Waiting for the American Jihad

Last October, Shirwa Ahmed blew himself up in a homicide bombing in Somalia. What distinguished Ahmed from other jihadists is that he was a 27-year old college student from Minneapolis and a naturalized American citizen, which made him the first U.S. citizen to become an Islamic homicide bomber.

Ahmed’s unusual path to martyrdom got the attention of American counterterrorism officials, who now report that more than a dozen Somali-American youths have disappeared so far this year.  They are suspected to have returned to Somalia to wage jihad.  Concerned about the radicalization of Muslim youths in America, the FBI is running active investigations in at least five major American cities.

These developments beg the question:  If terrorist organizations can recruit American Muslims to travel to Africa to wage jihad, what’s stopping them from recruiting American Muslims to wage jihad in America?  As Moar Jamal, Executive Director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul, put it, “That kid that blew himself up in Somalia could have done it here in Minneapolis.”

With an Obama administration increasingly distracted by matters both petty (the Rush Limbaugh flap) and precarious (the economic crisis), and with what we are learning about Jihadist recruitment here, it is becoming increasingly clear that America is a country ripe for jihad.  

A culture of Islamic radicalization already exists in America. But most Americans do not know about it because it’s happening in places most of us do not go — our prisons.  Prison Ministries Founder Chuck Colson has been a leader in highlighting the problem of radicalization in our prison system, and former FBI Director Robert Mueller has called America’s prisons “fertile ground for extremists.”  A 2006 study called “Out of the Shadows” found that “tight knit communities of Muslims in prison are ripe for radicalization, and could easily become terrorist cells.”  

But Islamic radicalization is happening on the outside, too.  A recent study sponsored by the Center for Security Policy found that of 100 American mosques and Islamic centers and schools it examined across the country, “75 should be on the watch list” for inciting insurrection and jihad through sermons and anti-western literature.

Muslim activists in Minneapolis are trying to blame the radicalization of their youth on poverty and unemployment.  But while there is a correlation between poverty and terrorism, there is a much stronger one between Islam and terrorism.  As a Washington Post story reported, “…they [the missing Somali-Americans] became antisocial, speaking and eating less as they grew more devout.”  All of the young men from Minneapolis who are believed to have traveled back to Somalia spent a lot of time at the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, the largest mosque in the twin cities.

The waxing of radical Islam in America comes as the issue seems to be waning in importance with the Obama administration.    

In the opening weeks of the Obama administration, the term “war on terror” has been all but abandoned by the State Department.  Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano recently became the first DHS secretary to leave out the words “terror” and “vulnerability” from remarks prepared for delivery to the House Homeland Security Committee, focusing instead on the threat of natural disasters.  Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, also failed to mention terrorism in his initial remarks to the committee he heads.    

Secretary Napolitano’s omission prompted New York Congressman Peter King to say, “This can’t be the evil we don’t speak about.  Any testimony on homeland security should be centered around the threat of terrorism and what we’re doing about it.”  

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is obliged to talk often about terrorism.  But when she does, she often misspeaks.  When Clinton took her maiden voyage abroad as America’s top diplomat, she received the following question from a university student in Tokyo:  “We often [say] the fight against terrorism means the conflict between the West and Islam[ic] world.  Are there any ideas to eliminate the prejudice towards the Islamic world?”

Clinton’s response included this unfortunate bid of pandering:  “every religion has people who misused that religion,” including Christians who, “have perverted the religion…and spent many centuries doing terrible things.”

Having offended Christians last week, this week she took aim at Jews.  In the West Bank, Clinton sat down for an interview with a Palestinian Authority TV station.  Clinton said she wanted to “connect up our two countries,” referring to the United States and an as yet not established Palestinian “country,” carved out of Judea and Samaria.

All of this is taking place at a time when the government’s terrorist watch list has reached one million entries, up one third since 2007.  It also comes as a March Gallup poll finds that although American Muslims are more likely than their co-religionists abroad to see themselves as thriving, they are also the American religious group most likely not to be content with their lives.  This perhaps explains why a 2007 Pew poll found 13 percent of Muslim Americans, and more than a quarter of Muslim American youths, approve of suicide bombings of civilians in defense of Islam under certain circumstances.  

Keeping America safe from terrorism during his seven-and-a-half years in office after 9-11 was President Bush’s most underappreciated achievement.  Now, with an American jihad possibly looming, we can only hope that it’s an accomplishment that President Obama can repeat.