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US Lawmakers Consider Ways to Prevent Islamic Radicalization in US

Members of the U.S. Congress are seeking ways to prevent Islamic radicalization in the United States. Lawmakers are looking at the Netherlands' experience as an example. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

At a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, chairman Joe Lieberman of Connecticut expressed the concerns of many lawmakers about the potential for Islamic radicalization in the United States.

"We in the United States cannot ignore the warning signs within our nation. Homegrown Islamic extremists have recently been arrested and accused of forming plans to attack in Fort Dix, New Jersey and in a separate case to set ablaze the underground fuel lines that feed JFK airport in New York," he said.

Lieberman's committee looked to the Netherlands for some advice, as that country has had experience dealing with the issue.

Netherlands' officials say it was the 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Dutch citizen of Moroccan descent, who had ties to a network of Dutch jihadists, that was the painful wake-up call that terrorists could emerge from their society and strike at domestic targets.

A recent report by the Netherlands' intelligence agency warned about the rapid radicalization among young Muslims.

Lidewijde Ongering, the Netherlands' deputy national coordinator for counterterrorism, says those who become radicalized often feel they are not a part of society or culture. So to prevent radicalization, her government is stepping up efforts to integrate Muslims into society.

"Our focus is paying more attention to the identity issues confronting young Muslims in a Western environment, combating discrimination and encouraging Muslims to participate in society and politics," he said.

Along those same lines, a U.S. task force has issued a report urging the United States to do more to help American Muslims integrate into U.S. society.

Farooq Kathwari is co-chairman of the Task Force for Muslim American Civic and Political Engagement at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

"It encourages civic engagement among Muslim-Americans and greater efforts at interfaith dialogue. Other recommendations include building strong Muslim-American institutions by such means as expanding engagements with universities and policy research institutes," he said.

Marc Sageman, an independent researcher on terrorism, argues that the Muslim community in the United States is better integrated into society than Muslim communities in Europe. He says the Muslim American community is mostly middle class, while European communities are largely made up of unskilled workers. He argues that many Muslim Europeans are unemployed, and thus are able to fill their time with talking about jihad.

"In terms of the labor market, there is far less discrimination in the United States than we find in Europe. This is very important because a lot of unemployed young Muslims are attracted by the thrill of belonging to a clandestine operation," he said.

Sageman says an important step in reducing radicalization is - in his words - taking the glory out of the fight. "We have to deglorify it. We have to really put it into a law enforcement perspective, as opposed to militarize the problem, because there is nothing more thrilling to a young person than to go against a uniformed person of the only remaining superpower,"

The hearing was the latest in a series looking at Islamic radicalization.