Muslim community needs to be part of early warning system

It wasn’t enough to decimate the core of what was Al Qaeda in 2001.  The landscape in certain hospitable countries like Yemen and Syria is now dotted with Al Qaeda offshoots and affiliates.  And, for the last eight years, the home-grown variety has been particularly vexing.  The Sunday morning talk shows were full of attempts to learn from the Boston bombings: how to deal with self-radicalized individuals like the Tsarnaevs.

Nidal Malik Hasan seems a case in point.  He was the shooter in the mass murder at Ft. Hood in Texas in 2009, a psychiatrist, of all things, who had been in touch with Anwar al-Awlaki, based in Yemen. Apparently Hasan’s colleagues were aware of his  increasingly radical thinking and isolated behavior but did nothing.

A recent article in The National Journal documents how clues were missed in the case of the Tsarnaevs. Starting in 2012, Tamarlan Tsarnaev was reportedly given to angry outbursts during his imam’s sermons and, on at least one occasion, was asked to leave the mosque because of his disruption. This report was confirmed by Reuters. By contrast, a press release from the Islamic Society of Boston says that, “In their visits they never exhibited any violent sentiments or behaviour. Otherwise, they would have been immediately reported to the FBI.”

FBI monitoring can’t do the job alone. Clearly the moderate Muslim community has a role to play, and, according to a study quoted in the same National Journal article, more than a quarter of disrupted plots by would-be Muslim terrorists were exposed by members of Muslim-American communities.  This is a hard time for the Muslim community, and the interfaith community in Boston has reached out to the concerned Muslims who make up the majority.

Calls have increased for better cooperation between federal authorities and  Muslim-Americans, some of whom have asked for training in dealing with these situations. There a lot we  must learn from Britain’s Prevent program, developed in the wake of  the   London bombings in July 2005. To be sure, there have been questions raised about violations of civil liberties, but designing and implementing multilayered community programs, which include concerns about ideological violence as a component but are not the exclusive focus, could ameliorate allegations of profiling, strengthen community ties and foster proactive protection.

Over the weekend, we began to learn about an Obama administration program developed two years ago to strength relationships among federal agencies and community organizations, a plan that to this day still apparently exists largely on paper and is virtually unfunded.

The challenge is to resist the temptation to generalize and stereotype and, on the other hand, to be careful of the political correctness that would prevent an early warning system from becoming effective.  This time around, our early warning systems failed at the federal agency level, which failed to monitor Tamerlan Tsarnaev and dropped him from its watch list, and at the community level, where no one spoke out about the increasingly radical behavior of this dangerous terrorist in our midst.

Today’s New York Times reports that Al Qaeda propagandists are encouraging more “homemade” terrorists.  What will be the reason next time for our failure to intercept the plot?

I welcome your comments in the section below.

2 thoughts on “Muslim community needs to be part of early warning system

  1. Nancy Nizel

    Well done. I didnt know there was an Obama initiative, unfunded, to build relationships between the feds and community organizations and leadership. I love your last sentence. Bulls eye.

    5/6/13 8:34 AM, “Marjorie Arons-Barron” wrote:

    > aronsbarron posted: “It wasn’t enough to decimate the core of what was Al > Qaeda in 2001. The landscape in certain hospitable countries like Yemenand > Syria is now dotted with Al Qaeda offshoots and affiliates. And, for the last > eight years, the home-grown variety has been p” >


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