News / USA

Experts Say Strong Muslim Communities Help Prevent Radicalization

Three men from Raleigh, North Carolina, went on trial September 19 on charges of plotting terrorist attacks overseas. They are among around 200 Muslims who have been arrested in the United States on suspicion of terrorism since the September 11, 2001, attacks. One research group says that strong mosque-centered communities may be more effective than law enforcement in preventing radicalism.

Abdulrahman Asal, 4, is all over the playground at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, after a day of pre-school here.  And he gets encouragement from his father, who is an imam at the center's mosque.

Egyptian-born Sameh Asal came to North Carolina three years ago after theological training at the Al-Azhar university in Cairo.

Asal says the Islamic Center of Raleigh is a place of peace, not a training ground for terrorists. He says it tries to combat radicalism by educating well-rounded Muslims.

"It's not just educational, we have sports going on, we have social activities, we have picnics sometimes, we have youth camps, so the youth do not feel alienated," he said.

Some think a sense of alienation is what landed three young men who attended this mosque in court.  Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, Ziyad Yaghi and Hysen Sherifi are accused of plotting terrorism overseas.

A fourth man - Daniel Patrick Boyd, the alleged ringleader - has pleaded guilty. Prosecutors say he left the Raleigh mosque because he felt it was too moderate.

As a result of the terrorism-related arrests of nearly 200 Muslims since 2001, some Americans are wondering what goes on inside of mosques.

Inside the one in Raleigh, Imam Sameh Asal preaches about charity.

"To feed the poor and the needy, and to help others out, is also an act of worship that brings us closer to Allah," said Asal.

He says Islam teaches acceptance of other faiths, and obedience to the law of the land.

It is a message that researchers at the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security near Raleigh say is taught at mosques throughout the country.

Duke University professor David Schanzer is one those researchers. He says strong communities can do more to prevent radicalization than law enforcement.

"So a lot of things that are done whether it be opening community centers, education, food banks, things of that nature - you build a stronger community, a broader network, that's going to help make sure many people don't fall through the cracks, become isolated, and then maybe subject to this kind of open radical narrative," said Schanzer.

Since 2001, Schanzer says, many mosques have grown into multi-faceted community centers like the Islamic Center of Raleigh.

And he points to research that shows that Muslim communities themselves have been the largest source of initial information leading to the arrest of Muslim terrorism suspects in the U.S.

Schanzer sees that as evidence that the frequent condemnations of terrorism by Asal and other American imams are not just for public consumption.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Indian PM Calls for Unity Amid Tense Climate Over Beef Attacks

Recent series of beef-related incidents seen as signs of rising intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities More

Why These Are New York City's Most Treasured Spaces

Under threat of jail time and fines, some New York property owners are not allowed to renovate their spaces without prior approval More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs