4 Crazy Things the Media Tells You About Homegrown Terrorists

Photo by Flickr user Danieljordahl http://www.flickr.com/photos/luderbrus/

Recently, Rolling Stone came out with a very interesting (and controversial) piece on homegrown terror and the makings of a "radical jihadist."

This article was a response to the idea perpetuated by many media outlets, that the Tsarnaev brothers were "radicalized" on American soil. The Tsarnaev brothers, originally from Chechnya, have been declared as the culprits in the Boston Marathon bombings.

READ: 4 Things to Know About Chechnya (ILLUME)

Here's what's interesting-- The Rolling Stone article actually calls into question many of the techniques, tactics and instructions behind the massive 2007 NYPD report Radicalization in the West, a report that is frequently cited by many media outlets as authoritative on the topic of homegrown terror.

For the uninitiated, the NYPD report targeted Muslims and laid out a theory: That normal Americans can become radical terrorists through a four-stage process. This theory is called "Radicalization: Western Style." (No really, it's actually called that).

READ: NYPD and the Muslim American Community in NYC (ILLUME)

This theory was used to justify the monitoring of many New York area Muslim hangouts. While they back up some of their "theories," they employ a sweeping use of stereotypes to blanket all American Muslims as potential jihadis. Here are four ways the NYPD says that terrorists are made:

Become a Salafi Muslim. Salafism can be described best as a "letter of the law" approach of Islam (although there's a lot more to it than that).

According to the NYPD report, terrorists are Salafis. And American Muslims who want to learn more about Islam are exposed to the Salafi variety. So naturally, most American Muslims are on their way to becoming terrorists already, right?

Wrong. Self-proclaimed "ex-Salafi" Yasir Qadhi didn't turn out that way. Qadhi still claims to sympathize with some parts of Salafism, and yet, he urges American Muslims to make meaningful contributions to America.

Terrorist? Hardly.

READ: The Rise of Salafism in Tunisia (ILLUME)

Go to a hookah bar. The NYPD points to "radicalization incubators" as places "that provide the extremist fodder of fuel for radicalization." They list hookah bars, cab driver hangouts and prisons as potential "radicalization incubators." These are places where terrorists are made, they claim.

Yes, cab-driver hangouts and hookah bars. Racial profiling gone too far? What's next, the halal butcher shop? Oh wait, the NYPD report has already included halal butcher shops in their list of "radicalization incubators". Couldn't the NYPD come up with a more effective way of smoking out potential terrorists, other than using The Simpsons-style stereotyping?

Surf the Internet. According to the NYPD, terrorists are made online nowadays. So, for those introverted American Salafis who don't hang out at hookah bars and cab driver stands, they can go online now to get their targets and await instructions. According to the NYPD's theory, Al-Qaeda's streamlined its operations to reach out to the computer-addicted loners out there.

Join a Muslim Student Association. This one is probably one of the most scary points made in the report. It's frightening because a large part of the American-born, university educated Muslim population has belonged in some form to an MSA. This NYPD "indicator" suggests that Muslim students are radicals in training and paints the American Muslim experience with large brush strokes. What it fails to take into account is that even across America, Muslims and MSAs are varied-- sometimes being nothing more than hookup places for eligible singles.

While the alleged indicators of homegrown terror can be poked fun at, one group is taking these stereotypes to heart-- and to the courts. Muslim Advocates has filed a lawsuit against the NYPD for spying on Muslims.



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