Material Support for Terrorism

It is unclear to me what Michael German is referring to in saying that the statute he references undermines the rest of my argument. I am not sure to which argument he is referring. Yes, it is illegal to give material support to a designated terrorist organization, in this case Hamas. This was what the Holy Land Foundation was convicted of. One can argue whether the designation, upheld across Republican and Democratic administrations, is warranted. I believe it is. But one cannot argue that material support, in this case money, (there were no free speech issues in the case) for a designated terrorist organization can be construed as over-broad or equated with teaching non-violent conflict resolution.

The reliable evidence presented in that case, from the internal documents of the Islamist groups themselves, is that CAIR, ISNA and other influential Muslim groups in the United States are directly founded by the Muslim Brotherhood groups in the United States, with the express purpose of advocating the end of democracy and the rule of law, as shown in this summary.

This was not denied or rebutted during the trial. Hamas, according to its own founding charter (Article 2) declares itself to be a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and defines the Muslim Brotherhood as “a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times. It is characterised by its deep understanding, accurate comprehension and its complete embrace of all Islamic concepts of all aspects of life, culture, creed, politics, economics, education, society, justice and judgement, the spreading of Islam, education, art, information, science of the occult and conversion to Islam.”

So, while the Muslim Brotherhood and its offspring in the United States are not designated terrorist organizations, the violent branch (Hamas) is. This to me demonstrates that the laws can be applied in a nuanced, narrow way to go after the actual supporters of terrorism rather than being used in an over broad sense, as German says, to infringe on civil liberties.

But my broader point was that these groups (with a total membership of a few thousand, making them a small minority within the Muslim community but the ones with the loudest political megaphone) embrace a theology that supports and justifies types of terrorism and anti-democratic forms of government. This is not illegal, nor has it been sanctioned. But it is dangerous and a potential pull factor in the recruitment of those who can be radicalized. The fact these groups have not been shut down is a tribute to the tolerance for free speech and what German calls “seemingly benign” associations. Several of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups have been convicted of terrorist activities (Abdurahman Alamoudi, Mousa Abu Marzook, Sami al-Arian and others) but the organizations they founded and directed continue. This is not the Lusk Committee or anything resembling that. It is an attempt to explain who these groups are and how they contribute in the world of radicalization. The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups are still in existence, I think, strengthens rather than weakens my argument.

Also from This Issue

Lead Essay

  • An Exaggerated Threat by Risa Brooks

    Risa Brooks argues that the threat of homegrown jihadist terrorism has often been exaggerated. U.S. Muslims have generally shown little inclination toward terrorism. The small minority who feel differently have proven themselves startlingly inept. The Muslim community has proven itself eager to report suspected militants, and many plots would never have progressed beyond fantasy without the “help” of FBI sting operations. Worrying too much about this threat diverts resources from other valuable FBI endeavors, foments suspicion in the Muslim community, and erodes our civil liberties.

Response Essays

  • Jihadist Recruiting Is Widespread by Douglas Farah

    Douglas Farah draws our attention to the recruiting efforts and propaganda of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is profoundly violent, anti-western, anti-Semitic, and pro-terrorist. The group’s propaganda is widespread in American mosques, he warns, and the Muslim Brotherhood exerts significant influence over Islam in America. Although American Muslims may not generally be inclined to violence, it is clear that some of them are, and we should not underestimate the threat when we can see it so clearly stated in the available recruitment and propaganda literature.

  • Incompetent Terrorists, Courageous Airline Passengers, Vengeful Wives by Michael German

    Michael German calls attention to the civil liberties violations that have sprung up as a direct result of our antiterrorism policies. Federal agencies have investigated tens of thousands of innocents and collected data on many more; the surveillance industrial complex has grown enormously, and traditional privacy protections have been removed. Meanwhile, we still often stop terrorists through a combination of their own incompetence, courage on the part of ordinary civilians, and plain good luck. This suggests that our surrender of civil liberties has done us little good, if any.

  • Getting the Threat Right by Brian Michael Jenkins

    Brian Michael Jenkins examines American jihadism and concludes that it’s largely an Internet phenomenon. Sympathies for jihad run wider than they are deep. The 2009-2010 uptick in arrests can partly be explained by Somali reactions to the 2007 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. Jenkins finds that national and clan ties likely have more motivating power than al Qaeda’s ideology. Still, because Americans unrealistically expect 100% security, he voices concern that even a single terrorist success could provoke panicked overreactions.

The Conversation