What Is the Difference Between 'Radical' and 'Mainstream' Muslims?

Steven M. Warshawsky
Two recent stories in the New York Post caught my attention. The first story concerns the most recent videotaped message from Al Qaeda.  The videotape, which featured American-born Al Qaeda terrorist Adam Gadahn a/k/a Azzan Al-Amriki, threatened attacks on American diplomats and embassies across the Muslim world, and denounced the alleged crimes of Western countries against Islam.  Nothing new here, of course.  Just further confirmation of the violent and implacable anti-Western and anti-American agenda of "radical" Muslims -- including those born in the United States.

The second  story -- which is much more disturbing -- describes the ties between the principal of New York City's new "Arabic-themed" public school, which opens this fall in Brooklyn for grades 6-12, and an organization called Arab Women Active in Art and Media, which is selling t-shirts emblazoned with the message "Intifada NYC" (along with Arabic script that the article did not translate).  (By the way, Brooklyn is one of the hotbeds of Muslim extremism in the United States.) 

Like those who argue that the term "jihad" merely describes a personal striving to live according to Allah, the school's principal, Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser, argued that the reference to "intifada" simply means "shaking off" and provides "an opportunity for girls to express that they are part of New York City society . . . and shaking off oppression."  What does this odd statement mean?  Is this a reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?  Almontaser was somewhat ambiguous on this point.  She said:  "I understand it [the term "intifada"] is developing a negative connotation due to the uprising in the Palestinian-Israeli areas.  I don't believe the intention is to have any of that kind of violence in New York City."  In other words, yes, it is a call for solidarity with the Palestinians in their fight against the Israelis, which "connotation" Almontaser conspicuously did not deny.

But what about Almontaser's further comment that she "believes" the t-shirts are not "intended" to be a call for similar violence here in New York City (which, after Israel, holds the largest concentration of Jews in the world)?  This rather equivocal statement took my breath away.  Does Almontaser have some doubt as to the "intention" of these t-shirts? 

Have we reached the point where supposedly "mainstream" Muslims living in this country are contemplating a campaign of violence here at home?  My own view is that we have reached this point.  Statements like Almontaser's demonstrate -- once again -- the stark unwillingness of "mainstream" Muslims to flatly reject Islamic violence directed against Jewish, and ultimately American, interests.  The antipathy of Muslims for Jews and westerners runs much deeper than we want to acknowledge in our "multicultural" society. 

So what is the difference between "radical" Muslims like Azzan Al-Amriki and "mainstream" Muslims like Dahbah Almontaser?  In my view, people like Al-Amriki and Almontaser share the same worldview, but seek to achieve their goals through different -- yet complementary -- means.  Will anyone be surprised if, a year or two from now, reports surface of "radical" Muslim activity at Almontaser's school?

If so, he is a fool.

Right now, we are all being very foolish indeed.

contact Steven M. Warshawsky  
Two recent stories in the New York Post caught my attention. The first story concerns the most recent videotaped message from Al Qaeda.  The videotape, which featured American-born Al Qaeda terrorist Adam Gadahn a/k/a Azzan Al-Amriki, threatened attacks on American diplomats and embassies across the Muslim world, and denounced the alleged crimes of Western countries against Islam.  Nothing new here, of course.  Just further confirmation of the violent and implacable anti-Western and anti-American agenda of "radical" Muslims -- including those born in the United States.

The second  story -- which is much more disturbing -- describes the ties between the principal of New York City's new "Arabic-themed" public school, which opens this fall in Brooklyn for grades 6-12, and an organization called Arab Women Active in Art and Media, which is selling t-shirts emblazoned with the message "Intifada NYC" (along with Arabic script that the article did not translate).  (By the way, Brooklyn is one of the hotbeds of Muslim extremism in the United States.) 

Like those who argue that the term "jihad" merely describes a personal striving to live according to Allah, the school's principal, Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser, argued that the reference to "intifada" simply means "shaking off" and provides "an opportunity for girls to express that they are part of New York City society . . . and shaking off oppression."  What does this odd statement mean?  Is this a reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?  Almontaser was somewhat ambiguous on this point.  She said:  "I understand it [the term "intifada"] is developing a negative connotation due to the uprising in the Palestinian-Israeli areas.  I don't believe the intention is to have any of that kind of violence in New York City."  In other words, yes, it is a call for solidarity with the Palestinians in their fight against the Israelis, which "connotation" Almontaser conspicuously did not deny.

But what about Almontaser's further comment that she "believes" the t-shirts are not "intended" to be a call for similar violence here in New York City (which, after Israel, holds the largest concentration of Jews in the world)?  This rather equivocal statement took my breath away.  Does Almontaser have some doubt as to the "intention" of these t-shirts? 

Have we reached the point where supposedly "mainstream" Muslims living in this country are contemplating a campaign of violence here at home?  My own view is that we have reached this point.  Statements like Almontaser's demonstrate -- once again -- the stark unwillingness of "mainstream" Muslims to flatly reject Islamic violence directed against Jewish, and ultimately American, interests.  The antipathy of Muslims for Jews and westerners runs much deeper than we want to acknowledge in our "multicultural" society. 

So what is the difference between "radical" Muslims like Azzan Al-Amriki and "mainstream" Muslims like Dahbah Almontaser?  In my view, people like Al-Amriki and Almontaser share the same worldview, but seek to achieve their goals through different -- yet complementary -- means.  Will anyone be surprised if, a year or two from now, reports surface of "radical" Muslim activity at Almontaser's school?

If so, he is a fool.

Right now, we are all being very foolish indeed.

contact Steven M. Warshawsky