Muslim Integration: Challenging Conventional Wisdom in Europe and the United States

As part of its ongoing Transatlantic Dialogue on Terrorism, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC dedicated its seventh meeting in the series to Muslim integration and assimilation. In partnership with the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in Berlin, Germany, CSIS hosted a two-day event entitled, “The Transatlantic Dialogue on Muslims in Europe: Dealing with, and Looking Beyond, the Terrorist Threat ” to question and explore many of the conclusions Europeans and Americans have drawn about Muslim communities in their own countries.

As a summary to the meeting, CSIS commissioned six papers by U.S. and European experts on immigration, demographics, and integration policy, in order to further explore the situation facing Muslim communities on both sides of the Atlantic. Many of the papers reveal the sometimes shaky foundations upon which European and U.S. policymakers are crafting integration policies. More importantly, the report also shows that despite efforts to improve the West’s collective understating of Islam and Muslim integration in American and European societies, many countries remain ill-equipped to fully incorporate these growing groups into society at large in terms of economic advancement, social mobility, and political participation. As such, the report highlights some of these shortcomings, puts forth a more accurate picture of European and U.S. Muslim communities, and presents recommendations for improving the status quo.

Brussels court upholds ban on anti-Islam protest planned for Sept. 11

An appeals court has upheld the ban of an anti-Islam protest planned for Sept. 11 in Belgium’s capital, six years after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The organizers an alliance of Europeans opposed to the “Islamization” of Europe failed to prove the ban causes them “irreparable damage,” the Council of State, an administrative appeals court, ruled late Wednesday. Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans banned the demonstration Aug. 9 fearing it would disturb public order and calling the Stop Islamization of Europe alliance an inflammatory group. […]

Axis of Evil Breaks FBI-Muslim Barrier

WASHINGTON – Desperate to build bridges and possibly recruit new elements, the FBI is using ethnic comedians to reach out to suspicious Arabs and Muslims. “We want to demystify the FBI and show people that we are human, not just cold FBI agents coming out to arrest people,” Gwen Hubbard, chief recruiter for the FBI’s National Recruiting/Testing Office, told Reuters. Revamping an image damaged by a wave of arrests and searches since the 9/11 attacks, the law enforcement agency has sponsored a show of the “Axis of Evil” comedy group during a recent meeting of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). The group is made up of comedians of Arab and Muslim roots who have formed a niche by taking on Mideast stereotypes and making subjects such as war and terrorism funny. With large posters reading: “Today’s FBI. It’s for you”, the agency paid $10,000 to sponsor the annual event attended by 1,000 people in a ballroom at a Washington.

Muslim’s Lawsuit Alleges Humiliation; Aim is to Increase Tolerance, Attorney Says

Just before he was scheduled to undergo surgery to treat oral cancer, Mohammed A. Hussain went to the bathroom at the hospital — and that’s when he says the humiliation began. Inside the restroom at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, the 61-year-old Muslim performed the Islamic ritual of washing his hands and feet. The private ritual, known as wudhu, was to purify his body and soul before praying. But Hussain never got to pray. A hospital security guard saw him washing himself in the sink, Hussain said, and proceeded to manhandle him, yell racial epithets at him, push him down the corridor and order him to exit the hospital. “He was just very loud and yelling at me,” Hussain said. “He pushed me and literally dragged me into the lobby. . . . It was very terrifying.” Hussain filed a $30 million lawsuit Friday against the hospital, alleging assault, battery and emotional distress from the incident about 10 a.m. March 22. Because the case is in litigation, hospital officials would not comment other than to release a brief statement saying that hospital executives contacted Hussain on several occasions before the suit was filed to discuss his concerns. Hussain’s lawsuit was first reported by the Baltimore Examiner. Hussain, who lives in Upper Marlboro and is a practicing physician and radiologist in Waldorf, described his experiences in an interview yesterday with The Washington Post. He said he was treated as if he were homeless or a criminal. It was “humiliating,” he said. “People who are coming in the bathroom and treating you so harshly and thinking everybody is either a terrorist or somebody who you don’t recognize of your color or your race — this is something that is a very emotionally tortured experience,” Hussain said. The guard, identified in the suit as Rodney Corban, yelled at Hussain to “get out here!” Hussain said. Corban “was extreme and outrageous, and beyond the bounds of decency in society,” according to court filings. Hussain said he repeatedly told Corban that he was a patient at the hospital and a licensed physician, but he said Corban did not seem to listen. Hussain said a crowd — including his wife, who is a psychiatrist, and their two adult daughters — witnessed the scene in the lobby. “Everybody in the lobby, including my family, was stunned as to why I had been treated like this,” Hussain said. “They were very devastated.” Hussain said he underwent the oral cancer surgery later that day and has returned to the hospital for other procedures. Hospital officials would not say yesterday whether Corban was disciplined after the incident. Corban worked a shift yesterday, a hospital receptionist said, but he did not respond to a message left for him there yesterday afternoon. Hussain’s attorney, David Ellin, said his client sued the hospital because he did not think executives were taking his case seriously enough. “He felt the only way to get their attention and make any changes was to really put their feet to the fire and file a lawsuit,” Ellin said. Ellin said Hussain’s aim with the suit is not to win compensation but to raise awareness about Islam and religious prejudices. “This is really done to try to educate people on the religion of Islam and make people more tolerant and just educate them on different religious backgrounds,” Ellin said. Hussain said he immigrated to the United States from India in 1972 and has been a U.S. citizen for two decades. He said he blames his experience at the hospital on a general lack of education about his religion. “People are so much ignorant about this and deal with it so harshly,” Hussain said. A survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights and advocacy group, found last year that just 2 percent of Americans were “very knowledgeable” about Islam and that 60 percent were “not very knowledgeable” or “not at all knowledgeable” about the religion. A Washington Post-ABC News poll last year found that nearly half of Americans had a negative view of Islam. Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the council, said education is the key to overcoming the kind of prejudices Hussain faced. “I think it’s just a lack of knowledge of Islam and basic Islamic practices that led to this unfortunate misunderstanding,” Hooper said. “With the filing of this lawsuit, there may be more awareness in the general society about what to Muslims is a fairly routine practice but to others who don’t know what it is might be something that they would be concerned about.” Staff researcher Rena Kirsch contributed to this report.

Tv Skewing Americans’ View Of Peaceful Islam, Muslim Leaders Say

DETROIT – It was an image of Islam that might have startled many Americans: a young Muslim woman wearing a traditional head scarf standing in the center of a chandeliered banquet hall singing the U.S. national anthem. “It saddens me,” Denise Hazime, a 25-year-old, Muslim American law student remarked after watching the woman sing to kick off an Arab student fundraiser. “The way things are now, I bet the average American would never think of the image of a covered girl singing our national anthem.” The way things are now is this: American Muslim leaders say they are facing an increasingly tough public relations battle as they fight to portray their faith as non-violent. Some Muslims say conveying a peaceful image of Islam is tougher now than it was after the Sept. 11 attacks, and they blame a daily barrage of negative media images. They are referring to stories such as a Christian convert being threatened with execution in Afghanistan, coverage of thousands of Muslims expressing outrage at Danish cartoons and shouting anti-Western threats, and daily bloody images from Iraq. “We say we’re peaceful people, but it doesn’t matter what we say,” said Irfan Rydhan, 31, a spokesperson and organizer for the South Bay Islamic Association in San Jose, Calif. “They see these violent images on TV, and those people look like us.” American views of their Muslim neighbors had been improving. A Pew Research Center poll released in July 2005, after the London terrorist bombings, showed that 55% of Americans had a favorable opinion of Muslim Americans. But a Washington Post/ABC News poll released in March showed that a majority of Americans have a negative view of Islam. ‘It’s really hard right now’ It seems as if extremist voices “have taken over,” said Rana Abbas, a 26-year-old Muslim American who is deputy director of Michigan’s American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a nationwide civil rights group based in Washington, D.C. “It makes your struggle so much harder. It makes it seem as if all your efforts are in vain. It’s really hard right now for moderate Muslims to get their message out.” A large part of the public relations problem is that most Americans do not have a basic understanding of the turmoil that exists in parts of the Muslim world, said James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, a political advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Zogby said that many heavily Islamic regions have been destabilized by war. “The problem is not the nature of the religion; it is the dislocation and disruption of normal society brought on by the trauma of war,” he said. “It’s similar to what happened in our own country during the post-Civil War period where you had lynchings and the emergence of extremist currents that lasted for decades.” Imam Hassan Qazwini heads the largest mosque in the USA, the Islamic Center of America, based in Dearborn, Mich. Qazwini said he and other imams have grown weary of being made to answer for every violent act committed in the name of Mohammed. “This has become a daily nightmare for Muslims,” Qazwini said. “We’re upset. We’re frustrated. We cannot control every Muslim. We cannot be held responsible for everything.” Qazwini said he is confounded when Islam as a whole is blamed for the actions of individuals, while other religions are not. “How is it that when Pat Robertson calls for the murder of the president of a sovereign country that nobody said Christianity is promoting violence and murder?” Qazwini said, referring to Robertson’s call last August for the assassination Venezuelan President Hugo Ch_vez. Robertson later apologized. Qazwini said his mosque is trying to do its part to open dialogue. The mosque offers tours of the elaborate, 76,000-square-foot community and worship center, which is topped with a huge dome and accented with teak and mahogany doors carved in Turkey and the Philippines. ‘We’re not so different’ A group of 27 eighth-grade girls and boys from a Catholic school about an hour outside Detroit recently toured the mosque. The girls fidgeted with their makeshift headscarves, straw-blond hair poking out. A boy with shaggy bangs and pale skin asked the tour guide, a 46-year-old nurse consultant who sent her daughter to Catholic school, “How come you can’t draw Mohammed?” He was referring to recent news stories about the controversial Danish cartoons and the belief that any images of Mohammed are considered sacrilege in Islam. As guide Najah Bazzy waved goodbye to the students, one of their teachers stopped to thank her, saying it was her first time in a mosque. The teacher added, “We’re not so different.” Bazzy agreed. “That’s why these tours are so important,” Bazzy said after the teacher left. Muslims in San Jose are making special efforts at public relations, too. “Images are more powerful than any words,” the South Bay Islamic Association’s Rydhan said. With that in mind, Rydhan organized “Muslim Unity Day” last year at Paramount’s Great America amusement park. He said part of his mission was to provide an image of Muslims being carefree, and that’s his mission for this year’s unity day, too, which is Aug. 27. More than 4,000 Muslims from the area showed up for a day last year at the park in Santa Clara, Calif. The South Bay Islamic Association’s imam, wearing traditional loose, white religious clothing and a thick, long beard, got off a water ride with some friends at one point during the festivities. He was soaking wet and laughing. That’s a good picture, Rydhan says he thought to himself.

Muslim Network Expands To More Than 1 Million Homes

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A first-of-its-kind Muslim-American television network launched a year ago has gone from being a premium pay channel to a basic-cable offering on several cable and satellite systems, broadening its reach from 10,000 to more than 1 million U.S. homes. Bridges TV, featuring Muslim-American lifestyle and cultural programming, also has been approved by the Canadian Radio & Television Commission to start broadcasting in Canada. Founder and Chief Executive Muzzammil Hassan said the transition in markets including Detroit, Chicago, Boston and Washington means viewers while channel-surfing between Fox News Channel and CNN are coming across the English-language network and its coverage of issues like the Dubai ports controversy. “That completely changes and gives America a completely different and unique perspective that America has never had available before,” Hassan said. “That has been the biggest driving factor.” Bridges TV, with a staff of 25 to 30, produces a daily hourlong newscast at its studio in suburban Orchard Park. Broadcasts also include children’s educational programming, current affairs, cooking and travel shows, soccer and cricket matches, documentaries and sitcoms. As a premium channel for $14.99 per month, virtually all Bridges TV subscribers were Arabs and Muslims, Hassan said, giving the sense the network was preaching to the choir rather than advancing its goal of bridging understanding of American and Muslim cultures. The network “really fills a void,” said Adnan Mirza, a director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “There’s a clear disconnect between popular American media and the Muslim audience. … Americans are increasingly interested in better understanding Middle Eastern cultures, and Muslim Americans want to be better understood. Bridges TV creates a public platform for this dialogue.” The Buffalo office of the FBI has taken notice and will use the network for an “FBI Townhall Meeting” May 15, during which an FBI agent will field on-air questions and comments from Muslim and Arab-American viewers. Over the last several weeks, the network has been added to the basic cable packages of WOW! Cable, which has a presence in Chicago, Detroit and Columbus; Buckeye Cable in Ohio; and Shrewsbury Cable in Massachusetts. Verizon FiOS, a broadband service, and Globecast Satellite reach markets in Boston, Dallas, Tampa, Fla., and Washington, D.C. Bridges TV will soon launch on Rogers Cable in Canada. A charter sponsorship by Ford Motor Co. has offset the loss of premium subscription revenue, Hassan said. In its hometown market of Buffalo, Adelphia Communications will keep Bridges TV as a premium channel. A spokesman, Thomas Haywood, cited a low subscriber rate.

U.S. Says It Didn’t Target Muslims Mosques Among Sites Monitored For Radiation

By Mary Beth Sheridan Faced with angry complaints, U.S. officials defended an anti-terrorism program yesterday that secretly tested radiation levels around the country — including at more than 100 Muslim sites in the Washington area — and insisted that no one was targeted because of his or her faith. One official knowledgeable about the program explained that Muslim sites were included because al Qaeda terrorists were considered likely to gravitate to Muslim neighborhoods or mosques while in the United States. “If you were looking [for] the needle in a haystack, that’s the haystack you would look at,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. “You’d look at the [likely] targets and the places the operators were.” No indications of radiation were found at the businesses, homes, warehouses or mosques that were included in the program. The official said that radiation monitoring of the Muslim sites started after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and lasted through 2003. The focus on the Muslim sites, which was first reported last week by U.S. News & World Report, has stunned and angered officials at mosques and Muslim and Arab-American organizations. Two such groups have filed Freedom of Information requests, known as FOIAs, in recent days to try to learn which sites were monitored. They also have requested meetings with the FBI, which ran the program along with the Energy Department. “The problem [is] . . . it further gives the Muslim community a sense they are suspect, they are under the gun,” said Ahmed Younis, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Michael A. Mason, who oversees the Washington Field Office of the FBI, said in an interview that he hoped to meet next week with the groups. “We have not violated the law; we have not violated the Constitution; we have not gone on private property,” Mason said. He said that he could provide few details because the program remains classified but added that the monitoring devices involved were “passive,” roughly akin to holding a thermometer out the window of a moving car to measure the temperature. “It’s not like thermal-imaging a house, where you’re trying to figure out if they’re trying to grow marijuana,” he said. Officials emphasized that Washington wasn’t the only place where the program operated. Nor were Muslim sites the only focus: The program included airports, buildings and monuments that were considered possible targets for a terrorist attack, said the official familiar with the program who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There was no more intensive focus on D.C. than there was on several other cities,” he said. The testing began several months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when a series of events had convinced U.S. officials that another terrorist attack was imminent, the official said. Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in May 2002 on suspicion of planning an attack with a radiological dirty bomb; Osama bin Laden was threatening to strike again. In addition, documents discovered in Afghanistan indicated that terrorists could possibly use a U.S. mosque to hide radioactive material, said Jack Cloonan, a former FBI counterterrorism agent. Cloonan, who earlier was interviewed by ABC News about the program, said it was not clear which mosques might have been considered. The official familiar with the program acknowledged that “now it sounds like a crazy thing. But at the time it didn’t sound like a very crazy thing. . . . All the intel was saying, ‘An attack is coming, it’s likely to be al Qaeda, likely to be launched in a U.S. city, likely to involve a dirty device’. . . . Where would you go looking for that?” Authorities determined that in the past, al Qaeda terrorists or people close to them tended to live in Muslim neighborhoods or attend local mosques, the official said. That’s how some sites became included in a program, he said. Other sites were chosen because of specific intelligence information. Most of the testing was apparently done from nearby streets. But, according to U.S. News & World Report, in as much as 15 percent of the cases, officials had to go onto private property, such as mosque parking lots and private driveways, to get accurate readings. Officials involved with the program said no warrants were needed because they were in public access areas. But some Muslim activists said they were concerned. “We’d like our federal law enforcement agencies to know the American Muslim community stands firmly behind protecting our nation’s borders,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the groups that are seeking the addresses of the sites involved. “But, at the same time, we are not willing to give up our guaranteed constitutional and legal rights in order to do that.” He said his group constantly received phone calls from Muslims who believed they were under surveillance. But none had specifically mentioned possible radiation testing. U.S. News & World Report said that some officials believed the program, which involved property occupied or owned by U.S. citizens, was legally questionable. It quoted one unidentified source as saying that participants who complained “nearly lost their jobs.” Mason said that did not occur in the local FBI office. “No one in the Washington Field Office would ever be so threatened,” he said. “Never.”

An American Imam: Moderate Muslim Clerics In The U.S. Tend To Their Faithful–And Help The Fbi Fight Terrorists

By DOUGLAS WALLER STERLING IT WAS ON SEPT. 10, A DAY SHY OF THE fourth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, that Imam Mohamed Magid met terrorism’s victims face to face. He was presiding at the funeral on Long Island for the daughter and son-in-law of Bangladeshi Americans from his Sterling, Va., mosque. The children, who were at work in the North Tower, perished in the Sept. 11 attack, but not until this past August had medical examiners identified enough of their charred tissue and bone fragments for the parents to hold a funeral. Staring at the two wooden boxes covered with green embroidered cloth and surrounded by grieving family members, the Muslim cleric was gripped by both sadness and rage. “The terrorists who kill in the name of Islam claim they are the martyrs,” Magid told TIME later, the anger still roiling him. “But the victims are the martyrs. The terrorists are the murderers, and God will deal with them on Judgment Day.” From his mosque in Virginia, Magid, like many of the some 600 full-time imams across the country, is fighting his own war against radicals trying to hijack his religion. For Magid that has meant not only condemning terrorism but also working closely with the FBI in battling it. He regularly opens doors for agents trying to cultivate contacts in his Muslim community, and he alerts the bureau when suspicious persons approach his congregation. That puts him in a precarious position: How does he maintain credibility as a spiritual adviser while, in effect, he is informing on fellow Muslims? To understand that balancing act, TIME spent two weeks following Magid as he raced from prayer to prayer, meeting to meeting, in the strange new world of American Muslim ministry. Breaking with tradition hasn’t bothered Magid. Born 40 years ago in the northern Sudanese village of Alrakabih along the Nile River, he studied Islam under African Sunni scholars, who included his father. Magid immigrated to the U.S. in 1987, when his ailing father came seeking medical treatment. Unlike many foreign imams, who find America’s open society too jolting and withdraw to their mosques, he reveled in the cultural diversity. “I never had a Jewish friend until I came to the U.S.,” says the gregarious imam. “And the questioning of all religions here helped me strengthen my own beliefs.” Magid reached out, taking college courses in psychology and family counseling, teaching classes on the Koran at the Islamic Center and Howard University in Washington. One of his African-American students at Howard–Amaarah Decuir, who had recently converted to Islam from Catholicism and was getting a master’s degree in education–eventually became his wife and educated him on women’s issues. In 1997, Magid became imam of a mosque just west of Washington called ADAMS, an acronym for All Dulles Area Muslim Society. An imam can be a layman sufficiently versed in the Koran to lead daily prayers, but larger, more established mosques hire professional imams, comparable to Christian ministers or Jewish rabbis, who are trained in Islamic seminaries or mentored by scholars. Of the some 1,500 mosques in the U.S., ADAMS is one of the more progressive. Its $5 million center in Sterling serves 5,000 mostly middle- and upper-middle-income Sunni and Shi’ite families from more than a dozen ethnic backgrounds. In many mosques abroad and in the U.S., women are required to pray in rooms separate from the men. At ADAMS, women not only pray in the same room with the men (although in a partitioned-off section in the back), they hold four of the 13 seats on the mosque’s board of trustees and chair a majority of its committees. An American imam becomes de facto mayor of his Muslim community. A line of congregants often stretches outside Magid’s office filled with followers asking for all kinds of help. Finding love, for example, can be difficult for observant Muslims scattered in U.S. cities; Islam forbids physical contact in dating or cruising for mates in nightclubs that serve alcohol. A breathless young man once phoned Magid in the middle of the night to ask if he could perform a marriage in a parking lot “right now” so the suitor and the woman in his car wouldn’t feel guilty about what they wanted to do next. “I’m not a 7-Eleven,” the imam barked into the phone. To help with romances, Magid and his wife run a matchmaking service, holding daylong retreats at which young Muslim men and women can mix under the watchful eye of chaperones. Magid has no qualms about grappling with problems that Muslim families often don’t deal with openly. He has organized mosque programs to treat depression among Muslim teens and stocks the women’s restroom at ADAMS with brochures on where to get help if they have an abusive husband. Teenagers and young adults come to him with questions about everything from underage drinking to premarital sex to whether the Koran allows a woman to have a bikini wax. He advises abstaining from alcohol and sex before marriage but knows his advice won’t always be followed, so he also counsels on safe sex and the health dangers of binge drinking. As for the bikini wax, Islam’s rules on female modesty allow it, he decided–if a wife’s husband will be the only one to see the result. “He’s not some big, scary imam sitting in his office passing judgment,” says Zohra Atmar, a 25-year-old legal assistant who is a mosque member. But Sept. 11, 2001, “changed the role of the American imam for good,” Magid believes. Muslims in this country found their religion under attack. His female congregants who wore the hijab, or traditional scarf, on their head were harassed at shopping centers. Last year a man shouted “Terrorists!” at the mosque’s Girl Scouts as they sold cookies at a nearby grocery store. And since 9/11, the ADAMS center has been vandalized four times and the graffiti GO HOME painted on its walls. But this is home, and Magid began mobilizing his mosque to protect it. “There’s no way you can be a quarter-citizen in this country,” he told his congregants during Friday prayers soon after the Sept. 11 attacks. “You have to be a full citizen and defend it.” For Magid, that meant working with the FBI. In early 2002, leaders of two Arab-American organizations who had been conferring with the agency on counterterrorism programs asked Magid and other local imams if they too would work with the bureau. The lawmen badly needed contacts among Washington’s Muslims to help them check out leads and alert them to anything out of the ordinary, but they were getting nowhere in setting up those ties because “there was so much fear and animosity toward the FBI in that community,” says an agent. Magid was willing to cooperate, but he knew he would have to convince his congregation that getting cozy with the FBI was in their interest. Some members–particularly those who had come from countries with repressive regimes where the security service was an organization to be avoided–were uneasy. The imam invited agents to the mosque to explain how Muslims could help, but the initial meetings were heated, and the lawmen had to sit through “some very harsh questioning,” says Uzma Unus, vice president of the ADAMS board of trustees. The congregants vented about law-enforcement profiling, which they felt targeted all Muslims as suspects. Agents were showing up at their workplaces to make routine inquiries about anyone they might want to report, and some Muslims were fired because of the public stigma of being questioned by the FBI. The agents promised to be less heavy-handed in investigations, and over the next three years relations improved. Now Magid often serves as an intermediary, coaxing reluctant congregants who might have useful information about unusual activities in their neighborhoods into meeting with the FBI and advising the bureau on how to be more culturally sensitive–for example, by having male agents schedule interviews with women only when their husbands could be present. Magid regularly tips off the bureau when a stranger with a questionable background wanders into his center. In one case, mosque members alerted him to a newcomer who deal
t only in cash and wanted to list the ADAMS-center address as his home on his driver’s license application. The next time the imam saw the man in his mosque, he kept the newcomer in his office until agents showed up to question him. In the end, the FBI cleared the man. It turned out he had gone through a messy divorce in another state and was simply trying to start a new life in Virginia. So far as Magid knows, no terrorist has tried to infiltrate the mosque, but he always worries that one might. ADAMS prides itself on being an extremist-free zone. Newcomers who mutter thoughts of jihad quickly discover they are not welcome. During Ramadan, guest speakers for evening prayers were carefully screened to make sure they preached religious tolerance. Magid keeps close watch on younger members of the mosque who might be drawn to the diatribes of radical clerics. Before 9/11, he recalls, a teenager who had read a fatwa on an extremist website walked into his office and asked whether the Koran sanctioned suicide bombings. “Absolutely not!” he sternly told the boy. Since the attacks, no young person has approached him with that kind of question, but Magid constantly lectures in Koran classes: “Don’t blindly follow how any religious leader interprets Islam–even me.” After last July’s bombings in London, which were carried out by young British-born Muslims who had turned to extremism, ADAMS parents came to him fearful that their children could be similarly swayed. Magid says he convened more classes with his younger congregants to talk “about using democratic means–not violence–to convey their frustrations and disagreements with U.S. foreign policy.” As riots by mostly disaffected young Muslims swept France this month, he preached the same message of nonviolence in his youth classes. Distrust remains. The collaboration between the FBI and the imam “has not been popular in certain wings,” concedes Michael Rolince, the Washington field office’s special agent in charge of counterterrorism. The bureau has come under fire from hard-line pundits, who charge that it is reaching out to American Muslim leaders sympathetic to extremists. “They are providing an endorsement of these individuals, which enhances their credibility,” says Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, a conservative think tank in Philadelphia. (The FBI insists it works only with moderates like Magid.) But some ADAMS members are still uncomfortable about their imam’s talking to an intelligence service, while other conservative clerics have complained to Magid that he is selling out. Although they keep those reservations private for fear they will be investigated, Magid says, “they ask, ‘How can you open a dialogue with the government when it has been so hostile to Muslims?'” But progressive imams like Magid realize they are on the front line between the Muslim community and a country awakening–often fearfully–to the knowledge that it has a Muslim community. “It’s time for Islam in America to be American,” he says. For the FBI, that kind of thinking may be one of its best weapons in the war on terrorism.M2509

Experts Say Indigenous Terror Threat Real

By Jeremiah Marquez LOS ANGELES — An alleged plot targeting military facilities, synagogues and other Los Angeles-area sites has highlighted what experts say is a novel terrorist threat: homegrown American militants operating with little or no help from Islamic extremists abroad. Four suspects were charged last week with conspiring to wage war against the U.S. government through terrorism. Named in the federal indictment were Levar Haley Washington, 25; Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21; Hammad Riaz Samana, 21; and Kevin James, 29. All but Samana, a Pakistani national, are American-born and Muslim converts. Counterterrorism officials have found no evidence directly connecting the group–described as the cell of a California prison gang of radical Muslims–to Al Qaeda or other foreign terrorist networks. Law-enforcement officials and terrorism experts said it could represent one of the first Islamic terrorism cases involving U.S. natives without those connections. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes, an international dragnet has broken up training camps, disrupted finances and sent terrorist leaders underground, making it all the more difficult for Al Qaeda to mount attacks. Yet despite tougher border control, a radical ideology shared by the terrorist network continues to seep into the United States through propaganda distributed via the Internet, books, pamphlets, DVDs and the media–a “passive recruiting strategy,” according to terrorism experts. That has helped transform Al Qaeda into a movement with disciples acting without funding, expertise or guidance from foreign handlers. “Al Qaeda can’t get their militants to the places they want to hit, so they rely on an ideology to gain converts who do it for them,” said professor Brian Levin, a terrorism researcher at California State University, San Bernardino. In the Southern California case, prosecutors say cell members largely supported themselves. Washington, Patterson and Samana allegedly robbed gas stations to finance their plans to target military sites, synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and the El Al airport counter in the Los Angeles area. Patterson purchased a .223-caliber rifle. Samana underwent “firearms training and physical training” at a local park, according to the indictment. They even conducted Internet research on potential targets and Jewish holidays–dates for which they allegedly planned the assaults to “maximize the number of casualties,” prosecutors said. Samana’s lawyer, Timothy Lannen, described his client in a statement as a “peace-loving, law-abiding member of our community” and said “he did not intend at any time to commit violence against anyone.” An attorney in Washington’s state robbery case had not reviewed the federal indictment and had no immediate comment. Patterson’s lawyer has said his client asked him not to comment. The plot’s suspected mastermind was James, a California State Prison, Sacramento, inmate who founded the radical group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, authorities said. Washington converted to Islam while imprisoned there for a previous robbery conviction. Self-made groups in the United States can be more difficult to root out because they’re smaller and have fewer financial resources to track, experts said. “They’re adopting the Al Qaeda agenda and philosophy and carrying out their own jihad,” said Oliver “Buck” Revell, a former FBI associate deputy director and counterterrorism chief. “Unfortunately, they may be successful because they’re extremely hard to detect.”

Talk Show Host Graham Fired By Wmal Over Islam Remarks

By Paul Farhi Washington Post Staff Writer Washington radio station WMAL-AM fired talk show host Michael Graham yesterday after he refused to soften his description of Islam as “a terrorist organization” on the air last month. Graham had been suspended without pay from his daily three-hour show since making his comments July 25. The station had conditioned his return to the midmorning shift on reading a station-approved statement in which Graham would have said that his anti-Muslim statements were “too broad” and that he sometimes uses “hyperbole” in the course of his program. WMAL also asked Graham to speak to the station’s advertisers and its employees about the controversy. But Graham refused both conditions, prompting the station to drop him. According to WMAL, Graham said “Islam is a terrorist organization” 23 times on his July 25 program. On the same show, he also said repeatedly that “moderate Muslims are those who only want to kill Jews” and that “the problem is not extremism. The problem is Islam.” The comments drew complaints and prompted an organized letter-writing campaign against WMAL and its advertisers by a Muslim group, the Council on American-Islam Relations (CAIR) of Washington. The protests led several advertisers to ask WMAL to stop airing their ads during Graham’s weekday show, although the station says it didn’t lose any advertisers amid the controversy. In a statement yesterday, Graham blamed CAIR for his firing and defended his comments: “As a fan of talk radio, I find it absolutely outrageous that pressure from a special interest group like CAIR can result in the abandonment of free speech and open discourse on a talk radio show.” Graham, in an interview last night, said he and the station had reached an agreement on terms of his return last week, but the station called back to withdraw. “It was a done deal,” he said. “They revoked it because, after further consideration, it didn’t contain an apology. And I will not apologize for something that is true.” Chris Berry, WMAL’s president and general manager, disputed Graham’s characterization, saying in an interview that “no one involved in this decision ever had any contact with anyone from CAIR.” Instead, he said, Graham was terminated because he violated station policy and disregarded “management direction” to redress it. Officials at WMAL, which is owned by the Walt Disney Co., had initially declined to take disciplinary action against Graham, defending his comments as part of the overheated rhetoric of talk radio. But that stance began to change as complaints about Graham’s remarks mounted. Graham, 43, is one of several conservative talk hosts featured on the station. WMAL (630 AM) also carries Rush Limbaugh’s and Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio shows. Graham’s WMAL show is not syndicated. The station had hoped to work out an agreement that would return Graham to the air, Berry said, but it was evident by early yesterday that Graham would not agree to the station’s terms. He added in a statement: “Some of Michael’s statements about Islam went over the line — and this isn’t the first time that he has been reprimanded for insensitive language and comments. In this case, as previously, Michael’s on-air statements do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of station management. I asked Michael for an on-air acknowledgment that some of his remarks were overly broad, and inexplicably he refused.” In 1999, Graham was fired from a Charlotte station for saying that the killing of athletes was a “minor benefit” of the Columbine shootings. He apologized the next day. CAIR applauded WMAL’s decision. The organization had asked the station for a retraction or an apology, but “we didn’t get specific on what [Graham] should say,” said Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman. “We were looking for an acknowledgment that his statements were anti-Muslim and hateful, and harmful to our community and our country’s image.” Berry said no permanent replacement for Graham has been chosen because the station until yesterday thought Graham would be returning to work. He said WMAL will try several hosts in Graham’s slot over the next few weeks. Graham has clashed with CAIR in the past. Last year, the group said comments he made on WMAL implicitly advocated violence against Muslims, and it cited him in a campaign called “Hate Hurts America.”