Nothing about the 2020 presidential campaign is typical and the debates are no different. Diane talks with Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, about how they are planning in the middle of a pandemic.
Guest Host: Michel Martin
Yesterday after a gunfight in Linden, N.J., 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami, a U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, was taken into custody in connection with a bomb blast in lower Manhattan this weekend and the discovery of several other devices in the region. It’s not yet clear if others may have been involved or what the motive may have been. And in Minnesota the man accused of stabbing several people at a mall was reported to be a Somali American, prompting members of that community to speak out. Join us to discuss the latest on the investigations and the anxieties these attacks have provoked.
- Devlin Barrett Reporter, security and law enforcement, The Wall Street Journal
- Charles Kurzman Professor of sociology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, author, "The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists"
- Mehreen Farooq Senior fellow, World Organization for Resource Development and Education
- Akbar Ahmed Chair, Islamic studies at American University; former Pakistani high commissioner to the U.K.; his forthcoming book is titled "Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration and Empire"
- Arsalan Iftikar Human rights lawyer, author of "How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies & Hurts Our Freedoms"
MS. MICHEL MARTINThank you for joining us. I'm Michel Martin of NPR sitting in for Diane Rehm. A 28-year-old man, a U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, has been charged with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and will also likely face federal terrorism charges in connection with bombs that exploded in New Jersey and lower Manhattan Saturday and several other devices that didn't go off and news that the man who attacked several people with a knife in a Minnesota mall over the weekend was part of the local Somali American community, has raised familiar and frankly uncomfortable questions.
MS. MICHEL MARTINHow much of a terrorism risk does this country face within its own borders and from whom and how is it best addressed? Joining us to talk about this, Akbar Ahmed of the American University. He is the chair of the Islamic studies department there. He's a former Pakistani high commissioner to the UK and his forthcoming book is titled "Journey Into Europe: Islam, Immigration and Empire."
MS. MICHEL MARTINAlso with us, Mehreen Farooq of the World Organization for Resource Development and Education. From a studio in Chapel Hill, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina who's been studying the issue we want to talk about. And by phone from New Jersey, Arsalan Iftikar, he's a human rights lawyer who's also written about these issues for some time now and we're delighted to have all of you with us.
MS. MICHEL MARTINBut first, I'm going to ask you to stand by while we hear the latest about the investigation from Devlin Barrett of The Wall Street Journal. Devlin Barrett covers -- he's a staff reporter in Washington and he covers federal law enforcement and security, including terrorism, cyber crime, et cetera. Devlin, thanks so much for joining us.
MR. DEVLIN BARRETTSure. Happy to be here.
MARTINTell us what the authorities are saying now about the bomb that went off in New York and those unexploded bombs that were found in New York and New Jersey. We're going to focus on that story first.
BARRETTSure. So the bombs were -- had some pretty significant differences in terms of how they were built. Some of them were pipe bombs, some of them were pressure cooker bombs. That's interesting in and of itself, because you don't often see that type of variation. But one commonality to them was their use of old flip phone cell phones and those proved pretty key in tracking down the suspect, in part because one of the unexploded devices, they were able to look at the phone and trace information on that phone to Rahami's family, which give them a big clue early on.
MARTINIs there any indication, at this point, about whether Mr. Rahami, who is alleged -- who has been charged, as we know, so far with the attempted murder charges so far. The federal terrorism charges have not yet been addressed. Is there any indication of whether he was working with someone else?
BARRETTWhat they've said is they have no evidence pointing to someone else helping him do this. But it's very early. They're still trying to figure out exactly what the people around him knew about what he was up to. So, for instance, some of his relatives are overseas. They're very much trying to track those people down and talk to them and get a better sense of what was going on, what they were aware of. And there was also, obviously, relatives in the U.S. and New Jersey that they are talking to and trying to understand who may have known some -- or may have had an inkling, at least, as to what was going on.
BARRETTBut officials are very adamant that -- at the press conference yesterday that they really don't have evidence pointing to anyone helping him at this time.
MARTINAnd is there thought to be any connection between what happened in New York and New Jersey and what happened in Minnesota?
BARRETTNo. Officials have repeatedly said they do not see a connection between those two incidents. And frankly, it really speaks to what counterterrorism officials say is one of the real challenges of doing counterterrorism work right now, which is that, you know, some of the folks who decide to act out violently seem to do so, you know, just in their own little world, you know, partly online, partly by talking to other people, but essentially, not as a group of co-conspirators or cells.
BARRETTAnd, frankly, from a counterterrorism point of view, sometimes it's easier to crack a cell than it is to get wind of a particular individual, you know, what some folks call lone wolves. It can actually be harder to find those individuals in the haystack.
MARTINWhat do we know, before we let you go, Devlin, and thanks so much for joining us, what do we know about the stabbing attack that took place in Minnesota? I noted that local members of the Somali community there have identified him, but have law enforcement officials identified him?
BARRETTThey have not, although, obviously, he's been identified correctly, according to the people I've spoken to. You know, they are still working to unravel that guy's background. What was described to me was that he appears to have been attracted to ISIS ideology on some level, but they have not found -- he wasn't someone who was on their radar previously. And that's interesting in itself because Minnesota has had a long -- a lot of work to do in the Somali American community trying to keep their kids from going overseas to fight or doing anything violent here.
BARRETTYou know, this is not a -- this has been an issue that the Somali American community in Minnesota has been dealing with for quite some time. And the FBI has been concerned about for quite some time among the young men in that community -- some of the young men in that community. And it was interesting to me that this was not someone that they had been aware of or concerned about previously because there has been a lot of investigative work in Minnesota on this issue.
MARTINIn both cases, though, I think the thing that attracted attention was that in one case -- Mr. Rahami is a United States citizen and in the Minnesota case, the gentleman who's been identified by the community as being a Somali American lives -- has lived here for most of his life.
BARRETTWell, right. And you know, one of the things that I think is so worrisome to the folks who do counterterrorism work is that some of the young men who seem to be attracted to this are really very American kids and, you know, they seem to be drawn, in some cases, to this -- to an idealized version of what, you know, the fight abroad or even the, you know, the terror fight here is about. And a lot of what they call countering violent extremism work is designed to try to counter that argument. That's still very much a work in progress and it's actually something that the government isn't necessarily good at because it tends to come across as propaganda.
BARRETTBut it's a big issue and part of what they're trying to understand better is what do you say to, let's say, a 19-year-old who is just fascinated by the videos, for example, of Anwar al-Awlaki or al-Shabaab videos and how do you make a compelling counterargument to that kind of rhetoric.
MARTINDevlin, thanks so much. That leads us into the conversation that we want to have here in studio. That's Devlin Barrett of The Wall Street Journal. Devlin, thanks so much for speaking with us.
MARTINSo that leads to the subject that we really want to talk about today and let's just agree up front that this is not the easiest conversation to have because clearly people are very concerned about labeling an entire community of people and certainly an entire religion. On the other hand, it is obvious why we're talking about this. It is an election year and there are people who do find it very compelling and have very specific policy prescriptions that they feel are necessary to address this issue.
MARTINSo we're gonna start with Charles Kurzman because you've been studying this issue. You are in the department of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and you've actually been studying Muslim American involvement with violent extremism. Tell us a little bit, first, if you would, how -- are you talking solely about U.S. citizens here? For example, with the Somali American man who's alleged to have committed those stabbing attacks in Minnesota, I don’t know his immigration status. Would he be part of your study?
MR. CHARLES KURZMANYes. Our study, which has gone on now for a number of years, tracks the number of arrests and incidents of Muslim Americans involved with violent extremism. Not just citizens, but residents as well. Try to get a broad picture of what is the scale of the problem here. As Islamic revolutionary groups around the world have been trying to recruit Muslims in the United States, how successful have they been?
MARTINWell, tell us what you found. Tell us briefly what you found. And, obviously, you've spent a lot of time studying this, but just give us some of the top lines.
KURZMANYeah. The numbers are around two dozen Muslim Americans a year that seemed to be involved, on average. There are ups and downs and we're currently, actually, in a down period. Over the past year, there have been relatively few arrests or incidents. Unfortunately, some of them have been quite violent, like the shooting in Orlando, Florida. The number of fatalities from these incidents is, by my tally, around 118 fatalities since 9/11.
KURZMANAnd to put this in perspective, we've had over that same period roughly 240,000 murders in the United States. So although these are horrible, violent incidents, they have not been a major threat to public safety in the U.S.
MARTINTalk a little bit more about -- but how you draw this comparison. Just talk a little bit more about your thinking about this, because clearly this is an issue that looms very large in the public imagination. It certainly looms very large right now in the political sphere. Talk a little bit more about how you would describe the risk assessment, if you would.
KURZMANYeah, it's -- we seem to have a zero tolerance policy for violence by Muslims that is very much -- very different from our tolerance for other forms of violence in the United States. So we have massive government programs designed to get those numbers of a couple dozen cases a year, half of which, by the way, are targeting folks abroad, not even targeting people in the United States. But those massive programs are geared at a tiny, tiny proportion of the overall threat picture.
KURZMANYou're far more likely to be killed by many, many other things in the United States than by a Muslim, and yet it totally -- it occupies such a large portion of our sense of fear and threat.
MARTINMr. Kurzman, we need to take a short break, but when we come back, we'll have more of your very interesting work tracking Muslim American involvement with violent extremism along with our other guests who are actually working to counteract this and have different perspectives. We hope you'll stay with us. This is "The Diane Rehm Show."
MARTINWelcome back. I'm Michel Martin, host of the weekend edition of "All Things Considered" on NPR, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking about those violent incidents over the weekend involving a man who planted several bombs in the New York area and also the stabbing attacks in Minnesota. And we're talking about the somewhat uncomfortable issue of violent extremism involving Muslim-Americans.
MARTINAnd our guests are people who have studied this issue and thought a lot about this issue. They are Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina, Akbar Ahmed of the American University, Mehreen Farooq of the World Organization for Resource Development and Education, and Arsalan Iftikar, human rights lawyer, who's written widely about these issues.
MARTINJust to recap what we talked about before the break, Mr. Kurzman, you said that -- I'm looking at your 2015 report, and you said that 81 Muslim-Americans were associated with violent extremist plots in 2015. That was the highest annual total since 9/11. And that -- can you tell us any more about the individuals involved? I mean, were there plans involving attacks within the U.S.? Did they involve attacks elsewhere? Can you just give us just a general picture of the people that you studied and what their intentions were.
KURZMANYes. So this number was a huge spike from previous years and it was concentrated in the first half of 2015. We saw very few cases in the second half of 2015 and we've seen relatively few cases so far in 2016, despite the high-profile incidents, terrible violence in Orlando, San Bernardino, last fall, and the incidents that we just saw this weekend. Roughly a third of the plots were aimed at targets in the United States. These are -- almost all of them involve undercover agents or informants and so were discovered at very early stages.
KURZMANBut there are a handful that slipped through and where individuals or a couple, in the case of San Bernardino, managed to engage in violence, generally fairly low tech, that is a rifle and a bunch of ammunition. And that's, sadly, you can cause considerable casualties. And even beyond the individual -- the local impact, the amount of tension it gets is sort of a multiplier effect. And that's what terrorism is really aiming to do is to strike terror, to cause fear. And our massive interest in these events -- it's all over the news, we're always sharing information on social media about them -- plays into the hands of the folks who want these incidents to be widely reported and widely worried about.
MARTINHmm. Arsalan Iftikar, that's something that you've actually written quite a bit about.
MR. ARSALAN IFTIKARYeah. I think it's important to keep in mind, you know, one of the -- ISIS's, you know, stated goals is to destroy this quote, unquote, "gray zone" of coexistence between Muslims and their Western societies. And so, you know, when they see this sort of, you know, knee-jerk to, as Professor Kurzman said, you know, when criminal acts are committed by Muslims, you know, it really helps to feed into that recruitment narrative, obviously with the rise of Donald Trump and, you know, some of his outlandish policies when it comes to, you know, proposing a ban on Muslims or a special identification for Muslims here in the United States.
MR. ARSALAN IFTIKARAgain, it's feeding into that anti-gray zone narrative, which is quite problematic if we want to make sure that people don't fall victim to the ideology of groups like ISIS or Al-Shabaab or Boko Haram. You know, obviously, we need to push back on the sort of anti-Muslim rhetoric that we've been seeing from some parts of our conservative intelligentsia.
MARTINProfessor Ahmed, what about you? You've actually studied this phenomenon around the world, as I understand it. You've been studying this issue, this question throughout the world. Talk a little bit more about your work.
MR. AKBAR AHMEDWell, Michel, 9/11 was the catalyst for me. And I've dedicated my life in trying to study and promote understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. And I've, in fact, involved my students, my assistants -- we've traveled, I've spent my sabbaticals in the field -- and it's resulted in two major studies looking at Muslims in the United States and Muslims in Europe and doing a comparison. It's fascinating. We've been to hundreds of mosques, talked to thousands of Muslims, non-Muslim, Jews, Christians, Hindus, the whole gamut of society.
MR. AKBAR AHMEDSo the question is, why are Muslims doing this? You called it uncomfortable, this discussion. It's not only uncomfortable, it's urgent. We need to discuss these issues. We mustn't let political correctness avoid this discussion. I think we have to understand that it is happening, all these incidents, Orlando, San Bernardino and now New York and so on. But we have to start thinking about what to do. So we are great on information. We have all the information and the police has been incredible. Very quickly they tell us who, why, what? But what we need to work out is what to do next.
MR. AKBAR AHMEDAnd what my takeaway is, after this decade of studying this problem, is that we must focus on healing. So we have a problem. We identify it. Let the security people challenge it on their terms, on their level. We must counter this hatred with healing. One small example -- we've been involved with the cathedral, the National Cathedral in D.C., with the Washington Hebrew Congregation, the largest Jewish congregation in Washington D.C. On October the 20th, my friend Walter Rubio (sp?) heads this organization he's organizing, Spread Hummus (sp?) Not Hate. So Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, we will all gather there and reaffirm a unity. Now...
MARTINBut could I just ask you one thing though? That you were telling us before -- earlier, that you've actually seen, in other countries, the rise of these kinds of random, violent, individual attacks. Is that true?
AHMEDIt's not only true, Michel -- especially in Europe, we've just got back -- but it's linked. It's complex. So we must not be able to simplify this. It's not a simplistic analysis. You have the rise of individuals. They're not necessarily Islamic in motivation. Take the guy in Nice or the fellow in Brussels of the slum. These boys don't even go to the mosque. They have no idea of Islam. They're diverse, they're violent, they beat their wives or their women. They're on drugs. They're doing everything that Muslims don't do. So the motivation is perhaps some random saying or someone from the Middle East, or perhaps some interpretation of the Quran. But their actions are coming from some intense hatred and anger. And we need to tackle that.
AHMEDBecause as long as we do not tackle that, you do have millions of Muslims living in Europe and living on the edge of a summit. Because remember Muslims are right now being demonized. The right wing has emerged. Today, Michel, in Europe -- we're just coming from there -- people are actually talking about camps -- internment camps.
AHMEDPeople are actually talking about concentration camps and gas chambers and deportation. Now we said, half a century ago, rightly, never again. But we're hearing that kind of conversation. With that, a very virulent, anti-Semitism has risen. So this has to be stopped. My concern is this kind of violence and hatred must be checked and stopped effectively. We, you know, we've been constantly discussing this.
AHMEDIt happens. We discuss it again. It just goes on and on and on. It's got to be stopped permanently. It cannot be done without working very closely with the Muslim community.
MARTINI want to hear more about that. And Mehreen, I have not forgotten about you. But I did want to ask Professor Kurzman, to you, can you just talk to me a little bit more about what Professor Ahmed just said, which is that some of the people who are participating in these violent, kind of random, seemingly random, individual attacks aren't even that religious. Is that -- does that comport with your analysis as well?
KURZMANYes. There's a whole range of levels of religiosity. It's not a great predictor. And let's keep in mind that being pious and exhibiting all the outward signs of being a devout Muslim is not a predictor of violence. And I would hate for there to be, as there has sometimes been, backlash against people who are visibly Muslim. Because there's very, very few, one in a million or fewer are actually going to be violent. We shouldn't be afraid of our neighbors.
MARTINMehreen, could you talk a little bit about this? Because this has been your work. I mean, you have been working in this area. Can you tell us what you know from your work about what are some of the factors that lead young people -- mainly men, it has to be said -- to take these kinds of violent actions?
MS. MEHREEN FAROOQThanks, Michel. So, first of all, I think it's important to kind of take a quick step back to kind of look at how we're defining violent extremism and then what is the response to that. So the research that we've been doing with WORDE indicates that there is, unfortunately or fortunately, no simple definition of what makes somebody potentially at risk of, you know, becoming radicalized or...
MARTINForgive me, WORDE being your organization, the World Organization for Resource Development and Education.
FAROOQAnd so what we found is if you look at cases of individuals who've either been apprehended or who have actually tried to carry out attacks, that there are certain trends that represent vulnerability. So whether it's psychological conditions, you know, somebody who is lacking a sense of purpose in their lives, sociological issues, you know, folks that are feeling alienated, disenfranchised, political grievances, economic conditions like relative deprivation. So all of these, cumulatively, in addition to ideological issues, this, you know, bifurcated worldview of us versus them, good versus evil, the justification for violence, all of this collectively can create vulnerabilities towards radicalization. So there really is no simplistic understanding.
MARTINCan I ask this. Is this a radicalization or is it a desire to be a hero? Because I'm not convinced that some of these people have any ideology really.
MARTINI mean, do they have an ideology, really? Is it radicalization or is it a disposition to do something that they think is spectacular and attention getting?
FAROOQSo there are, in fact, I think some individuals who are motivated by that thrill-seeking, hero-seeking complex, for sure. There are others that are primarily motivated by ideologies. So, again, I think we can't make those overly simplistic generalizations. Even when we look at how we're defining violent extremism, there's a wide range of different groups and organizations. Of course you have ISIS, al-Qaida, and the Taliban. Those that are, you know, using extremist interpretations of Islam to advocate for violence. But then you also have white nationalist movements, neo-Nazis. You've got anti-state sovereign citizen movements.
FAROOQIn fact, research indicates that these white nationalist movements and anti-state militia movements are actually responsible for twice as much violence than these so-called, self-proclaimed jihadis. So, again, just to kind of keep the perspective of how these things are being played out.
MARTINAnd you feel that's important to note because, why?
FAROOQI think it's important for us to understand that the threat of radicalization is not just limited to any one particular faith or ethnicity or any kind of immigrant community group. It's really something that can impact anyone. The George Washington University did a great study in which they found that 40 percent of those folks who are trying to join or support ISIS were actually recent converts. So you -- the numbers are indicating that we can't make these overt, over generalizations.
MARTINI just need to take a short break to say that I'm Michel Martin and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And if you would like to join our conversation, and we encourage you to do so, you can call 1-800-433-8850. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find us on Facebook. You can send us a tweet. There are a lot of ways to get in touch. We'd love for you to join our conversation and add your thoughts.
MARTINYou know, to the point that a number of you have raised so far, we have an email from Kimberly who says that -- discussed that there are allegations that the family in New York and their business were harassed by neighbors. I believe, actually, it's New Jersey. And it -- there's been reporting that the family of the gentleman who's been arrested in New Jersey had a small business. They felt that the local authorities were particularly tough on them. And then our writer, Kimberly, says, it reminds me of the story "My Son the Fanatic" by Hanif Kureishi, demonizing and harassing an entire culture might contribute to this. Professor Ahmed, do you want to speak on that?
AHMEDYes, Michel. As so many of our case studies, people we interviewed here in the United States and Europe, Muslims, would complain, the levels of anger are very high because, most of them would say, we want to live normal, peaceful lives as citizens. But this demonization of Islam and the entire community, anytime anything happens with one Muslim, the entire community gets demonized. We have to be very sensitive about this. Constantly we have to remember, this is a community. We all belong to this community, regardless of our race and religion.
AHMEDLet me give you one or two examples. The Nice murderer, the terrorist in Nice, one third of his victims were Muslim. People don't know this. The priest was killed by a Muslim. Now I grew up in North Pakistan in a Catholic school run by Catholic priests. I looked up to those priests as my teachers. We called them fathers. It was a very distressing moment for me to hear what had happened to that priest, because I imagined my own priests. We need to remember Captain Humayun Khan who gave his life for this great country and who lies buried in Arlington Cemetery.
AHMEDSo Muslims, mainstream Muslims are not reacting in terms of Muslims versus the world. They're reacting to what is right and what is wrong. And when these terrorists do something violent, they're not speaking in the name of Islam or the community. And therefore the community must be embraced, in order to help the mainstream community in the United States discover possible violence in the future. To check it.
MARTINBut some are. But some are.
AHMEDOf course they are. That is the problem which...
MARTINSome are claiming Islam as their warrant and motivation for this. Some are.
AHMEDThat's, again, a discussion, a debate we have to check them. I've been an administrator, Michel, in the tribal areas of Pakistan. I know how societies work. If there's violence, it has to be prevented. We are just discussing these issues as professors discussing ideas, all these terms that are constantly coming up. But you're seeing, on the ground, a reality that violence is taking place consistently and Muslims are involved. And as Professor Charles just pointed out, it is minimal but it is there. Because of the media, which tends to inflate and exaggerate events taking place by Muslims, we must not fall into the trap of pushing away and alienating the entire community.
AHMEDWe need to work with Muslim leaders, religious leaders, social leaders, political leaders, in order for us to check violence in the future.
MARTINMehreen, how -- what does that look like, that kind of involvement and cooperation within communities? That is your work. What does that look like?
FAROOQSo where the World Organization for Resource Development and Education has established the first evidence-based, community-wide countering violent extremism program that essentially engages a wide variety of public and private stakeholders. We educate them about public safety threats, like radicalization to violent extremism. And then we try to connect folks with resources like counselors, like social service providers, mental health professionals, who can essentially coordinate interventions for vulnerable individuals to address those certain, you know, potential risk factors that I discussed earlier, before they can engage in violence.
FAROOQSo it's a very much preventative effort trying to, you know, empower folks before they kind of lose their way.
MARTINProfessor Kurzman, I know you have to go -- you have to leave us shortly because you have to go to class. And we certainly want to make sure that you set a good example and are prompt for your students. But before we let you go -- our other guests are going to stay with us, thankfully -- do you have other thoughts about what kinds of interventions are helpful? And I do want to emphasize that your work has been very much descriptive and you have made a point of noting that the -- kind of the violence -- all violence is regrettable. Certainly all killing is regrettable.
MARTINBut that the -- that relatively speaking, the amount of violence that's being perpetuated in the United States, by and large, is not being perpetuated by Muslim extremists. I think that is kind of the point of your work. But what interventions -- do you have an opinion about what kinds of interventions are helpful?
KURZMANWell one thing that's I think worth noting is that, of this relatively small number, but troubling number of Muslim-Americans who turn to these violent measures, many of them seem to be alienated not just from American society at large, in a way that they want to lash out violently, but also from their own Muslim communities. That they're not going to mosques regularly. They're not -- they've withdrawn from their family. And they are -- so it's all the more unsettling to blame the community for the actions of these fringe individuals, pushes away the allies and the part of American society that we need to be embracing.
MARTINWe need to take a short break. That was Charles Kurzman. He's with the Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. We hope you'll stay with us. More calls and more emails from you. This is "The Diane Rehm Show."
MARTINWelcome back. I'm Michel Martin, host of the weekend edition of All Things Considered on NPR. I'm sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking about the violent incidents that took place over the weekend, a stabbing attack in Minnesota, bombs that went off and didn't go off in the New York/New Jersey area, and we're talking about the role of violent extremism at home in the United States and what is the real threat and how does that compare to other threats that we don't talk as much about.
MARTINAnd we have an email from EJ that's interesting. Mehreen, I want to direct this to you because this is something that you were talking about before the break. EJ emails us and says, I'm curious about the similarities between American youth attracted to terrorist-, ISIS-, Muslim-extremist-related violence and those attracted to white supremacist violence or anti-government confrontations like Ruby Ridge. Is there something about current society that pushes both? What do you think, Mehreen?
FAROOQAbsolutely, in fact a few months ago we did a great program at our international cultural center in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where we brought together a former leader of the white supremacist movement here in the U.S. with a former self-proclaimed jihadi. And I think the most fascinating part of the conversation here was the fact that both of these men had very similar trajectories, very similar vulnerabilities.
FAROOQBoth of them felt disenfranchised, socially alienated, they were withdrawn. They were looking for something bigger and better to be a part of to give their life greater meaning. So certainly I think there's a lot of similarities. I just want to point out, I think one interesting point that keeps coming out in all of these unfortunate incidences of these young people radicalizing is that everybody reflects back and says, you know, I don't understand, they seemed like such normal people, good kids.
FAROOQAnd so I think the thing is we're missing -- we're missing the right signs to be looking out for. I think the -- we've done a great job with the see something, say something campaign, but I think we kind of need to, like, merge that into see something, say something, do something. So it's very responsive. We need to get sort of, you know, well before somebody becomes radicalized.
FAROOQI just want to kind of quickly point out one other thing. If you look at the stories of these -- of these two gentlemen, Dahir Adan, who's the Somali from Minnesota, and Ahmad Khan Rahimi, so both of them, you know, if you look back at what happened, especially in the past six months of their lives with Dahir Adan, you know, he had recently quit his job, he didn't re-enroll in school. So definitely there was something that, if his friends, those people in his social networks, were familiar with, they would have -- they would have said there's something wrong here.
MARTINBut who would they have turned to? What would they have done?
FAROOQSo that's the key. I think, you know, there's...
MARTINI think it would be very difficult for a family member, particularly someone who was not long in the United States, to then turn to the police, particularly coming from places where law enforcement officials were -- would not be the people to whom you would turn.
MARTINSo who would you turn to?
FAROOQSo these individuals, you know, they not only have their families here, but they do have a sense of community around them. So at some stage they had classmates, they had professors, they had, you know, people that they were working with, individuals in their community. I think what's happened in America over the past few decades is our sense of community, our civil society, has dissolved.
FAROOQAnd so that's something that we're trying to do with WORD is trying to foster social integration and social cohesion, bringing diverse communities together because is that somebody in his social network should have been able to say that, you know, something is going wrong in his life. And it may not necessarily mean that he'll become radicalized to go join or support ISIS, but he may be vulnerable to engaging in some kind of gang or other kind of dangerous, destructive behaviors.
MARTINLet's take some of the calls that are coming in. Rosie is calling us from Cary, North Carolina. Rosie, thanks so much for joining us.
ROSIEMy question is, we've heard about Muslims attacking people in the United States because they've been radicalized by extremist (unintelligible) but we don't hear about Muslims themselves in this country who've been hurt or killed by members of American society at large. I'd like to hear more about that.
MARTINArsalan -- thanks Rosie. Rosie is calling us from Cary, North Carolina. Arsalan, do you want to take that question? I know this is something that you have addressed yourself as a lawyer and as an activist. What about that?
IFTIKARYes, you know, I think, you know, what's lost in a lot of this debate is the narrative and the voice of the American Muslim community themselves. I mean, obviously one of the common tropes that we've heard after 9/11is that Muslims don't adequately condemn terrorism. However, if you type in the words Muslim condemn terrorism into Google, you'll get over 2.5 million results.
IFTIKARAnd what we also have to talk about, and I think, you know, we can't have this discussion in a vacuum here, but, you know, with the rise of Donald Trump here in the United States, we've seen an alarming increase in Islamophobia and anti-Muslim actions that have occurred. For example, just last week in Newton County, Georgia, the local commission had to cancel their meeting for a local mosque when anti-Muslim protestors made threats of armed protest.
IFTIKARTwo days before that, the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, Florida, was set ablaze by an arsonist. We've had, you know, Muslim women in New York City being attacked with their babies in strollers just because they wore a head scarf. You know, we had an imam who was shot point blank in broad daylight in Queens, New York. We had a Lebanese-American Christian in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who was called a dirty Arab and harassed constantly by his neighbor up until the point where his neighbor shot and killed him. You know, and so...
MARTINCan I just stop you right there, Arsalan? Why do you associate this with -- you associate this with the rise of a particular political candidate. Why is that? What's your evidence?
IFTIKARWell because -- my evidence is the fact that first of all, Donald Trump, soundbites have shown up on Al-Shabaab recruitment videos, this is a historical fact, and because we've never seen a major party candidate call for the banning of an entire minority demographic group during a general presidential election. I mean, so again, you know, we...
MARTINBut you're tying -- we're not talking about the Al-Shabaab website. We are talking about the fact that you're identifying attacks on individuals in the United States as a consequence of this particular person, and I just want to know what's your evidence for that.
IFTIKARWell my -- again what I'm saying is that there's a double standard in place here. You know, two days ago the Houston Chronicle reported that a 50-year-old white man named Kerry Lee Osborn (sp?) was arrested after he was trying to plan to blow up buildings in Houston. Now we didn't see front page headlines, we didn't see, you know, constant media coverage of this person.
IFTIKARNow I promise you if he was a Muslim who had planned to blow up a building, they would have -- our media would have covered it nonstop, they probably would've tried to find a connection to Minneapolis and New York. And so what I'm saying here is that it's important to keep in mind that if we are really going to defeat, you know, violent extremism, you know, if you look at the Boston Marathon bombers, for example, the Tsarnaev brothers and the 2014 Ottawa shooter in Canada, they were actually both kicked out of their own local mosques because of these local communities doing community policing.
IFTIKARAnd so, you know, the FBI, President Obama have said numerous times that the American Muslim community has many times thwarted these acts of terrorism and actually more of -- is part of the solution and not a part of the problem.
MARTINOkay, we have another perspective from Bob in -- thanks, Rosie, thank you so much for joining us. we have another perspective from Bob, who's in Jacksonville, Arkansas. He has a different view of this. Bob, what's your point of view, and welcome to the Diane Rehm Show.
BOBWell thank you, I appreciate you taking my call. My point is that I think that the Muslim community in general must take a much more active role in supervising, or if you will policing, and reporting individuals within their religious group that they feel are at risk to do these extreme acts. I don't believe, and of course I'm not a Muslim so I can't address that as a member of that sect, but the first thing that you can be very apparent is that every one of these acts that we're talking about are the result of someone who professes to be a Muslim. Whether they're devout or not we don't know.
BOBBut when somebody is in the midst of these horrible acts and is shouting allah akbar, that must mean that there's some religious involvement, so my point is that...
MARTINSo what would that look like? You're saying that what -- what do you think should be different than what is occurring now?
BOBWhat I think is that the mosque and the people that are the leaders in these mosques -- earlier you mentioned that some of these individuals had been kicked out of their mosque. If they were kicked out of their mosque because of -- because of activities that were possible extremist activity, that should have been reported, and there should be a mechanism, there should be a liaison between these people and our armed -- our police. And I don't -- I don't see that happening.
MARTINCan I ask you -- but what about -- what about somebody like, forgive me, Bob, and I hope you don't think I'm mixing apples and oranges here because I don't, somebody like Dylann Roof, who killed, you know, nine people at a church at a Bible study in South Carolina. I mean, he was another person who was sort of loosely connected to institutions that a lot of people belong to, you know, didn't have a lot of friends, had a difficult time with employment. I mean, do you see -- who would have -- should somebody have reported him and to whom?
BOBFamily members is about the only people that could do that, and they may be just as bad as him. That was a horrible, horrible thing to have happen, and there's nobody in their right mind that would not condemn it. I'm a Southerner and a conservative, and I think that (unintelligible) should be -- whatever happens to him should be really bad, okay.
BOBThere's no question about that. But now then, let me also say this. He is a member of a very small, radical group. What we're talking about here is radical extremist Muslims that are sponsored by an entire regime. There's a whole group of people and a system, a political system where all this stuff is being spouted and being directed at the United States.
MARTINOkay, let's hear some other views on this, and thanks so much for calling us, Bob, thank you so much. Professor Ahmed, you wanted to address this?
AHMEDYes, I think Bob has a point, Michel, the thrust of his argument is correct. His analysis may not be something that I agree with. The fact of the matter is that some of this violence that is coming out of the Muslim community has to be tackled primarily by the Muslim community. I've made this point again and again, you cannot demonize and alienate and isolate this community and expect cooperation on the scale that Bob and even I would want, which is working very closely with the administration, with mainstream society.
AHMEDIn order for that to happen, Michel, it's vital we understand the community. For example we haven't discussed the role of the imam, the religious leader who runs the mosque. Now the rabbi runs the Jewish organization, religious organization, the priest runs the Christian organization, the church and so on. The imam runs the mosque.
MARTINSo what should the role be?
AHMEDThe role should be a very close, working coordination between the imam and the administration, the -- especially the security officials so that the imam himself -- now here is a problem, Michel, because we've studied hundreds of mosques. A lot of the imams themselves are alienated from the culture, and therefore they do not have that relationship, especially with the younger generation, and that's where the break comes, and that's very dangerous.
AHMEDSo the community has to actively, actively ensure that the mosque leadership is in tune with the culture of that country.
MARTINWell, what does that look like? I mean we don't -- we don't regulate such things in the United States, so there's no...
AHMEDNo, no, it's not a question of you regulate, it's a question of the community. Let me give you a live example. In Germany the imams are usually from Turkey. Many of them only speak Turkish, they don't even speak German. In Britain, for example, many of the imams were from Pakistan, from the rural areas, and their grasp of English was very, very shaky. So these are examples I am giving you where the imam needs to be integrated in order to be effective with the young generation in order to prevent any future violence.
AHMEDAgain I repeat this. We need to be thinking long-term, we need to be thinking very sensibly, and we need to be thinking with the Muslim community, not against it.
MARTINBob, thanks so much for your call, and if you're just joining us, I'm Michel Martin, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Mehreen, you wanted to address this point, as well.
FAROOQSure, I think it's important that we need to...
MARTINI think, (unintelligible) want to say I think some people might be surprised to find that Professor Ahmed actually agrees with bob in some respects, he feels that there is perhaps a problem, an intra-community issue that needs to be addressed. What do you think, Mehreen?
FAROOQI think every community has its challenges, but I think what we need to do here is go beyond a securitized lens. So for those individuals...
MARTINWhat does that mean, for example, a securitized lens?
FAROOQMeaning that I think that for those individuals that don't pose an imminent threat to themselves or to others, the -- if the point person is, let's say, an imam in a Muslim community, their first call should not necessarily be the police department. They should be reaching out to a local social service agency, somebody that has also the cultural competency to really understand the issues that are impacting that individual.
FAROOQThe problem is that in many of these communities, particularly a lot of the immigrant communities, there's a great deal of stigma to get help. And so we need to break down those barriers and increase access to social service agencies so that folks can really, truly get the help that they need. And I think this is really an issue that the next administration is going to have to focus on, as well. If you look at the numbers of the refugees that have come in in this year alone, nearly half, about 46 percent, are Muslims.
FAROOQBut our current social service agencies, particularly our volunteer refugee resettlement agencies, simply do not have the cultural competency to provide services to those groups.
MARTINDoes anybody in this country have adequate mental health? That's a serious question. Is there -- are there mental health resources available adequately for anybody in this country, really?
FAROOQThere -- I think this is something that we're starting to see more investment in this sector, slowly. I know in Montgomery County, we've developed our own social service agency to provide services to traditionally underserved populations, and we've been trying to train other agencies, as well, to improve their service provisions to other groups.
MARTINLet's bring some other voices in here. Mohammed is with us from Indianapolis, Indiana. Mohammed, welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show." What's your thought about this?
MOHAMMEDMy thoughts are, number one, I think the media has an obligation in this -- in this struggle. And I'm saying to create all kinds of terminologies that have no real significant meaning is irresponsible for the media, jihadists, radical Islam. These things don't exist in Islam. There's no radical Islam. There's radical people who may identify with Islam. There's -- jihadist is a healthy term for a Muslim, that's a struggle. So I'm saying the first thing we need to do is not buy into these weak ideas and then have this concept in our mind that every time someone says allahu akbar, every time someone has the name Abdullah that he is automatically a Muslim or because he came from Pakistan or Afghanistan. Not necessarily so.
MARTINSo you're saying there's no such thing as radical Islam?
MOHAMMEDNo such thing. God said this day I have created -- I have chosen for you Islam. Islam is something that's not going to be radicalized. People can be radicalized...
MARTINSo you think -- oh forgive me, Mohammed, forgive me, you're saying that a better term in your view is people who what, rather than focus on the -- people who what?
MOHAMMEDRadical people who are identifying with Islam.
MARTINOkay, all right, Bob, thanks so much for joining us. I want to see if I can get one more call in here, and this is Shahazad. Am I pronouncing your name properly, Shahazad from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
SHAHAZADYes, hi, yes, hello.
MARTINHello, and so what is your thought about this, as briefly as you can?
SHAHAZADYes, my issue is that I'm from -- you know, I'm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I just wanted to share a little bit of my experience. I -- my background, I grew up in Kuwait, I'm originally from Pakistan, and I immigrated to the country in 2002, right after 9/11. And one of the things -- one of my experiences, and this doesn't apply to everybody, and I'm not trying to get into this really complicated discussion with it, I grew up loving animals, and I'm a big believer in trying to integrate into a society, I believe in personal responsibility when it comes to it.
SHAHAZADAnd growing up in Kuwait, I couldn't really have a dog. One of the first things I did when I came to the U.S. and was able to start an independent life was I got a puppy, and it opened up a whole new world for me. I would take the dog for walks, I would meet people. They would try to learn about where I was from, who am I. You know, I'm not saying that this is what every other person needs to do, but it sort of, like, opened up this whole new world the integration and the assimilation that occurred just though a sheer owning of an animal was tremendous. It doesn't have to be a dog, it could be cat.
SHAHAZADAnd so for me, my thought is that being able to not only purposely try to understand what is going on in other cultures as I do in America is also the responsibility of immigrant Muslims here.
MARTINWell thanks so much for joining us on that very hopeful and fluffy note. Get a puppy. Thanks to all of my guests for talking with us about this complicated topic, which will not go away, and which we no doubt will talk about again. Charles Kurzman of University of North Carolina, Mehreen Farooq, Akbar Ahmed of the American University, Arsalan Iftikar. Thank you all so much for joining us. I'm Michel Martin, sitting in for Diane Rehm.
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