The US State Department invited Muflehun Executive Director Humera Khan and other community leaders from around the world to discuss the best ways to counter extremism for the #StrongCities Initiative. Ms. Khan talks to NPR about the role of civilians in this space.
The Huffington Post publishes Humera Khan’s perspective on social isolation and violent extremism.
In October 2011, during “National Cyber Security Awareness Month” Muflehun organized and launched a new prevention program series “Internet Safety Workshop- What Parents Need to Know.” With the well attended pilot hosted at ADAMS, the objective was to raise awareness in parents regarding the full spectrum of internet based predators that target their families, both their physical bodies as well as their minds.
The presentations on internet predators were organized into three segments: Child Exploitation, Community Resilience & Protecting Against Extremism. The Child Exploitation segment was conducted by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI Washington Field Office Child Exploitation Taskforce. The Community Resilience briefing was presented by the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the National Counter Terrorism Center. The Protecting Against Extremism segment was conducted by Muflehun.
This was the pilot event for the series that will be replicated at mosques and community centers around the country. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to schedule a similar event for your community.
Comments from attendees:
- “Excellent and informed session, it was an open eye for myself. Thanks a lot”
- “Very good information. Very important and helpful”
- “I hope that there will be a presentation for the youth on Fridays during youth programs on both issues: Internet + extremism”
- “Thank you for doing this”
- “Thank you for the service. It is a great presentation”
- “I have great appreciation for such presentations.”
- “I would love to see more presentations.”
Full image gallery can be seen here.
Muflehun co-sponsored a round-table discussion for government officials and NGOs with Sheikh Habib Umar bin Hafiz, Director and Founder of Dar al Mustafa in Yemen. The event focused on “Understanding Extremism, Embracing Tradition: Can Islamic Theology Help Undermine Violent Extremism?”
Habib Umar addressed the issue from the perspective of traditional Islamic scholarship, and highlighted how extremism has no place within the religion of Islam, giving the analogy of the Kharijites who were excommunicated because of their deviance.
Additionally, he highlighted the need for intervention to turn violent extremists away from aggression, and in the circumstance that they are unwilling to change their perspectives, the need to work with law enforcement for the security of society.
A central theme of the discussion was the need for traditional scholarship, as the lack of authentic religious education is a common factor amongst violent extremists. Books and internet-based studying while important and beneficial are not a substitute for learning through legitimate scholars.
The Congressional Research Service report “American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat“ by authors Jerome Bjelopera and Mark Randol has been updated as of Dec 10, 2010 to include several new incidents that took place between October and November 2010. The new version of the report can be downloaded from the FAS website.
On January 4, 2011, 21 year old Emerson Begolly was arrested in his mother’s car on charges of carrying a loaded gun1 and biting two FBI agents when they tried to question him; his defense claims that he has autism and the agents opening the car door and reaching for him caused his biting response that drew blood. Mr Begolly was being investigated by the FBI due to his online postings and social network alliances that indicated he was a Nazi-turned-radical-extremist with a worrying interest in killing people. Reminiscent of the 2002 movie “Minority Report”2 that depicts a world where a “PreCrime” police unit exists to stop crimes before they happen, the FBI is now in the impossible position of prosecuting a man for a potential crime that he was fantasizing about committing.
Whether he is eventually charged and convicted on terrorism-related offences will be determined by the courts, but what is hard to ignore is the need for “deradicalizing” Mr Begolly and others like him. Preventing extremists from becoming operational is better for our society than having to deal with the consequences once people are committed to violence. Intervention and rehabilitation programs have been known to succeed in other countries, even with hardened criminals, and can do the same here.
There is an assumption that any rehab program would necessarily include religion, and the separation of religion and state is the reason our government cannot get involved; however this should not mean there is no role for the government in rehabilitation efforts. While they should not be teaching or advocating versions of any particular religion, they can certainly play a part in encouraging public/private partnerships with psychologists, religious clergy, families and communities. The model can be similar to the way many churches are involved in prisoner re-entry, safe havens for youth leaving gangs and refugee resettlement programs. Partnerships such as these would help strengthen the relationships between the American Muslim community and law enforcement, and create a more trusted environment for community policing.
In an ideal world, when a case like Mr Begolly shows up on the law enforcement radar, it would be better if he is counseled away from his warped world view as the first step; arrests and jail time should be our last resort and used only in cases where it is clear that the extremist is operational and planning an attack.
U.S. MUSLIMS ISSUE FATWA AGAINST RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM
The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam’s condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.
Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram – prohibited in Islam – and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not “martyrs.”
The Qur’an, Islam’s revealed text, states: “Whoever kills a person, unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a person, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32)
Prophet Muhammad said there is no excuse for committing unjust acts: “Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
God mandates moderation in faith and in all aspects of life when He states in the Qur’an: “We made you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with the example of your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind.” (Qur’an, 2:143)
In another verse, God explains our duties as human beings when he says: “Let there arise from among you a band of people who invite to righteousness, and enjoin good and forbid evil.” (Qur’an, 3:104)
Islam teaches us to act in a caring manner to all of God’s creation. The Prophet Muhammad, who is described in the Qur’an as “a mercy to the worlds” said: “All creation is the family of God, and the person most beloved by God (is the one) who is kind and caring toward His family.”
In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:
- All acts of terrorism targeting the civilians are Haram (forbidden) in Islam.
- It is Haram for a Muslim to cooperate or associate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.
- It is the duty of Muslims to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.
We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture the Qur’an and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad –peace be upon him. We urge all people to resolve all conflicts in just and peaceful manners. We have deep concern for the suffering and pain of millions of Muslims in different parts of the world. We deplore those who cause death and destruction to them. However, we urge Muslims to not lose their moral grounds. God’s help is with those who follow the right path.
We pray for the defeat of extremism, terrorism and injustice. We pray for the safety and security of our country United States and its people. We pray for the safety and security of all inhabitants of this globe. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in United States and every where in the world.