To Fight Radical Islam, U.S. Wants Muslim Allieshttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/04/us/04extreme.html?_r=1&ref=global-home
WASHINGTON — Rolling out a new strategy for combating radicalization, White House officials on Wednesday warned that casting broad suspicion on Muslim Americans is counterproductive and could backfire by alienating a religious minority and fueling extremism.
The administration also promised to identify accurate educational materials about Islam for law enforcement officers, providing an alternative to biased and ill-informed literature in use in recent years, including by the F.B.I. Denis R. McDonough, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters that Al Qaeda and those it inspired remained the biggest terrorist threat inside the United States. But he said the bombing and shootings in Norway last month, carried out by a right-wing, anti-Muslim extremist, were a reminder that the government could not focus exclusively on any single brand of radicalism.
Mr. McDonough said that Al Qaeda had a “bankrupt ideology,” but that accusing the entire Muslim community of complicity in terrorism could “feed the sense of disenchantment and disenfranchisement that may spur violent extremist radicalization.” Instead, he said, Muslim Americans should be treated as a crucial ally of the government in combating extremism.
In an introduction to the eight-page strategy document, Mr. Obama wrote that “communities — especially Muslim-American communities whose children, families and neighbors are being targeted for recruitment by Al Qaeda — are often best positioned to take the lead” in countering radicalization.
The strategy calls for federal agencies to support state and local officials by sharing information on potential threats and cooperating closely with the police.
The 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Tex., by a Muslim Army psychiatrist who had been radicalized in part on the Internet drew new attention to the threat posed by Americans who embrace the ideology of Al Qaeda. Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Qaeda propagandist now hiding in Yemen, who had exchanged e-mails with the Fort Hood gunman, has repeatedly and explicitly called on Muslim Americans to mount attacks.
Since the Fort Hood attacks, there have been a number of foiled plots by radicalized Muslims in the United States, as well as by extreme right-wing and white supremacist ideologues.
Conservative critics of the Obama administration, including Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, have accused it of political correctness in avoiding applying the “Islamic” label to plots and attacks by Muslims. Mr. King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has held a series of hearings focusing exclusively on the threat from Muslim extremists, drawing fire from Muslim groups. In March, on the eve of Mr. King’s first hearing, Mr. McDonough spoke at a Virginia Islamic center to reassure Muslim Americans that the government would fight extremism without practicing “guilt by association.”
On Wednesday, Mr. King welcomed the administration’s identification of Al Qaeda as the “pre-eminent” terrorist threat but said he was concerned about language in the strategy document, titled “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States,” that “suggests some equivalency of threats between Al Qaeda and domestic extremists.” Mr. King also said that while he supported meeting with community leaders, he did not want such meetings to be “politically correct, feel-good encounters, which ignore the threats posed by dangerous individuals in the community.”
A National Security Council expert on extremism who helped devise the new strategy, Quintan Wiktorowicz, said the administration was aware of “inaccurate training” on Islam for law enforcement officers. He said the administration would compile “gold standard” materials to be posted on the Web for officials to draw upon.
A January study by a liberal research group found a pattern of misleading and inflammatory training about Islam across the country, and a 2009 F.B.I. training document obtained recently by the American Civil Liberties Union gave a provocative account of Islam. That F.B.I. PowerPoint presentation was used for classes for law enforcement personnel at the bureau’s academy in Virginia, but it is no longer in use, according to the bureau.
The F.B.I. document recommended two books by Robert Spencer, an anti-Muslim blogger and author whose work was repeatedly cited in the online manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian accused of killing at least 76 people last month. Mr. Spencer, who operates the Web site Jihad Watch, has said he opposes violence and condemns Mr. Breivik’s actions.