There has been a spate of stories recently trumpeting the role of Muslims in foiling Islamic jihad terror plots. Al-Qaeda turncoat and former Guantanamo inmate Jabr al-Faifi, as well as the Saudi government, helped expose the Yemeni bomb plot against synagogues in Chicago. A Muslim alerted authorities to Farooque Ahmed’s plot to bomb the Washington D.C. metro system. The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) claims that nearly a third (11 out of 37) of the Islamic jihad plots against the U.S. since 9/11 have been foiled by Muslims. This all appears to be good, reassuring news, and it may be looking a gift horse in the mouth to say otherwise, but it must be said that this is not enough: the Muslim community in the U.S. must do much more.
There is a counterproductive aspect to this kind of publicity for the Muslim community in America: that these stories would be considered newsworthy at all is due to their unusual, man-bites-dog aspect. If 37 out of 37 jihad plots had been foiled by Muslims, even that wouldn’t be truly newsworthy: That’s the way things ought to be. If the teachings of Islam and the sentiments of the Muslim community in the U.S. really were the way they are ordinarily represented by the mainstream media and assumed to be by the U.S. Government, then there ought to be a concerted, organized, ongoing effort among Muslims in the U.S. not only to foil jihad terror plots, but also to eradicate the Islamic teachings that inspire and encourage such plots.
Instead, it is sometimes hard to tell what side Muslims in America are on. Take MPAC, the organization that is trumpeting the claim that nearly a third of the jihad plots against America since 9/11 have been foiled by Muslims. Edina Lekovic is MPAC’s director of policy and programming. Several years ago the indefatigable terrorism investigator Steve Emerson caught Lekovic lying on national television, denying that she was editor of a Muslim student publication that praised Osama bin Laden as a great mujahid. Emerson produced copies of the rag showing Lekovic’s name on the masthead as editor on the very same page on which the praise for Osama appeared.
Is Lekovic secretly a supporter of Osama bin Laden to this day? Not necessarily. But her dishonesty is not reassuring, and reflects poorly on MPAC as a self-appointed bastion of Islamic moderation. Also, those who have reported on the role of Muslims in stopping jihad terror plots generally assume that the Muslims who foiled these jihad plots did so out of Islamic conviction, and that they therefore represent an alternative perspective on Islamic teaching, one that opposes and counters that of the jihadists. For example, Jeffrey Goldberg writes in The Atlantic, “Islam? Islam is not the problem. In fact, it’s the solution to the actual problem, the problem of political Islamism, a radical and often-violent minority movement within the body of Islam.”
Unfortunately, that is not established. Goldberg actually wrote this in connection to the Saudi role in foiling the Yemen bomb plot, while making no reference to the Saudi complicity in the funding of so many jihadist and Islamic supremacist initiatives around the world. In any case, the fact that a Muslim turns in a jihadist does not establish that he did so for motivations that arise from Islam itself; people have many motives for what they do, and while Muslim communities in the West have issued vague condemnations of an undefined “terrorism,” mosques in America nor anywhere else have any sort of program in place to teach against the beliefs that give rise to jihad violence.
Unless and until that changes, there will always be more jihad plots in American mosques and Islamic centers for these man-bites-dog Muslims to foil. Not addressed by any of these writers is why Muslim communities keep having jihad plots to foil in the first place.
They do because there are teachings in the Qur’an and Sunnah that encourage warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers. That is the great unacknowledged fact that renders these stories of heroic and peaceful Muslims more than a bit hollow.