The accusation is often made that the Muslim community is not doing more to combat extremism in its midst. Here’s evidence that they are doing more than many people realize. The press doesn’t cover this well . . .
By Salam Al-Marayati
When Adam Yahiye Gadahn was kicked out of an Orange County mosque in 2004, it was for good reason. He was a troublemaker who only meant more trouble for that mosque. Gadahn was kicked out for creating firestorms of controversies for his actions and was remembered as being “angry, rigidly pious, and hypercritical of any Muslim who adopted Western clothes or manners,” according to the Washington Post.
Then there is Tamerlan Tsarnaev. He was kicked out of a Boston mosque after verbal altercations with Muslim leaders there. Tsarnaev didn’t believe talks about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his civil rights work belonged in mosques.
Sadly, both Gadahn and Tsarnaev later became involved in terrorism: Gadahn became al-Qaeda’s spokesman, and Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police after being implicated for the Boston Marathon bombing.
What Gadahn and Tsarnaev exemplified through their actions in their local mosques weren’t necessarily indicators of pre-operational terrorist planning. And, actions of mosque leaders were understandable, especially when federal authorities place extra scrutiny on Muslim institutions in America. However, the reflexive action to kick both young men out of the mosque wasn’t the answer either. The lessons learned in hindsight are a clarion call to all of us to adjust our approach toward young people who express themselves in a troubling manner. Rather than kicking them out, we need to intervene.
Hence last week, the Muslim Public Affairs Council launched the “Safe Spaces Initiative,” a community toolkit designed to empower the community to address these situations and concerns through the PIE model — Prevention, Intervention, Ejection.
We aim to prevent violent ideology with a dose of good theology and healthy, honest conversations in our mosques. We then try to intervene with anyone who exemplifies troubling behavior. Finally, we resort to ejection from our mosques when all other measures are exhausted. In all cases of violent activity, we remind our constituents to call law enforcement. The precise mechanisms for these steps can be found in the community toolkit.