Arrests of Five American Muslims Raise Serious Issues

Monday, 21 Dec 2009 11:47 AM

By Tawfik Hamid

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The case of the five American Muslims arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of potential terror activity raises issues.

Pakistani authorities described the men as college students who "were of the opinion that a jihad must be waged against the infidels for the atrocities committed by them against Muslims around the world," a report states.

Preliminary investigations suggest that the five had sought to link up with the militant Islamic groups Jaish-e-Mohammed and Jamaat ud Dawa. Neither group showed interest in having the young men, reports say.

The parents of the young men, who originally were appointed missing in the United States before their arrests in Pakistan were announced, and local Muslim leaders approached the Council of American Islamic Relations, which informed the FBI, the council said.

Members of a community mosque in suburban Virginia described the young men Friday as devout and participants in the mosque's youth program.
Mosque representative Abu Maryam defended the mosque's activities, saying that jihad is not discussed in the community or its youth program.

The Islamic relations council realizes there is a problem and is "going to launch a major campaign of education to refute the misuse of verses in the Quran, or the misuse of certain grievances in the Muslim world,” said Nihad Awad, co-founder and executive director of the council.

This story raises many points that need to be addressed:

1. If Jihad were a predominantly peaceful concept, as many Islamic organizations promote in the West, why then did the Mosque representative say that “jihad had no place in the congregation or the youth program”? Why should Maryam feel embarrassed about teaching a peaceful concept?

Avoiding discussing jihad, as the mosque representative mentioned, further confirms that the word jihad in Muslims' jargon basically is used in violent manner. In other words, if Jihad werer truly a peaceful concept, the mosque should not have to shy away from discussing it.

2. Why did the families of these five young men inform the Council of American Islamic Relations before doing the more simple thing, which is to inform the local police? Why the families did not think of the most logical possibility when someone disappears in United States that he was (or they were) kidnapped? Informing an Islamic organization first instead of informing the police raises doubts about whether the families knew from the beginning that the young men went to Pakistan with some jihadist intentions?

3. Pakistani authorities described the men as college students who "were of the opinion that a jihad must be waged against the infidels for the atrocities committed by them against Muslims around the world.” This must make us question why these young men did not have the same negative feelings against the Muslim terrorists who kill their fellow Muslims?

If these young men were truly caring for Muslims' lives, why then have we not seen them waging jihad against al-Qaida for exploding Mosques, funerals, and markets that have killed thousands of innocent Muslims? Is it OK for Muslims to kill innocent Muslims but not OK for the United States to defend itself against those who attacked it or threatened its security?

Failure to show the same hatred or reaction against Islamic terrorists who killed thousands of Muslims all over the world raises the point that these young jihadists' hate for the United States is not based on care for Muslims’ lives — otherwise they would have showed the same reaction against Osama bin Laden and other Islamic terrorists.

4. It is clear that many of these young Muslims were considered “moderates” in their universities and local communities. This raises an important issue of defining who should be called moderate and who should be called a radical and confirmed the need for a clear definition for radical Islam. (See my ABC test for radical Islam.) Without defining radical Islam and putting parameters for it, many radicals can spread their toxic views in the society and radicalize more young Muslims.

5. Going to the radical Islamic groups to offer them to become volunteers showed that these young men were naïve in jihadism because, in general, sophisticated jihadi groups do not accept volunteers in this way. They usually choose their own people and new members based on certain selection criteria.

6. It is good that council finally realized the "ideological" root of the problem and is going “to launch a major campaign of education to refute the misuse of verses in the Quran,” as Awad said. Obviously justifications for Islamic radicalism such as poverty, lack of education, and lack of democracy are not going to explain this case of home-grown Islamic radicalism among university students in the United States!

7. If these young Muslims were planning to join jihad against the U.S. troops, should this be considered a form of treason to their country and should they be considered traitors to the United States by collaborating with its enemies?

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad." A former associate of Dr. al-Zawahiri (second in command of al-Qaida), he now is a reformer of Islam. For information, visit www.tawfikhamid.com. Hamid's writings in this blog represent only his thoughts and not the views of the institute where he works.


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