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Anti-Terror Lessons of Muslim-Americans

NCJ Number
David Schanzer; Charles Kurzman; Ebrahim Moosa
Date Published
January 2010
64 pages
Given the fact that in the 8 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 there have been relatively few cases of Muslim-Americans having turned to violent extremism, the current project attempts to explain this encouraging result by identifying characteristics and practices in the Muslim-American community that are preventing such radicalization and terrorist violence.
One factor in preventing radicalization among Muslim-Americans is the public and private denunciations of terrorism and violence. Muslim-American organizations and leaders have consistently condemned terrorist violence both in America and abroad since 9/11. Muslim-Americans have also adopted numerous self-policing practices designed to prevent the emergence of radical ideology in their communities. Self-policing includes confronting individuals who express radical ideology or support for terrorism, preventing extremist ideologues from preaching in mosques, communicating concerns about radical individuals to law enforcement officials, and purging radical extremists from membership in local mosques. A third factor in preventing radicalization among Muslim-Americans is the building of Muslim-American communities with strong social networks, educational programs, and social services that promote mainstream, nonviolent Islamic beliefs and practices. In addition, Muslim-Americans' engagement in the political activities of American democracy has provided means to express grievances and gain representation in policymaking forums. Another factor that impedes the emergence of widespread radicalization among Muslim-Americans is the assertive expression of a Muslim-American identity within American society that parallels that of other racial, ethnic, and religious minorities in America. In embracing these precedents, Muslim-Americans feel they can retain and affirm their distinctive beliefs and practices under the protection of America's democratic values. Recommendations for promoting and maintaining the aforementioned factors include encouraging political mobilization; promoting public denunciations of violence; reinforcing self-policing through Muslim-American cooperation with police; assisting community-building efforts; promoting outreach by social service agencies; supporting enhanced religious literacy; and increasing civil rights enforcement. 112 notes and appended notes on project methodology and cases of Muslim-American terrorism offenders that occurred between 2001-2009