Can American Values Radicalize Muslims? By Raymond Ibrahim

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First published by Pajamas Media on February 10, 2011 and reprinted with express permission:

Ibrahim_Raymond Recent comments by U.S. officials on the threat posed by "radicalized" American Muslims are troubling, both for their domestic and international implications. Attorney General Eric Holder states that "the threat has changed … to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens — raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born." The situation is critical enough to compel incoming head of the House Committee on Homeland Security Peter King to do all he can "to break down the wall of political correctness and drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization."

To be sure, radicalized American Muslims pose a far greater risk than foreign radicals. For example, it is much easier for the former to get a job in the food industry and poison food — a recently revealed al-Qaeda strategy. American terrorists are also better positioned to exploit the Western mindset. After describing Anwar al-Awlaki as one of the most dangerous terrorists alive, Holder added that he "is a person who — as an American citizen — is familiar with this country and he brings a dimension, because of that American familiarity, that others do not." (Likewise, American Adam Gadahn is al-Qaeda's chief propagandist in English no doubt due to his "American familiarity.")

Sue Myrick, a member of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a particularly candid letter on "radicalization" to President Obama:

For many years we lulled ourselves with the idea that radicalization was not happening inside the United Sates. We believed American Muslims were immune to radicalization because, unlike the European counterparts, they are socially and economically well-integrated into society. There had been warnings that these assumptions were false but we paid them no mind. Today there is no doubt that radicalization is taking place inside America. The strikingly accelerated rate of American Muslims arrested for involvement in terrorist activities since May 2009 makes this fact self-evident.

Myrick named several American Muslims as examples of those who, while "embodying the American dream, at least socio-economically," still turned to radical Islam, astutely adding, "The truth is that if grievances were the sole cause of terrorism, we would see daily acts by Americans who have lost their jobs and homes in this economic downturn."

Quite so. Yet, though Myrick's observations are limited to the domestic scene, they beg the following, even more "cosmic," question: If American Muslims, who enjoy Western benefits — including democracy, liberty, prosperity, and freedom of expression — are still being radicalized, why then do we insist that the importation of those same Western benefits to the Muslim world will eliminate its even more indigenous or authentic form of "radicalization"?

After all, the mainstream position, the only one evoked by politicians, maintains that all American sacrifices in the Muslim world (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) will pay off once Muslims discover how wonderful Western ways are, and happily slough off their Islamist veneer, which, as the theory goes, is a product of — you guessed it — a lack of democracy, liberty, prosperity, and freedom of expression. Yet here are American Muslims, immersed in the bounties of the West — and still do they turn to violent jihad. Why think their counterparts, who are born and raised in the Muslim world, where Islam permeates every aspect of life, will respond differently?

In fact, far from eliminating radicalization, there is reason to believe that Western values can actually exacerbate Islamist tendencies. It is already known that Western concessions to Islam — in the guise of multiculturalism, "cultural sensitivity," political correctness, and self-censorship — only bring out the worst in Islamists. Yet even some of the most prized aspects of Western civilization — personal freedom, rule of law, human dignity — when articulated through an Islamist framework, have the capacity to "radicalize" Muslims.

Consider: the West's unique stress on the law as supreme arbitrator, translates into a stress to establish sharia law, Islam's supreme arbitrator of human affairs; the West's unwavering commitment to democracy, translates into an unwavering commitment to theocracy, including an anxious impulse to resurrect the caliphate; Western notions of human dignity and pride, when articulated through an Islamist mindset (which sees fellow Muslims as the ultimate, if not only, representatives of humanity) induces rage when fellow Muslims — Palestinians, Afghanis, Iraqis, etc. — are seen under Western, infidel dominion; Western notions of autonomy and personal freedom have even helped "Westernize" the notion of jihad into an individual duty, though it has traditionally been held by sharia as a communal duty.

Nor should any of this be surprising: a set of noble principles articulated through a fascistic paradigm can produce abominations. In this case, the better principles of Western civilization are being devoured, absorbed, and regurgitated into something equally potent, though from the other end of the spectrum. Put differently, just as a stress on human freedom, human dignity, and universal justice produces good humans, rearticulating these same concepts through an Islamist framework that qualifies them with the word "Muslim" — Muslim freedom, Muslim dignity, and Muslim justice — leads to what is being called "radicalization."

Raymond Ibrahim is associate director of the Middle East Forum, author of The Al Qaeda Reader, and guest lecturer at the National Defense Intelligence College.


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eHeziCan American Values Radicalize Muslims? By Raymond Ibrahim

Comments 6

  1. And why are Muslims killing;Indonesians, Phillipinos,Russians,Indians, Pakistanians, Afghans,Iraqis,Yemens and more?If there was never an Israel or an America, Islam would be still violent to all non-Muslims.Which brings up the obvious question why should Muslims be granted equality and human rights?

  2. Great article. He writes this crap right after that monster upstate from here is convicted of sawing off his wife’s head because she asked for a divorce. Timing is everything. Islam is a violent, misogynistic, anti-Semitic cult. As long as anybody anywhere practices that so-called ‘religion’ according to the Quran, nobody anywhere is safe.
    Especially some poor, abused woman looking for a divorce.

  3. And what is Islams excuse for killing Christians, Hindus,Muslim killing Shiites and others, beside killing Jews?Islam must be outlawed through out the world until they accept freedom of religion for all faiths.

  4. excuse me what makes you think that raymond Ibrahim
    not a jew…isn’t Ibrahim a Muslim surname?
    taken from his bio…
    Born in the United States in 1973 to Egyptian parents, Mr. Ibrahim was raised in a bilingual environment and is fluent in Arabic, including colloquial dialects. He received his B.A. and M.A. (both in history, focusing on the ancient and medieval Near East, with a minor in philosophy) from California State University, Fresno. There he studied closely with noted military-historian and Hoover Senior Fellow, Victor Davis Hanson. His M.A. thesis examined an early military encounter between Islam and Byzantium based on medieval Arabic and Greek texts.
    so you and your own bigoted opinion have called one
    of your own a jew…because you do not agree with his
    assessment of why muslims in this nation become radicalized….its always Israel that’s the problem
    from small minded people like yourself…meanwhile
    Israel is the only democracy in the middle east whose
    gross domestic product and standard of living is far
    beyond anything any of the major arab nations have
    been able to accomplish with their authoritarian
    rule…you blame everything on Israel and the jews
    even Peter King who happens to be Irish…don’t you
    wonder why it is you get it wrong all the time..

  5. A am not agreed with the author. Author is a Jew and biased towards muslims. America got great tradition and values. May be even better than muslim countries. Problem is with America’s pro Israeli policies. As long as America’s policies are pro Israel, I dont think there will be any sympathy for America from Muslim worls. They may be friend with America, but their people will never align with American Govenment. Please,you must separate American People and Government of America.

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