By using European tactics to search for homegrown sources of terrorism in the Muslim-American community, the U.S. risks fostering the kind of alienation that some Muslims feel in Europe, writes Moushumi Khan, a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Muslims' trust in U.S. civil society has encouraged them to work with local police in finding terrorists, the most effective way to uncover terrorism, says Mr. Khan. For instance, a local Federal Bureau of Investigation office credited the Muslim community with stepping forward last year to expose a plot in Toledo, Ohio, to build bombs and aid the insurgency in Iraq.
But rather than build on such links between the Muslim community and the government, the U.S. has a tendency to rely on European tactics that increase suspicion on both sides. The government pays informants, sends undercover police into religious institutions and carries out racial profiling. Those tactics might be appropriate in Europe, where the Muslim population tends to be poorer and less integrated, says Mr. Khan. But in the U.S., strategies like these are perceived by some Muslim-Americans as entrapment of young people who have done little to arouse suspicion beyond practicing their religion. Taped conversations with a government informant about planting a bomb in a New York City subway station helped convict Shahawar Siraj Matin in 2006. But Mr. Khan says those tapes show the informant pressuring Mr. Matin into planning the attack. Many Muslims interpreted the tapes as a signal that "they could not afford to voice their political beliefs," Mr. Khan says, increasing their suspicion of the government.
Despite the risks of these practices, the hunt for homegrown Muslim terrorism hasn't turned up many real-world examples, Mr. Khan says. Most of the prominent cases have involved immigrants, and even some of those have crumbled."While the vast majority of Muslim youth are wondering how they can be civically minded Muslim Americans," he says, "the government seems to be stuck on the theme of the radicalization of Muslim American youth." [Link]
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