Threat From Without

Radicalization uncommon among American Muslims
April 1, 2010

The shootings at Fort Hood, the uncovering of numerous bombing plots, and the discovery of five young men from the U.S. trying to join the Taliban in Pakistan marked a year filled with news of terrorist activity by Muslim Americans. But a new report by scholars at Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which analyzes the extent of terrorist violence by Muslim Americans since September 11, 2001, says the number of radicalized Muslim Americans is still small. Since 9/11, 139 Muslim Americans have committed violent terrorist acts, been convicted on terrorism charges involving violence, or have been arrested with charges pending.

The report, written by David Schanzer, associate professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy, recommends that policymakers reinforce successful anti-radicalization activities now under way in Muslim-American communities to address this low—but not insignificant—level of terrorist activity.

The research shows that denunciations of terrorism, internal self-policing, community building, government-funded support services, and political engagement can all reduce risks of radicalization. "Initiatives that treat Muslim Americans as part of the solution to this problem are far more likely to be successful," Schanzer says.

Schanzer and fellow researchers, including Ebrahim Moosa, associate professor of religion at Duke, came to these conclusions after analyzing interviews with more than 120 Muslim Americans as well as websites and publications from Muslim-American organizations, data on prosecution of Muslim Americans for terrorism-related offenses, and existing studies of Muslim-American communities.

Researchers say that policies alienating Muslim-American communities in an effort to crack down on terrorism are likely to exacerbate, not reduce, the threat of homegrown terrorism.