tv Countering Violent Extremism CSPAN March 29, 2018 2:08am-3:27am EDT
a landscape historian about the white house easter egg role, which began in 1878, and the changes that have been made along the way. this weekend on the c-span networks. new america hosted a discussion about countering violent extremism in the example of efforts to the radicalize the nation of islam. panelists examined why african-american muslim groups are free of extremism compared to muslim communities in other countries. this is an hour and 15 minutes. ♪ peter: good morning. well, good afternoon.
welcome to new america. i run the international security program here. we are really delighted to be the place where the co-author of the new report -- transforming the hate that he produced -- is going to prevent edge present -- is going to present findings from the report. the director of national intelligence, the national counterterrorism center. he has had a long career in government. he got his phd last year from howard. is from thefter him foundation of defense of democracies. he also had a distinguished career in government, working as
an economic and counterterrorism analyst for the cia. i'm going to hand it over to the dr. and he will set the table for our discussion. morning. i hope everybody is doing well. i think we have some powerpoint we're going to try to use. thank peter along with , who graciously allowed us to come here and engage on what i think is an important topic. this topic is dealing with the experience of african-american muslims. ,he report, i should start off with the oldest organization in
the world working -- composed of former -- themselves. i had our efforts in all of north america using our africa portfolio as well. todaypportunity we have on a critical issue dealing with the oldest muslim community in the united states. study in traditional islamic centers of learning, and one of the most important things that --e up when i was there was this is very local to the middle east. but we say that if you have not had -- in united states, you have not experienced islam in the united states.
i think that is important because african-american muslims dissented from enslaved africans have been in the united states since its inception. this report is based off the contributions of enslaved african americans coming to the united states by force, and with them, these individuals brought nonviolent, spiritual form of islam that has lived in the united states since its , 15 to 30% of enslaved africans from senegal, and niger. as a child growing up in charleston south carolina, i was the beneficiary of a tradition which is very much the experience of enslaved africans in the country of -- in georgia.
as well as memorizing the koran. and that journey is important in light of the contemporary narrative of islam being something different and foreign, away from the american experience. i was at the funeral last year of muhammad ali when dr. sherman jackson said eloquently that with the death of mohammed ali, -- there should be no question of the compatibility between islam and being american. being muslim and being american. did was make a very visible for the american experience to see there is a muslim presence. muhammad ali, kareem ,bdul-jabbar, dave chapelle these are well-known individuals
in an african-american community. they happen to be muslim. multiple faith families of african-americans, even in hot music and hip-hop. you see the influence of african-american muslims as well. tot to give you a context understand that american muslims themselves and african-american muslims have been engaging in a conversation of being both american and muslim from the , from that period onward. it is important to frame the conversation. emeritus atr harvard university called it a gap between african islam and african-american islam, the ,raditions, the cultures
islamic identity of practice, schools of islamic thought, whether they are the arabian peninsula or west africa. with the journey coming into america, we have a very new identity emerging with the rise of proto-islamic movements. elements of islamic identity that incorporated the nation of incorporated movement as the -- well as recognize that the development of islam in america was certainly the result of missionaries in the united states. in the 1900s, he was instrumental in the establishment of islamic identity. i say that in light of the issues in pakistan.
this is very interesting, to show you this fusion, this melting pot of islam coming into the american -- african-american -- havejourney to this engaged in this sense of resistance, looking for spirituality. looking for purpose. in that journey we saw the development of the nation of islam. to make a very complex story 1975, the late imam mohammed led the largest conversion of americans to sunni islam. -- are very familiar with the nation of islam for its rhetoric in black nationalism as a result , the result ofs american encounter with race
relations. mohammed was the son of elijah mohammed, who instituted radical reform to reject his father's teachings and usher in a community that has currently mosques, that also has the oldest islamic institution in the united states , and is a model that has judges, lawyers, former head or analysts, intelligence officers -- former counterterrorism analysts, intelligence officers, congressman as well, particularly congressman andre thisn, to demonstrate particular plan to create an inclusive, pluralistic islam that says you can be both american and muslim. , ideologicalethod
reform, rejecting the teachings in as father and rejecting way where he was also offering an alternative to self empowerment, creating this sense of worth and meaning for african-americans who were affected by a sense of victimhood and in light of the inial disparity operating the united states. a healthy sense of patriotism and citizenship. there is an arabic phrase that says the love of country as part of faith. taught by mohammed the profit. the late imam encouraged a sense of patriotism and citizenship, and as a result, this is why we have the first american judges
coming from this community. the first american congressmen coming from this community. the first american elected officials coming from this community. this formula, one in which individuals could easily stay in a sense of frustration and anger , wanting to carry out actions against the state we see as part of grievances in the broader , the imam was able to institute mechanisms to suggest -- to say yes, you can have legitimate grievances, channel it in a productive way. you can be vocal, but recognize you are part of this is i.t. -- society. there is no place you are going to go back to. you a responsibility to do something as well. you can critical -- be critical of issues and policy, but
recognize that where you are in the society, in this united states, is part of where you should be going as well. those examples right there are just some of the mechanisms and framing of what mohammed was able to institute as well. we will have much more time for q&a. i think the formula of what he offered is now readily available, one in which western and larger muslim communities howughout the world can -- can diaspora communities address -- of of critical complaint? regardless of being muslim or not, the african-american has been very much one that has dealt with issues of police
brutality, the community has dealt with issue of what they see as surveillance. communityence of this has said that the government, state security services, will have to do their job. it is part of that apparatus. part of that engagement. thatneeds to take place is also engaging critically in the manner where you can have a dialogue of pushing back on a policy level, but recognizing this is part of what law enforcement, intelligence services, are going to be engaged in. constructive dialogue and looking for solutions. i will stop, because there is ,uch more we will cover particularly the recommendations
we offer as well. [applause] yaya: good morning, everyone. i'm just going to follow up with mohammed, rip off what he has said, say a few words, to do two things. give history context to this movement, this community, then some little bit -- give personal insights, contextualizing my personal experience will help us get into the discussion. number one, first, i think it is important to provide historical context for how islam has spread throughout history. you always have, throughout islamic history, new muslim communities springing up throughout asia, throughout africa, often you had small
communities who were not connected to the islamic tradition in much depth. had -- often illiterate communities. then islam would grow had -- lad get deeper later. that engagement with what we would think of as the koran, the prophet, usually happened with some connection to the established religious authority. that is how islam spread. how you got new small communities become established in there koranic identity. this was the process of islam spreading. 1975,was a difference in which is what mohammed refers to. something happened which had never happened in history. i'm not a historian, but my wife is a historian, and i have learned a lot from her.
was, forened in 1975 the first time, you had a collective body of muslims starting to engage the islamic texts is develop an authentic islamic identity without the prodding or the influence of the established -- that had never happened before. mid-70's, in the midst of the cold war, the cusp of globalization, this very unique, in the middle of the world's most powerful country, the a verystates was birthed unique islamic identity. it is addressing this happened in the context of the african-american community. why might this have happened? my thought is that, if you think about the african-american community, the african-american gap --ty, there was this
the african-american identity had been cut off, even though the restrictions and historical connections. african-american, which country are you talking about? only in some situations can you trace it. you had this new identity. it makes sense if you think about it, that for islam to grow within this community, you can have something very unique. the first time you had this community where islam was even in the face of racial oppression -- of these things, you had islam growing. people taking on this identity. , where the in a way islamic identity was you being comfortable in your own skin.
i would posit, before we step into the discussion, that this maybe thes example reform movement that people, especially in the post-9/11. -- post-9/11 period people are already -- always talking about as if it never exists. times, there was a piece about authoritarianism, narrow -- narrowmindedness driving people away from islam. ,alking about saudi arabia talks of reform and the more enlightened islam. a lot of these voices are coming out of the world experience. it is interesting to know that this islamic reform, which happened independent from the south american muslim community had been developing an islam
which was comfortable and been -- had been overlooked. it was overlooked because the islamic reform people are looking for, the body people think this should show up in, did not look like what they think it should look like. it did not look like somebody who was trained in the west and went to oxford, the islamic experience and the western experience, this is not what it looks like. it does not mean the community was not engaging, and mohammed was not engaging scholars, but the direction had been a very independent. independent thinking about islam. about how you approach the koran, the prophet's example. that happened when the muslim world was not thinking about that because they were too connected to their tradition. which we can still respect the history. it was breaking off the african-american identity that allowed a different american
islam. i will end by saying, what does this mean for us? i think we've got a great example here, because mohammed, you were born in raised, third or fourth generation muslim? in south carolina. i was raised in the west coast. my mother is african-american, born in new york. i was not raised muslim. i converted in college. i came out of an experience where i came to islam as young adult. it was seeing the community that made my identity as a muslim american harmonious. hopefully we will talk more about that. those are my words in my experience. [applause] , thosethank you both very, very, super interesting opening comments.
one factual question. a third of muslims in the united states are african americans, is that correct? >> yes. peter: is that well understood, do you think? dr. fraser-rahim: i should start off to say that the resident imam of the oldest mosque built by indigenous muslims in the united states, in washington, his sister passed away so he couldn't be here. the statistics are changing. in 2011, the pew poll, 2015, it showed that african american muslims are roughly around 33%, south asian muslims are 28%. arab muslims continue to be less than those numbers as well. i think now african americans , the numbers are probably now a little less in light of immigration issues, individuals coming from different countries, so it may be a little less than that, but it's right around that.
peter: when americans think of muslims, they think of arab or south asian americans, is that correct? dr. fraser-rahim: there is a slow erasure of african american islam. and if you look at the pundits on tv, the commentary on television, despite our background having served our country, written, co-wrote hundreds of presidential daily briefs and strategic assessments, we were mistaken as each other several times. yaya: we don't look the same. dr. fraser-rahim: but this happened. i think the conversation has shifted in light of perhaps this idea of american muslim exceptionalism, which i pushed back off.
roughly 45%, according to 2015, 2011 data poll, shows that 45% of american muslims are at or below the poverty line, so it challenges this notion that all americans are wealthy. yes, many are well to do, very successful. i'm on the board of the american-islamic heritage museum right here in washington, d.c. anacostia that documents the history of the entire muslim experience, but is that voice heard? is that narrative being shown? is it seen? not as much as it should be. peter: you said, muhammad, something very interesting, this idea that you could be nationalistic and still be muslim, because obviously osama bin laden would very much differ and i want you to unpack this a little bit, because bin laden would often talk about the nation, but he didn't mean saudi arabia. he means the entire community of
believers which he presents himself as sort of defending. how would osama bin laden react to some of the things you've said and these ideas? dr. fraser-rahim: it's interesting, you know, osama bin laden and taliban, we have enough classified information and open source available information, they were seeking to target african american muslims, looking to incite on racial grievances going back to when then senator barack obama was seeking to become the president. house-negro,ng the field negro concept. they made the assumption that there were certainly african american muslims in the united states, some who potentially spoke arabic.
there are taliban documents out there, as well. i think osama bin laden himself, it's a different narrative than how i have engaged it, which is all of humanity is the ummah, as well. is that the uma is a local dynamic, as well. , thise community particular one has been very much, has pushed back against .hat narrative that argument with bin laden, now with the rise of hamza bin laden, as well, they are framing the idea of the muslim policy in -- polity in some way having been unified. there is an interesting new book out about the idea of the muslim world. the idea of muslims being unified collectively. i think from the days of the islamic learning institutions in west africa. so there has been -- there has
never been this idea of the perfect islamic state. it has always been this sense of flux, experimentation. a sense of openness and tolerance was certainly there. you can look at a number of islamic polities as examples. but when taxes were restricted, see much more conservatism. not to say that conservatism equates to extremism. but conservatism can be one of many dynamics or triggers for individuals' interest down an extremist pathway. peter: bin laden's appeal to african americans, al zawari used this specifically. that fell on deaf ears, right? it turns out that the african-american muslim community was not, there was almost no takers.
if you look at the cases, african-americans do not really cause bloodshed. the case in arkansas was one of them. but it was not a very fertile field. it turned out. dr. fraser-rahim: the report itself -- we get into the examples. carlos bledsoe is one example. maliki jones -- peter: tell people who that is. dr. fraser-rahim: he was an african american convert who traveled to yemen, former military, and he carried out an attack down in alabama. he is now incarcerated. his father and sister now have an organization. they weren't aware of the signs, down in tennessee, they weren't aware that this pathway of conversion was going to lead them down this journey. it's interesting, because memphis, tennessee has one of the oldest muslim communities, particularly the community of imam muhammad, that if he had just drove a little bit further he would have been exposed to a formula, an antidote that would
have helped him see a broader, holistic understanding. carlos bledsoe. malik jones in baltimore, maryland is another example. the african americans that have gone down the path of jihadist recruitment hasn't come from this community. there is not a single individual in this report that we highlight that has been exposed and carried out any action from al qaeda, isis at al-shabaab to boko haram at all, at this date. peter: you mentioned this question of interpretation. i mispronounced, but the concept is jihad which is the idea that you can interpret the koran. of course, fundamentalists, it is their prerogative to say the gates of interpretation are closed. i thought it was very interesting. after 9/11 there was a lot of discussion about potential reformation of islam.
that was by people who did not know much about islamic history. there have been lots of reformations along the way, right? but i was unaware of anything you just said about this attempt. was it controversial that the americans were doing this al-azhar university or other -- yaya: i didn't live through it directly. i was born in 1975. so i did not see it. you had a very quiet sort of movement. when imam muhammad took the reins of the nation of islam and did everything muhammad mentioned, you did have an outreach to the muslim world. one of the original names was the world community of islam in the west. the idea was that we're just just a small sectarian group. we are muslims, traditional muslims, following muhammad.
and we have the same brotherhood and sisterhood with all muslims around the world. this idea of universality, but it was not one of direction. from what i have seen, read, and heard from folks who were around at that time, other scholars appreciated imam muhammad. other folks acknowledged he was the person in america who had leadership. no one else. who in 1980 was a key muslim american leader? that had a large following? can we name anyone? no. it was imam muhammad who was doing this. i think there was respect, but he was very independent. so i think what did happen in the 1980's and 1990's, here in america a lot of people saw -- thought even though this community was growing, people would say he was not authentic. they would say, now we're here,
my family came from pakistan or egypt. now we are here in america and we can provide the guidance of islam. and i think we have been caught up in that. that is where we are. i think that is what we have dealt with. peter: you mentioned the crown prince of saudi arabia here in the united states right now. he met with trump last tuesday. he's said very interesting things. i think he told "the washington post" that the road that saudia arabia has been going down since 1979, as a result of the iranian revolution and their counter to that, basically was -- kind of a cul-de-sac. there was a lot of problems there. and, you know, he is letting the women drive in june. , very unusualy for the gulf, if you're a
divorced mother, you can now have custody of your kids without going to court. so he's making real changes. he's also locking people up and doing some other things. [laughter] peter: you are both intelligence analysts. you work in the u.s. government. if you are talking to the -- one of your -- the president or one of your directors of the cia or dhs, and you were advising them or trying to analyze, what would you be saying about this right now? is this a big deal, or is this windowdressing? yaya: everything you mentioned is good and important. we have seen pockets of it. it's inevitable. it is good it is good that it is happening. is it windowdressing? it's going to be easier said than done. one person dictating to a whole country, there is a lot of inertia that he is
going to have to fight against, and that has to be taken into consideration. the one thing i would add, for these efforts to be successful, i would recommend that those doing them consult those who have been successful in providing this sort of enlightened islam in the modern environment. that's what i'd like to see. i'm not trying to ask for an invitation, but you would think if folks are saying this is how islam should be, they should look at where islam has been like that in the west. not to be western centric and say us as muslims will save the rest of the muslim world, but sort of practically, we've got a lot to show that the rest of the, quote/unquote, muslim world can learn from. dr. fraser-rahim: i think the delayed arab spring in the gulf in the sense of -- without all the trappings of what is looks
-- what it looked like in tunisia. trying to institute a slow engagement in light of two stakeholders. you have the religious clerical establishment and also the royal family. those two engagements require surgical sophistication in a way where you are making everyone happy. doing that requires slow reforms that for us may be a bit slow , but it may be timely and may be for the long haul the best decision at this particular moment in history. peter: the leading saudi cleric, old friend of bin laden's, who he has now rejected -- if you're not going along for the ride, he's putting you in jail. dr. fraser-rahim: the joke, the conversation that
comes up, let's work with moderate leaders. let's work with sufi leaders. those are individuals who have already drunk the kool-aid. those who make us uncomfortable to work with, in some ways shape or fashion engaging them in a constructive way requires a real purposeful, tactful strategy in that engagement but i'm of the opinion that engaging those types, some who are nonviolent and some who are part of the engagement that we need particularly in the gulf and for the broader islamic world. yaya: one thought on that. i think you were hitting on it. i think we also have to remember that changing culture, changing society isn't something that can happen in a policy directive. i think maybe the experience that we have been through sort
of shows that, that it really is an organic process, right? i think we have to be comfortable with the idea that even if a leader or policymaker sets out these guidelines, the path to freedom, to enlightenment, whatever you call it, reform, revivalism, it's not going to follow by script. so we need to be aware that maybe some actors who are doing -- asking for reform, yeah, they may not be perfect. i'm not endorsing -- i'm not endorsing them. i'm just saying this is an organic process. peter: one thing that's very different. if we had this conversation a few years after 9/11, al qaeda framed everything through the israeli-palestinian conflict. bin laden possibly talked about. if you look at what's happening now with jihadism, it's all about anti-shia, it's sectarian. you had mohammad bin salman comparing khamenei to hitler and implying he might start a nuclear weapons program.
speaking again as wearing your analysts' hat, what does this look like going down the road? are these sectarian tensions going to continue being an issue? are they going to amplify? get worse? what does it mean for the middle east? what does it mean for islam at large? -- written large? there is this growing sectarianism? dr. fraser-rahim: the wildcard factor, now, you have a growing rise of atheism in the middle east, as well. so individuals are leaving so that rise of a movement, if you will, quietly taking place that many people -- peter: in the middle east, you can't say -- it's problematic. dr. fraser-rahim: the age-old issue between sunni, shia tension is still an issue and is still a problematic one. so, yeah, i think these issues
continue to become. also in the world, there are proxy elements that will manifest, whether in southeast asia, africa, nigeria, particularly. you have the rise of anti-shia views, particularly with -- peter: are there shia in niger? dr. fraser-rahim: a large number in nigeria, also west africa. that competition that's been taking place isn't just in the middle east. it's in west, it's in east africa and looking for new areas to influence, to get -- yeah. yaya: bringing it to the personal. i converted 1997 and i often think about, when i converted to islam, i didn't convert to sunniism. i didn't convert to shiaism.
it probably came later. it was probably a year later before i understood the distinction. because i was really into the text, not into the politics. it's interesting. even though the african american muslim community we're talking about came to islam, for shorthand, we could say we were brought to sunni islam by default but it's important to note it wasn't a sectarian view. maybe a lot of the sources will be from sunni scholars, but the identity was really not so much attached to that so maybe in the broader -- the thing we're seeing now, maybe there's benefit in this identity being created which was not so or had not been so sectarian. maybe sunni, by default, but that's not the way i really contextualize it, that it was a sunni reform. it was really a push to the idea of islam, consult the text, be
connected to the broader tradition, but not closed into a sectarian identity. maybe saudi needs that. peter: does it take you down a sectarian path by its nature or not? yaya: from a personal standpoint, i think about in the 1990's coming to islam, before the internet, internet wasn't a huge thing. if i'm going into different mosques like i would, there was so much wahhabi literature. i think most converts at the time, if you were engaged in islam for the first time, the carlos bledsoe, you would probably be inundated with wahhabi literature funded from saudi, all throughout the 1980's and 1990's and that's what we were dealing with. dr. fraser-rahim: if you look at the popular culture, go to philadelphia.
the notion, you can be a salafi but not muslim. dr. fraser-rahim: if you look at if you go to philadelphia now, just an example. and everyone has -- the identity of a long beard, this is very much a fad going back 10 years ago, five years ago, and probably still in place now. that beard comes from the influence of salafi thoughts in america, in philadelphia, east orange, new jersey, are two locations, that now is just part of popular culture in urban society, people having a big beard. that comes from the influence of a very salafi framing of the world that has nothing to do in the contemporary context, it's hard to distinguish it being one and the same but you can see the influence. but, no, absolutely. i think throughout the u.s., the salafi, i should say wahhabi textbooks have been part and
parcel of many mosques and things are shifting. peter: you're part of an organization called quilliam. what is that named after and what is the purpose of the organization? dr. fraser-rahim: abdullah quilliam first converted to islam in the u.k., in the united kingdom, in the 1800's. and quilliam as an organization now, i run offices in north america and we work on extremism composed of former extremists themselves who had gone down the pathway of al qaeda, as well. we have a new report coming out of an individual who was one -- individual of the early days, actually one of the youngest cases of an individual who has been a member of al qaeda and we will be announcing him and doing some efforts, as well, in the united states. so we have been engaging on this issue and i've seen this from the government side, having written our brief senior level policymakers engaged with our
foreign counterparts, worked it, in an academic sense, too, as well, and on the outside, as well, working on ideological rehabilitation point to point with individuals. this is not easy work. this is very much the policy level work we do, we put out policy analysis like what we're seeing today. we deal with the media. we also roll up our sleeves in real issues of how do you deal with preventing individuals going down that pathway and this experience is unique, particularly the african american one, as well. is that we have been dealing with gang prevention. we have been dealing with drug addiction. our families are the highs and the lows of individuals who are very wealthy and successful to individuals who are in public housing facilities and we've dealt with the issue day in, day out, violent extremism in its full expression and i think that balanced approach is important. a lot of individuals who push back, particularly quite frankly within muslim communities that
c.v.e. is -- peter: what is c.v.e.? dr. fraser-rahim: countering violent extremism is in some way anti-muslim, in some way against muslims at large. this community has been front and center involved with communities. we live in the community. we are on the boards of community. we are in the inner city in community. we give money in communities. and we have engaged with extremism in all forms so i think that's important what we tell our co-religionists, too, as well, engaging this issue in a balanced fashion, being honest . the fact of the matter, i can say this. black-on-black crime is a tough issue to deal with. i have a cousin who was shot 18 times in the chest at 17 years old. that was a tough thing to deal with. but that's the same issue with me, also, when i was in government working on issues from being in pakistan and afghanistan dealing with issues of the gitmo and formers.
this is a responsibility for us to do it in a way that is nuanced, it's surgical, and it's tailored. peter: anything to add? yaya: no. [laughter] peter: we'll turn to questions. if you have a question, can you wait for the mic because we have the c-span audience and identify yourself before asking the question. no questions? this gentleman here? audience: yes. you mentioned in 1975, imam muhammad brought on this mass conversion and you went on to talk about 300 mosques and all the professional and political figures that grew out of that movement. where is that movement today? and where do you see yourself helping that movement? or do you? dr. fraser-rahim: normally i'm
in sort of the capacity of my analyst hat and i think this is one of those rare moments where i'm playing dual hats to the personal side, as well. i'm a product of this. i have studied extensively throughout the middle east and west africa. i'm a product of the community itself. and so really, in many respects, not just me, there are thousands of others who come from my same experience who are in many different experience, in many different circles, who have been working and i think in a very balanced fashion, who are very conversant in their religious understanding of islam, who take a middle-of-the-way approach and have been quietly doing the work without a lot of fanfare, without a lot of conversation, and have been engaged in aspects domestically and internationally. i think -- so i would argue that
going forward, the community is still strong. i think the community still is being one in which they are making sure to advise where they can and engage with their co-religionists, as well. to be frank with you, the real challenges of the larger conversation of pushing back against extremism is often inter-muslim conversation and that inter-muslim conversation largely isn't taking place and it's one in which the most divided hour in america is on sunday for american christians. the most divided hour for american muslims is on friday. if you go to any of the mosques in this association, there's no partition for women. it's an open space for individuals to come as you are, regardless if you are religious or you're not religious at all. you can sit and observe. the mosques are packed, if you
go to the older spots in washington, it's filled with diverse groups of individuals. there are visitors on a regular basis. these are open spaces and they're safe spaces for people. so i think it's thriving. peter: go ahead. yaya: i would say the community is still here. i would say there is a need to exert more of its sort of presence. i think like muhammad said, people are -- communities are doing what they're doing, working on their job in their communities, doing all types of things like people do but i think the missing piece has been highlighting or elevating or -- you know, obviously people are doing something because you have congressmen, people in these positions, but i don't think publicly there's the same exposure and i think a lot of that is internal. i think that's the community has not really engaged media in a strategic way. i think there's also an appetite for other things. i'll mention, when i was -- i
was someone who grew up out of the 1980's and 1990's hip-hop. i was very focused what was going to with the black community, from that era. the afro centric era, militant hip-hop era. i didn't know about imam muhammad at all growing up in california, personally, back then. later, you know, my wife comes from that community and i learned and much later become exposed to it and realized all this stuff was going on and i wasn't aware of it, so it's not always that people aren't doing everything. sometimes there's not the same exposure. that's part of it. peter: one thing that's always struck me, obviously, there are american muslim communities, and maybe that's a good thing or bad thing because you can make an argument. aipac, a pressure group for issues in america, do you think -- there's care and
other groups. a, do they speak for american-muslims writ large. and b, should there be an analog to aipac that is more effective with the caveat that, there's so many different groups, it's hard to speak with one voice. is the american community well served by the pressure groups that exist, i guess is the question. yaya: this is my sense, we may disagree. i think there's something unique about islam in america that we would be -- it might be a mistake to try to -- which actually is what has happened. people trying to make islam an ethnicity. i think it happens. by default, with a lot of islamic organizations. it's not because of malintent. you go to a muslim student association on campus, maybe it's 90% south asian, they take on a certain ethnic flavor.
i think that's natural that happens. we have to be very careful to assume, muslims mean there is going to be one common theme. there are going to be political differences, different aims. i don't think that has to happen. i think it's fine. if we force that, it may be troubling. dr. fraser-rahim: i think you have to have multiple -- we're all human beings and people operate many expressions. you need to have many voices out there. no one speaks for all of islam. no one at all. there are many muslims of varying expressions and we encourage that and i think that should -- particularly in our american experience, in western experiences, it's more important than ever to amplify that diversity. peter: what about somebody that -- major hassan has a double cousin, a lawyer in virginia. he said something to me, i have secularized muslim, i play golf, i voted for george w. bush -- different from his cousin who
killed 13 people at fort hood -- but no one speaks for me. which i thought was an interesting -- the groups that do exist are care -- it's religious in flavor, right? it's quasi muslim brotherhood organization, i guess, in some shape or form? dr. fraser-rahim: i think secular voices are important to have. you may disagree with me on that, but i think many different voices are really showing the human experience, people who are just culturally muslim just like christians and jewish communities do, as well. that you know, the palestinian issue isn't the only issue. what happened in somalia, what happened to jumping up and making sure that women's empowerment issues are heard. what about your lgbtq brothers, what about charleston, domestic issues. very respectful of
our collective identity. we'll have disagreements but it's important to have multiple views and it doesn't have to be the quote/unquote old guard or old institutions that have been around. maybe they don't necessarily speak for individuals anymore. peter: doctor? >> thank you so much. it's been an interesting panel. i wonder if you would comment a little bit more about a saudi that's not a muslim and if you would comment a little bit about how that's played out with the whole saudi influence with all the money, all of coming in. we've seen a push-back in europe that maybe that's not a good thing. i was really curious about your comment -- is it 45% of muslims in america living below poverty? that's something we never hear. and just also, you know, if you
travel in arab countries, a lot of times, a lot of prejudice against north africans and probably against black americans, as well. so there's a bunch of things to comment on. thank you. dr. fraser-rahim: one of the communities,t the particularly imam muhammad, they have soup kitchens. they are not just for muslim americans, they're for all americans. you can come in and get a warm meal right down the street in washington, in my home town, in alabama, in california. i can go anywhere and they open their homes, they open their centers to help everyone. imam muhammad was the first individual to be involved with interfaith activity. i recognize that my neighbor was an orthodox jewish family that i used to go for shabbat dinners and i respected them and i also grew up next to evangelical friends and catholic friends.
i give you that point as an example to say that the muslim community isn't all wealthy and successful. there are individuals struggling to meet day-to-day needs and need spiritual support but also need jobs and resources and the community takes that seriously to address those in a balanced fashion. as it relates to racial issues in the muslim community, listen, i could tell you many occasions studying in egypt and morocco, where individuals -- i was watching a video recently where individuals, they may not know the assumption that you know a language and the word that you hear, it's quite interesting, as you can imagine.
so i only give you that to say that, that's the reality of life, right? there are individuals who -- particularly within even faith based communities, there's even a racial hierarchy. even in islam, we recognize that there's that issue taking place and i think muslims have been vocal about it and have been criticized for their vocalization that muslims hasn't -- have not always lived up to the standards of what they say they believe despite religious mandates. i will let you comment. yaya: i think the idea of trait adopted by those who are not muslim, muslim have the ability to make things cool and let that spread.
if you go back to -- just think about muhammad ali -- even malcolm x and the original nation of islam, the impact of muslim --, -- the being muslim became a thing of pride. you may not have been muslim but if you thought about islam in the african american context as someone who was prideful, doing for self, right? islamic features took on something in the cultural context. now, i think, though that, that's a good sign of what needs to happen now. i can point to the legacy, early 1960's legacy of muslims. what i'm interested in and i think a lot about is what's the legacy now, right? when we think of african-american muslims, folks in the past and see how their culture spread and impacted the broader society. what about now? these are things we are things we're thinking about as we
engage youth, as we engage culture, pop culture. what is islamic? i think islam is cool. i think it is really cool, and there are aspects of it that should be wrapped up in a very positive way to fit the needs of the broader community. african-american community and the broader american community in general. i think that is a good thing. peter: just behind the doctor. >> hi, ken russell. quick question, comparing the african-american muslim experience to the experience of muslims abroad, do you think the reason violent extremism never evolved from the african-american community is because they have legitimate means of influencing political systems? yaya: that gets to the idea of american exceptionalism. i think there is a big difference. i'll acknowledge that you'll have extremists.
whore going to have folks this message will resonate with. it will be impossible to quote unquote inoculate everyone. one of the key things we saw is one of the things in america that we do not see the same type of radicalization as we see overseas. some of it is cultural and structural and geographic. in europe, you are in the middle of networks, in germany, where jihadists are moving, from chechnya in europe, it's easy to connect with networks. a lot of this has changed now with the internet. back in those days, it was easy to connect with a jihadist group in europe. here in the united states, much more difficult. the u.s. is blessed by being a big island where you do not have
the same. you have radicalization and radical preachers, you have that. but that is the structural. i think that culturally there has been a more openness to religion in the united states because of american history and religion being part of it, or openness for religion, people don't shun it in the same way as people do in europe. that allows people not only to engage with the political sphere but allows associations of islam. because think about it, if the jihadist message is that, the west is keeping you from filling your religion and against your prayer. but if you are having your islamic life, all the things that typically and traditionally you need to be muslim, you're able to do that and you're also able to engage the society as that, authentically, as a muslim. not perfect. doesn't fit for everyone. i think we have more of that in
the united states. peter: this gentleman. >> hi, can you you lay out more specifically the recommendations from your report of how imam muhammad's community can be used for efforts in other communities? dr. fraser-rahim: i laid out a few already. -- and ink that one is will walk through a few of them. one, we recommend engaging african-american muslim imams. i think that is important with their experience, having worked in the prison system. understanding and dealing with various individuals who have varying degrees of ideological interpretation, including some who are very hard on salafi. to just african-american muslims being able to travel overseas. all of us -- when i was a young boy, my father was the imam at the mosque i grew up in. i was the arabic translator. i read through these nerdy texts
and i was going through very -- various religious texts and being of resource. they have the religious understanding but are very much part of the american experience, as well. secondly we offer an alternative , to preventing violent extremism. the program basically offering preventative tools. off-ramping efforts of some of the work that obviously we have been doing with quilliam and working point to point with individuals who have already been radicalized and offering alternative expressions. the formula that imam mohammed changing individuals to not have them want to overthrow the state. and actually making them part of the american fabric and not having them stray into a black nationalist rhetoric. it seems similar to the issues about the broader arab world. pakistan and the larger sub continent.
that can be very helpful. thirdly, we offer a rapid response as it relates to individuals. i think we title it rapid response office within the u.s.g. to prevent or counter violent extremism. essentially having individuals who are well-equipped to deal with these issues, there are a lot of individuals working this problem set. i have come on this issue quickly overnight. peter: that raises the question. the trump administration does not employ the -- to counter violent extremism. the money is just going to run out at some point. it is hard to measure success with countering violent extremism. it seems the trump administration has realized that they need something to and they are calling it counterterrorism. so they've changed the name. how do you assess what the trump administration is or is not doing in this space? dr. fraser-rahim: with the
appointment of john bolton at the nsc, it will be very interesting in terms of the language that will be used. quite frankly, a lot of people were thinking, there is an uproar on counter radical islam. we did not see that. peter: the national security strategy which was written by h.r. mcmaster, they did not use any of these phrases. they talked about jihadist terrorists. they didn't talk about "islamic." so we just don't know. dr. fraser-rahim: yeah, we don't know. the jury is still out. in all fairness there is a lot of pushback that one can give to the administration. i think the administration did not use that language yet. we will see. president trump traveled to -- peter: what did you make when president trump traveled to riyadh and gave a big speech, the analog of president obama's speech in cairo. what did you make of that speech? yaya: talking about earlier last year? peter: yes.
may 20. yaya: i think, i do not have a strong opinion. i do not have a strong opinion. peter: the speech could of been given by obama, minus the iran-bashing. maybe some of the -- it seemed like a fairly dutch yaya: being in government. it is easy to say a lot of things when you are out campaigning. then when you go and you are the guest -- or when you are writing actual strategy, there is a big difference. that's one thing we can share. the political sphere where islam is talked about is very different in many ways from what happens when you are really making decisions, trying to write policy and engage communities or engage governments. it is very different. and so that would probably explain the tone of that conversation. peter: here? could you wait for the microphone and identify yourself so the c-span audience knows who you are and can hear you.
hi, thank you for this presentation. i'm from fund the bridge initiative at georgetown university on islamaphobia. i had a question on the program you had that was mentioned in your report. i was wondering how you determined who would be best chosen to be a participant in this program. how did you develop the curriculum and what is your overall impact and assessments of the effectiveness of the program? peter: what is that program? dr. fraser-rahim: the program, in arabic, it means to think, ponder, to reflect, that is what it means. the project initially started as a pilot project in washington, d.c., and we worked with a cross-section of individuals, muslim and non-muslims, south asian, arab, latino, etc. in the curriculum, trying to come up with the issues of critical thinking, helping young people to think deeply about issues and do it in a fashion where it's in a safe space environment.
helping young people to think -- so when -- in washington, d.c. we used very much from the socratic method, brainstorming ideas, do it in a fashion, a co-constructive way to simplify it. the curriculum was tailored toward, in this case, u.s.-specific, diverse issues from geopolitics to modernity, history, broader american history. we were able to do this in nigeria, where we deal with islamic civilization, culture, critical thinking using the socratic method -- islamic philosophy, person philosophy. -- western philosophy and from there we address issues from northeast nigeria who are dealing with day-in, day-out actions of the islamic state in west africa and boko haram.
we happened to be there last month and we were dealing with the issue of 110 girls who were abducted in dutchie. this was a group of 45 individuals. the goal is to expand this out. the measurement of success of what we have seen so far is an increased amount of learning, and, two, being able to apply critical thinking in an open space with their counterparts in the northeast. so issues of gender, of differing religious points, -- viewpoints -- issues of how to engage the government itself in a way that's constructive. yaya: and you have a real life trial participant because my teenage son was part of your first circle in d.c. my son participated, and the thing i would say it gave him was just an appreciation for critical thinking and doing it in an environment where he is with his peers. right? you all were coaching it.
but it was a group of young teenagers, meeting and discussing these issues, it was not a debate but a discovery. for him it is something that helped him become more probing, a deeper thinker. peter: this lady here. >> hi, my name is kristin and i worked at the bridge initiative at georgetown university. muhammad, you said that entrapment is a counterterrorism tool for law enforcement. please clarify what you mean and how entrapment sits within this counter radicalization model that you and quilliam have identified in this report? dr. fraser-rahim: what i was framing was that law enforcement throughout the u.s. has been using entrapment and particularly urban communities have been dealing with this for a long period of time.
this shouldn't be a surprise that entrapment is some way unique to particular -- i know muslim communities have pushed back to say they've been singled out. as an african-american, as a muslim, i recognize that these are two dynamics that are very much part and parcel of law enforcement techniques and tools used since the days of hoover. so i do not see that as particularly anything to be -- it is not a surprise. i think with communities thinking that this will be something that will change overnight -- i think with policy, with advocating if individuals are wanting to be engaged in that, certainly that can be part of it. it is nothing new. i say it is a part of a larger counterterrorism tool, saying that that is part of the larger law enforcement, part of a larger intelligence, security effort that has been taking place for decades. peter: just to clarify, there is no terrorism case in which entrapment has been argued
successfully as a defense. entrapment has a very specific, even from a legal point of view, it is not entrapment. usually when the undercover informant goes in, he says to the person four or five times on tape, do you really want to do this? that is very persuasive if it goes to a jury trial or a strong argument to take a plea. yaya: the use of informants is part of the law enforcement tool kit. peter: this gentleman here. i think this will be the last question. thank you. >> hi. grayson sloeber, student at the university of colorado. you guys talked about counter extremism and radicalism. it seems to me there's a unique problem in doing that on the political left today.
i think a pretty good example of that is the founder of your organization being mislabeled by the southern poverty law center as an anti-muslim extremist, which is ridiculous. in my mind. my question is, how would you recommend we attack that problem, and try to create some unity on our side, and attacking a problem that should be a universal one, that we should all want to solve. dr. fraser-rahim: i think you captured it well. i think that there are individuals and organizations who have done some good work historically. i think they have lost their bearings a bit in the contemporary context. and so we believe in constructive engagement with all sides. i think the left, the right, and perhaps those heavenly above need to find a careful balance of how do we work in a nuanced fashion on these issues. just labeling individuals that can get people hurt and killed can affect people's lives, including death threats.
i think that it has to be done in a way where it is balance. particularly work with quilliam and me being head of it is to keep that balance moving forward and this report is part of that. showing that balanced fashion, everything we said today is part of building off the tradition of the great work of the community imam muhammad but also the work that we seek to have coalitions across all political aisles and various communities, as well. yaya: i would say i think you are right, a lot of this, i come from the standpoint where we often think about things based on what we are exposed to. and what we expose ourselves to. i think the biggest thing i am seeing in this environment, where everyone is in their corners and in their camp, and there seems to be more
interested in proving your point of view, the thing i like to bring is exposure. right? how often do you get to talk to muslims who have worked in counterterrorism? a lot of people have views about counter terrorism from fox news. right? have they ever talk to a muslim counterterrorism person? people who are against cbe. have they dealt with someone who has dealt with the f.b.i. and understands about these informant issues, that nuance. i think that is a key thing we need, more exposure. if you have exposure to someone who has been on the radical side, who has been radicalized and had certain ideas, if you're not exposed to them, how are you going to understand it? we have to get away from trying to prove our positions. we want our organization to get points. and really engage and learn. my thought at the end of the
day, i'll end with a quote that i think is appropriated, which is, in terms of why aren't people, why don't we have these forums and learn about these unique experiences. i will quote the doughboy from the movie "boyz n the hood." "either they don't know, they don't show, or they don't care." we have to really put that to people. do we really want to solve this problem, engage and show what's going on? or just be with ourselves and prove our point? that is what we have to address. peter: i want to thank both of you gentlemen for an interesting and illuminating conversation. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [indiscernible] ♪im an
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