Study: Build mosques to prevent Islamic radicalism
The efforts by some groups to prevent the construction of mosques could backfire, suggests a recent study that urges the building of Muslim community centers and mosques as a way of preventing Islamic radicalism.
The two-year-long study (PDF), which was brought to public attention in Sunday’s New York Times, states that “the creation of robust Muslim-American communities may serve as a preventative measure against radicalization by reducing social isolation of individuals who may be at risk of becoming radicalized.”
It asserts that “the stronger such communities are, in terms of social networks, educational programs, and provision of social services, the more likely they are to identify individuals who are prone to radicalization and intervene appropriately.”
The study, put together by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina and released in January, could shed new light on the recent outbreak of anti-mosque sentiment among some groups, sparked by the controversy over illegal immigration and the construction of a mosque and Muslim community center near Ground Zero in Manhattan.
The study suggests that promoting — rather than acting against — strong Muslim communities may be one of the keys to preventing Islamist terrorism in the United States.
“Muslim-American communities have been active in preventing radicalization,Ã¢â‚¬Â study co-author Charles Kurzman, of the University of North Carolina, said in a press release. “This is one reason that Muslim-American terrorism has resulted in fewer than three dozen of the 136,000 murders committed in the United States since 9/11.”
The study also encourages Muslim communities to become more politically active, and says politicians should make a point of visiting mosques, as President George W. Bush used to do.
“Increased political mobilization is the most important trend identified by this study, as it both stunts domestic radicalization and provides an example to Muslims around the world that grievances can be resolved through peaceful democratic means,” the study states.
“We recommend that policymakers in the major political parties embrace this mobilization by including Muslim-Americans in their outreach efforts and by organizing them to gain their support, as they do with other ethnic and religious groups. Similarly, public officials should attend events at mosques, as they do at churches and synagogues.”
Rachel Slajda at ThinkProgress highlights the fact that some acts of Islamist terrorism have actually been prevented by moderate Muslims. She points to Aliou Niasse, the Muslim Senegalese immigrant who alerted authorities to the failed Times Square bomb plot.
For its part, the Times reported Sunday that the recent controversies over mosque construction have taken on a distinctively anti-Muslim tone, and reporter Laurie Goodstein wonders whether the efforts to prevent mosque construction indicate that some conservatives are ready to abandon the principle of freedom of religion, at least in the case of Muslims.
At one time, neighbors who did not want mosques in their backyards said their concerns were over traffic, parking and noise Ã¢â‚¬â€ the same reasons they might object to a church or a synagogue. But now the gloves are off.
In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself. They quote passages from the Koran and argue that even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution with Islamic Shariah law.
These local skirmishes make clear that there is now widespread debate about whether the best way to uphold AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s democratic values is to allow Muslims the same religious freedom enjoyed by other Americans, or to pull away the welcome mat from a faith seen as a singular threat.