Report Recommends Ways to Discourage Muslim-American Radicalization

Posted on January 6, 2010


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010
CONTACT: Karen Kemp (Duke)
(919) 613-7394

or Dee Reid (UNC)
(919) 843-6339


Note to editors: A copy of the report is online at  (Note from Rafik Beekun: It can also be downloaded from my blog if the Duke website is down).

David Schanzer can be reached at (919) 613-9279 or; Charles Kurzman at (919) 962-1007 or; Ebrahim Moosa at (919) 660-3520 or

DURHAM, N.C. — The shootings at Fort Hood, the recent arrests of five young men in Pakistan and last summer’s arrests of terrorism suspects in North Carolina mark a troubling increase in terrorism-related activity by Muslim-Americans.

But a new report by scholars at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which analyzes the extent of terrorist violence by Muslim-Americans since 9/11 and identifies strategies to head off “home-grown” terrorism, says the number of radicalized Muslim-Americans is still small.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, 139 Muslim-Americans have committed violent terrorist acts, been convicted on terrorism charges involving violence or been arrested with charges pending. Of that number, fewer than a third successfully executed their violent plots, and most of those were overseas.

The report recommends that policymakers reinforce successful anti-radicalization activities now under way in Muslim-American communities to address this low — but not insignificant — level of terrorist activity.

“Muslim-Americans organizations and the vast majority of individuals that we interviewed firmly reject the radical extremist ideology that justifies the use of violence to achieve political ends,” said co-author David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

The report, “Anti-Terror Lessons of Muslim American Communities,” was co-authored by Schanzer, associate professor at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy; Charles Kurzman, professor of sociology at UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences; and Ebrahim Moosa, associate professor of religion at Duke. It summarizes two years of research in Muslim-American communities in Seattle, Houston, Buffalo and Raleigh-Durham, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

”Muslim-American communities have been active in preventing radicalization,” said Kurzman. “This is one reason that Muslim-American terrorism has resulted in fewer than three dozen of the 136,000 murders committed in the United States since 9/11.”

The research shows that denunciations of terrorism, internal self-policing, community building, government-funded support services and political engagement can all reduce risks of radicalization. Schanzer and fellow researchers came to these conclusions after analyzing interviews with more than 120 Muslim-Americans as well as websites and publications from Muslim-American organizations, data on prosecution of Muslim-Americans for terrorism-related offenses, and existing studies of Muslim-American communities.

“The general public as well as the Muslim community at large will get a better sense of what kinds of measures are being taken within the Muslim communities surveyed to prevent terrorism and advance integration,” Moosa said of the report. “Such experiences need to be shared with others in order to protect the communities from being undermined by subversive forces.”

The authors noted that Muslim-Americans “are feeling the strain of living in America during the post-9/11 era” and policies that alienate Muslim-American communities in an effort to crack down on terrorism are likely to exacerbate, not reduce, the threat of homegrown terrorism.

“Our research suggests that initiatives that treat Muslim-Americans as part of the solution to this problem are far more likely to be successful,” said Schanzer.

“Anti-Terror Lessons of Muslim-American Communities” will be posted on the websites of the Sanford School of Public Policy ( and the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, a research center co-sponsored by Duke, UNC and RTI International (



 Research findings suggest that radicalization in the United States can be minimized by taking the following steps to reinforce successful anti-radicalization activities of Muslim-American communities and create a more positive environment for Muslim- Americans:

1. Encourage Political Mobilization. Increased political mobilization is the most important trend identified by this study, as it both stunts domestic radicalization and provides an example to Muslims around the world that grievances can be resolved through peaceful democratic means. We recommend that policymakers in the major political parties embrace this mobilization by including Muslim-Americans in their outreach efforts and by organizing them to gain their support, as they do with other ethnic and religious groups. Similarly, public officials should attend events at mosques, as they do at churches and synagogues. Muslim-American groups should also be fully included in American political dialogue.

2. Promote Public Denunciations of Violence. Denunciations of terrorism and violence are an important reflection of Muslim-American opinion and values. The Muslim-American community should disseminate these statements widely. Public officials should reference these statements whenever possible and the media should include them in their coverage of terrorism and security issues.

3. Reinforce Self-Policing by Improving the Relationship Between Law Enforcement and Muslim- American Communities. Muslim-American communities are taking a variety of measures to prevent radicalization. While there have been important achievements in building a cooperative, trusting relationship between Muslim-Americans and law enforcement, there have also been tensions due to controversial law enforcement techniques, lack of communication, and breakdowns in trust. Muslim-American communities and law enforcement agencies must make efforts to cooperate more closely to overcome mutual suspicions and achieve common goals. An important element of increased cooperation would be to initiate a candid dialogue between law enforcement and Muslim-American communities about the handling of criminal cases and the use of informants. Law enforcement agencies should develop policies on the appropriate use of informants in Muslim-American communities and discuss these policies openly with community leaders. Muslim-Americans, for their part, should understand that the use of informants is an accepted, long-standing law enforcement practice and may be necessary in appropriate cases to gather evidence on individuals who are a potential danger. In addition to addressing grievances about law enforcement tactics and operations, the relationship could be strengthened and solidified by hiring more Muslim law enforcement officers, increasing outreach to non-religious entry points to the community, and expanding the FBI’s Bridges Program and Citizen’s Academy.

4. Assist Community-Building Efforts. Strong communities can provide education to Muslims who may be uninformed about Islamic opposition to terrorism, provide guidance and positive experiences for youth, and identify individuals at risk of radicalization. We recommend that all levels of government make additional efforts to provide community-building resources such as youth centers, childcare facilities, public health clinics, and English as a Second Language courses in disadvantaged Muslim-American communities. These resources are especially important in isolated immigrant communities.

5. Promote Outreach by Social Service Agencies. Our research suggests that Muslim-American communities desire collaboration and outreach with the government beyond law enforcement, in areas such as public health, education, and transportation. Moving toward this type of engagement acknowledges that Muslim-American communities have needs and concerns other than contributing to the nation’s counterterrorism efforts.

6. Support Enhanced Religious Literacy. This research reinforces the generally accepted observation that Muslim-Americans with a strong, traditional religious training are far less likely to radicalize than those without such training. Since it would be inappropriate for government to play a role in this area, the Muslim- American community should invest in developing seminaries, leadership programs, and on-line educational courses. Foundations and universities should assist in these efforts.

7. Increase Civil Rights Enforcement. Enhanced civil rights enforcement will contribute toward addressing Muslim-American concerns about increased discrimination since September 11, 2001.