ISIS in America: Orange County Muslims Divided on DHS Cooperation

Recent terror-related arrests in Orange County have Muslim leaders expressing a wide range of views on how to address the threat of ISIS and other terror-related threats in the community, as the Obama administration urges cooperation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

In late May of this year, two Anaheim residents were arrested on suspicion of attempting to aid and/or join the Islamic State (ISIS). Nader Elhuzayel and Muhanad Badawi, both 24, engaged in social media discussions about ISIS and terrorist attacks, according to Los Angeles-area news affiliate ABC 7. The two also “expressed a desire to die as martyrs and made arrangements for Elhuzayel to leave the United States to join ISIL,” according to a Central District of California U.S Attorney’s Office (USAO) release.

Elhuzayel saw a tweet on May 3 from one of the Garland, Texas Muhammed Art Contest attackers, according to an affidavit in support of the criminal coplaint, and replied with his own that indicated, “his (Elhuzayel’s) support for the attempted attack, praising Simpson as a “martyr.”

Mahboob Akhter, board member of the OC Islamic Foundation in Mission Viejo, questions the focus on Islamic communities according to the Orange County Register. Akhter is a critic of the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) initiative, which is said to target Islamic communities in Los Angeles, Boston and Minneapolis.

The CVE initiative is organized under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as an answer to the persistence of terrorist activities in American Muslims communities. (It has itself been criticized for ties to organizations such as the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) and the Muslim American Society (MAS), which themselves are alleged to have extremist ties.)

Other Muslim leaders in Orange County advocate some form of cooperation with authorities. “What we need is a strong prevention effort,” Muslim Public Affairs Council President Salam Al-Marayati told the Register. Al-Marayati has been pushing his own “anti-radicalization” program, called the Safe Spaces Initiative. He his is intention to get law enforcement involved only “when everything else fails.”

CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) spokesman Haroon Manjlai was quoted as saying, “It’s false to assume that the Muslim American community has a very real issue with violent extremism. And it’s wrong to assume that the Muslim community will not report someone who is engaging in illegal activity among them.” He expressed fears that community involvement will morph into intelligence gathering.

The Register notes CAIR’s opposition to “government or law enforcement involvement in Muslim communities.”

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