THE BLOG
07/29/2016 02:06 pm ET Updated Jul 27, 2017

Muslim Religious Leaders Must Step Up In The Fight Against Radical Islam

arda savaşcıoğulları via Getty Images

After the despicable attack in Nice, it can no longer be business as usual. As the French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said recently, the Nice attack shows that we are facing a new type of terrorism in the homeland. In this new form of terrorism, the timeline for radicalization, planning and execution of an attack is now very short. What this means is that the US and the rest of the free world must rethink their different approaches to combating this virus.

It's time American Muslim religious leaders are enlisted to take on a more proactive role in the fight against home-grown radical Islamic terrorism. This fight must begin with combating the toxin of radical Islamic doctrine being spread among young Muslims in the West through groups like ISIS.

Muslim leaders know their communities and know how best to combat the poison of radical Islamic terrorism which many young American Muslims drink from the slick recruitment videos of ISIS. These disaffected young Muslims often inhabit marginalized cultural and economic ghettoes. Many of these young American Muslims may have the same negative sentiments toward society as some of the French and Belgian radical Jihadists.

They do not have any connection to the cultural diversity of mainstream America. They have no loyalty to the US, and loath the values and ideals of the American nation and nurse deep hatred for the citizens and institutions of the US. This is why they are all too willing and passionate to fight for ISIS in the Middle East and embrace its call to kill Westerners and the so called infidels through any means here in the homeland.

Muslim religious leaders in Bangladesh offer a good example. Following the recent terrorist attacks in Bangladesh, they came out with a deradicalization message targeted at young Muslim youth in the country through the state-run Islamic Foundation. The weekend following the attacks, a deradicalization homily was delivered in all 300,000 mosques in the country.

These homilies were delivered as the official khutba during Friday prayers throughout the country. They had a clear message that the unjust killing of any human being--Muslim or non-Muslim is against the teaching of Islam. Such messages delivered in mosques have far reaching impact on young vulnerable minds than cryptic messages of condemnation and press release after terrorist attacks.

A similar approach was undertaken proactively in Canada through the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada in response to ISIS' recruitment message. Last year, its founder Imam Syed Soharwardy and 37 other Muslim leaders from across the country issued an Islamic edict called a fatwa against ISIS. The Imams declared through this edict that those who support ISIS and any form of radical Islam are violating Muslim law and were effectively excommunicated from the Canadian Muslim community. They also committed themselves to working with Muslim youth in Montreal, Toronto and Calgary in order to prevent them from falling into the trap of ISIS's extremist messages through the speeches, songs and literature available on the Internet or on social media.

Muslim religious leaders like Imam Mohammed Hagmagid of Northern Virginia through the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), has been very active in deradicalizing young Muslim Americans. However, there is need for a more coordinated and comprehensive community-based deradicalization program in the Muslim Ummah here in the US.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) should become more proactive in developing grassroots deradicalization programs among diverse Muslim communities in the US through its extensive network. Such programs should be in the public domain and be properly aligned with the priority and strategies of the Department for Home Land Security and other agencies tasked with the responsibility of keeping us safe.

What is obvious today is that the present global and national anti-terrorist measures are proving so ineffective against ISIS whose cup of horror has reached saturation point. Like a malignant cancer, ISIS and its affiliates continue to display a frightening range and randomness in their hateful and destructive operations. All the attacks by ISIS in the past one year in Paris, Brussels, Dhaka, Baghdad, Egypt etc have been different in scope, type, and settings, all aimed at eluding security and inflicting maximum carnage and destruction on soft targets. What happened in Nice could have happened anywhere in the free world. No one is safe anywhere these days and no place is sacred for the evil machinations of these extremists!

Many people have proposed that it is exigent for US national security to defeat ISIS in the Middle East, while degrading its communication and propaganda machinery on social network. In addition, key targets to be pursued according to many analysts are immigration and border control, and the declaration of a no-fly zone over Syria. As wonderful as these proposals may be, they do not offer a strategy for deradicalizing and identifying the lone wolves in our neighborhoods here in the homeland.

My contention is that the new war on homegrown terrorism goes beyond defeating this self-proclaimed caliphate. It is a battle for the mind of young Muslims in the West and for the soul of Islam. It will be a marathon rather than a sprint and will require patience, and a multi-pronged approach. We need to enlist the co-operation of US Muslim religious and community leaders in this new war on terror. This is an aspect of this fight which is often neglected by our feuding politicians.