Muslim Americans Foil Terror Threats

A new report on violent extremists in the United States finds that terrorism plots by non-Muslims greatly outnumber those attempted by Muslims, and that Muslim-American communities helped foil close to a third of al-Qaeda-related terror plots threatening the country since Sept. 11, 2001.

The report comes from the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a not-for-profit organization advocating for the civil rights of American Muslims. It consists largely of MPAC’s “Post-9/11 Terrorism Incident Database.”

Reportedly the first of its kind by a Muslim-American organization, the database tracks plots by Muslim and non-Muslim violent extremists against the United States.

The author of the report, Alejandro J. Beutel, MPAC researcher and government liaison, told IPS, “This report demonstrates the validity of two of our guiding principles.”

“The first of these is that the choice between our rights and liberties and national security is a false choice; we can have both,” he said. “The second is that law enforcement will be much more successful if it treats the American Muslim community as partners, not as adversaries.”

He added, “Because of the baseless spying by the FBI on our mosques, we are very cautious about our engagement with the Bureau.”

The report found “little evidence of a rise in ideological extremism.” It concluded that those Muslims involved in 13 out of the 15 plots since Barack Obama’s election as president were engaged in ideological extremism before the vote. Of the 15, 10 were engaged in ideological extremism since 2007.

It declares that al-Qaeda does not appear to be making new ideological gains into the American Muslim community. Instead, the data is pointing toward greater numbers of longstanding ideological extremists turning to violence.

The report asserts that Muslim communities have helped foil almost one out of every three al-Qaeda-related terror plots threatening the U.S. since 9/11/01. It says this highlights the importance of law enforcement partnering with citizens through community-oriented policing.

The report recommended that the government expand community-oriented policing initiatives; increase support for research on combating biased policing; expand investments in better human capital acquisitions; highlight citizen contributions to national security; and reform the fusion center process to increase coordination among law enforcement communities.

The report examined the challenges posed by violent extremists in two ways. The first was by examining the quantitative and qualitative nature of terrorism trials. Second, it looked at the number of actual and attempted attacks within the United States, including a comparative analysis of incidents involving Muslim and non-Muslim perpetrators.

The report appears amidst a resurgence of anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. Some of this has been triggered by the proposed building of an Islamic community center two blocks from “Ground Zero,” the site where the World Trade Center once stood.

A number of individual and community groups, including some families of 9/11 victims, have blasted the project as “a celebration of Islam.” Supporters see it as a vehicle for bringing diverse faiths closer together.

In communities throughout the U.S., there have been “copycat” campaigns to thwart mosque planning or construction.

The recent midterm elections here have also provided some candidates with platforms from which to verbally attack Muslims, including Muslim-Americans. These candidates have largely been Republicans and members of the tea party, on the extreme right-wing of the political spectrum. While a few Democrats attempted to debunk the “all Muslims are terrorists” mantra, most remained silent.

Several recent unsuccessful terrorist plots have also contributed to heightened public anxiety – and the search for scapegoats. The so-called Times Square bomber was a home-grown terrorist who admitted attending training school in Pakistan; the “underwear bomber” who attempted to bring a passenger plane down over Detriot last Christmas day was a Nigerian believed to have been trained in Yemen. Both men are Muslims.

And the successful interception of two parcel bombs shipped as cargo from Yemen further raised the public’s level of apprehension that another terrorist attack was in the making.

The backlash takes a number of forms. For example, ordinary Muslims are experiencing renewed discrimination in the workplace. The New York Times reports that Muslim workers filed a record 803 such claims in the year ended Sept. 30, 2009. That was up 20 percent from the previous year and up nearly 60 percent from 2005, according to federal data.

The Times says the number of complaints filed since then will not be announced until January, “but Islamic groups say they have received a surge in complaints recently, suggesting that 2010’s figure will set another record.”

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed several lawsuits connected with anti-Muslim discrimination. It sued JBS Swift, a meatpacking company, on behalf of 160 Somali immigrants; it filed a case against Abercrombie & Fitch, the clothing retailer, for refusing to hire a Muslim who wore a head scarf; and it sued a Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Phoenix, charging that an Iraqi immigrant was called a “camel jockey.”

Finally, MPAC and similar groups are angry and disappointed at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which has acknowledged placing “agent provocateurs” inside mosques in attempts to root out terrorists, terrorist plots, and terrorist cells.

“We feel betrayed,” says Alejandro Beutel. 

Key Findings

There were 72 total plots by domestic non-Muslim perpetrators against the United States since 9/11/01. In comparison, there have been 37 total plots by domestic and international Muslim perpetrators since that date.

There are at least five incidents of non-Muslim domestic extremists possessing or attempting to possess biological, chemical, or radiological weapons. One of those occurred since Obama’s election.

No such cases involving Muslim violent extremists have been reported since 9/11/01. Evidence clearly indicates a general rise in violent extremism across ideologies.

The report says that, using Obama’s election as a base measurement, since Nov. 4, 2008, there have been 39 terror plots by non-Muslim domestic extremists.

By comparison, there have been 15 plots by Muslim domestic and international extremists. Each of these cases constitutes close to half of all violent extremism cases since 9/11/01.

(Inter Press Service)

Author: William Fisher

William Fisher writes for Inter Press Service.