Little Evidence of Radicalism in Diverse American Muslim Community, but Concerns about the Next Generation

August 20, 2006

Source: The Boston Globe

On August 20, 2006 The Boston Globe published a piece by Drake Bennett, "After 9/11, foreign policy scholars quickly took to describing terrorism as the dark underside of globalization. Al Qaeda was like a multinational corporation, the thinking went, and the money and men that had been used to such murderous effect were simply part of a larger tide of goods and capital streaming across national borders and overwhelming the governments within them. In retrospect, there's something almost reassuring about that model. After last July's London subway bombings, in which 4 native Britons, acting largely on their own, killed 52 of their countrymen, the West started worrying in earnest not just about imported terrorism, but the homegrown kind. The news a week and a half ago that British intelligence services had thwarted a plot to blow up 10 airliners over the Atlantic once again pricked those fears. All 23 suspects were native-born British Muslims. Only two months earlier, Canadian authorities had arrested 17 Canadian Muslims and charged them with plotting to attack various government buildings and behead the country's prime minister. The United States has not been entirely immune to these trends: Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have broken up a handful of what they have called domestic terror cells. (Though there have been questions raised about the danger actually posed by some of these purported terrorists.) Yet, as both terrorism experts and scholars who study the American Muslim community point out, the United States has proven notably unfavorable to the growth of domestic terrorism (at least of the radical Islamic variety: Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing, of course,was the second most deadly terrorist act ever committed on American soil). American Muslims, by and large, are wealthier and better integrated into American society than their European counterparts, and feel freer to practice their religious faith than Muslims in the more avowedly secular nations of Western Europe. And the blend of different ethnicities and sects in the American Muslim community has lent its beliefs a more ecumenical and flexible cast than those of Europe's Muslim immigrants. 'The risk is much, much greater in Europe than it is here, on the order of 30 to one,' says Mark Sageman, formerly a CIA case officer in Afghanistan and now a psychiatrist who studies the formation of terrorist networks. 'The US is a very, very different environment from Europe, anyone who's lived in both places immediately knows it.'"