Thursday, January 18, 2018




The radical US imams who incited hatred against Jews - and encouraged their congregants to go out and murder them - are back in the news again. Recently, Newsweek reported on the last 3 incidents of 2017, and noted that at least 2 of the imam threats against Jews were explicitly in response to Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, announced on December 6.

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It is one thing to note radical imams right here in the US, but another to counter and prevent it.

Take France for example, where the government has to respond to Islamist terrorist attacks. In 2008, the French government created a special training program to teach imams French values such as the separation of state and religion. Results were not good. Out of the 60 students who started taking the course in 2008, only 9 got their certificates by 2011. One could argue that one reason for the failure is that it was created in conjunction with the Catholic Institute of Paris. That was unlikely to be a big draw for Muslims.

In 2015, France came up with the idea of a license for imams, compared to a driving licence, that ensured imams would promote a 'tolerant and open Islam'". This idea came just 11 days after the attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, leading to fears of homegrown Islamist extremists radicalized by rogue preachers.
By 2016, France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was talking tough against radical Islam:
He also said that since 2012, 80 people had been expelled from France, and dozens more expulsions were underway, without giving further details.
"There is no place ... in France for those who call for and incite hatred in prayer halls or in mosques, and who don't respect certain republican principles, notably equality between men and women," the minister said.
"That is why I took the decision a few months ago to close mosques through the state of emergency, legal measures or administrative measures. About 20 mosques have been closed, and there will be others."
France's plan seems a bit ambitious, wanting not only to prevent violence but also to make imams, and by extension their congregants, into good French citizens.

Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, the situation is different. In Canada, where the threat is not as pronounced the opposition has been more outspoken against the idea of certification. The Toronto Star condemned the idea of imam certification in no uncertain terms:
Canadians have no time for terror. But the Senate would never have the gall to suggest that Christian ministers be “certified” to preach in this country, no matter how unschooled in formal theology they might be, how eccentric their views, or how tiny their congregations. The same goes for Catholic, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist spiritual leaders.
The editorial claims “lone wolf” terror attacks are likelier to come from white supremacists and right-wing extremists than from Muslims. In Canada, out of the 35 million people -- including 1 million Muslims -- there are only 318 Muslims who were suspected of being radicalized. Claiming that most of them are self-radicalized on the Internet rather than in mosques, the Toronto Star goes on to say Muslims have been instrumental in preventing terror attacks in Canada. The editorial concludes that certification is a "solution in search of a problem."

And in the US?

Last year, Politico came out with an article that identified the main problem as America is Running Out of Muslim Clerics. Blaming Trump's immigration ban on the one hand and rising incidents of Islamaphobia on the other, the article claims that of the estimated 2,500 mosques in the US, more than half do not have a full-time imam. One solution underway in a dozen US cities is the development of seminaries to prepare homegrown American imams and chaplains. In 2013 more than 90 percent of the full-time imams in US mosques were either trained or born overseas. Among the US imams last year who incited hatred against Jews, one was born in Somalia and another in Syria.

But the problem, as it is in France, is what to teach the imams besides theology.

MINAB, the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board in Great Britain came up with a list of 5 standards for the purpose of self-regulation of mosques in the Muslim community by the Muslim community.
  • Standard 1: Members apply principles of good corporate governance
  • Standard 2: Members ensure that services are provided by suitably qualified and or experienced personnel
  • Standard 3: There are systems and processes in place to ensure that there are no impediments to the participation in the activities, including governance, for young people
  • Standard 4: There are systems and processes in place to ensure that there are no impediments to the participation in the activities, including governance, for women
  • Standard 5: Members ensure there are programmes that promote civic responsibility of muslims in the wider society.
This addresses general problems mosques may be having, but not the issue of radicalization of the mosques. This is not going to combat the issue of Islamism in the US.

It would help to get away from the standard solution.

The Homeland Security Advisory Council came out with Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Subcommittee Interim Report and Recommendations June 2016. Among its recommendations was a unanimous one to take the $10 million earmarked for 2016 -- and increase the funding by $100 million. But just throwing money at the problem is not going to work.

The best answer to the problem may be organic. A New York Times article from 2007 suggests A Growing Demand for the Rare American Imam:
But as the first generation of American-born Muslims begins graduating from college in significant numbers, with a swelling tide behind them, some congregations are beginning to seek native imams who can talk about religious and social issues that seem relevant to young people, like dating and drugs. On an even more practical level, they want an imam who can advise them on day-to-day American matters like how to set up a 401(k) plan to funnel the charitable donations known as zakat, which Islam mandates.
That is a solution that Europe has cheated itself out of. By opening the doors wide to Muslim immigrants, the EU may have made the creation of a homegrown Muslim leadership that much harder, especially with little indication that the EU has had any success in acculturating those immigrants and passing on European values.
Oddly enough, in the US there is a problem standing in the way of creating homegrown American imams that Jews can easily identify with:
Experts say the problem is exacerbated because few immigrant parents want their children to become imams.
“Immigrant parents want their children to become doctors, engineers, computer scientists,” Dr. Bazian said. “If you suggested that they might want their kid to study to become an imam, they would hold a funeral procession.”
Apparently, Jewish mothers have nothing on Muslim mothers.

One group confronting the issue is MEMRI, where they do more than just follow what is going on in the Muslim world and translate into English. Mansour Al-Hadj is Director of Reform at MEMRI, where in addition to monitoring, translating and transcribing Jihadi social media accounts, he analyzes Jihadi group publications as well.

He addressed the issue as well:
"The mosque pulpits in America are out of control, because most of the preachers who lead the prayers in these centers embrace the traditional Islamic rhetoric. Most of them are from the Middle East and are considered to be ulema, or people with superior religious understanding. Their problem is that they are traditional, and the traditional discourse has failed in Arab countries. The proof is that in Islamic societies, Islam has failed to unite the citizens and to prevent violence and the rhetoric of hatred. Unfortunately, we suffer from such imams here in America. They bring the traditional religious discourse with them, and spread it in an environment that is entirely different from where they came from."
...I expect – or I hope – that we in America will export [our] Islam to the Middle East. Society here is cohesive, and people respect one another. Schools are open to all, and there is no religious discrimination, or discrimination against people of color or people who uphold a certain faith. The Muslims in America have the ability and the experience to export that kind of Islam, which we need in the Middle East. We need a tolerant Islam, Islam that loves..."
It is a very ambitious plan:
  • Better than the French approach, that is trying to fit Muslims into a particular mold, Al-Hadj sees the American society as providing the answer to the problems apparent with traditional Muslim society both here and abroad.
  • Instead of looking for funding in the usual way that The Homeland Security Advisory Council suggests, he sees the Islamic societies in the US as providing the funding - and seeing it in their own self-interest to do so.
  • Most of all, he sees the possibility of creating an Islam here in the US that can then be exported back to the Middle East and bring with it renewed tolerance.
Now all there is to do is make a beginning.




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