National Security

RAND Corp Analyst: Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Hurts National Security

REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski.

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Anti-Muslim rhetoric should be stopped at once, as it threatens U.S. national security, RAND Corporation Senior Economist Radha Iyengar said Wednesday in an op-ed for War on the Rocks.

For Iyengar, the rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States is facilitated by constant media coverage, as well as politicians looking to cynically tap into escalating public rage over terror attacks.

The situation is growing more precarious for so-called moderate and friendly Muslims, as about 50 percent of Americans think Muslim refugees should be prevented from entering the country. A plan forwarded by GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz to patrol Muslim neighborhoods has also gained a similar level of support.

All of these elements together, according to Iyengar, constitute attacks on Islam itself.

But Iyengar’s point is that if the U.S. fails to distinguish between friendly and unfriendly Muslims, counter-terror operations will run into a wall, since the process of gaining intelligence on active threats requires cooperation from Muslims.

“Lethal operations, efforts to capture terrorists before they strike, or to prevent them from becoming radicalized in the first place, can all be seriously impacted by anti-Muslim rhetoric — because it deters information-sharing and cooperation by peaceful Muslims. Moreover, such rhetoric can undermine relationships with key partners,” Iyengar said.

Muslims are often relied upon in the intelligence process. Iyengar notes that Muslims were involved in approximately half of all cases of foiled al-Qaida plots in the U.S., from 2009 to the present.

Iyengar added that heated rhetoric will also likely result in more Muslims joining terror groups.

One strategy Iyengar recommended is for the U.S. to continue forwarding a counter-narrative to the Islamic State and other radical Islamic terror groups.

Of course, the only problem with this strategy is that U.S. efforts have been an utter failure. The Department of State assessed its progress on the counter-narrative front in 2015, and concluded in an internal report that it had trouble coming up with a cohesive message. Additionally, in 2014, Rita Katz of SITE Intelligence Group, wrote an op-ed for Time Magazine, in which she slammed the federal government’s outreach program as not only ineffective, but one that gives burgeoning jihadis a space to broadcast their views and arguments.

Still, what this apparently means is just that the U.S. should double down on counter-propaganda efforts, and the public should stop spewing such hateful rhetoric.

“Americans should reject such destructive language in the interest of national security,” Iyengar said.

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