There are three potential dangers that Western Muslims face.
(1) Increased anti-Western terrorism in the Muslim world fuels Islamophobia, enhances the political influence of Western anti-Muslim extremists, and enables the institutionalization of legislation designed to undermine the influence of Muslims.
(2) The Bush administration's foreign policy is geared towards the projection of American power and reassertion of American hegemony in the Middle East.
(3) Aggressive American unilateralism triggers events and actions within the United States that ultimately undermine the security and well-being of Western Muslims. The third danger to Western Muslim future is homegrown extremism.
While Western Muslims at the moment can do little to reduce the first two dangers beyond engaging in dialogues - political and religious - at various levels, they can and must play an aggressive and decisive role in eliminating internal extremism that resonates with extremism in the Muslim world. Extremist discourse, actions, and postures by a small minority of Western Muslims not only undermine the efforts of the majority to improve Western-Islamic relations, but they also provide concrete evidence of the most egregious stereotypes of Islam and Muslims.
Western Muslim community leaders, activists, and scholars must condemn and reject any and all forms of extremist rhetoric coming from Juma Khutbas, public statements on TV and other media, and from Muslim publications themselves. Care must be taken to not only moderate Muslim public discourse but also Muslim-Muslim discourse in order to ensure that extremism and vehement anti-Westernism do not take root in the community. Islam and Muslims in the West can be critical of the West and Western ideals but cannot and must not be anti-West. We must maintain the critical distinction between being opposed to American foreign policy in the Muslim world and being anti-American.
The Threat of Internal Extremism
While a majority of Western Muslims have the same basic desires as many others - material well being, cultural acceptance, and the opportunity to practice their faith without social and political intimidation - some of them do wish to use their geographic location as an asset in their war against the perceived enemies of Islam. However, the argument made by some, including commentators Daniel Pipes and Steve Emerson, that radical Islam is embedded in America, is racist and religiously bigoted. Steve Emerson has made statements claiming that the US had become "home to virtually every single militant Islamic group in the world." That notion, and the suggestion that the community hides in its bosom many secret sleeper terrorist cells, is patently false and we should Ciezadlo denounce it as such. No community has been so closely scrutinized as Muslims in America, yet no widespread threat has been uncovered. The 9/11 Commission fully exonerated the community of any connection to terrorism.
(1) Justifying Suicide Bombing: Suicide bombing has become a metaphor for all that is terrible about Islam and Muslims. Even though most Muslims condemn suicide bombing as un-Islamic, some Muslims continue to utilize the freedom of speech available in the West to claim that suicide bombing is a noble and Islamically justifiable defense strategy. These individuals who defend and support suicide bombing succeed only in branding Islam as a barbaric religion that inspires violence. While there are currently no notorious radical imams in the US, Imam Omar Bakri and Imam Abu Hamza Al-Masri in the UK became famous for making statements that incited hatred, anger and violence. They both are vocal supporters of Al Qaeda and other jihadi groups. Islamophobic commentators often use statements made by these clerics to claim that the West has become home to radical Islam. But they belie the majority of Western Muslims who condemn suicide bombing and make it look as if those Muslims are dissimulating and lying. This promotes the canard that Western Muslims all secretly support terrorism and that Islam indeed teaches violence.
(2) Equating the War on Terror to a War on Islam: Some radical Muslim commentators have been insisting that the war on terror is actually a war on Islam. For Western Muslims, this is an unacceptable interpretation of what is happening. First of all, it is not true. Islam continues to thrive in the West even today. The prominent role played by American Muslims in the Presidential elections of 2004 is clear proof that in spite of growing Islamophobia and the Patriot Act, American Muslims still remain a vibrant force and far from being snuffed out. In Europe, the presence of Muslims has transformed Europe's foreign policy, its relations with the US, and its posture with regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Those who insist that the West is at war with Islam do a grave disservice to Western Muslims and they also undermine the prospects of future good relations between the West and the Islamic World.
(3) Demonization of the West and Democracy: The third theme in radical Muslim discourse is a rhetorical demonization of the West as evil and democracy as hypocrisy. In a curious way, the very existence of this "free radical discourse" is indicative of how strong democracy is across the board in Western countries. But this constant demonization of the West (America and Europe), ridicule of their values, icons, their religious beliefs, their secular beliefs, and cultural practices may very well lead to the elimination of free speech and the diminishing of democracy. The 19 Muslims who attacked the US on 9 /11 caused Western Muslims untold misery; they cannot allow this misery to be amplified through irresponsible statements from within their own communities.
We believe that the community must get tough on radical discourse. We recommend that Western Muslims become more organized and aggressive in marginalizing and condemning voices that justify violence, incite hatred, and practice demonization of the other. How can community members and leaders fight bigots in the mainstream community and rising Islamophobia if some within their own ranks mirror the same fear, ignorance, and prejudice? The struggle for acceptance of Islam and Muslims in the West cannot be divorced from the acceptance of the West within its Muslim communities.