WEAKNESSES IN THE NYC POLICE DEPARTMENTs TERRORISM REPORT
In August of 2007 the New York Police Department released an in-depth report called "RADICALIZATION IN THE WEST: THE HOMEGROWN THREAT" which focused on the radicalization of Muslims in the West. (The report is found here.) It is the result of their experts analysis of data collected from a variety of worldwide sources. It states that "radicalized Muslims living in the West, either born there, or somewhat assimilated into Western culture, constitute a significant threat.
The report is some 90 pages long. In trying to do it justice and understand it thoroughly Ive read through it several times. I believe that before praising or criticizing anothers work one should understand the authors perspective and be as impartial as possible to the points being made before judging them.
The report has strengths and weaknesses which reflect the strengths and weaknesses of its authors. In turn it influences the ability of the men and women who are on the frontlines of fighting homegrown Islamic terrorism: the police, intelligence agencies, and good citizens.
From the reports strengths Ive learned new and important aspects about the formation of Muslim terror cells. Conversely, the reports weaknesses fail those it intends to serve. Those weaknesses are the focus of this article.
In short, the report omits or marginalizes significant factors related to the Muslim terrorists motivation, it glosses over other relevant issues, and often only states the obvious. It makes significant contributions but as a whole it is incomplete. Additionally, the report lacks homogeneity; there are contradictory statements on the "Islam" of the terrorists. It was as if several people wrote separate sections and the main authors cobbled them together as best they could, or the authors failed to understand their subject and could not make up their minds. The reports conclusion left me with the impression that the authors ran out of time, money, or energy, and rushed to finish. Perhaps they were working against an arbitrary bureaucratic deadline. In any event it is evident that when writing about Islamic ideology the authors were out of their element and did not understand the subject.
Ill briefly mention what I consider to be the reports strengths, but focus on the reports significant weaknesses, examining what it says and fails to say. What the report fails to mention, or underplays, is as important as what it emphasizes and brings to light.
THE REPORTS STRENGTHS
Below are what I consider to be the reports strengths. These themes are found throughout the report and are oft repeated depending on the specific cases or situations.
1) The report states that most of the Muslim terrorists are normal, everyday guys:
The majority of these individuals began as "unremarkable" - they had "unremarkable" jobs, had lived "unremarkable" lives and had little, if any criminal history. (Page 2)
2) The report states that individual Muslims initially move into radicalization process independently
Individuals generally appear to begin the radicalization process on their own. (Page 9 and repeated on page 83)
3) The report states that Western Muslims who get involved with terror are not connected to al-Qaeda, but rather that they are motivated by their own religious convictions.
Rather than being directed from al-Qaeda abroad, these plots have been conceptualized and planned by "unremarkable" local residents/citizens who sought to attack their country of residence, utilizing al-Qaeda as their inspiration and ideological reference point. (Page 5)
4) Its greatest strength is that it details the progression and formation of a Western Muslim terrorism.
An assessment of the various reported models of radicalization leads to the conclusion that the radicalization process is composed of four distinct phases:
Stage 1: Pre-Radicalization
Stage 2: Self-Identification
Stage 3: Indoctrination
Stage 4: Jihadization (Page 6)
5) The report details that Western Muslims chose terrorism, not because of their suffering, but because of their faith and identity.
Much different from the Israeli-Palestinian equation, the transformation of a Western-based individual to a terrorist is not triggered by oppression, suffering, revenge, or desperation. Rather, it is a phenomenon that occurs because the individual is looking for an identity and a cause and unfortunately, often finds them in the extremist Islam. (Pages 7 and 8)
Im encouraged and appreciative that they detailed the above. Given the significant weaknesses of Western culture, and bureaucracy that affect law enforcement, I appreciated seeing those statements because they provide accurate perspectives on the motivations of the Muslim terrorists. The Muslims who chose terrorism are normal everyday Muslims. They are students, computer programmers, engineers, doctors, clerks, etc. It is not al-Qaeda behind these Muslims it is their faith. Islamic terrorism isnt an al-Qaeda thing it is a Muslim thing. As they become more dedicated they begin to study Islams teachings in greater detail. They become aware of Islams commands to violence, (Sura 9:5 for example). Further, these Muslims choose terrorism, not because of their suffering or oppression, nor because their homeland was occupied, but rather because of their faith. Note that this observation undercuts Robert Papes myopic work, and further discredits the 9/11 Commissions report.
THE REPORTS GOALS
This report should be judged, at a minimum, against its own stated goals. These goals are found in the preface, page 2:
THE REPORTS WEAKNESSES
I found three major weaknesses in the report. Ill list them briefly and then go into more depth.
1) The report portrays the Islam of the terrorists as erroneous, spurious, or distorted. Throughout the report various adjectives are used to describe the Islam of the terrorists and color their Islam as non-normal. It becomes comical as the authors toil to make their distinctions.
[Note: the authors get it right once. Pages 16 and 17 depict the terrorists Islam accurately. However, these points are obscured and outweighed by its numerous contrary comments.]
2) The report fails to examine the admitted root of the problem: Islam. While they mention various Muslim scholars, writers, and ideologues, they stop short from actually quoting from Islamic texts. This raises a puzzling question: "Why did they fail to examine the root?" Given that the text is 90 pages long, it is not asking too much for the authors to examine the root, i.e. the motivation of the terrorists, something that is primary to one of the reports goal: "This study is an attempt to look at how that intention forms ."
3) The report details the radicalization process thoroughly but falls short by not offering any suggestions on how to counter this emerging threat. This is akin to a medical doctor diagnosing your disease thoroughly but failing to offer you any treatment! It isnt good enough to tell the patient, "boy youre really sick!" The patient already knows this. The report should have made some suggestions but failed to offer any ideas or methods on how to "counter this emerging threat". This report doesnt even prescribe aspirin. Their concluding section could best be summed up as saying, "boys, we gotta big problem!"
THE FAILURES: A CLOSER LOOK
Lets examine how the reports authors whitewash the terrorists Islam. Below are several examples that Ive underlined, bolded, and italicized, that depict the effort to present the terrorists Islam as twisted. Ive added a comment on one quote.
The jihadist ideology combines the extreme and minority interpretation [jihadi-Salafi] of Islam with an activist-like commitment or responsibility to solve global political grievances through violence. Ultimately, the jihadist envisions a world in which jihadi-Salafi Islam is dominant and is the basis of government.
This ideology is proliferating in Western democracies at a logarithmic rate. The Internet, certain Salafi-based NGOs (non-governmental organizations), extremist sermons /study groups, Salafi literature, jihadi videotapes, extremist-sponsored trips to radical madrassas and militant training camps abroad have served as "extremist incubators" for young, susceptible Muslims -- especially ones living in diaspora communities in the West. (Page 8)
Self-radicalization may begin the day that an individual seeks out jihadist websites. In the physical world when would-be jihadists seek support among local jihadist mentors and likeminded fanatics. This is the group that currently poses the biggest danger to the West. It is the focus of the present monograph. (Page 11)
This ideology is fed and nurtured with a variety of extremist influences. Internalizing this extreme belief system as ones own is radicalization. (Page 16)
Gravitating Towards Salafi Islam. Mohammed Bouyeris journey to radicalism appears to have begun during his seven month stay in prisona sentence based on an assault charge. He became more religious and extreme in his views. After being released from prison, Bouyeri switched his academic pursuits from accounting to social work and began volunteering at his local community center. His friends say he began to wear "traditional" clothing and grew a beard. He was also more sensitive to political issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict. (Page 32)
Note that traditional clothing and wearing a beard are evidence of a radical! How many Muslims in the world wear traditional clothing and beards?! Were the authors aware that the Hadith instruct Muslims to grow beards, and that Allahs favorite color for clothes is white?
There are many more examples to use. The authors weakness is demonstrated by their effort to distinguish between the terrorists Islam, and what they consider to be real Islam. Look at the adjectives the authors use to describe the Islam of the terrorists: "extremist", "radical", "militant", "minority". Over and over again the authors go to lengths to portray the terrorists Islam as a perversion of true Islam. By colorizing the terrorists Islam, the report suggests that the terrorists Islam is not true and authentic Islam. However, the terrorists claim that their Islam is a much more pure and accurate form of Islam than what is practiced by a majority of the worlds Muslims, that their Islam is Muhammads Islam. If you want to know who is right, compare the actions and teachings of the terrorists against those who claim that Islam is a peaceful religion.
The failure of the authors to identify the terrorists Islam accurately causes them to fail Goal #2. It fails "to provide a thorough understanding of the kind of threat we face."
There is no excuse for this error. Many other writers have identified the terrorists Islam as authentic, or at least a viable form of Islam. Below are several examples.
In this, they violate the most famous dictum of Sun Tzu, the Chinese strategic
genius of 2,500 years ago: "If you know yourself and understand your opponent
you will never put your victory in jeopardy in any conflict."
The broad support that al Qaeda jihadis and radical Islamist militias such as Hamas and Hezbollah enjoy in the Muslim world and in the global Muslim diaspora, as well as among non-Muslim anti-American political forces around the world demonstrates that describing the global Islamic insurgency as a fringe or minority phenomenon is unrealistic and self-defeating. (Source)
Add to the above "a huge number of committed cadres. If Islamists
constitute 10 percent to 15 percent of the Muslim population worldwide,
they number some 125 million to 200 million persons, or a far greater
total than all the fascists and communists, combined, who ever lived.
Those critics who insist that it is only a small war-party faction of the Islamists that we have to fear might have been asked a generation ago if it was not merely a small number of Germans and Russians we were properly exercised about. Sixty million people were dead after that misreckoning. (Source)
THE SUICIDE OF REASON
Radical Islams Threat to the Enlightenment. By Lee Harris.
"Harris does not regard Islamic fanaticism as a deviancy or a madness that affects a few Muslims and terrifies many. Instead he argues that fanaticism is the basic principle in Islam. "The Muslims are, from an early age, indoctrinated into a shaming code that demands a fanatical rejection of anything that threatens to subvert the supremacy of Islam," he writes." (Source)
The NYPDs report shows that the reports authors have been deceived a la Sun Tzu, (and Muhammad). They do not know their enemy, and thus they cannot be assured of victory.
This ties into Failure #1. The authors failed to account for the foundational theological texts of Islam. Is the Islam of the terrorists a perverted Islam or is it in accordance with the fundamental teaching of Islam? The authors say that the terrorists Islam is "extreme", "radical", "a minority interpretation", etc. How do the authors know that it is extreme, etc? What Islamic theological texts can they use to support their argument? Should the reports authors make inaccurate, unsupported statements on the main motivation of the Muslim terrorists?
If you study Islamic history and theology youll note that the terrorists are often doing exactly what Muhammad did. Below are two examples of Muhammads actions.
#1) Muhammad asked his men to murder a mother of five children: http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/asma.htm
#2) Muhammad had a man tortured in order to obtain money: http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/kinana.htm
And here are two Islamic theological text references that support the terrorists actions:
#1) From the Quran, chapter 9 verse 5.
So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
You can read a thorough analysis of this verse, including its context and application, here: http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/swordverse.htm
#2) From the Sahih Hadith of Muslim, book 1, #33, Muhammad said:
"I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and they establish prayer, and pay Zakat and if they do it, their blood and property are guaranteed protection on my behalf except when justified by law, and their affairs rest with Allah."
You can read some discussion on this hadith here: http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/jihad.htm
Ive shown briefly that Muhammad and the early Muslims practiced and taught aggressive violence against non-Muslims. It is primarily Muslims in the West, (with a few exceptions), who are teaching that Islam is not to be violent. However, those that say that Islam is not intrinsically violent have no supporting theological material to stand upon. This is the same point Robert Spencer makes.
I could go on ad-nauseam quoting from many sources and references. However, that is not this articles point. Read the linked articles if you want to have a deeper understanding.
Again, one of the reports goals was to provide "a thorough understanding of the kind of threat we face domestically". In light of the above the report fails to provide that understanding.
If the authors were honest, and if they did their homework, they could not arrive at any other conclusion that violence is integral to Islam, and what many of the terrorists do is exactly what Muhammad did, and taught his followers to do. It is exactly what the four "Rightly Guided" Caliphs did those that knew Muhammad best.
These failures lead to troubling questions. Were the authors instructed not to criticize Islam? Was their work edited by a Muslim? How does this type of failure occur by trained people who are being paid to investigate this subject? The authors ate the bread of ignorance when writing about Islams ideology.
One of the reports goals was to
contribute to the debate among intelligence and law enforcement agencies on how best to counter this emerging threat by better understanding what constitutes the radicalization process.
The report fails to offer any ideas, methods, or suggestions on how to "counter this emerging threat". Granted that may not have been the reports focus, but given the nature of the threat, the effectiveness of the Muslims terror actions, and the very nature of what the intelligence and police departments are trying to achieve, then surely some suggestions should have been provided. This failure suggests that the authors have no solutions of merit to offer, or were afraid or cowed into not offering any. The report exudes an aroma of defeat.
Were dealing with primary, fundamental, basic, Islamic theology here. Its not that complicated. Either get it right and address it, or get out of the game. If you cannot confront this theology youre going to end up with only a diagnosis and no cure.
TWO POINTS THAT THE REPORT MISSED
1) SIGNS OF RADICALIZATION
The authors mentions clear signs of progression into radicalization but they missed a significant indicator of Islamic fundamentalism: women wearing the head covering (hijab). Islam is a religion of power and domination and its women must be obedient to its men and faith. In general, in Western societies if you see a woman wearing the head covering you should understand that the Islam the men around her practice is fundamentalist.
Muslim men who expect or coerce their women into wearing the hijab are already primed to become violent. The Report notes that once the radicalization process starts, the progression to violence occurs quickly:
It is critical to note that while the other stages of radicalization may take place, gradually, over two to three years, the jihadization stagethe stage which defines the actual attack--can occur quickly, and with very little warning. In some cases, this stage runs its course in as little as a couple of weeks. (Page 43)
This should not surprise anyone familiar with Islam. Once a person is a committed Muslim the call to violence can be heard quickly. Muslim men who insist that their women wear the hijab have already completed the initial stages of "radicalization". These Muslim males may not desire to become violent, but the theological groundwork for that violence has been already laid, and can be triggered quickly.
I know that many independent Western women who have converted to Islam willingly, wear the hijab boldly; no one controls them. I also know that many Muslim females around the world wear the head covering out of a simple cultural habit. However, in general, in the West, the hijab signifies that a Muslim woman is influenced by or is directly under a fundamentalist males control. When Muslim females in the West stop wearing the hijab they are often harassed and pressured by these Muslim males to wear it again. In the Mideast, if they stop wearing it, their treatment is much rougher.
2) SUDDEN JIHAD SYNDROME
The reports authors failed their audience by not using an existing phrase that describes accurately what the report details. Some years ago Daniel Pipes coined the phrase "Sudden Jihad Syndrome" which describes a Muslim who commits acts of violence quite unexpectedly. Using the NYPD Reports analysis these Muslims would be classified as having completed the initial stages of radicalization. This analysis corroborates Pipeswork. I suspect the authors were too cowardly to use Pipes terminology because he is controversial. Below is Pipes post on the term.
Sudden Jihad Syndrome
By Daniel Pipes
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, March 14, 2006
"Individual Islamists may appear law-abiding and reasonable, but they are part of a totalitarian movement, and as such, all must be considered potential killers." I wrote those words days after 9/11 and have been criticized for them ever since. But an incident on March 3 at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill suggests I did not go far enough. (Source)
It would be beneficial to the overall effort in confronting Islamic terrorism to use and build upon the strengths and efforts done by others involved in this battle, including Dr. Pipes.
THE BIG ISSUE: CONFRONTING THE ISLAMISTS IDEOLOGY
I noted earlier that the report failed to offer any solutions. But how can you confront the ideology of the Muslim terrorist? Do you think that telling him about democracy and apple pie will be enough to get him to change his beliefs about Gods commands, the purpose of life, and the eternal consequences of heaven or hell? Of course not! The report noted many of the recent terrorists came from middle class backgrounds. They had money, and materialism, and civil rights, and that was not enough to persuade them from their mission, their Allah-given purpose. In their minds, Allahs commands and eternal consequences outweigh the pleasures of life.
Youve got to challenge their theology and ideology. Youve got to show him the errors of Islam. Youve got to show him a better way, a way that offers truth, life, and love. It must eclipse the deceptive poison of Islam. The article below notes that the root war is an ideological war:
Thus, not only is America defeating Al-Qaeda militarily in Iraq but it is also squashing the grand jihadist vision for a caliphate that the Islamic State of Iraq stood for. This point is critical: in this ideological war, victory can only come about when the ideology of the opponent is negated and proven unworkable. The fight in Iraq is doing just that. (Source)
This is a battle of ideologies. But understand that many Muslims, like Christians, do not buy into atheisms secular solutions of nihilism, carnality, materialism, and meaningless existence. Muslims, like Christians, know that life does have meaning and purpose. They do believe in a Creator God. They dont believe, as atheists believe, that humans are nothing but random electrified dung. Ive known Muslims who left Islam and became atheists by default. They commented that as atheists they felt an emptiness, a lack of completion. Life held no real purpose, no real meaning.
By Gods grace Ive been used to influence a number of Muslims to leave Islam and see the beauty of Christ. The root of the problem is the theology of Islam, i.e. Islam, i.e. Muhammad himself. The best cure is Christ. Jesus is superior to Muhammad. In Christ there is wholeness, and there is purpose. Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life and have life more abundantly." Muslims need to see the poison in their faith contrasted with the truth, love, and life, of Christ.
Now, I do not expect the NYPD to proclaim the Gospel. But I expected them to contribute something to confront the terrorists theology. They failed.
VARIOUS SOLUTIONS PROPOSED
Others have also noted that this is also an ideological war and have posited various cures, solutions, or alternatives to the poison of Islam.
1) An Islamic scholars work that addresses the issue of violence and Muslims living in the West has been presented to the European Parliament. It requests that Muslim clerics living in the West issue "fatwas" prohibiting violence against non-Muslims, respects cultures and traditions that are not Islamic, respects women, and allows for Muslims to convert to other faiths. (http://www.answering-islam.org/Terrorism/muslim_charter.htm)
2) Daniel Pipes proclaims that "moderate Islam is the solution". Pipes is saying that Islam needs to be modernized, and re-interpreted, leaving aside the commands to violence.
3) Another similar alternative offered by ex-Muslim is referenced below.
'Whoever changes religion kill him'
Speaking to The Times at a secret location before the committees launch today, the Labour Party councillor said that the movement would declare war on radical Islam. Similar organisations campaigning for reform of the religion have sprung up across Europe and representatives from Britain and Germany will join the launch in The Hague today. (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article2426314.ece)
4) Robert Spencer has a five point plan:
1. Exhort Muslims in the West to focus their indignation on Muslims committing violent acts in the name of Islam, not on non-Muslims reporting on those acts.
2. Call upon Muslims in the West to renounce definitively not just "terrorism," but any manifestation of Islamic supremacism, including any intention to replace the U.S. Constitution (or the constitutions of any non-Muslim state) with Sharia even by peaceful means.
3. Teach Muslims the imperative of coexisting peacefully as equals with non-Muslims on an indefinite basis.
4. Call upon Muslims to begin comprehensive international programs in mosques all over the world to teach against the ideas of violent jihad and Islamic supremacism.
5. Call upon them to work actively with Western law enforcement officials to identify and apprehend jihadists within Western Muslim communities. (November 24, 2007, http://www.jihadwatch.org/)
5) Even liberal websites have addressed this issue:
Such counter-radicalization efforts will help lower the pool of potential recruits for Al Qaeda--the only way the organization can be defeated in the long term. (http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=702bf6d5-a37a-4e3e-a491-fd72bf6a9da1)
There are solutions that do confront the ideology of radical Islam, real Islam. And they all can have a positive affect.
CURRENT AND FUTURE OUTLOOKS
As a whole, the world has done well since 9/11 and the subsequent terrorist actions in Europe and Russia. The Muslims can claim a round 1 victory, but the West can claim rounds 2 and 3. But this fight is a 15 rounder and the Muslims are in it for the long haul. Im not so sure about the West. Were in round 4 and the world is losing ground. Most politicians and major news media still cower with respect to Islam. Their "speaking truth to power" amounts to calling President Bush names. As Scott Adams admitted they are scared to death of saying anything critical of Islam.
In Europe Muslims are strengthening their territorial claims on portions of the largest cities and have informally established "no-go" zones for non-Muslims.
In America youll find Muslims in the highest branches of American intelligence aiding and abetting Muslim terrorists. Here are two examples:
The Mideast has been a mixed bag. Some Muslim nations are turning against al-Qaeda and related extremists, in part due to OBLs murdering of fellow Muslims. But other nations are embracing Islamic fundamentalism, like Gaza and Lebanon. Hezbollah has bragging rights about defeating the Israeli military and now theyre the de-facto rulers over Lebanon.
While much of the Western public has begun to wake up to the danger many are still asleep. It will take more 9/11 type incidents for them to fully awake. Muslim terrorist will spend years preparing one operation which will cost them their lives but take the lives of thousands. The agencies that exist to defend their respective countries have a good track record where they should have a stellar one. Al-Qaedas weakening, or demise, does not mean the end of Islamic terrorism. Real Islam is a power and it will motivate its followers to do the works of Muhammad. The future outlook will be determined by the actions of the next few years. Either the war on terror will be pursued thoroughly and aggressively or a 2nd wave of Islamic terrorism, worse than 9/11 will occur. At this point the Wests actions are not strong enough. I know the Muslim mind well, and they are in it for the long haul.
Articles by Silas
Islam & Terrorism
Answering Islam Home Page