2007-08-24 / Columnists

From the Editor's Desk

NYPD Can Win The War On Terror If The NYCLU Will Allow It To
Commentary By Howard Schwach

An eye-opening new report prepared by the intelligence division of the NYPD turns a spotlight on how people turn into radical Muslims.

For the most part, the NYPD has become a player in the anti-terrorist business, highly-respected by diverse police agencies in other nations, such as MI-5 and the Mossad.

That report, which runs to more than 100 pages, makes some interesting points, particularly about how home-grown terrorists get that way.

It comes in stages.

First, it begins with disaffected individuals who may be inclined to latch onto radical thought and who usually live, play or work in Muslim enclaves in New York City and other cities around the nation. The report points out that the majority of "home grown" terrorists are unremarkable people, with ordinary jobs and lives. Few have criminal histories.

Then, there is exposure to SalafiMuslim ideas, the most radical in the religion and a cousin to Wahhabism, the Saudi Arabian brand of Muslim belief that caused all the problems on 9/11. The report says that this indoctrination comes from "radicalization incubators" such as mosques, cafes, Islamic bookstores, prisons, student groups, and particularly from the Internet. Individuals begin to explore extremist Islam, gradually turning themselves from ordinary citizens to terrorists. This may be triggered by a traumatic event, such as losing a job or having racial problems at work.

Next comes the indoctrination, in which the individual adopts and accepts the "jihadi" role of believing that militant action is needed to defeat "The Great Satan," the United States. They cut their ties with their families and exchange less radical mosques for the more radical. They grow long beards and adopt traditional Muslim dress.

The final stage is planning and carrying out actions that fulfill the jihad mission.

That timetable, the report says, is proven by events in England, Spain and other nations where "homegrown" terrorists outside the direct control of Al Qaeda or any other organized terrorist group, carry out atrocities.

We know how Muslims become radicalized. The question is no longer how a person becomes a terrorist, but how to stop them from the final step - carrying out actions against our cities.

Given the difficulty in spotting and disrupting attacks when they are about to take place, or are already in the process, we have to intervene as early as possible in the process.

Unfortunately, that means racial profiling.

Why?

I understand that not all Muslims are terrorists, nor will the large majority of Muslims in the United States ever become radicalized.

At the same time, we have to remember that all of those who attacked the World Trade Center were Muslims. So were those who attacked the Spanish rail system. So were those who attacked the British underground.

Who should the NYPD be watching for radical activity in light of that fact? There is only one answer to that question- they should be watching the Muslim community.

"For detectives, they can now look at a series of signals and see if there is a pattern," says Mitchell Silber, the NYPD's Senior Intelligence Analyst and a co-author of the report, which is entitled, "Radicalization in The West: The Homegrown Threat."

He says that the pattern will show which individuals have been radicalized and therefore ripe for action.

In other words, the NYPD says it can now begin to figure out who might be a future terrorist threat through intelligence gathering, research, tips from the public and surveillance.

That last fact angers some Americans who see that surveillance as anathema to the U.S. Constitution.

As one smart person said, however, "The Constitution is not a suicide pact."

Why is it that the term "racial profiling" has a negative connotation, when all it means to a police agency is that you keep an eye on the community that is known to breed trouble-makers so that you can stop the trouble before it starts?

It has become negative in this "politically correct" time, but the reality is that we will lose the battle if the Civil Liberties Union and papers such as the New York Times convince people and the courts that we can't watch for those who would do us harm.

Unfortunately, that means Muslims.

The usual suspects are angered at the report and the conclusion that Muslims must be watched.

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) issued a press release saying that the report represented the worst of America and that racial profiling of Muslims will not be tolerated.

Habeeb Ahmed, an official of the Islamic Center of Long Island, issued a statement that is at once startling and disingenuous.

"I'm confident that [terrorism among Muslims] is not the major problem in this country, at least compared to European countries where the assimilation of Muslims has not been very successful," he said.

I have to wonder if he ever heard of the World Trade Center. Not a major problem, indeed!

"Many people believe that this is not a war against terrorism," he added. "It is a war against Islam."

The New York Times discussed the report on page B3 in the Wednesday, August 16 edition.

"The report's findings were immediately hailed by proponents of law enforcement and some politicians," the story said, "While harshly criticized by civil libertarians and advocates for Arab-Americans."

Kareem Shora, the national executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said, "The sweeping generalizations in the report may serve to cast a pall of suspicion over the entire American Muslim population."

Yeah, it might.

Perhaps it is time for the Muslim community to come out against the militants. Perhaps they should not support terrorism by their silence and their contributions.

The NYPD report is correct, and they can use its tenets to beat terrorism in America. That is, if the NYCLU and the New York Times allow them to.

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