You are hereSalon: The Muslim "radicalization" myth: Debunked

Salon: The Muslim "radicalization" myth: Debunked


What Peter King missed this week: How the government should actually fight homegrown terrorism 

March 12, 2011- When Rep. Peter King's controversial hearing on Muslim "radicalization" finally convened on Thursday, members of Congress had the opportunity to take some good shots at each other, and the relatives of two Americans who became extremists gave emotional testimony about their experiences.

What the hearing did not feature was any serious, evidence-based consideration of the actual issue of so-called homegrown terrorism by Muslim Americans.

King and other Republicans spent a lot of time going after the Muslim group CAIR and defending themselves from Democratic complaints that the hearing was bigoted. As TPM put it: "Peter King Hearing Focuses On Whether Peter King Hearing Was a Good Idea."

As it turns out, there is rigorous academic work being done on the "radicalization" issue. The Brennan Center for Justice, for example, released a report in advance of the King hearing looking at flaws in the government's approach to combating radicalization and terrorism in the United States. The report concludes: "Radicalization is complex. Yet a thinly-sourced, reductionist view of how people become terrorists has gained unwarranted legitimacy in some counter-terrorism circles."

To learn more about this -- and to find out what the government should be doing to combat terrorism -- I spoke with the author of the report, Faiza Patel. She is co-director of the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. The following is a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Is there a generally accepted definition for "radicalization"?

There are a lot of different ways in which people use the term. People use it very broadly to refer to the process of embracing ideas that are outside of widely accepted religious or political spectrum. So they use it to refer to, for example, Muslims who believe in the restoration of the caliphate. People have used it to talk about Tea Party politicians who have argued that private businesses should be allowed to discriminate. But in the wake of 9/11, the term has been used narrowly to mean the process that leads people -- particularly Muslims -- to embrace violence as a means for achieving political or social change.

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