In the context of the developing debate between Farah and German, I too remain puzzled about the implications of Muslim Brotherhood groups who espouse extremist ideas, and whether these encourage homegrown terrorism in the United States.
The concern seems to be that extremist ideology and its adherents will contribute to the “radicalization” of Americans. Such casual use of the term radicalization does little to promote a clear sense of the phenomenon and presupposes, as I argued previously, that radical ideas naturally produce terrorist action. Some individuals who identify as members of a Muslim Brotherhood group may preach hate and exhort followers to despicable acts. Still, in order to have a sensible debate about what compromises to civil liberties should be sustained to limit hateful speech and groups that engage in it, there has to be concrete evidence that those words actually generate a security threat in the United States.
One issue that complicates the debate is highlighted by Brian Jenkins when he observes that many of those arrested in 2009 and 2010 were Al Shabab recruits, influenced by then-current events in Somalia. Some definitions of homegrown terrorism treat as a uniform phenomenon Muslim American citizens or residents who engage in any form of terrorist activity. By those definitions, providing material support to Hamas, joining the Afghan Taliban or Al Shabab, and plotting to bomb a subway in the United States are equivalent acts of homegrown terrorism. One could argue, however, that the motivations driving an individual to provide material support to the Palestinian Hamas are distinct from those that might drive American residents or citizens to wage attacks against their fellow citizens in the United States. One could raise similar questions about aiding or joining an overseas militant group such as al Shabab or the Afghan Taliban that is fighting what the movement perceives as a foreign occupation. In other words, we should be wary of assuming that Muslims aiding or joining any and all foreign militant organizations constitutes evidence of a homegrown terrorist threat in the United States.