VETTING MUSLIMS– Muslims in America—
part 2 of 3
As his debates with Hillary Clinton and Republicans revealed, Trump is strongly attached to the idea of the “extreme vetting” of Muslims. Many Republican members of Congress and conservative writers of some standing appear sympathetic; public opinion polls consistently show Republicans deeply unsettled by Muslim refugees coming to the United States. And although Democrats generally appear hostile to the idea of excluding Muslims from entry, it’s not hard to imagine a Nice-like terrorist attack changing the disposition of congressional Democrats about enhanced standards for them. Such vetting would likely curtail admission for many, if not most, Muslims from the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central and South Asia. It’s unclear whether such screening would have separate standards for Muslims from Western Europe, where Islamic terrorism has been on the rise since the early 1990s. Given how dangerous European jihadists are since they can, in most cases, travel visa-less to the United States, supporters of enhanced vetting would have to implement new procedures to find and separate Muslim Europeans from their non-Muslim compatriots. How Washington would do this, beyond just using Islamic names, isn’t clear. (Christian Middle Easterners could get snared in this process since their names can appear Islamic.) European converts to Islam—and there is a long history of European converts going rogue—would go undetected if they continued to use their original names on their passports. In France, for example, which runs neck-and-neck with Belgium for producing the most European holy warriors, approximately one-quarter of the jihadists who’ve struck are converts. Any system vetting European Muslims that didn’t involve the end of visa-less travel for all Europeans to the United States—Europeans, once again, would have to submit their applications at American consulates—would require extraordinary assistance from European intelligence and internal-security services, who would need to separate Muslim and non-Muslim citizens for the Department of Homeland Security. This is, of course, politically impossible for Europeans to do.
Once, consular officers had plenipotentiary authority to issue visas to all foreigners. Today, Homeland Security has the ultimate authority over problematic nationalities.
The difficulties for Muslim Middle Easterners to obtain visas or refugee status have exponentially increased. We shouldn’t be fooled by the president’s politically correct vocabulary: The Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security, and even State Department consular officers ruthlessly profile those seeking entry. For al Qaeda or the Islamic State to plan terrorism inside the United States using non-American, non-green-card-holding, and non-European Muslim agents would require enormous luck and patience.
Given the European refugee deluge from Syria, many Americans fear that admitted refugees could be used to establish terrorist cells. An encouraging fact: In America there are a little under 3.5 million Muslims; only an infinitesimal slice has gone jihadist. Many of America’s Muslims came from troubled lands, where religious militancy has run deep for decades. What success Islamic terrorists have had using refugee cover in Europe has come through the unfiltered, rapid Middle Eastern exodus that the German chancellor encouraged. Refugee admission to the United States is usually a long and unpleasant process. Its vagaries—not knowing whether one will be admitted and the relentless boredom in inhospitable processing camps—would be tricky for a terrorist outfit trying to target young holy warriors. This is why, so far, there is no known case of such a refugee sleeper cell. It’s been long-term residents and citizens, not refugees, who have gone rogue.
Even with good intelligence, discerning the catalysts for anti-American violence among Muslims who aren’t already jihadists is extraordinarily difficult. European security services have tied themselves into knots trying to figure out predictive patterns that could be used to preempt militants-turned-holy warriors. One reason many European security and domestic-intelligence serv-ices—especially the French and the British—are so fond of intercept and “shotgun” bugging operations is that this information gives counterterrorist officials a better chance of spotting potential trouble. (Such an approach in the United States would be unacceptable since it would rightly be seen by the courts as fishing expeditions.)
The Europeans all confront the same problem: The percentage of Muslims, even in European states where Islamic radicals have most often gone violent, is so tiny that counterterrorist methods run by even the best officers are much more likely to err than to preempt. The FBI tore the Mafia apart in part because it was easy to spot individuals who were involved and might be turned. (Would anyone today, looking back, want to close the door to Italian Americans because the Mafia was a cottage industry among Sicilians?) The FBI’s penchant to tempt Islamic militants into committing terrorist acts, and thereby sow fear among would-be jihadists, is a reflection of how hard it is to run good intelligence operations against the radical Muslim target.
Much of the American right seems to believe that jihadists are born from the study of the Koran and the sharia or through association with the ardently religious. Reading the Muslim holy book and religious jurisprudence may encourage intolerance in Muslims as it highlights their exclusivity and legal preeminence. Muslim clerics are rarely avatars of interfaith friendship. Fastidious Iranian clerics, consumed with a particularly Shiite idea of purity, can be averse to even touching nonbelievers. Sunni Islamic puritanism springs from a monomaniacal focus on early Islam’s pristine clarity, egalitarianism, and fraternity; it downgrades or ignores Islamic civilization’s cultural curiosity, ethical adaptation, and imperial diversity as Islam expanded into a global faith.
European recruits to the Islamic State are much more likely to retain a love of rebellious rap music than they are—in the footsteps of the “no-fun-in-Islam” Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini—to abstain from the licentious beat of infidels. The Egyptian theorist of modern holy war Sayyid Qutb, the Indo-Pakistani Abul Ala Mawdudi, and Khomeini—to name the big three—all helped to create the intellectual environment that nourishes today’s holy warriors.
Conversion to jihadism can be a gradual process, involving face-to-face tutelage at a mosque or in prison. A long basting in Salafism and Wahhabism—both loathe modernity—can produce the required catalyst, although the vast majority of Salafis spurn an energetic politicization of the faith, preferring to withdraw from this ugly, Westernized world. And, so far as we know, not a single holy warrior who has struck the United States or Europe was a member of al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian-born Islamist movement that had, since its founding in 1928 to the 1980s, been the mothership of Sunni fundamentalism. (Saudi Arabia’s massive Wahhabi missionary effort, which once included considerable support to the Brotherhood, became the primary driver of fundamentalism in the 1980s.)
If the Brotherhood were so instrumental in the generation of contemporary jihadism—and there is no denying the organ-ization’s historical role in making Islamism, with all its anti-Western, anti-Jewish, and anti-Christian bigotry, mainstream—why haven’t members of the Brotherhood been in the frontline of taking the war to the West?
source-marc gerecht, albert camus, jyllands-postens, captain humayun khan, al-ikhwan al-muslimun, yusuf al-qaradawi, olivier roy,