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As Boston Marathon Bombing Trial Continues, Boston Muslim Leaders Upend Obama’s Plan to Counter Violent Extremism in the City

Nine days after ISIS shocked the civilized world with a video of its beheading of American journalist James Foley, the Imam of the largest mosque on the East Coast, Suhaib Webb, directly challenged President Obama’s circumlocutions about jihad.

From his pulpit in Boston, Webb told his congregation:

We have a number of very serious challenges as a community that makes us different really than any other religious entity in America. And that is, within our ranks we have people who openly say they want to kill Americans. They would like to see the destruction of America.  We have that in the Muslim community.  We don’t like to talk about it.  We don’t want to admit it.  We like to say that there are conspiracy theories but if we continue to ignore these problems, they’ll never be answered.

Much has been written about the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) and the Obama administration’s unwillingness to address the religious motivations behind Islamist violence. The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, who loyally supported Obama in both elections, asked for the summit to be canceled: “When you don’t call things by their real name,” he wrote, “you always get in trouble… It is no good for us or the Muslim world to pretend that this spreading Jihadist violence is not coming out of this faith community.” Now a prominent American Imam in Boston is dropping all such pretense. Had even one journalist been paying attention, Webb’s plain speaking might have made a good story as an embarrassing rebuke to the president, all the more embarrassing because Obama had chosen Boston as a model of success. Boston’s Islamic leaders were among those from three cities to take part in his politically correct, jihad-free Summit. The ISBCC, as the largest mosque in Boston, was an integral partner.

But in a jolt to the CVE Summit – again unreported by the many journalists who covered the event – the ISBCC’s Executive Director, Yusufi Vali, pulled his mosque out of the Summit, as he publicly rejected everything its Imam told the mosque’s worshippers that August afternoon.

Just days before three and a half years of relationship-building between Boston’s Muslim leaders and federal law enforcement were to result in a jointly-agreed-upon framework to be announced at the White House CVE Summit, Yusufi Vali made a surprise announcement. He told U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz that the ISBCC will be boycotting the Summit, denounced Obama’s Countering Violent Extremism program as an Islamophobic attempt by Obama to unfairly target all Muslims, and, in effect, largely scuttled the Boston part of Obama’s CVE initiative. This was reported by only one reporter from the Boston Globe, whose report was predictably slanted toward Vali’s position, and the story never gained traction.  Most of America does not know that the Islamic partner in one of the three cities touted as models of cooperation rejected the president’s path.

Vali wrote:

I cannot sign on to this document due to the premise of “Countering Violent Extremism.” […] A far more appropriate premise to the framework acceptable to the Boston-Muslim community would have been “countering violence”. This term does not single out the American-Muslim community. […] It clearly appears that the CVE initiative is exclusively targeting the American-Muslim community. […] My team and I have never personally come across any individual in our congregation seriously considering any fanatical ideology.

Not a single reporter covering the Summit, or the related and concurrent Boston Marathon Bombing trial, informed the public of this stunning contradiction: One the one hand, the Imam of Obama’s favored Muslim institution in Boston publicly rebuked the President’s theory that the “violent extremists” who’ve been chopping off heads, blowing up marathon spectators, and putting hatchets in the heads of NYC police, had nothing to do with Islam. On the other hand, his boss, the man who runs the ISBCC mosque, thinks Obama’s circumlocutions did not go far enough and instead of protecting his community, the President was defaming it.

Obama and his top officials are unlikely to learn anything from this, as they continue to promote a fantasy where Islamic extremism doesn’t exist. Luckily, there are federal officials who are much more hard-nosed. Based on their record of tough terrorism prosecutions of Islamic Society of Boston worshippers Tarek Mehanna and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, we think Department of Justice prosecutors in Boston, including U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, are among the realists. What lessons should they learn from being betrayed by their ostensible Islamic of Society of Boston partners in countering violent extremism? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Research the organizations with which you partner. The Islamic Society of Boston is an extremist organization, and the federal government is unlikely to get much assistance in fighting extremism from people who are themselves extremist. The ISB was founded by Abdulrahman Alamoudi, an Al Qaeda supporter who was sentenced to 23 years in prison for plotting with Muammar Qaddafi to assassinate former Saudi King Abdullah. The Muslim American Society, which runs the ISBCC, is considered by federal prosecutors to be an overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. Last November, the United Arab Emirates designated the Muslim American Society as a terrorist organization. According to Newsweek, Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev became radicalized after he started attending the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge. Yet top federal law enforcement officials seem to be ignorant of these facts. Testifying on Capitol Hill after the Boston Marathon bombing, former FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted to having no idea that ISB Cambridge, the bombers’ mosque, was founded by Alamoudi – a man his own agency had put in prison.

  1. Islamic extremists lie to hide their true nature. From Arafat to the Ayatollahs, there has always been a difference between what they say to Western audiences and what they say to their own supporters. Hence the 180 degree separation between the Imam of the ISBCC telling a Muslim audience that Muslims cannot ignore the problem of their coreligionists wanting to kill Americans, and the Executive Director of the ISBCC telling the federal government that to acknowledge the problem of Islamic extremism is a sign of Islamophobia. It’s why Yusufi Vali can insist, “My team and I have never personally come across any individual in our congregation seriously considering any fanatical ideology,” while Webb admits that, “in our own community … we looked into some of the people that were affected by this. There was a young brother that came to me and said, ‘I believe that Anwar Awlaki is like revelation from the heavens.’” (Anwar Awlaki was the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader behind the Fort Hood massacre, the underwear bomb plot, and the Paris attacks early this year.) For the same reason, Yusufi Vali told Boston’s NPR station that, “as soon as we learned that these two individuals [the Boston Marathon bombers] had attended the Cambridge mosque … we encouraged any community members who had potentially interacted with them to go to the FBI.” Yet in reality, the ISB sent out an email to its congregants telling them NOT to talk to the FBI without getting lawyered up first because, “we don’t want to put ourselves at risk.”
  1. Officials seeking to partner with Muslim organizations need to become aware of the important disagreements and distinctions among American Muslims. Suhaib Webb, despite his candid talk about violent Islamic extremism, is himself far from a moderate. He says animosity toward Jews is understandable. He believes that eye contact between the sexes is a sin. He thinks gays are cursed. He has called secularism a “radical, lunatic ideology.” He accuses the Obama administration of being too pro-Israel. Two days before 9/11, he was raising cash for an Islamic extremist cop-killer together with Anwar Awlaki. Yet there is a vast gulf between his willingness to address Islamic extremism and Yusufi Vali’s mendacious attacks on the CVE program.
  1. There is one more story here that the press has missed. Only two months after Webb warned ISBCC members about their fellow Muslims who want to kill Americans, the wildly popular Imam suddenly announced his resignation and left Boston. Perhaps that is not a coincidence. Unfortunately, it seems that the more actively concerned a Muslim leader is about Islamic extremism, the more he is delegitimized in the Muslim community and the less authentic he’s considered by the Obama administration. Moderate Muslim leaders who oppose the Muslim Brotherhood, such as Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, were snubbed and excluded from the White House Countering Violent Extremism Summit, even though leaders like Jasser have been the most active in actually fighting violent extremism. The same seems true geopolitically. The Obama State Department actively supported the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt while opposing the overthrow of that extremist government by General Abdel Fatah el-Sisi – who has recently called on Islamic nations to reform themselves and stop antagonizing the rest of the world.

Lastly: a note to the good men and women in law enforcement: You need to realize the benefit of just speaking the truth. You work day and night, sometimes risking your lives, while twisting yourselves into logical and rhetorical pretzels to avoid being called Islamophobes. But even if you use the most emasculated and impracticable strategy in dealing with the threat of Islamic extremism, Islamic extremists like Yusufi Vali will call you Islamophobes anyway. You will never counter Islamic extremism by partnering with Islamic extremists – no matter how much you try to appease them. You did not stop the KKK’s reign of terror in the South by partnering with KKK leaders and kowtowing to their sensitivities. You defeated the KKK through an uncompromising challenge to its ideology and to its activities. Now’s the time to revisit that successful strategy.

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