They are named David. They are clean-shaven dental students and attendees of community colleges. They study hard, play sports, and open Facebook accounts. Their friends call them “normal Joes.” And they’re being arrested in ever-growing numbers, would-be terrorists plotting to kill their fellow Americans and conduct “holy war” at home and abroad. Wednesday’s arrest in Pakistan of five Muslim-American men attests to a growing phenomenon: the radicalization of young American Muslims on American soil.
When the New York Police Department first issued a 90-page report in August 2007 asserting that what it called “homegrown radicalization” was destined to become a major terrorist threat, many of the nation’s civil libertarians, self-proclaimed Muslim spokesmen, and even law enforcement officials were outraged. Civil libertarians warned that the NYPD’s conclusions would lead to religious and ethnic profiling in policing. Muslim groups demanded and got meetings with senior NYPD officials. FBI analysts and officials disputed the NYPD’s findings in interviews and congressional testimony.
But the department stood its ground, and police commissioner Raymond W. Kelly backed his troops. The department’s intelligence division continued its research, and the report gradually found supporters in Washington. With the arrest of the five young Americans in Pakistan, and with the charges filed last month against recruiters from al-Shabaab alleged to have enlisted Somali teens in Minnesota to fight in the Somali civil war, the report’s once-controversial conclusions appear to be all too true.