy, titled “Strategic Implementation Plan For Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States,” released Dec. 8.

Federal officials, including at least 30 of the 93 U.S Attorneys, have already held more than 150 meeting with communities, withdrawn unwanted training materials and translated anti-radicalization information into languages used by Muslim immigrants, including Arabic, Somali, Urdu and Farsi.

Officials are also revamping training materials used by law enforcement officials. Officials “have gone through a review process, developed and tested and piloted training related to both countering violent extremism as well as broader counterterrorism training to ensure that it’s accurate and meets those objectives,” a White House official said Thursday.

However, the policy offers few details about the plan, does not name the Muslim groups that are to be included in the outreach efforts, and does not name the individuals or groups that are slated to re-train law enforcement officials about “violent extremism.”

Also, the new report does not mention Islam, whose texts are often used to provide the impetus and rationales for that spur terror strikes by Muslims.

That policy, however, isn’t always applied.

Quintan Wiktorowicz, the official who leads the development of the new policy for the White House, told NPR on Dec. 7 that “here are potential behavioral signals… has someone in the community seen them watching violent extremist videos? Are they publicly coming out in defense of Osama bin Laden? Are they talking about the kuffar [Arabic for non-Muslim]? That’s not enough alone, but if that is in a combination of other things, that’s what we are looking for.”

But the top-level refusal to identify Islam as a cause of terror attacks cripples counter-terrorism efforts because it deters lower-level law enforcement officials from understanding jihadis’ motivations and purposes, say critics, including Robert Spencer, who runs the jihadwatch website.

For example, Army officials routinely ignored vitriolic Islamic arguments made by the Muslim Army officer who killed 13 soldiers and civilians at Fort Hood.

The enemy, according to White House, are not jihadis or radical Islamists, but “violent extremists” who are members of al-Qaida.

Al-Qaida’s affiliates, presumably, include the Somali-based Al Shabab organization, which has used U.S.-based clerics to recruit up to 30 Muslim immigrants living in Minnesota. At least one of the recruits volunteered to be a suicide bomber in Somalia.

The report instead compares jihadi attacks, such as the Fort Hood massacre by a self-described “Soldier of Allah,” to domestic violence, “school shooters” and workplace violence, such as shootings by post office workers.

Critics say this silence about Islam is rationalized by progressives’ diversity ideology, and by their desire to build political alliances with immigrant Muslim groups in Illinois, Michigan, New York and other states.

The policy says mistakes by the U.S. government can spur terror attacks. “The Administration recognizes the potential to do more harm than good if our Nation’s approach and actions are not dutifully considered and deliberated,” said the policy.

The report urges the federal government to establish mechanisms to work with immigrant communities to avert radicalization.

The efforts include events to “discuss issues such as civil rights, counterterrorism security measures, international events, foreign policy, and other community concerns … raise awareness about the threat of violent extremism… facilitate partnerships to prevent radicalization to violence.”

When reaching out to Muslim communities, “we talk about issues that are of concern to everyone, to include violent extremism, but also civil rights, civil liberties, bullying and other issues that are of concern for parents. … We see Muslim Americans as, frankly, our most important partners in this effort,” said a White House official.

But this emphasis on federal outreach to selected representatives of immigrant communities may actually sideline immigrant-integration techniques that successfully absorbed millions of European immigrants in American society.

These older techniques included the use of social and workplace pressure to speak English, abandon foreign clothing, adopt English names and embrace Western ideas and education.

The policy does not suggest screening immigrants for Islamist sympathies, but it cites the integration of immigrants as one of several means for reducing terror strikes.

The emphasis on working with leaders from the immigrant communities,rather than treating immigrants as Americans, does carry the risk of helping communities isolate themselves from U.S. society, critics charge.

The policy recognizes the danger posed by immigrant self-segregation. “Violent extremist narratives espouse a rigid division between ‘us’ and ‘them’ that argues for exclusion from the broader society and a hostile relationship with government and other communities. … Activities that reinforce our shared sense of belonging and productive interactions between government and the people undercut this [separatist] narrative and emphasize through our actions that we are all part of the social fabric of America,” said the report.

However, the administration’s report repeatedly calls for U.S. law enforcement officials to work with communities’ political groups, not with individuals.

Numerous Muslim political groups have offered themselves to serve as brokers between the federal government and the Muslim communities. However, these groups usually argue that police forces should not monitor immigrant communities for suspected terrorism by individuals, but instead should defer to them and local Imams.

The new policy does not urge the use of civil rights laws to protect Muslims from other Muslims, or to help them integrate into U.S. culture.

For example, several Muslim women have been killed or threatened by family members who say they are becoming too Americanized. Jessica Mokdad, 20, was killed this April by her step-father for “not adhering to Muslim customs,” said a May report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The extension of U.S. civil rights laws to Muslim communities would be sharply opposed by many local leaders that are being sought to serve as brokers with law enforcement officials.

Also, some of those brokers have been working both sides. In 2010, for example, an Afghan-born Imam in New York admitted he tipped off a terrorist after police asked him about the man.

Similarly, several Muslim political groups have close ties to terrorists. On Dec. 7, for example, a three-judge appeal court panel upheld jail sentences for three Texas-based Muslims who funneled money to Hamas, the violent Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
 During the trial, federal officials identified many Muslim groups and individuals as unindicted conspirators. These groups include the nation’s primary Muslim coalition, the Islamic Society of North America, as well as the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The report includes no details about the Muslim groups and individuals who will be invited to aid the outreach or training programs.

However, according to the policy, “it is important that we communicate to the American public the realities of what the threat is, and what it is not… an informed citizenry enhances our national security.”

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