King Goes A Third Round

Rep. Peter King is preparing for a third round of radicalization hearings focused on American Muslims. For the first time however, he's decided to focus on an actual problem:

“At this hearing, the third in a series, we will examine Somalia-based terrorist organization al-Shabaab’s ongoing recruitment, radicalization, and training of young Muslim-Americans and al-Shabaab’s linking up with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

“In Minnesota, Ohio, and other states, dozens of young Muslim males have been recruited, radicalized, and then taken from their communities for overseas terrorist training by al-Shabaab. In a number of cases, the men – including both Somali-Americans and other converts -- have ended up carrying out suicide bombings or have otherwise been killed, often without their families even knowing where their sons have gone. There has not been sufficient cooperation from mosque leaders. In at least one instance, a Minnesota imam told the desperate family of a missing young man not to cooperate with the FBI.

King is obliquely referring to the testimony of Abdirizak Bihi during the first round of radicalization hearings. Bihi testified that local leaders tried to pressure the community not to cooperate with the FBI.

This is a very real problem--as many as 20 young Somali Americans have been recruited by Al Shabab, a terrorist group in Somalia with ties to al Qaeda. While Al Shabab has not yet attacked the U.S., their relative success in recruiting Americans is alarming.

That said, King's statement implies that he's coming to this matter with a fairly stilted view. Bihi's testimony shouldn't be dismissed out of hand, but it's worth noting that the FBI considered its community outreach efforts in Minnesota so successful that they consider the affair a model for future investigations of domestic terrorism: 

But what developed during the U.S. investigation was a two-way cultural exchange that the Justice Department is now trying to replicate nationwide. “We basically provided the Somali-American community with a ‘Civics 101’ lesson, explaining how our criminal-justice system works, telling them what was and was not a federal crime, and answering their concerns about the immigration system and suspicions that they were being profiled,” Jones said in an interview. “At the same time, we learned a lot about the Somali community, about their clan structure and approach to Islam. In the process of developing those personal relationships and trust, we also hit on an important point of commonality: We are all parents, and all parents are worried about bad things happening to their kids.”

From King's statement, you might assume that there was widespread cooperation from the community in facilitating the radicalization and recruitment of young American Muslims, or that the community at large refused to cooperate with law enforcement. The opposite is true. 

Yesterday one of the recruiters, Omer Abdi Mohamed, pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in federal court. The government's filings in that case shows that deceiving the local Muslim community was a key part of keeping the operation under wraps:

To raise money, the group solicited donations from unsuspecting members of the Somali community under false pretenses. The defendant and his conspirators went to local malls and apartment buildings to ask for money, claiming it would be used to build a mosque or to assist with relief efforts in Somalia. In fact, the money was to pay for the airfare and travel expenses of the group of men to join in the conspiracy.

The defendant and his conspirators strove to keep the plan secret, reminding members not to discuss it with anyone outside of the conspiracy, and policing entry into the group. They decided that two individuals were too young to travel in the fall of 2007, as it would draw attention from members of the community to the trip. They challenged members of the conspiracy who had planned to travel, questioning their commitment, dedication, and knowledge of both the religion and events in Somalia, before ultimately assisting them with the trip.

Again, this is a genuine problem, one worthy of congressional scrutiny. But an example of widespread sympathy for radicalism among American Muslims, it is not.

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