No Room for Radicals

JUST hours after the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing were identified as Muslims, Representative Peter T. King of New York, the Republican chairman of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, called for an “increased surveillance” of Islamic communities in the United States. “I think we need more police and more surveillance in the communities where the threat is coming from,” he told National Review. “The new threat is definitely from within.” 

Mr. King’s hypothesis, and the widespread surveillance policies already in effect since 9/11, assume that the threat of radicalization has become a matter of local geography, that American Muslims are creating extremists in our mosques and community centers. 

But what we’re learning of the suspects, the brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, suggests a different story, and one that has itself become familiar: radicalization does not happen to young people with a strong grounding in the American Muslim mainstream; increasingly, it happens online, and sometimes abroad, among the isolated and disaffected. 

The YouTube page of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, for example, does not contain a single lecture from a scholar, imam or institution in America. One report suggests that he found the theology taught in a local Cambridge mosque, the Islamic Society of Boston, unpalatable: while attending a Friday service in which an imam praised the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Tsarnaev shouted that the imam was a “nonbeliever.” The younger Tsarnaev brother seems to have rarely attended a mosque at all. 

Representative King’s theories also fail to explain why, if young people are being radicalized within mainstream Islamic communities, there aren’t more attacks like the one in Boston. By some measures Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States, and the last decade has seen a rapid expansion of Muslim institutions across the country. 

Yet what’s most obvious to anyone who has spent time in these communities is that whether they are devotional or educational, focused on the arts or on interfaith cooperation and activism, this mediating set of American Muslim institutions is keeping impressionable young Muslims from becoming radicalized. 

Take the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center and its range of devotional, arts and educational programs, from preschool to a seminary. Or Chicago’s Inner-City Muslim Action Network, complete with a medical clinic, civic leadership education and a summer music festival that draws on the biggest names of Muslim hip-hop to promote peace through community organizing. Or Zaytuna College in Berkeley, Calif., the nation’s first four-year Islamic liberal arts school. 

These institutions and others have different aims, but they abide by a common idea: if the center of Judaism is the law, and the heart of Christianity is love, what Islam requires, above all else, is mercy. And whether on display in health care provided for the poor at South Los Angeles’s UMMA Community Clinic, or in a patiently handled Arabic lesson that will one day lead a new convert into the fullness of the tradition, Islamic mercy, preached and practiced within the community, allows no room for radicalization. 

Representative King and others have it exactly, completely wrong – the American Muslim community has actively and repeatedly, day in and day out, rejected such radicals on religious grounds: they do not know mercy. 

More than a decade since 9/11, this should no longer be any secret. Across the nation, the doors are open, and more are opening every day. And despite whatever misplaced fears the Boston bombings evoke about radical Islam and homegrown terror, we’ll all find ourselves increasingly secure as more Muslims heed the call – coming to Islam as it is in the United States, as a real, living community. 

*****

Suhaib Webb is the imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. Scott Korb, who teaches writing at New York University and the New School, is the author of “Light Without Fire: The Making of America’s First Muslim College.”

Source:  New York TImes



5 Comments

  1. With these kinds of act, most dangerous situation is exploitation of the situation. It is sad that such hate statements are not view as such, but taken as a subject for debate.

    There are so many Muslims getting killed everyday by what is perceived to be foreign forces by them.

    So, do not attach religion to terror, if anybody is honest enough to defeat it. Law enforcement should work with Muslim leadership in the country get the situation under control. What good it gets through stereo typing?!

  2. Brother(s) Imam Shuaib and Scott Korb, you are on point. Indeed it is the American Islamic scholarship and movement of community involvement and service which has a long tradition in America that acts as a restraint on radicalism. We have a long tradition of service and interfaith dialogue and above all we have no inner conflicts with being Muslim and a citizen of this nation.

    We need Muslim American scholarship, those whose roots are here and are not preoccupied with the ‘war back home’. That is not to say we should be indifferent, but our primary concern should be to those who are most in need of our help here in America first.

  3. Yes , Mr King: There must not be any room for Any Radicals from any Religion killing

    Innocents in US/West, Mid-Esst and around the World.

    You and your Colleagues should also investigate and work on thousands of deaths in USA

    resulting from Guns, Suicides, Homicides, Driving while Intoxicated, Texting, on Phone,

    Eating/Drinking, Doing make ups, Reading, from Gangs, Supremacists, Rapes/Molestations,

    Poverty and so on…..

    Those Bombers of Boston were ill educated and would not have done if they had Basics of

    their authentic and Original Religion. People get info about the religions from Politicians,

    Media, Hearsay, Friends, in Parties and from some corrupted religious Scholars who do not

    support their words with the references in original & Authentic Scriptures.

  4. It is hard to believe if the Imams radicalize the youth. It must be a 3rd party/someone else in DISGUISE doing this.Never know who is who now a days.

    We need more surveillance and police around the world.we need more surveillance watching the drones and the NATO around the world.Then only we will bring peace to the world and justice.

  5. Brother Rashad

    Please research or watch the videos of Authentic Scholars who cleared the Mis-Conceptions

    about the words-Terms: Salafees -Salafs Salafism, or Wahabees/Wahabism ( BY Desi and

    International Scholars like Israr Ahmad, Yusuf Estes, Bilal Philips, Yaser Qadhi, Zakir Naik

    and so on).

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