Thursday, March 10, 2011


The controversy over the hearings on domestic radicalization led by U.S. Rep. Peter King demonstrate how our hyper-partisan political culture can impact even security issues, to the detriment of finding common sense solutions.

If you listen carefully to the witnesses at the hearings in the Homeland Security Committee today, there is plenty of agreement on the nature of the radicalization problem that has impacted relatively small numbers of Muslim Americans and how to deal with it.
Taken as a whole, the witnesses have agreed that:
** The Muslim community is dedicated to preventing radicalization and extremist violence. There have been many instances of cooperation, including by two of witnesses themselves.
** There must be engagement between law enforcement and the Muslim community. Steps need to be taken so all Muslims feel comfortable interacting and providing information to law enforcement when they fear young people are falling prey to radicalization. Confidence building measures are essential.
** Radicalization is a gradual process. We should be able to identify individuals heading towards extremism in advance and intervene.
** To prevent radicalization, we need to educate Muslim youth to give them the tools to rebut and reject the jihadist narrative perpetrated by al Qaeda and their affiliates.
The polarization among the members of the Committee, however, has been mainly unproductive. One side appears to be intent on casting the entire hearing as discriminatory and railing against profiling, a tactic most everyone appears to reject. The other side seems preoccupied with demonizing certain organizations and characterizing the threat of radical jihadi extremism as much more pervasive than it truly is.
A program for preventing radicalization should include:
** Taking steps to cool down the rhetoric and counteract the growing anti-Islamic sentiment in America;
** Increasing Islamic literacy among Muslim youth to counter the radical narrative;
** Enhancing community policing to build trust between Muslim American communities and law enforcement ; and
** Targeting social services to reduce isolation and economic hardship in certain Muslim immigrant communities.

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