William Saletan makes a point that I have been making for years, which is that in our fight to remain safe from the attacks of Muslim extremists, our most important allies are moderate Muslims (who are often at as much risk from such attacks as we are).
A few days ago, Canadian police arrested two Muslim men for plotting an attack on a passenger train. The crucial player in the story was an imam in Toronto. The imam wasn’t a conspirator. He was an informant. According to a local attorney, the imam had noticed one of the men trying “to approach young Muslims” with extremist propaganda. Through the attorney, the imam alerted the authorities. They investigated the extremist and foiled the plot.
This happens a lot. After all, the best place to pick up early warning signs of Islamic terror attacks is in Muslim communities. That’s where jihadists do their recruiting. And Muslim parents don’t want their kids to be lured into jihadist violence, any more than you’d want your kids ensnared by a cult or gang. The people who are initially threatened by terrorists, and who are best positioned to catch them before they strike, are Muslims. We need their help. And we’re getting it.
The New America Foundation, in conjunction with Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Policy, keeps a running tally of post-9/11 cases in which Muslims have tipped off the government to terror plots. So does the Muslim Public Affairs Council. The MPAC list includes more than 20 cases. The NAF list has more than 40. Look through the cases, and you’ll see every kind of story. The wife who catches her husband shopping for military gear. The father who tells the Department of Homeland Security that his son is becoming dangerously radical. The mosque leaders who report a worshiper’s threatening behavior to the FBI.
The informers take risks. “I cannot give you my name because I fear for my life,” one writes. But they come forward, again and again and again and again. They even contact the FBI when the suspicious character is its own planted impostor.
And that doesn’t count the thousands of Muslims who work daily with the FBI, CIA, NSA and military as translators, analysts and infiltrators. That’s why demonizing all Muslims is not just wrong but dangerous. We need them, badly.