Wednesday, June 22, 2005
The story is by now grimly familiar. Some members of a Muslim community somewhere in the United States are arrested. They are suspected of links with Islamic terrorists. The local Muslim community responds with a mix,of indignation and denial, with the assurances of the suspects’ impeccable character and accusations of anti-Muslim bias.
Non-Muslim civic leaders then respond by reassuring the Muslim community that it is loved and appreciated in spite of this “isolated incident” and by calling on their fellow-citizens to be warm and supportive to their Muslim neighbors. The media report heart-rendering stories of the Muslim sense of sadness, rejection and alienation. The “experts” say that the domestic threat is exaggerated. CAIR screams “Islamophobia!” Nobody mentions immigration, or loyalty, or identity, or abuse of hospitality.
The latest replay of this, by now boringly predictable scenario comes from Lodi, California, situated in the fertile San Joaquin Valley some 30 miles south of Sacramento. It is now home to about a thousand Muslims, predominantly from Pakistan. Most of them came over the past two decades as grape pickers and fruit packers. One of them is 22-year-old Hamid Hayat, who was arrested by the FBI on Tuesday of last week.
According to a federal affidavit, young Hamid has admitted spending six months in 2003-2004 at a terrorist training camp near the Pakistani capital Islamabad, and attending classes that included instructions on “how to kill Americans.” The agents also arrested his father, Umer Hayat (47). Both are U.S. citizens. Three other men, including two clerics from the local mosque, were also taken into custody, for now only on suspicion of immigration violations. The FBI said the arrests were part of a long inquiry into possible Islamist activities in the area. Agents indicated that fresh arrests were possible as the bureau expands its investigation into the San Francisco Bay Area. The media played on cue. “The two men had seemed to fit in well in the community, which to some observers raises anew the prospect of innocent Muslims arousing suspicion and fear among their neighbors,” agonized the CSM. The faithful at the mosque in Lodi—the place “where many in the Muslim community sought solace from the intrusion of agents and the swarm of news media,” according to the Boston Globe (June 12)—did not agonize.
They reacted with indignation:
It’s making everybody upset. People are pointing fingers at us. I just want people to stop using the word ‘Muslim.’ This ain’t anything to do with being Muslim,’ said Mashin Mohammad, 22, as he and friends gathered in a park across from the mosque. ‘I’m tired of people blaming Middle Eastern people for everything,’ said Mohammad, who was born in Afghanistan. ‘We don’t know what the truth is. But all we’ve been hearing is lies. People talk about terrorists and Al Qaeda being here. Why would they come to Lodi?’
“It’s a question that has pervaded this city of 62,000, including a sizable Muslim community,” the paper commented, betraying either its stupidity or its mendacity. The answer is simple: Islamic terrorists and their sympathizers did not need to “come to Lodi” because they are there already. In any group of 1,000-plus Muslim immigrants centered around a mosque, it can be predicted with near-certainty (1) that some percentage will sympathize with the objectives of Al-Qaeda and its ilk, if not quite with all of their methods; and (2) that some smaller percentage of that group, especially among the Western-born young, will support those methods as well, and prove willing to apply them in practice.
This assertion is supported by substantial evidence. We shall mention but a few typical cases.
1. In Florida and New York, two U.S. citizens—Tarik Shah and Rafiq Abdus Sabir—were arrested in late May, just before Lodi hit the news. They stand accused of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization. The pair belongs to the “second wave”: Sabir is an Ivy League-educated medical doctor who lived in an upscale gated community in Boca Raton—and yet he pledged his loyalty to al-Qaida by offering to treat terrorists. Shah, a jazz musician who often traveled with his base to divert suspicion, offered to use his skills in martial arts to train terrorists. A spokesman for the Islamic Center of Boca Raton called Sabir “a good Muslim,” the charges against him “absurd, absolutely unfounded,” and pledged the support of the Muslim community.
2. In Falls Church, VA, Maher Amin Jaradat was arrested on June 6 for fraudulently procuring U.S. citizenship, with federal agents alleging he failed to disclose ties to militant groups. The indictment said Mr. Jaradat failed to disclose he had been a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP); that he had studied bomb making and the use of small arms at a training camp in Syria; and that he had engaged in security duties in Lebanon.
3. American-born Yahiye Gadahn (25) a.k.a. Abu Suhayb Al-Amriki, Abu Suhayb, Yihya Majadin Adams, was named last year as a suspected al-Qaida operative sought by the FBI. Yahiye Gadahn, son of a halal butcher born and raised in California, has written of his religious experiences. His article can be found on the “Islamic Server” of the University of Southern California, courtesy of the taxpayers of the Golden State.
4. In March 2004 Indian-born U.S. citizen Ilyas Ali and his co-conspirator Muhamed Abid Afridi pleaded guilty to plotting to sell shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles to al Qaeda. It is noteworthy that when a reporter visited Ali in a Hong Kong jail in January 2003, he claimed he was a victim of Attorney General John Ashcroft and his over-zealous Justice Department. American law enforcement “screwed up 9/11 and now they’re arresting innocent people for political purposes. I’m very, very sad that they got an innocent person and they don’t care . . . Ashcroft just used me.”
5. In December 2003 Mukhtar al-Bakri, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and five U.S.-born youths from upstate New York—Shafal Mosed, Faysal Galab, Yayha Goba, Yasein Taher, and Sahim Alwan—convicted of aiding Al-Qaeda and plotting attacks on Americans. The seven, known as the Lackawanna Cell, lived in a tight-knit Arab community, but to an outside observer, PBS claimed, “most were all-American teenagers who played soccer together and enjoyed going to parties.” All seven went to the Al Farooq training camp in Afghanistan in the summer of 2001; six returned to the U.S. When questioned after their return, four of them said they had attended religious seminars in Pakistan. Not one mentioned the trip to Afghanistan until Mukhtar al-Bakri was picked up by Bahraini police and questioned by FBI agents in Bahrain on September 11, 2002. They received sentences of between seven and 10 years in prison.
6. In 2003 “The Portland Seven,” including six Muslim U.S. citizens—Maher Hawash, Jeffrey Leon Battle, Patrice Lumumba Ford, Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, Habis Abdulla al Saoub and Martinique Lewis—were convicted of plotting attacks against Americans. The cell called itself “Katibat Al-Mawt,” loosely translates to “Squad of Death.”
The list goes on and on. In 2003 U.S. Army Sergeant Asan Akbar went way beyond plotting when he threw a grenade into a tent with fellow soldiers in Kuwait, killing an officer and wounding 13. In 2001-2002, John Walker Lindh, Yaser Esam Hamdi and dozens of other U.S. citizens were captured in Afghanistan where they went to support the Taliban.
That there is a correlation between the presence of a Muslim population in a country and the danger that its citizens will be subjected to a terrorist attack is a demonstrable fact. A significant minority of Muslim immigrants and their American-born offspring wishes to transform the host-society by converting it, or else to inflict some harm on it. They are unsurprisingly the immigrant group least likely to identify with America: in response to a survey of newly naturalized citizens, 90 percent of Muslim immigrants said that if there were a conflict between the United States and their country of origin, they would be inclined to support their country of origin. In Detroit 81 percent of Muslims “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that Shari’a should be the law of the land.
This internal threat to America is increasing. In the aftermath of 9-11 various estimates of the Muslim population of United States have been made, ranging from two to nine million. According to the Census Bureau, in 1987-1997 8 percent of all immigrants—two million—came from Muslim countries. There were 10.6 million naturalized citizens in 2000, of which over one million were Muslims. Growth of overall immigration (legal and illegal) since 1970 has been 300 percent, but growth of immigration from the Middle East over the same period has been 700 percent—from under 200,000 in 1970 to 1.5 million in 2000. In 2010 the expected number of immigrants from the Middle East will be 2,500,000.
Well-financed by Saudi oil money, the jihadist infrastructure has come into being to cater to this large and growing community. The number of mosques and Islamic centers stands at around two thousand and keeps growing. The total number of mosques increased 42 percent between 1990 and 2000, compared with a 12 percent average increase for the evangelical Protestant denominations, and a two percent average increase among old-line Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox groups.
The figures for immigration from the Middle East are matched and likely to be exceeded by the number of Muslim immigrants from the Indian Sub-Continent (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh). Currently Muslims account for close to one-tenth of all naturalizations, and their birth rates exceed those of any other significant immigrant group. Even a conservative estimate of their number of three million, or one-percent of the population, has alarming security implications and the potential for disproportionate growth.
This is madness that needs to be stopped before it is too late. A coherent long-term counter-terrorist strategy therefore must entail denying Islam the foothold inside the United States. The application of ideological and political criteria in determining the eligibility of prospective visitors or immigrants has been and remains an essential ingredient of any anti-terrorist strategy, whereby Islamic activism would be treated as eminently political rather than “religious” activity.
“We want people to know that Lodi is more than what the investigation is about” said Blair King, the city manager, following the arrests in California last week. “It doesn’t seem to me that we have a terrorist cell working out of Lodi. I don’t see any evidence of that,” opined the mayor, John Beckman. Appealing for calm, he warned against “inflamed passions.”
Such inanities indicate that ultimately the outcome of the war against terrorists will depend on our ability to define ourselves and to understand the nature of the threat. The idiotic would-be dhimmis inside the gates are as dangerous as the jihadist enemy.
Mr. Trifkovic is the Foreign Affairs Editor for Chronicles Magazine.
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