Full details about the FBI’s arrest in Detroit yesterday of a group of radical Muslims, during which their leader was killed in a shootout, are yet to become available, and it is too early to judge the real significance of these events. Nonetheless, what we already know is sufficient to make some general observations on the growing threat that homegrown radical Islam poses to America. It’s a question that is generally absent from both government discussions and media coverage, even though all the American wannabe terrorists recently exposed by the authorities were radicalized in this country long before seeking contacts with al-Qaeda abroad.
Media spin already has it that the group was just a bunch of bumbling African-American ex-con converts who engaged in some heated Islamist rhetoric but were guilty of little more than petty criminal activity. They had nothing to do with terrorism, it is being argued, and are certainly not representative of either African-American Muslims or American Muslims more generally. Both points are true to a degree, but they serve to obscure a larger reality. None of these people had committed a terrorist act yet, at least to our current knowledge, but people who believe in violent jihad against their fellow citizens and train in the use of firearms are just a small step from becoming terrorists. After all, the shariah law that they dreamed of imposing on the ummah that they fancied gives only three options to infidels: Convert to Islam, submit to Muslim rule and discrimination, or be killed.
It is true that most American Muslims hold views that are far from the radical mindset governing the Al-Haqq mosque. Yet it is also true that radical Islam has become the dominant idiom in the American Muslim establishment, particularly among African-American Muslims. For instance, the slain leader of this group, Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, was a high official of the top national organization of African-American Muslims, the Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA), a group founded and led by radical Islamists such as the notorious Brooklyn imam Siraj Wahhaj.
The larger group to which Abdullah and his cohorts belonged and pledged allegiance, the “national community” of Imam Jamil al-Amin, a.k.a. H. Rap Brown, also enjoys an excellent standing in the American Muslim establishment, despite the inconvenient fact that the good imam is a convicted cop-killer serving a life sentence in a maximum-security prison in Colorado. Indeed, Imam Jamil, a former Black Panther leader and frequent fugitive from justice, served in key positions with some of the most important Muslim organizations in America, like the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the American Muslim Council (AMC). To this day, there isn’t a single large Muslim organization that has not participated in the noisy “Free Imam Jamil” campaign that’s been going on for years.
It is this disturbing reality of an American Muslim establishment in charge of countless mosques, Islamic cultural centers, madrassas, and charity organizations dominated by radical Islamist ideology and funded by Saudi money that Washington — under both Bush and now Obama — has long refused to acknowledge or do anything about in a systematic way. Until that happens, homegrown terrorism is not a matter of if but of when.
–Alex Alexiev is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.