Partnership-Building with American Muslims to Counter Domestic Radicalization

December 16, 2010, CSIS, Washington, DC

On Thursday, December 16, 2010 the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program hosted a discussion on the WORDE report, “A Community Based Approach to Countering Radicalization,” and its implications for policymakers in the White House and the 112th Congress.

Panelists included WORDE President Dr. Hedieh Mirahmadi, Qamar ul-Huda, Senior Program Manager and Islamic Scholar at the United States Institute of Peace, Timothy Curry, Senior Policy Advisor for the US Department of Homeland Security, and Dr. Peter Neumann, PhD., Visiting Fellow at Georgetown University and Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College, London. The panel was moderated by CSIS Senior Advisor Juan Zarate.

In her opening comments, Dr. Mirahmadi stated, “The time has come for policymakers to announce a national dialogue, in partnership with the Muslim community, to counter radicalization in our homes, community centers as well as online.”

The panelists agreed on the timeliness of the report and the urgency to develop a preventive strategy given the number of recent disrupted terrorist plots involving U.S. citizens and legal residents in Washington, D.C., Portland, Oregon, and Baltimore, Maryland. “This is one document we have to listen to” Qamar ul-Huda said.

Dr. Mirahmadi suggested that public-private partnerships in the US should be premised on a mutually agreed set of shared values. She added, “These values should include fundamental norms like supporting religious freedom of all persons –including those of other denominations, respecting societal pluralism, advocating non-violent solutions to political or social conflicts, and the preservation of our country’s rule of law. Thought leaders, academics, organizations and activists who commit to these shared values are best positioned to exert pressure from within Muslim communities to moderate radicalized individuals and at risk persons.“

Timothy Curry discussed the Department of Homeland Security’s strategy to counter violent extremism. He explained the department’s efforts to move beyond initiating only grievance-based relationships with national Muslim organizations, to meeting with Muslim Americans at the grass-roots level to seek their input to countering religious extremism.

Dr. Neumann suggested that the government’s role can be expanded to become an “enabler,” by supporting Muslim American efforts to counter radical narratives. Dr. Mirahmadi said the US can do this by encouraging “Private foundations and the business sector to fund projects such as print publications and websites that discredit Awlaki’s on-line “idiot’s guide to jihad” and other extremists’ arguments.”“Many of the guidelines we provide in the report are designed to be a resource for policymakers to begin the conversation on countering radicalization” said Dr. Mirahmadi. “We hope they could use the ideas put forward and decide next steps with their Muslim community partners.”

 

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