March 2, 2006 Special Dispatch No. 1105

Editor of U.S. Arabic Newspaper: Religious Extremism is Spreading Among Muslim Youth in the U.S.

March 2, 2006
Special Dispatch No. 1105

In an article published in the London Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Dr. Muhriz Al-Husseini, director of the Center for Dialogue and Research and editor of the U.S.-published newspaper Al-Minassa Al-'Arabiya, warns that religious extremism and ignorance are spreading among the young generation of Muslims in the U.S.

The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

Some Imams Brainwash Muslim Adolescents and Plant Bogus Ideas About Islam in Their Minds

"At a time when Arab and Islamic leaders and organizations are investing great efforts and large amounts of money and time in order to improve the image of Islam and of the Muslims, some imams are working in an organized manner to brainwash adolescents in the Muslim community and to plant bogus ideas in their minds concerning Islam, jihad, takfir [accusing other Muslims of apostasy], heresy and the way [Muslim] society has strayed from the right path. They give them interpretations of Koranic verses that have been [deliberately] chosen so as to lead them to rebel against their parents, their families, and even against the society in which they live.

"[The youths] neglect their studies and spend their time watching videotapes and listening to audio tapes - most of which are given to them for free - on ways to train Muslim youth in military and ideological jihad, along with reports on the suffering of Muslims in some Muslim countries, as well as Koranic verses and sermons that encourage jihad, martyrdom, self-sacrifice, and the striking of terror into the hearts of the enemy."

"Many Muslims Families are at Risk of Falling Apart"

"The natural consequence of these misleading actions is that many Muslim families are at risk of falling apart because of the wrong turn that their children's religious thinking has taken. Some of these youths - victims [of religious brainwashing] - are awaiting trial, and some are serving time in juvenile prisons or are under close and continuous security surveillance, since they relate to others with aggression and are trying to spread [Islam] through violence and calls to jihad...

"There are agents of various nationalities - both Arab and non-Arab - who mingle with these adolescents and choose from among them individuals with specific traits that make them susceptible to brainwashing - young people who have a natural tendency for misbehavior and who accept violence as a means of imposing their views and their way."

"The Most Important Criteria for Choosing These Youths are: Propensity for Rebellion, Lack of Fluency in Arabic, and Feelings of Alienation"

"[These agents] then pass them on to religious propagandists, who live in a number of American cities. The most important criteria for choosing these youths are their natural propensity for rebellion, their lack of fluency in Arabic... [and] their feelings of alienation and suffering due to their indeterminate identity - that is, [their] identity that is neither Eastern nor Western, but split...

"Under the influence of bogus religious ideas, [these youth] are struck with a feeling of rejection of their surroundings - rejection of their families and society. At a later [stage], their relations with their parents and their friends go bad; they shatter the sculptures in their homes, rip the paintings off the walls, and destroy the television sets - since, in their opinion, these are satanic tools that inculcate heresy, polytheism, and deviation from religion and the shari'a. They demand that their fathers... wear special pants and robes, let their beards grow long, and comb their hair in accordance with the sunna. They insist that their mothers wear a headscarf, or even a full veil, and that they refrain from leaving the house. All of this occurs not in their Arab countries of origin, but in some families [that live] in the U.S.!"

Such Youth are Not Familiar With Even the Basic Principles of Islam

"In order to uncover the causes of this phenomenon, that has been presented to the reader without any exaggeration... I met with a young man whose thought and behavior exemplify this phenomenon, in order to hear his views, the justifications for his behavior, and his understanding of the basic principles of the religion... I discovered that he was not familiar with even the basic principles of Islam... and that in matters of Islamic thought and teachings he knows by heart only a few verses from the 'Al-Anfal' and 'Al-Tawbah' chapters [of the Koran] - in particular, the verses concerning jihad, takfir, infidels, striking terror into the hearts of the enemy, and the establishment of a [Muslim military] force.

"He insisted that the fundamental obligation of every Muslim in his life is to fight against the infidels - both Muslim and non-Muslim. When I asked him how he defines an infidel, he answered without hesitation: whoever fails to fulfill the obligation of jihad. When I asked him against whom the jihad should be directed, he answered, again without hesitation: the jihad should be directed against the infidels. When I tried to understand who, in his opinion, are infidels, he said: Everyone who does not believe in the truth that I believe in.

"When I heard these things, I realized the horrible disaster that might befall Islam and the Muslims in America and in other countries with [Muslim] immigration, if the young generation of Muslim youth were to embrace these ideas...

"The painful truth is that such a young man - only 16 years old - who doesn't have any life experience, any true knowledge in matters of religion, or any solid criteria for understanding the fundamentals of religious law and shari'a - is a victim of circumstances that he did not create. He is a young man who has tried to find an identity for himself in religion, and was given incorrect interpretations of the monotheistic revelations. He received his knowledge from people whom he considers authorities in religion and religious law... and at the same time, he does not find anyone who can correct his views and his understanding. Therefore, he is convinced that the way to eternal life and Paradise is through jihad [alone]...

"Who is responsible for this tragedy? Who gives material support to these religious propagandists and agents? Why do they spend all this money? Does this approach serve the interests of Islam and the Muslims, or does it serve the interests of others?..."

The Muslim Community Blames the U.S. Security Services - Both if They Intervene and if They Stay Away From the Mosques

"It is worth mentioning the dilemma of the American security services that face this dangerous phenomenon... If the security services stay away from the mosques and do not meddle in their affairs, the Muslim community will complain that the security services take no interest in the fate of their children and that they are intentionally allowing religious propagandists to lead the youth astray, confuse their thinking, and ruin their futures... On the other hand, if the security services interfere, the Muslim community will again complain, and will express its opposition to the interference of the American security services in the mosques' affairs, in the work of the propagandists, and in the spreading of Islam, and will condemn the harming of freedom of religion and worship..."

One of the Causes Preventing Effective Treatment is the School of Thought That Believes in Conspiracy Theories

"Without a doubt, there are many interrelated causes that prevent this phenomenon from being dealt with realistically and effectively... One of the most important causes is the existence of a school of thought that believes in conspiracy theories. It [claims] that there are hidden forces that abhor and fear the development of Islam and of the Muslims in America. These forces are trying to distort the image of the Muslims before they grow strong, and before their influence in society grows. Some go even further, and say that these forces are trying to turn the idea of the clash between Western and Eastern civilizations into reality, by nurturing the causes and justifications for this clash, and by creating a new generation of Muslims that act in an extremist and violent manner... The natural outcome of this [conspiratorial] way of thinking is that the Muslim community mobilizes its efforts and its thinking towards a struggle against some vague external enemy...

"There is no doubt that this phenomenon, which is spreading in the Muslim community in America, places an enormous responsibility upon the members of the community itself, and especially upon the parents and those in positions of authority, who allow their children's thinking and behavior to become easy prey for others...

"This responsibility requires parents to not allow their young children to participate unaccompanied in religious gatherings. Instead, they should go with them to hear what they are told in the mosques. They should thoroughly investigate the biographies and views of religious preachers in the mosques, and should demand... the removal of anyone who distorts religion, distorts the interpretation [of religion], and leads the youth astray."

Parents, Not Security Services or Educational and Religious Institutions, are Responsible for Cultivating a Mature, Realistic and Reasonable Generation

"This responsibility requires the building of a bridge of dialogue with the youth, and requires giving them a [positive] example, both in thought and in behavior. The crisis of identity should be discussed objectively, rationally, and in a language that the youth can understand, and they should be guided in how best to deal with life in America and its demands... Parents need to get to know their children's friends and everyone they mingle with, at school and in their free time... They need to monitor everything that their children see on the computer...

"[Responsibility for] the education and cultivation of a new generation that will be [mature], realistic and reasonable, in countries with [Muslim] immigration, lies on the shoulders of the parents and the family - more than on any security service or religious or educational institution..."

[1] Al-Quds Al-'Arabi (London), January 30, 2006.

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